Classic literature can get a bad rap. Sometimes it gets stereotyped as boring, long-winded, and stuffy.
But it’s not true!
Many classic novels feature passages not just suggestive, but downright explicit. Here are the top seven steamiest love scenes from canonical fiction.
Readers may think that sexy vampires are a new trend brought on by the Twilight books. But not only did Bram Stoker invent the iconic Dracula, he also started the whole sensual, seducing vampire theme, as well.
At the novel’s opening, Jonathan Harker is traveling to Transylvania to talk to Count Dracula about a property the Count wants to buy in London. Despite getting some shifty looks from the locals, everything’s chill until Jonathan starts noticing strange things, like how Count Dracula never sleeps at night and the way he moves along walls like a lizard. Then, Jonathan falls asleep one evening only to wake up surrounded by strange women.
“The girl went on her knees, and bent over me … Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed about to fasten on my throat … the skin of my throat began to tingle … I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the super-sensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in a languorous ecstasy and waited—waited with beating heart.”
Is it getting hot in here?
2. Madame Bovary
Poor Emma Bovary. She’s married to Charles, who loves her dearly but is sadly boring. She meets and becomes passionately infatuated with a man named Léon, who teaches her to appreciate the finer things in life, like shopping for things she can’t afford.
They begin an illicit affair and one day decide to go on a drive around the city in a cab. Léon gives the driver no instructions, just tells him to drive around. After a while, the cabbie becomes nervous and stops, only to be met with a furious, “Go on!” from inside the cab. The reader sees the scene from a passerby’s perspective:
“The good folk opened large wonder-stricken eyes at this sight … a cab with blinds drawn, and which appeared thus constantly shut more closely than a tomb, and tossing about like a ship.”
Hmm. Wonder what they were doing?
3. The History of O
This 1954 short novel revolves completely around a woman named O and her experiences at a French château that exists solely to house female sex slaves and their masters. She is brought to the château by her lover, René, and she agrees to become part of the house as a submissive. Things escalate quickly.
“Then they made O get up and were on the verge of untying her … when someone protested that he wanted to take her first, right there on the spot. So they made her kneel down again, this time with her bust on an ottoman, her hands still tied behind her, with her hips higher than her torso. Then one of the men, holding her with both his hands on her hips, plunged into her belly.”
The book only gets more hardcore from there, putting 50 Shades of Grey to shame.
4. Lady Chatterley’s Lover
After being published in 1928, Lady Chatterley was swiftly censored or outright banned in many countries. Since, it’s carried a reputation for being sexy, bawdy, and explicit. While the book has mellowed significantly with time, that doesn’t mean the love scenes have fallen flat. Instead of coming off hardcore, the love scenes now seem nuanced and downright steamy.
The novel’s protagonist, Connie, is married to a wealthy man that she loves but who has been rendered impotent by a war injury. Sexually frustrated, she begins an affair with Oliver, the grounds keeper. The first couple times are lukewarm, but the third time they’re together, something magical happens.
“Then as he began to move … there awoke in her new strange thrills rippling inside her. Rippling, rippling, rippling, like a flapping overlapping of soft flames, soft as feathers, running to points of brilliance, exquisite, exquisite and melting her all molten inside. It was like bells rippling up and up to a culmination. She lay unconscious of the wild little cries she uttered at the last.”
Talk about the roaring twenties.
5. Fanny Hill
Written in 1748, Fanny Hill has the distinction of being the first pornographic novel—if not in the world, than in the English language. It starts with Fanny’s parents dying and her being tricked by a woman named Mrs. Brown into working at a brothel. Pretty grim. But then she meets and falls in love with Charles, who helps her escape from Mrs. Brown’s. They run away together to an inn outside London, where they spend several days in bed.
“Charles had just slipped the bolt of the door, and running, caught me in his arms, and lifting me from the ground, with his lips glued to mine, bore me trembling, panting, dying with soft fears and tender wishes, to the bed; where his impatience would not suffer him to undress me, more than just unpinning my handkerchief and gowns, and unlacing my stays. My bosom was now bare, and rising in the warmest throbs …”
And this is perhaps the tamest of the novel’s love scenes.
This novel was published in 1920 in France, about an affair between a 25-year-old boy, Chéri, and a 49-year-old courtesan, Léa. Written before the term “cougar” was coined, it tells their story as their relationship is coming to an end. (Chéri becomes engaged to be married.) Although she tries to hide it, Léa is sad about the death of their union. When the reader sees their first kiss, it’s not hard to see why.
“Her kiss was such that they reeled apart, drunk, deaf, breathless, trembling as if they had just been fighting. She stood up again in front of him, but he did not move from the depths of his chair, and she taunted him under her breath. “Well? … Well?” and waited for an insult. Instead, he held out his arms, opened his vague beautiful hands, tilted his head back as if he had been struck … He babbled indeterminate words … in which she could distinguish her name—”darling”—”I want you”—”I’ll never leave you” … “
That must have been some kiss.
7. Edith Wharton
Many people know Wharton as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence, a book about an affair that hints at sex but never refers to it directly. Her novels became poster children of the buttoned-up Edwardian period. Oh, except for that time she wrote straight-up erotica.
Discovered as part of an unfinished short story, the following scene was annotated as “unpublishable” by Wharton. Good thing her biographer, who found the document hidden in an old archive—didn’t listen.
“As his hand stole higher, she felt the secret bud of her body swelling, yearning, quivering hotly to burst into bloom. Ah, here was his subtle forefinger pressing it, forcing its tight petals softly apart, and laying on their sensitive edges a circular touch so soft and yet so fiery that already lightnings of heat shot from that palpitating center all over her surrendered body, to the tips of her fingers and the ends of her loosened hair.”
See, classic literature isn’t so boring, is it?