As an erotic author, it is important to know and understand the historical roots of the genre and its seminal works. One of the most controversial and groundbreaking works of erotic literature is “History of O” by French author Anne Desclos, who also wrote under the pseudonym Pauline Réage. This novel is so hard-hitting that it sparked public outrage and even an official police investigation. This blog post is about the creation and aftermath of “History of O” and how it influenced the landscape of erotic literature.
The novel “Story of O” was published in France in 1954 and tells the story of a young woman named “O” and her journey into BDSM and submission. O, a fashion photographer, is taken by her boyfriend Réné to a castle near Paris. There, she is first whipped and taken by several men. Out of love for Réné, O submits to these assaults. She remains in this castle for a long time as a voluntary sex slave. Later, Réné gives O to an older gentleman. She becomes a slave to this man, Sir Stephen. Sir Stephen introduces O deeper into the world of sadomasochism.
The vivid and explicit language and the book’s dark themes quickly attracted attention. Speculation led the French police to go in search of the chateau, which is named Roissy in the novel. Countless chateaus were canvassed and checked against the novel’s specifications.
According to the novel, the estate was supposed to be near Paris and in the middle of a large park with a lake. In the cellar, there was supposed to be a dungeon and, beyond that, a number of rooms in which sadomasochistic practices could be carried out. Thus, according to the novel, a gallery in the library was supported by two columns. In one of these columns was a hook that could hold O’s hands above her head. Even the colors of the carpets and walls were detailed in the novel. However, the police did not find a lock that matched the descriptions in the novel.
The success of the novel soon led to a real scandal when a French woman named Dominique Aury (another pseudonym of the writer Anne Declos) admitted to having written the book under the pseudonym Pauline Réage. That a female author would write extensively about BDSM and submission was unusual, and many wondered how much of the story was autobiographical. Aury explained that the novel was not based on actual events but was fictional. Nevertheless, some people still believe today that the book must be autobiographical to some degree since the sadomasochism practices described in the novel require a profound knowledge of the scene.
The French police investigated whether The Story of O was obscene and potentially harmful to society. In 1955, the book’s publisher was charged with publishing obscene material. The case was dismissed, but the book remained on the index for several years. It was not until 1967 that the French government removed the text from the list of indexed books.
In Germany, too, there were repeated police operations because of the novel. The first police investigation into the novel was initiated in Munich as early as 1958. The Munich public prosecutor’s office found the novel “offensive and lewd.” The novel was then indexed, meaning it was not publicly available for years. In 1962, a new edition of the novel was published. This led to a renewed police investigation. The Munich public prosecutor’s office ruled that the novel should remain indexed. In 1970, the story was published in another new edition. This led to a third police investigation. The Munich public prosecutor’s office finally found that the book should no longer be indexed. Therefore, “The Story of O” was eventually removed from the index in 1971.
The book was first published in 1959 and immediately banned by the government in the United States. The ban was lifted in 1966, but some states kept the text on the index. It was not until 1986 that the book was removed from the list of indexed books in all forms of the United States.
In the United Kingdom, the book was indexed in 1965 and remained on the index until 1986. The book was indexed in Australia in 1966 and remained on the index until 1982.
Despite the criticism and bans, the book gained enormous popularity and worldwide attention, especially among lovers of BDSM and erotic literature. Authors of erotic literature can learn some essential lessons from the history of this novel’s impact:
The power of breaking taboos: “History of O” was extremely controversial and highly debated due to its explicit depiction of BDSM and other sexual practices. Authors of erotic literature can learn from this that breaking taboos and exploring boundaries in their stories can arouse attention. However, treating such topics with sensitivity and responsibility is essential to minimize possible adverse reactions.
Psychological Depth: The novel “History of O” goes beyond the purely physical portrayal of sexuality and explores the psychological aspects of the main character. This shows that erotic literature does not have to be limited to physical acts, but can also explore the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters. This adds depth and complexity to the story.
The importance of character development: In “History of O,” the main character experiences profound character development. Authors can learn from this the importance of emphasizing character development in erotic literature, as this helps to engage readers emotionally in the story.
Style and Language: The style and language used in erotic literature are crucial. Authors should think carefully about how they describe the sexual scenes to create an atmosphere of eroticism and intimacy without being vulgar or obscene. The writing style should fit the mood of the story.
Critical reflection: “History of O” has also provoked critical reflection, especially on issues of submission and feminism. Authors of erotic literature should be aware that their works may provoke different interpretations and discussions. It is essential to consider their stories’ possible social and political implications.
Overall, authors of erotic literature can learn from the impact history of “History of O” how to write challenging and provocative stories that engage readers and provoke thought while considering ethical and social issues.
“History of O” by Pauline Réage is a groundbreaking work of erotic literature that made waves when first published and continues to influence the genre today. The book’s influence is felt in the way authors write about sexuality, BDSM, and power dynamics in literature and how society and critics view and consume erotic books. By understanding the creation and controversy surrounding the book, we can better understand the history of erotic literature and how it has evolved into what we know and love today. As erotica writers, we can take inspiration from “History of O” and learn how to continue pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable and entertaining in the genre.