Sex and books: London's most erotic writers

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Time Out books editor John O‘Connell explains the reasoning behind Time Out‘s pick of London‘s 30 finest-ever peddlers of smut, filth and depravity. Parents be warned: this survey is for grown-ups only


  • See London's 30 most erotic writers

    London has always been a palace of sexual varieties: both the hub of Britain’s sex trade and the chamber in which, since the advent of the printed word, debates about liberty, repression and obscenity have raged and (occasionally) been resolved. It’s the country’s erotic centre – its G-spot, if you will. Which is why Time Out decided it was high time to consider the ways in which sex has been celebrated by London writers down the centuries.

    Our Top 30 chart of London’s rudest writers collects, in a single heaving but well-ventilated space, the authors we feel have contributed the most to our understanding of the city’s complex sexual psychology. What do we mean by ‘rude’? Boldly transgressive as well as pornographic (after all, anyone can be pornographic), seductive and titillating as well as obscene and, always, well written.

    One of the functions of nostalgia is to purge the past of elements that don’t chime with our limited sense of how people once lived. So it’s salutary, and oddly bracing, to be reminded that dildos were around in the sixteenth century (Thomas Nashe) and that ‘cunt’ (okay, ‘queynte’) was a slang term for female genitalia in Chaucer’s day.

    But don’t just take our word for it. Our saucy scribblers come endorsed by some of London’s finest contemporary writers, including Martin Amis, Sarah Waters, Will Self and Jilly Cooper.

    So put down your whip, unbuckle that gimp mask and let’s begin…

    1

    Walter, aka Henry Spencer Ashbee

    2

    Alan Hollinghurst

    3

    Kenneth Tynan

    4

    Algeron Charles Swinburne

    5

    Thomas Nashe

    6

    John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester

    7

    William Shakespeare

    8

    Geoffrey Chaucer

    9

    Gerald Kersh

    10

    John Cleland

    11

    Havelock Ellis

    12

    Hanif Kureishi

    13

    Sigmund Freud

    14

    Henry Fielding

    15

    James Boswell

    16

    William Wycherley

    17

    Daniel Defoe

    18

    Mark Ravenhill

    19

    Geoff Nicholson

    20

    Maxim Jakubowski

    21

    Oscar Moore

    23

    Sebastian Horsley

    24

    Molly Parkin

    25

    Stewart Home

    26

    Mary Robinson

    27

    Patrick Marber

    28

    JG Ballard

    29

    Lady Caroline Lamb

    30

    Anthony Neilson Thanks to Jane Edwardes, Rachel Halliburton, Nina Caplan, Jonathan Derbyshire. Portraits Simian Coates and Rob Greig

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8 comments
How about at the Eritrean Embassies, then they hav
How about at the Eritrean Embassies, then they hav

How about at the Eritrean Embassies, then they have made Sinai to the Eritrean Quantanamo. Besides Eritreans all over the World (Italy, Scandinevian countries, Germany, Holland, etc ought orgisane themselves to demonstrate the situation in our country! It is the best time now to make finally a change which was already due!

Villlon
Villlon

Stewart Home is a genius -- if you don't like his books I will follow you around and annoy you -- forever. Starting now.

Aishling Morgan
Aishling Morgan

No two people will ever agree on a list of this sort, but as the author of thirty erotic novels I feel I at least have a better grip on the subject than most. Aside from the controversial and almost certainly incorrect attribution of "Walter's" work to Ashbee, Freud and Ellis seem very peculiar choices in that neither was an eroticist at all. A few other entries seem eccentric, or somewhat random, but in general the list meets with my approval. ;o) One other thing... It may be true to say that anyone can be pornographic, although Mary Whitehouse might have struggled, but it is not true to say that anyone can write erotica, or pornography if you prefer the term. Just as with even romance or horror, it may appear simple but to do it at all well requires both dedication and a great deal of background knowledge.

Maddalo
Maddalo

"Walter" was not Henry Spencer Ashbee. Only Ian Gibson thought they were the same, which only shows that he has no notion of chronology,and a cloth ear for writers' styles. Walter has been convincingly identified as a military officer, of no distinction except for having written his memoirs. Ashbee was a bibliophile, and a much better writer than "Walter" (and utterly different in style), but he had no sexual experience. Ashbee quite possibly died a virgin, while "Walter" quite clearly was not writing porno fantasy, but real - and often unflattering - experience, a sort of sexual Henry Mayhew.

Jess Smith
Jess Smith

Why is Anais Nin not on this list?

Frank Dartson
Frank Dartson

What about Rofl Lundgren and his erotic tales?