The word ‘erotic’, the adjective that describes the arousal of sexual desire or excitement, made its first appearance in the Seventeenth Century. It was derived from the French word érotique, which was, in turn, based on the Greek words erõtikos, erõs, and erõt ‘sexual love’.
With all the media chatter going on about erotica ‘entering the mainstream’ post-Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s easy to forget that there’s been a wealth of wonderful – and sometimes controversial – erotic literature, paintings and objects that’s appeared over the centuries. In fact, our modern sexual lexicon is heavily influenced by all that has gone before. Take, for example, the words ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ (which I included definitions for in my last link round-up post). While many of us do understand their meaning, a considerably smaller number of people are aware of (or have read the work of) the writers after whom they were coined - Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, author of Venus in Furs, and Donatien Alphonse François, also known as the Marquis de Sade. Similarly, sex toys are nothing new: did you know that the word ‘dildo’ appeared in English in the 1500s?
If you’ve visited the Behind the Chintz Curtain Facebook page and scrolled back to the very beginning, you’ll know that we’ve included some significant sexual milestones, starting from the 1300s, in our timeline. But if you’re not a Facebook user – or simply can’t be bothered hitting the arrow key or stroking your mouse to get that far back – here they are. Think there’s something significant missing from the line up? Let me know …
2011: Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L James is released as an eBook by Australian virtual publisher, The Writers’ Coffee Shop.
2003-2004: Belle de Jour
Brooke Magnanti writes (anonymously) about her life as a prostitute via her blog, Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl (later published as Belle de Jour: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl).
Image: Brooke Magnanti, a.k.a Belle de Jour, 2010. Original photograph by Paul Clarke.