Eros Denied: Sex in Western Society

by Wayland Young
Grove Press, 415 pp., $7.50

Mr. Wayland Young’s researches into erotica through the ages have been diligently undertaken, and, one must assume, accurately expounded. They will save those interested in the subject the trouble, and possibly the embarrassment, of procuring access to erotica normally kept from indiscriminate public inspection. Mr. Young, who is a peer of the realm under the style Baron Kennet of the Dene, must be considered a somewhat unlikely individual to display such zeal and dedication in this particular field. A Frank Harris, even a Havelock Ellis, yes; but this earnest Labour scion of true-blue Tory stock who nourishes ambitions of being Mr. Harold Wilson’s choice for some minor ministerial position, say a Lord-in-Waiting—surprising! One should not, however, underestimate his disinterestedness in publishing a book like Eros Denied. The Labour Party, with its Noncomformist antecedents, is far more prudish than the Conservatives, as was clearly apparent at the time of the Profumo Affair. The Marquis de Sade is not a name to conjure with in Transport House.

In presenting and explaining his material Mr. Young makes frequent and unrestrained use of words which still come amiss to writers of my generation. We are asterisk men. Such diffidence, I am well aware, would meet with Mr. Young’s strong disapproval as signifying life-denying old codgers. So let it be. To get over the difficulty I shall adopt the convention of using “to Wayland” for the verb which occurs on almost every page of Eros Denied, and “Young (m)” and “Young (f)” for the almost as frequently referred to male and female organs. Thus, to illustrate the usage, one might say: “Inserting his Young (m) in her Young (f) he Waylanded her good and proper.”

In addition to making available much out-of-the-way pornography, Mr. Young clearly has some sort of message that he wishes to convey. Alas, it eluded me. He labors under a sense of righteous indignation that some of the higher flights of erotica should be denied, not only to the common people, but even, in certain cases, to acknowledged experts like himself. I cannot personally share his righteous indignation. There would seem to me to be no high principle at stake here; no cause for which men of good will should be prepared to sacrifice themselves. Mirabeau appends to his pornographic novel Ma conversion (“A first-person account,” Mr. Young tells us, “of the life of a gigolo, avid for tartufferies, for the license behind the pious facade”) the exhortation: “Eh bien, lis, dévore, et branle-toi“—“And now read, devour and masturbate.” Though Mirabeau, with characteristic shrewdness, puts his finger (in the most literal sense) on the point of all pornography, from Fanny Hill to Lady Chatterley, branle-toi scarcely seems a cry, like liberté, égalité, fraternité, which one would wish to hear ringing through the world. Or is it, in Mr. Young’s estimation? Waylanders of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your Youngs.

The same difficulty arises, I may add, in other writings by Mr. Young that I have read. He…

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