Really good porridge. A fantastic new word. Gary Oldman. Especially Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element, bleeding black goo. Mmm.
However, this means that I tend to find anything labelled 'erotica' pretty unerotic. There are only so many combinations of body parts, fluids and squishy sounds in the world, but that's not the problem - there are only so many plots, too, and a lot of people have done amazing things with those. No, my issue is that most erotica is quite simply bland. Badly imagined, badly written and dull.
So I was excited when the press got all hot and bothered about Fifty Shades of Grey, EL James's bondage novel that has become the fastest selling book of the year and is heralded with 'bringing erotica into the mainstream.' Last year a friend bought me Taschen's Le Petite Morte as a wedding present: a beautiful, sensual, downright hot collection of photographs depicting female orgasm. I was hoping that FSOG might be the literary equivalent of this: smart, unsentimental and actually sexy. I'd love to read a piece of erotica that properly turned me on. It would make the No.38 so much more fun (although the new Routemasters are titillatingly buff).
Oh well. Instead, I've just trudged through far too many badly written, adjective-laden pages of tat. The erotic revolution is, unsurprisingly, a PR tease. But what really worries me is that this stuff is supposed to be, according to James's publisher Selina Walker, "liberating for women": a bold reflection of modern female desires.
Because this is 'empowerment' according to Made In Chelsea. The hero is a horrifying blank, a moneyed puppet woven from the dreams of a thirteen year old with a daddy complex weaned on Justin Bieber and Simon Cowell. My thighs do not moisten instantly at the sight of helicopters and yachts, giant sandstone lobbies and state-of-the-art stainless steel fireplaces or, indeed, "an imposing U-shaped sofa that could seat ten adults comfortably." Smouldering grey eyes do not characterisation make. A small part of me (and not the small "clearly defined sac in a layer between the vagina and the urethra close to the perineal membrane" part of me) is serious about this. It worries for the girls.
And don't tell me to turn my brain off. I'm a woman. The brain bit is half the fun, and there is nothing less sexy than stupid (Hey. Thor has a kick-ass intellect somewhere in there. I can tell.) I like a fuck as much as a winsome woo, but you're going to have to fuck my brain too. I challenge you to read e.e.cummings's i like my body when it is with your and not be more turned on in fourteen lines than you were in forty chapters of magnolia-scented designer whippage.
Am I wrong? If so, do enlighten me as to what I am so obviously missing. Otherwise, please offer your recommendations for the best properly erotic fiction out there.
The more surprising the better.