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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