Sex and the Book: well before Carrie Bradshaw, there was V.C. Andrews.
My fiancé and I just watched “This Film is Not Yet Rated” about the MPAA film ratings industry and its bias towards films featuring lots o’ sex. And as I watched clips of famous films with sex scenes that I, ahem, secretly get a kick out of watching I got to thinking about books and sex. Yes, there is a whole shelf (or shelves) located in most bookstores labeled “Graphic horror” or “Romance” and that’s usually where you can find the naughtier of the bunch. And it’s not policed by any means. You can purchase as many racy novels to your heart’s content and no one’s the wiser. No MPAA ratings here.
But what about your average book that contains a whole love scene or two, seemingly out of nowhere, that completely shocks you? Or maybe it doesn’t shock, per se, but you do shyly put the book back on the shelf with more than a few dog-eared pages.
Now that the “50 Shades of Grey” series has swept the nation- a series (I read the first one) I find full of sex and no real pleasure- sex in books is not much of a secret anymore. But long before “50 Shades”, there was V.C. Andrews. And long before V.C. Andrews there was Anne Rice writing as Anne Rampling. These books are not for the faint of heart or prude of soul.
I wrote a review on my Goodreads blog on a series of books that I considered life changing, at least in the way that I read. One of those books was V.C. Andrew’s “Flowers in the Attic”. For your convenience, here is the review!
Why this is a “Book That Changed Me”:
I think every adolescent girl at some point circa junior high school was initiated into the secret society that was V.C Andrews books. Really her entire canon belongs on this list, but I’ll highlight Flowers in the Attic since it was the series that started it all. I remember receiving my battered and much thumbed-through copy of FITA from a fellow 13 year old who warned me to not let my parents know I was reading it. Instantly I was hooked. I had never read a book so far with so much sex. And not just SEX, but the bad kind of sex that makes you feel icky inside: incest, rape, and child abuse all spun into a sick and twisted brother/sister love story.
If a book is the train wreck so awful yet you can’t look away, this was it. I read every book in the entire series I could get my hands on (and by the way, these were available in the YOUNG ADULT horror section at most bookstores). After retreating to my room to read for hours at a time and unable to put the books down even at dinnertime, my mother declared I was becoming reclusive and moderately depressed, and she threatened to take the books away. If she even had the slightest clue what the books were about, she definitely should have.
V.C. Andrews and Flowers in the Attic was my first glimpse into the world of illicit sex and sexual fantasies probably no pre-teens and early teens should be exposed to. Until this point, the only sex mentioned in books I’d read were by Judy Blume and those were extremely mild by comparison. I felt forever haunted by these books because of course I could never completely understand at the time how WRONG they were.
Even to this day I have to admit that I like me a good sex scene in a book (albeit a non-incestuous one), and I have to wonder if it is because of my exposure to V.C. Andrews.
Here is a short list of books I’ve read that contain some of the best sex scenes that have stuck with me. These range from the sexy, the jarring, the oddly funny, or the just plain illicit and juicy variety. And almost all were eye-openers in some form or another. Enjoy!
“Glamorama”- Bret Easton Ellis
“Exit to Eden”- Anne Rampling (Anne Rice)
“The Sleeping Beauty” Series- Anne Rampling
“Delta of Venus”- Anais Nin
“East of Eden”- John Steinbeck
“The 158 Pound Marriage”- John Irving
“The Poisonwood Bible”- Barbara Kingsolver
“Hotel New Hampshire”- John Irving
“Middlesex”- Jeffrey Eugenides
“The Time Travelers Wife”- Audrey Niffenegger
“The Reader”- Bernhard Schlink
“The Magus”- John Fowles
“Portrait in Sepia”- Isabel Allende
“The Lady and the Unicorn”- Tracy Chevalier
“Wifey”- Judy Blume
“The Last Nude”- Ellis Avery
“Atonement”- Ian McEwan
Any to add??