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Porn for clever people

There’s an interesting mini-genre springing up on the other side of the pond – clever, accessible non-fiction books about porn. The Erotic Engine, by Canadian journalist Patchen Barss, examines how pornographic industries has long propelled civilisation forward, constantly paving the way for new technologies, new forms of communication, and new forms of art, ‘from Gutenberg to Google’ – whether cave painting,VCRs or the internet itself, he argues, porn got there first, and without it we’d be stuck in the stone age. Or there’s A Billion Wicked Thoughts by the awesomely named Sai Gaddam and Ogi Ogas, which begins with a seemingly obvious observation: there’s never been an opportunity to study our deepest, hidden desires on a large scale… that is, until now. The internet, they postulate, presents us with ‘the world’s largest experiment’, as we can finally track what turns who on and why. One of the more entertaining bits is their discussion of ‘Rule 34’, the net aphorism that translates as ‘if you can imagine it, it exists as internet porn’ – whether that’s smurf porn, disco skeleton porn or erotic falconry (I’ll never think of Kes in the same way). Surely this is mindblowingly intriguing, no? Lastly, there’s Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan (not the shoot-em-up military thriller writer, I checked) and his partner in crime Cacilda Jetha. This I was less sure about – they’re looking at sex from an evolutionary point of view, and arguing that we’re naturally polygamous (there’s more to it than this, but that’s basically the gist).

So lots of interesting, entertaining, controversial stuff – but none of it published in the UK. The best we get is how-to guides or tacky erotic fiction, neither of which (in all honesty) I’m that partial to. Are we really that prudish and lame? Or would it just be too damn embarrassing to be caught reading an intelligent book about porn?

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