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Does Anyone Tell the Whole Truth About Sex?

Does Anyone Tell the Whole Truth About Sex?

by Colin Wilson

“…But what exactly was this elusive ‘truth’ about sex? It was easy enough to see that, until Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, no major novelist had been allowed to include the all important sexual element of human existence…

The Georgians and the Victorians had simply told lies about sex; to read Jane Austen or Thackeray, you would think that all a young male wanted form a pretty girl was to lay his eternal devotion at her feet and beg permission to support her for life. The result was the development of an industry in pornography, full of seduction, rape, and incest. But pornography did not even attempt to tell the truth about sex; all its tales of “forbidden pleasures” were outrageously unrealistic. Pornography was merely the “dirty-minded” reaction to the artificial “clean-mindedness” of Victorian bigots…

In the late nineteenth century, a few bold spirits decided to risk the consequences and try to tell at least a little of the truth about sex. Nowadays, as we read Strindberg’s Marriage, Zola’s Nana, Sudermann’s Song of Songs, we find it hard to imagine what all the fuss was about; but in their own time, these writers were denounced as vicious hawkers of obscenity whose real ambition was to bring about ruination of society. By 1909, the situation had improved enough to permit H. G. Wells to portray a middle-class young girl – Ann Veronica – who offers herself to her schoolteacher and becomes his mistress; but only six years later, D. H. Lawrence’s harmless Rainbow was banned by a court in which no one had actually read the book. But for many years after their publications, Ulysses and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were seized and burned by the British and American customs authorities…

It seemed to me that, even by 1962, no one had tried to tell “the truth” about sex . . . So I felt there was still room for an attempt to tell the plain, unadorned truth about sex in the twentieth century…

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