Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
I picked this up because it’s considered a classic and because it’s one of the most censored books of all time. I can certainly see why: it is very explicit. It’s pure erotica, with musings on class and industrialization in 1920’s England interspersed. The Romantic- and Marxist-influenced ideas were persuasive, and the natural scenes were sometimes very lovely. I found some of the sex scenes genuinely hot, and some other parts I thought were just silly and strange. I wonder if this book is where the ridiculous practice of naming genitalia came from. Lawrence’s language is usually very pretty, but sometimes he falls victim to (or originates?) the eternal problem of purple prose: sexual feelings are really hard to describe, and often require words that are overly clinical, or awkward metaphors. For example, he says a lot that the characters feel their attraction to each other in their bowels, which seemed an odd place for it to me.
I didn’t expect the book to be progressive, so I wasn’t really shocked at the depiction of female sexuality as essentially passive. However, I do think it’s possible that a lot of misconceptions and myths about sex can be traced back to this book. The entire plot really glorifies the simultaneous orgasm as the pinnacle of sexual experience, which is unrealistic for most people. At least two male characters express frustration that their partners take too long to finish, which reflects a misunderstanding of women’s anatomy, but is presented in the text as a legitimate complaint. Mellars’s wife is depicted as a vicious harridan. Overall, the book is so obviously anti-feminist that it’s not really even worth railing against. I enjoyed parts of it, but considered reading it more about education and familiarizing myself with Lawrence than about enjoyment.