Anxieties about Fifty Shades of Grey began in the 17th century

From the article :

“One day in 1668, the English diarist Samuel Pepys went shopping for a book to give his young French-speaking wife. He saw a book he thought she might enjoy, L’École des femmes (The School of Women). But when he opened it, he discovered it to be “the most bawdy, lewd book that ever I saw, so that I was ashamed of reading in it”. Not so ashamed, however, that he didn’t return to buy it for himself three weeks later. The privacy offered by the Kindle wasn’t available to him, so instead he bought it with discreet “plain binding”:

Because I resolve, as soon as I have read it, to burn it, that it may not stand in the list of books, nor among them, to disgrace them if it should be found.
The next night he stole off to his room to read it. He found it:

A lewd book, but what doth me no wrong to read for information sake (but it did hazer my prick para stand all the while, and una vez to decharger); and after I had done it, I burned it, that it might not be among my books to my shame.
Pepys’s coy detours into mock-Spanish or Franglais fail to conceal the orgasmic effect the lewd book had on him. His is the earliest and most candid report we have of a reader’s bodily response to the reading of pornography…….

Then as now, attitudes towards sexuality and sexual representations were almost unbridgeably polarized. A surge in the popularity of pornographic texts was countered by increasingly severe campaigns to suppress them. But ironically those very attempts to suppress could actually bring the offending work to a wider audience, by exciting their curiosity.

Pornography’s critics in the late 20th or early 21st centuries have had less interest in the written word than in visual media: it is the film of Fifty Shades, not the book, that has fueled protests. But recurrent campaigns to ban books by such authors as Judy Blume which aim to engage candidly with younger readers on sexual concerns suggest that literature can still be a battleground – as it was in the 17th and 18th centuries. At least you don’t have to burn those books anymore, as Pepys did – you can simply delete them.”

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