What can erotic literature teach us about love and relationships? A lot, actually.
I don’t want to say that older people are right about our generation, but they do make some valid points, especially when they say that we don’t know the value of time anymore. Life these days goes so fast that we've gotten used to living at that pace, so we become impatient whenever things don’t go that fast. This applies to everything, including dating, of course. It’s no surprise that the most popular apps are the ones centered on modern dating, but more importantly, those that offer more optimized and easy options for their users.
As Terra Loire explains in her article for Electric Lit, we’re the first generation to embrace online dating, and although it doesn’t represent a hundred percent of our dating possibilities, it’s a fact that we’ve shaped the scene based on online attitudes and techniques. Going back to the idea of older people having a point, we seem to be missing something due to the quick pace we’ve become accustomed to. For that matter, I’ve found it very useful to go back to some classics for advice when it comes to love and relationships, mainly because we’re talking about very creative minds exploring the core of love and relationships.
Instead of going directly to the classic novels and stories about romance and ideal relationships, I’ve found that the wittiest and most relatable advice comes from the shelves of erotic literature. Leaving aside the great tips to heat up your sex life (and I really recommend them for that), they have some good messages that can be helpful in our current dating scene. So, get comfortable and let these erotic books impart some wisdom for both your sex and love life.
Don’t lose the spark.
“He whom one awaits is because he is expected, already present, already master.”
― Pauline Réage, Story of O (1954)
Story of O is a very interesting short novel that tells the story of a woman who is taken by her lover to a secret society where members enjoy engaging in BDSM. For her, the most important thing is to please the person she loves in every possible way, showing us the limits of submission and love. Not that I’m recommending this so that you follow her steps, because that’s not precisely the idea, but the quote I chose for this made me think about how common it is for relationships to enter a state of monotony that at the end of the day can really lead to the end of the relationship. The quote clearly talks about these dominant-submissive relationships, but if you take that out of the equation, you could interpret it as the idea of keeping the spark alive so that your partner waits for you with excitement and not as just a routine.
You have to let your passion out once in a while.
“All my foundation in virtue was no other than a total ignorance of vice.”
― John Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748)
One thing that happens to me a lot is that I don’t let myself explore and enjoy life as I would really want to out of shyness. This novel is all about a young woman’s sexual awakening after being pushed to grow up at a very young age. However, the great part of the story (considering the time it was written) is that she soon understands that sex and love don't always have to go together for it to be pleasurable. As you can see in the quote, she’s come to realize that what people consider virtue is nothing more than the ignorance of pleasure (or what’s considered vice). In that way, we really need to start letting our passions guide us from time to time and forget about our prudishness. At the end of the day, dating isn’t only about finding that "perfect" person, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have some fun.
Good sexting is key.
“There are two ways to reach me: by way of kisses or by way of the imagination. But there is a hierarchy: the kisses alone don't work.”
― Anaïs Nin, Henry and June (1986)
Anaïs Nin is probably one of the most important authors who explored female sexuality in a highly erotic and intelligent way. In this short story that works as an autobiographical episode, she goes back to the time she met Henry Miller and his wife June, and how she ended falling for both of them, or better said, for some of their qualities. The story shows the moment when she starts an affair with Miller and how it represented a liberation, both moral and sexual. In her exploration of this, let’s call it a sexual awakening, she gives us this great quote that could be applied to our sexting strategies (really important in modern relationships). Yes, kisses, caresses, and sex are greatly pleasurable, but without the imagination that sparks and heats up the moment, none of these will work very well. So, next time you're thinking of sexting someone, keep Nin's words in mind to improve the experience.
Don’t let past experiences ruin new possibilities.
“I’m a radiant void. I’m convalescing after a long and dreadful illness…I cannot brood over broken hearts, mine is too recently mended […]”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Ada, or Ardor (1969)
Nabokov is well known for his controversial novel Lolita, but if you thought that story was problematic, let me introduce you to Ada. This novel talks about a very tormented and complex relationship between two brothers who happened to meet in their early teens. Besides the dark themes he’s dealing with (don’t say I didn’t warn you), the novel truly becomes a catalog of philosophical teachings and, of course, erotic scenarios. However, leaving aside that matter, there is one sentence that got stuck in my mind and made me think about how, when we experience heartbreak, it’s so hard to let it go even though we’ve decided to move on and start over. Yes, as the quote says, we might feel broken and empty inside, but giving ourselves a chance to experience new possibilities can really mend our heart and soul.
Don’t stay in a relationship if you don't want to.
“It’s not that you have to achieve anything, it’s that you have to get away from where you are.”
― Marguerite Duras, The Lover (1984)
Last but not least, we have one of Duras’ most famous novels, which is said to be an autobiographical account of her experience in her native Vietnam. It explores the complex affair between a young French woman and a Chinese man in his forties in the time before the Indochina war. Besides depicting the colonial experience in the country and its social consequences, it also delves into the steamy and passionate affair between these lovers. For this last quote, I chose this novel because of the ending of the story, which shows that not all love stories (no matter how great or exciting) are meant to last forever. As you can see in the quote, sometimes it’s necessary to just leave and move on to find a better life. If you think about it, and we talked a bit about this, it’s quite easy to fall into monotony that ends up ruining the love and passion before we even realize. The best thing to do, as Duras says, is to move on and see what’s out there rather than stay in a miserable place.
Erotic literature is often criticized for its explicit and steamy scenes, but there are actually really great texts that go beyond the sexual experience. As you can see, if I didn’t mention the authors or that they belong to the erotic genre, you wouldn’t guess that these lines came from really passionate and titillating stories.
Images by @greykins