Friday, November 1, 2013

Reading Starts Wonderful Journeys

Post by Lily Harlem

When I first started on my journey as an author I attended a weekly creative writing course, run by the local university. I was the youngest student by decades, the eldest being ninety-one.

The teacher was vibrant and enthusiastic and a bottomless well of knowledge all things literature. One day I expressed an interest in writing erotica and he told me that a good place to start would be Pauline Réage.

I dashed home and ordered Reage’s classic tale of female submission The Story of O.

I expect many of you have come across this book, and I know full well scholars have spent hours studying it and writing thesis on it. I'm not one of those people, I just read it one day, several years ago. So please don't mistake me for an expert on its plot lines and intricacies. But what it did was start me on a journey that would make sex and BDSM a frequent visitor in my writing.

The book follows the sexual journey of O, a young French woman who seeks to be submissive to her lover Renee. He takes her to a chateau, Roissy, where she undergoes ‘training’. This section of the book is heavy on the BDSM, full of humiliation, pain and sexual perversions. O is forced to share her body with a large group of men, being viewed and treated only as an object and left strung up in a dark, cold corner of the chateau.

I thought there were bits of this section that were extreme but O constantly gives her permission despite her discomfort. 

After this initial ‘training’ O lives as Renee’s slave, never allowed to cross her legs and always available for him to take her whenever, however he wants. Renee encourages his elder step brother, Sir Stephen, to also use O – I say use because that is very much how it is written. Renee tells Sir Stephen that he will reserve her anus just for his use, kind of like a gift.

I remember this bit of the book standing out for me. The way the two men talk about O as she is pushed over, her rear in the air. It is as if they are talking about a horse they can share or a piece of clothing, not a human. But O laps it up, she feels that this is her next great test; to be able to be a sex slave to a man she doesn’t love.

Just when you think love is lacking it happens. I won’t spoil the story for any of you that haven't read it but there continues to be lots of whipping, blindfolds, ménage, piercings and sex, sex, sex.

The Story of O was first published in 1954 in France, the English edition 1965. Pauline Reage is the pen name of Anne Desclos though she did not reveal her true identity until forty years after publication. She then claimed that the book was a series of love letters to her beau Jean Paulhan. I have to say, that it is one hell of a love letter by anyone’s standards.

A sequel Return to the Chateau, Continuing the Story of O was published in France although it is seems up for debate as to whether or not it was written by the original author.

The fact that O has a single letter for her name is significant. It is claimed to be short for Odile, but also could signify O as in orifice, or O for object or even as the symbol of a hole. In O’s case, any hole her master saw fit to penetrate. You can buy pieces of jewelry with O on it that specifically represents the book and female submission.

Anyone else read it, enjoyed it, seen the DVD??? I'll be around to natter - time zones permitting.

Lily x


  1. this is still my fav wank book. i read the section where O is told the rules over & over. yum.

  2. There's not much around that will ever top "O". Although there's been a copy in my cabinet since the 60's, it's impossible to read straight through, since I have to … ahem… tend to myself so often.

  3. And you mention a DVD- Are you talking about the film that was made? I never saw it, but would be interested if anybody thinks it's worthwhile. So many times a movie made from a great book can be pretty lame by comparison. The example I'm thinking of is "Last Exit To Brooklyn" which basically focused on one chapter of Selby's book. Of course, there's always "Gone With the Wind" as the exception.

  4. I haven't seen the DVD either Daddy X, It was made in the 70's, or at least the film was not the DVD. I've just stuck with the book!

  5. Its funny seeing this here, because i've begun reading this book finally. I have an audio version checked out from the public library (oh yes, times are changing) and I've been listening to it in my car.

    It seems to me that it strikes the special note of being both female fantasy and male fantasy at the same time. You have the female fantasy of total obliteration and submission, which in its way is a variation of mysticism, and the male fantasy of the woman who cannot or will not refuse any impulse you feel towards her. Are there women like that?


  6. I'll bet an audio version would be cool. Not having to stop to turn pages.

  7. "The Story of O" was part of my early education in BDSM, "assigned", along with the Beauty series, by my master. I found it deeply arousing at the time but haven't returned to it for years (as I mentioned during our last topic session, I found it hidden away in the same box as "Laura". I'm certain that many of my submissive fantasies have been shaped by the book, despite its quiet, even, matter of fact tone.

    I like the seriousness of "O", the recognition that her willing submission is a life-changing decision. So much of erotica and erotic romance portrays BDSM activity as a sort of game you play with your lover or partner. As BDSM-focused fiction has become more popular, it has also become laughably shallow.

  8. Lisabet -"quiet, even, mater of fact tone" is exactly how Story of O is written and that makes it very special but also at times shocking for readers who have perhaps picked this up as their first venture into the genre. And I also agree with the "seriousness" of it. O is not playing a game, this is a major life choice that she enters into with her eyes wide open, so yep, it's the opposite end of the spectrum to a lot of BDSM fiction, but there is room for everything, thank goodness.

    It is completely timeless and certainly a must for my bookshelf as I'm guessing by comments it is for many of yours :-)


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