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The Artistry of Dark Erotica
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The Flowers of Evil

In the year 1857, the poet Charles Baudelaire's book, "Les Fleurs du Mal", was released to both
acclaim and outrage.  It was declared by authorities of the time to be obscene, and was widely
banned. Baudelaire himself was considerably persecuted. Sound familiar? Many of the creations on
this website, 155 years after the publication of "The Flowers of Evil", provoke the same type of
response from society.

And yet, you can now find Baudelaire's work on the shelf of countless bookstores worldwide...artists
of the stature of Henri Matisse have illustrated editions of  "The Flowers of Evil"...its poems are
cherished by intellectuals and romantics. The copy on my own bookshelf is decorated with an image
of a dead courtesan, painted by Eugene Delacroix.
Here is part of the entry for Baudelaire's work of dark erotica from Wikipedia:

The author and the publisher were prosecuted under the regime of the Second Empire as an outrage aux bonnes
mœurs (trans. "an insult to public decency"). As a consequence of this prosecution, Baudelaire was fined 300
francs. Six poems from the work were suppressed and the ban on their publication was not lifted in France until
1949. These poems were "Lesbos", "Femmes damnées (À la pâle clarté)" (or "Women Doomed (In the pale
glimmer...)"), "Le Léthé" (or "Lethe"), "À celle qui est trop gaie" (or "To Her Who Is Too Gay"), "Les Bijoux" (or
"The Jewels"), and " Les "Métamorphoses du Vampire" (or "The Vampire's Metamorphoses"). These were later
published in Brussels in a small volume entitled Les Épaves (Jetsam). On the other hand, upon reading "The
Swan" or "Le Cygne" from Les Fleurs du mal, Victor Hugo announced that Baudelaire had created "un nouveau
frisson" (a new shudder, a new thrill) in literature.

And here is one of those six banned poems, which, as noted above, was forbidden to publication for
almost a hundred years:
Damned Women
(or "Women Doomed in the Pale Glimmer")

Lying on the sand like ruminating cattle,
They turn their eyes toward the horizon of the sea,
And their clasped hands and their feet which seek the other's
Know both sweet languor and shudders of pain.
Some, whose hearts grew amorous from long confessions,
In the depth of the woods, among the babbling brooks,
Spell out the love of their timid adolescence
By carving the green wood of young saplings;
Others, like sisters, walk gravely and with slow steps
Among the high rocks peopled with apparitions,
Where Saint Anthony saw the naked, purple breasts
Of his temptations rise up like lava;
There are some who by the light of crumbling resin
In the silent void of the old pagan caverns
Call out for help from their screaming fevers to you
O Bacchus, who lull to sleep the ancient remorse!
And others, whose breasts love the feel of scapulars,
Who, concealing a whip under their long habits,
Mingle, in the dark woods and solitary nights,
The froth of pleasure with tears of torment.
O virgins, O demons, O monsters, O martyrs,
Great spirits, contemptuous of reality,
Seekers of the infinite, pious and satyric,
Sometimes full of cries, sometimes full of tears,
You whom my spirit has followed into your hell,
Poor sisters, I love you as much as I pity you,
For your gloomy sorrows, your unsatisfied thirsts,
And the urns of love with which your great hearts are filled!
Whether poetry interests you or not, those final lines...

For your gloomy sorrows, your unsatisfied thirsts, and the urns of love with which your great hearts are

...speak poignantly of the desires once fulfilled in a banned book, and now equally pursued in a place
like this modern website.
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Comment from: Nastassja
Date: March 11, 2012

Ah, so is this going to be the part of the salon where the death fetish
intellectuals gather? This and of course Hitomi's story pages, which are also of
splendid literary quality. Well, I have to say I'm pleased to see it. Fascinated as I
am with the conjunction of death and sex, the "mainstream" of this
underground world seems to be a concoction mostly made up of blood, T & A.
Interesting thought, that the artistic side of the fetish would then be subversive?

In any case, I enjoyed this essay on Baudelaire, who is a great favorite of mine. I
love Femmes Damnees, though I have to say my favorite of his is not one of the
banned poems, but the lovely Invitation to the Voyage.

Your point about sexuality being the target for persecution is well taken. And
not just death sexuality, but all art that dares to enter into the world of sex.  
More's the pity, really. I mean, are we done being Puritans yet?

Thank you, Othello. I'll be following this column with very great interest.

Comment from: Othello
Date: March 13, 2012

Thank you, Nastassja. I do indeed hope the intellectuals in our community come
to share their thoughts here, and I thank you so much for doing so. We really
have some remarkably astute and erudite individuals in our circle -- I have
learned much from them, and have been introduced to new avenues of thought
(an experience I truly treasure).

I love Baudelaire's Invitation to the Voyage as well. One of the most purely
beautiful poems ever written.

And I had to smile at your thought that in the world of "pulp fiction" death
erotica, we may be a subversive element by introducing poetry, fine fiction, art,
and other creations from society's cultural mainstream. Who would have
thought it?

But I will continue to do exactly that, with enthusiasm. Again, many thanks.

Comment from: Paul Smith
Date: April 1, 2012

Lovely poetry!  "Les Fleurs du Mal" is (are, oh, nevermind) one of many examples
of the linkage of sex and death throughout the ages.  This linkage seems to have
been particularly pronounced in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  
This may have been linked to the rise of Romanticism, which seems to have
seen such linkages and impulses in positive ways, Goethe's "Werther" being one

There's at least one study of this exact topic, Bram Dijkstra's "Idols of
Perversity", but that author's conclusions are so blindered and ideologically
cretinous as to be utterly worthless.  The book is a really, really good collection
of the very art it seeks to condemn, though.

I love Nastassja's suggestion that the artistic and poetic side of the death fetish
community is in fact subversive.  Really, art and poetry are currently subversive
in general.  We live in a crude and materialistic time, in which any suggestion
that there's more to life, and to sex, than money, power, and number of partners,
is profoundly threatening, and profoundly transformative.

Comment from: Chris B.
Date: May 5, 2012

Such sweet and powerful words grace our eyes and ears. Thank you so much.