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The 6 Best New NSFW Books for Fall

As the weather cools off, these books will warm you up.

Miss Rosenby Miss Rosen
Artwork: (L):  Sin-a-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties Expanded Edition (Feral House) (R): X-Rated: Adult Movie Posters of the 60s and 70s (Reel Art Press).

The beauty of art is not merely in the talent or technique, but in its ability to use any manner of subject as its content. Where the subject of sex is often taboo, in the world of art is simply part of the setting as a whole. Perhaps this is because artists will put more than a little bit of thought into the meaning of the work; it may be sensual and stimulating, but that’s just on the surface.

Also: The Top 6 Musicians Who Became Artists

Beneath the initial layer of titillation, lies something more: an understanding of human nature, society, and cultural mores. Crave spotlights six of the best new NSFW books coming out this fall that present new ways of looking one of humanity’s favorite subjects.

X-Rated: Adult Movie Posters of the 60s and 70s

Back in the days, before the age of VHS, pornographic films were just that – celluloid productions. Most people didn’t have the capacity to screen them at home, so if they wanted to see action they would head to the movie theater: a freaky idea all its own.

But how to stay up on what was going down? This was where movie posters were got in on the action. In a single work, they had to deliver the goods without giving up too much detail lest they be deemed a crime of obscenity. Walking the line, within the technological possibilities prior to Photoshop, these posters were kinky, campy advertisements for a burgeoning new industry on its way to becoming mainstream.

In celebration of porn’s early years, X-Rated: Adult Movie Posters of the 60s and 70s (Reel Art Press) presents 350 posters, pressbooks and stills from the Golden Age of the sex film. Taken as a whole, we are given a look at the fetishes and fantasies of the mid-twentieth century, many of which have become timeless archetypes of male desire. There are The Muthers, the suburban MILFs of yesteryear, as in demand as their daughters, the “College Girls” ready to party after class. X-Rated features cult legends and classic films like Debbie Does Dallas, Emmanuelle, Flesh Gordon, Fritz the Cat, and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, which allowed pornography to crossover from fringe to mainstream entertainment.

©Bettina Rheims

Bettina Rheims

Bettina Rheims brings a woman’s perspective to a traditionally male-dominated milieu, fusing fashion and fantasy to create something entirely new. In 1978, she launched her career taking photographs of Pigalle strippers and acrobats. “I love the flesh. I am a photographer of skin,” Rheims told ARTE in 2014.

Her love of the natural, female form has given her a distinctive vantage point, a place of comfort within the spaces that have been occupied by men, and giving us a taste of the female gaze. This can be seen throughout Bettina Rheims (Taschen) a 35-year retrospective of her work featuring more than 300 photographs personally selected and assembled by the artist.

Whether working on commercial or personal projects, her aesthetic sensibilities are entirely her own, creating a new lane for women to photograph women, revealing a dynamic that is rarely seen. Whether photographing Kate Moss, Madonna, Monica Bellucci, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, or anonymous women she met throughout the course of her work, Rheims reveals the spaces of desire that move between fragility and strength.

The Story of Sex: A Graphic History Through the Ages

Many people would love to believe that “normal” is an unchangeable constant; that what we deem as acceptable has always been this way. It’s certainly a convenient thought, one that allows us to believe that culture is not nearly as arbitrary as it is.

Consider the subject of sex, and that which we believe is right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy, heavenly and heathen. In The Story of Sex: A Graphic History Through the Ages (Hachette), author and sexologist Philippe Brenot takes on our assumptions, creating a non-fiction account that combines anthropology, sociology, psychology and history of human sexuality in the West from the Babylonians to the present day, with an eye towards the future and the rise of robotics.

The use of the graphic format makes the book all the more entertaining, giving its quirkier moments a more innocent edge with the charming comic book rendering. In this way, Brenot makes some of the more disconcerting subjects, like the Marquis de Sade, less unnerving. It simply begs for follow up volumes on sexual histories of people from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia prior to advent of imperialism.

Los Angeles, 1996. ©Mario Testino.

Mario Testino: Undressed

A master of blurring the boundaries between fashion and nude photography, Mario Testino seduces with the sensual, intimate playfulness of a subtle provocateur who balances the thrill of sex with grace and beauty—no matter how much, or how little, clothing is worn. His photographs are a pure celebration of the sacred and profane glories of the human form. In Mario Testino: Undressed (Taschen) the photographer shares intimate made moments made throughout his career, curated in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name currently on view in a site-specific installation conceived exclusively for the Helmut Newton Foundation, Berlin, through November 19, 2017.

Here, in this mesmerizing body of work, Testino delves beneath the surface of things, exploring the connections between art, eroticism, fashion, and fantasy. Flesh and fashion blur into a kaleidoscope of pleasures so that one becomes absolutely enthralled by the joy that the human body evokes. Masculinity and femininity meld into one as Testino’s models tempt, tease, and frolic hither and yon.

In the book, Testino speaks with Carine Roitfeld about his work, and the way in which art imitates life. He reveals, “…Seduction is, I think, much more interesting than sex itself. Seduction is a kind of energy and you can use it in different atmospheres with different people. Sex is more focused on the person, and I like everything else that’s going on around the person.”

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958), Nudes ru 05 (Nud 053), 2000, chromogenic colour print with Diasec, 152 × 112 cm (59 ⅞ × 44 in), private collection. Picture credit: © Thomas Ruff (page 166)

The Art of the Erotic

Long photography, film, and video entered the world the subject of sex and sexuality was relegated to the realm of fine art. Although most art history classes and museums keep things rated PG, sex has been an integral part of art dating back to fertility idols like the Venus of Willendorf (c. 28,000 BC).

“Sex and art are the same thing,” Pablo Picasso opined, honing in on the underlying principle of the act of creation. The human desire to (re)produce something from deep inside, something that outlives them and carries on their legacy, has existed throughout the course of history. That which we know is merely what survives, just as we are extensions of that very DNA that drove countless ancestors to procreate.

The Art of the Erotic (Phaidon) is a luxurious tribute to the subject of sex. Showcasing 170 works made over the past 2,500 years, including Crave faves Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Mickalene Thomas, David Hockney, George Condo, Wolfgang Tillmans, Nan Goldin, William Kentridge, Marcel Duchamp, Rene Magritte, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Rembrandt, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jackson Pollock, among many others.

The book presents not only a history of sex but one of art, one that speaks to tastes, style, penchants, and pleasures of the flesh. Here, we can see how artists have addressed the subject of sex, one that has consumed many of them by stoking desire to inconceivable heights.

Sin-A-Rama

Rounding out the list is a return to the 1960s, when scandalous literature was all the rage, Sin-a-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties Expanded Edition (Feral House) celebrates the million-dollar industry of erotic novels. Back then, the prurience of the 1950s began to gave way, setting the stage for the sexual revolution and liberation movements to come. But at this time, it was still a risqué matter, as the government was on the hunt.

Sex acts were described with code words, writers used pseudonyms, and publishers hid behind mail drop addresses, provoking FBI investigations, court battles, and prison sentences for the crime of “obscenity.” The book tells the history of the industry alongside the amazing cover illustrations that defined the era, showcasing the many different styles of sex that appealed to undercurrents wafting through popular culture: from strippers to prostitutes, domination to hypnotism, aliens to suburban wives, these paperbacks had something for everyone, pandering to purely pornographic urges.

Sin-A-Rama features profiles of cover artists Robert Bonfils, Gene Bilbrew, and Eric Stanton, as well as legendary cult filmmaker Ed Wood. The book is a lurid tome of the heights of smut peddling, when down and dirty was strictly underground – before the Internet came through and made the world aware America’s most popular searches are for porn and cat videos.


Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.