Who says classic literature can’t be sexy? Believe it or not, romance, tension and sexual morality were all seriously interesting themes to the classic authorial mind. The spiciest of such authors even occasionally penned explicit scenes. If mama asks, you’re just reading to improve your vocabulary, worldly knowledge and reading comprehension skills…
…She’ll never know you’re really reading steamy classiXXX!
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Banned in 1857 for obscenity, Madame Bovary tracks Emma Bovary’s attempts to escape the banality of married life by having numerous, passionate extramarital affairs. Although not the most graphic book on this list, Madame Bovary was certainly a titillating piece of work for its time!
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Now we’re getting graphic! Lady Chatterley’s Lover tracks the tortured dissatisfaction of Constance, a young married woman, whose upper-class husband was paralyzed in World War I. Constance’s frustration eventually leads her to have an intense and ecstatic physical affair with a member of the working class. More than just a work of smut, however, the novel is an intriguing investigation into the importance of both intellect and physical pleasure in happiness, spirituality and love.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Can we even call this book sexy? Lolita tells the story of a twisted love affair between Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man, and Lolita, a 12-year-old girl. Unembarrassed about Humbert’s aching desire for Lolita, the novel is certainly steamy and will make you question the definition of honest, acceptable and mutual love.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
We all know the story here. While never truly explicit, Romeo and Juliet is a play full of sexual charge. The play traces the marriage and tragic downfall of two fatally attracted, secret lovers. What could be sexier?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Will Jane Eyre’s quest to find love end blissfully or in despair? Either way, Jane’s tale will enthrall you in the tension of attraction between a homely girl and a dark, powerful and all but unattainable man.
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
Set in France during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Tropic of Cancer centers on the sordid life of a bohemian writer, describing his experiences with sex, homelessness, hunger and despair. The book was first published in 1934 in France, but was banned in the United States for its many vivid descriptions of sexual encounters. Still, Tropic of Cancer is a noteworthy meditation on the human condition—a poignant critique of conformity and hypocrisy. Think: Fifty Shades of Grey for the philosophical crowd.
Just about anything by Sappho…
As many soon-to-be college freshmen will learn, Sappho is the sauciest Greek poet in town. Sappho lived from approximately 612 to 570 BCE, and wrote numerous poems about both gay and straight passion and love. Sappho’s poetry is, in fact, so suggestive that the word “lesbian” derives from the name of her native home-island, Lesbos.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Oh, the longing of poor Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw! Wuthering Heights is a story of tormented love, thwarted by circumstance again and again. Once young and inseparable lovers, Heathcliff and Catherine are torn apart by jealousy, family drama and Catherine’s own preoccupation with social status. Wuthering Heights is sure to make you feel the agony of obsessive love, forever unfulfilled.
Howl by Allen Ginsberg
Even though it has long been considered one of the greatest works of American literature, Howl is chock-full of sexual imagery! The poem faced an obscenity trial in the United States in 1957 due to its graphic and often disquieting depictions of both gay and straight sexual practices. To boot, Howl is also brimming with references to illegal drugs.
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Like many works on this list, The Sorrows of Young Werther is a tale of love that ends in tragedy. Herein, Werther falls in love with Charlotte, a beautiful woman who, to Werther’s dismay, is already engaged to another man. Unable to let go of his love, Werther cultivates a close, torturous friendship with Charlotte—an act of masochism that ultimately becomes too much for Werther to bear.
Such are the scandalous books of the olden days. I hope this list will inspire you to read more classic literature!
These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors
Poignant: affecting or moving the emotions
Conformity: compliance with social standards and practices.
Hypocrisy: a quality of acting like one possesses great virtue or moral principles that one does not actually have