French erotica  

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"France has long been recognized as the source of all types of art and literature connected with the erotic sphere. In modern times, France has been the producer of novels, tales and dramas dealing in divers ways and from exceedingly varied viewpoints with sexual love. France exported these products to every other nation of the world. Why is it, for instance, that when we think of the French influence we immediately conjure up certain notions about the naughtiness and venereal escapades of its characters? Why is it that the majority of erotic books are French? Why is it that naughty picture cards and various other indecent drawings have been marketed to the rest of the world from France? Do not these facts serve to bolster up the truth of our contention about the primacy of France in the erotic realm!"--The Erotic History of France (1933) by Henry L. Marchand

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No nation has enjoyed a greater reputation for producing and tolerating erotica --from the 17th century libertine novels to the "whore dialogues", from the Pads edition of Joyce's Ulysses to And God Created Woman-- than France. Philosophe Denis Diderot penned an 18th-century novel featuring talking body parts, while poet Guillaume Apollinaire spiced up one of his short works with fetishism. And then there's Gay Paree, Marquis de Sade and Brigitte Bardot.



prehistoric erotica, Lascaux, Shaft of the Dead Man

12th century

12th century literature, Lecheor and other Breton lai

Letters of Heloise and Abelard

Letters of Heloise and Abelard

The Letters of Heloise and Abelard is a series of letters between French priest Peter Abelard and his female student Héloïse after their separation and his castration. These letters were also the inspiration for Alexander Pope's poem "Eloisa to Abelard".

These letters are only known by posthumous copies which makes it impossible to ascertain their authenticity, no original copies of these letters exist. Yet even if other authors have been attributed to the letters, the name of Jean de Meung has cropped up, the letters' authenticity remain the most probable thesis.

Eloisa to Abelard is a poem by Alexander Pope (1688–1744) inspired by the 12th-century story of Héloïse's illicit love for, and secret marriage to, her teacher Pierre Abélard, perhaps the most popular teacher and philosopher in Paris, and the brutal vengeance her family exacts when they castrate him, not realizing that the lovers had married.

15th century

15th century literature

Les Cent Nouvelles nouvelles

Les Cent Nouvelles nouvelles

The Cent Nouvelles nouvelles is an anonymous collection of nouvelles supposed to be narrated by various persons at the court of Philippe le Bon, and collected by Antoine de la Sale in 1456-1457. The work borrowed from Boccaccio's Decameron (1350-1353) and has in fact been subtitled the French Decameron.

The nouvelle as genre is considered the first example of literary prose in French, the first text in this category is generally cited as Les Cent Nouvelles nouvelles.

The stories are bawdy, ribald and burlesque, with titles such as The Monk-Doctor, The Armed Cuckold, The Drunkard In Paradise, The Castrated Clerk and the The Husband As Doctor.

François Villon

François Villon

François Villon (ca. 1431 - after 5 January 1463) was a French poet, thief, and vagabond. He is perhaps best known for his Testaments and his Ballade des Pendus, written while in prison. The question "Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?", taken from the Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis and translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti as "Where are the snows of yesteryear?", is one of the most famous lines of translated secular poetry in the English-speaking world.

Le Grand testament

16th century

16th century literature, 16th century art, Renaissance erotica, French Mannerism
Image:Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs.jpg
Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs by an unknown artist of the School of Fontainebleau, painted in 1594
The presumed subject of the painting Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs by an unknown artist (c.1594), is Gabrielle d'Estrées, mistress of King Henry IV of France. In the painting, Gabrielle sits up nude in a bath, holding (assumedly) Henry's coronation ring, whilst her sister sits nude beside her and pinches her right nipple.



The Heptameron is a collection of 72 short stories written in French by Marguerite of Navarre (1492-1549). It has the form of a frame narrative and was inspired by the Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio. It was originally intended to contain one hundred stories covering ten days just as the Decameron does but at Marguerite’s death it was only completed as far as the second story of the eighth day. Many of the stories deal with love, lust, infidelity and other matters romantic and sexual.

Gargantua and Pantagruel

Gargantua and Pantagruel

In Gargantua and Pantagruel Rabelais occasionally speaks explicitly in describing both emetic and erotic subjects, but such references are always humorous.

Gargantua and Pantagruel is a connected series of five novels written in the 16th century by François Rabelais. It is the story of two giants, a father (Gargantua) and his son (Pantagruel) and their adventures, written in an amusing, extravagant, satirical vein. There is much crudity and scatological humor as well as a large amount of violence. Long lists of vulgar insults fill several chapters.

17th century

French literature of the 17th century, French literature, 17th century French art, 17th century erotica

Antoine Coypel and Poussin's mythological painting. Coypel with a Leda and Poussin with works such as Venus (or a Nymph) Spied On by Satyrs.

Precursors to the libertine writers were Théophile de Viau (1590-1626) and Charles de Saint-Evremond (1610-1703), who were inspired by Epicurus and the publication of Petronius.

Also of note is the Loudun affair.

Les Vies des Dames galantes

Les Vies des Dames galantes (1665-1666)

Brantôme's posthumously published mémoirs are biographical sketches of the "gallant" men and women of the European courts. Its best known volume is Les Vies des Dames Galantes which was quoted by Freud in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life and illustrated by Paul-Emile Bécat.

Académie des dames ou le meursius francais

Académie des dames ou le meursius francais,whore dialogue

Académie des dames ou le meursius francais is an early work of erotic fiction written by Nicolas Chorier, first published in Latin in c.1659 as Aloisiae Sigaeae, Toletanae, Satyra sotadica de arcanis amoris et Veneris.

The book is written in the form of a series of dialogues with Tullia, a twenty-six year-old Italian woman, the wife of Callias, who is charged with the sexual initiation of her young cousin, Ottavia, to whom she declares, "You mother asked to reveal to you the most mysterious secrets of bridal bed and to teach you what you must be with your husband, which your husband will also be, touching these small things which so strongly inflame men's passion. This night, so that I can indoctrinate you in all of this liberated language, will sleep together in my bed, which I would like to be able to say will have been the softest of Venus's lace."

L'École des filles

L'École des filles

L’Escole des Filles ou la Philosophie des dames (a so-called whore dialogue) is an erotic work of fiction first described by Samuel Pepys in his famous diary. It was first published anonymously in Paris in 1655 by an. The presumed authors are Michel Millot and/or Jean L'Ange [or de Lange].

Originally published in 1655, this French text has also been translated as 'The School for Venus,' and despite its initial title (École des filles), should not be confused with The School for Girls (L'École des biches).

Letters of a Portuguese Nun

Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1669)

The Letters of a Portuguese Nun (Fr. Les Lettres portugaises), first published anonymously by Claude Barbin in Paris in 1669, are a work believed by most scholars to be epistolary fiction (comprising five love letters) written by Gabriel-Joseph de La Vergne, comte de Guilleragues (1628–1685).

The passionate letters were a European publishing sensation (in part because of their presumed authenticity) and set a precedent for sentimentalism and for the literary genres of the sentimental novel and the epistolary novel into the 18th century. A 2006 book written by Myriam Cyr argues that the letters are in fact authentic.

Vénus dans le Cloître

Vénus dans le Cloître (1683)

The Nun in her Smock or Venus in the Cloister is the English translation of the French novel Vénus dans le Cloître (1683), ascribed to Abbé du Prat.

In 1724, Edmund Curll published the "pornographic" title that argued that it is the church, and not Christ, that forbids sexual exploration. In 1727 he was convicted under the common law offence of disturbing the peace for its publication. It appears to be the first conviction for obscenity in the United Kingdom, and set a legal precedent for other convictions.

The format of the book is an example of a whore dialogue. In a series of five dramatic conversations between two fictional nuns (sister Agnès and sister Angélique) are related. In these conversations, the elder more experienced woman instructs the younger about sex.


18th century

18th century French erotica

18th century France saw a veritable barrage of imagery and writings now considered erotic or pornographic, ranging from Les liaisons dangereuses to Sade's carnography. The terms pornography and erotica were not yet attested in the English language, but French writer Restif de la Bretonne had already used the term pornography in his 1769 work Le Pornographe.

19th century

19th century French erotica, French can-can, Moulin Rouge, 19th century Paris, 19th century French literature, modern art

This section is under construction at 19th century French erotica.

20th century

French striptease, 20th century French erotica

The 20th century saw new technologies such as photography and cinema, which led to erotic photography and erotic films. Surrealism was one of the most remarkable developments as artistic movement in the 20th century, its penchant for eroticism was in evidence in surrealist literature and surrealist art. See Sade/Surreal and Sade's influence on Surrealism. See also the erotic photography of Man Ray and the paintings of Salvador Dali, and the work of André Masson and of Hans Bellmer.

Obscenity censorship in France

censorship in France

The trial of the poet Théophile de Viau in 1623 is a milestone both in the invention of obscenity and in the history of censorship.

Sade - Pauvert - Maurice Girodias - Eric Losfeld - Gustave Flaubert - Charles Baudelaire - Hara Kiri

July 16, 1949: French law targets "publications destinées à la jeunesse," [publications intended for the youth]. Initially, the law applied to magazines and periodicals of a semi-salacious nature, usually well illustrated. In 1954 the law was expanded to include printed books as well.


See also

world erotica, French popular culture, French striptease, libertine novel, French exploitation, French erotic literature, L'enfer, prostitution in France

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