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LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER, by D.H. Lawrence (1928)
Probably the most famous sexually explicit novel of all time, it looks a little tame by some standards today.
''He laid his hand on her shoulder, and softly, gently, it began to travel down the curve of her back, blindly, with a blind stroking motion, to the curve of her crouching loins. And there his hand softly, softly, stroked the curve of her flank, in the blind instinctive caress.''
2 of 24
TROPIC OF CANCER, by Henry Miller (1934)
Combing the stream-of-consciousness ramblings to find the good stuff could be a little frustrating. But when you did find it...well...
''Once inside Miss Hamilton's joint he began to lose his sang-froid. When suddenly he found himself surrounded by a bevy of naked women he looked at me in consternation. 'Pick one out,' I said. 'You can have your choice.'''
3 of 24
THE STORY OF O, by Pauline Réage (1954)
This literary submission tale was literally over the heads of some staffers.''I had no idea what it was about, but I knew it was naughty,'' said one.
'''As a matter of fact,'' the other voice went on, 'if you do tie her up from time to time, or whip her just a little, and she begins to like it, that's no good either....'''
4 of 24
CANDY, by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg (1958)
To describe a novel as ''the sexcapades of 18-year-old Candy Christian'' may sound like nothing in today's world. But in 2006, Playboy dubbed Candy one of the ''25 Sexiest Novels Ever Written.''
''Emmanuel was in the bed in a trice, embracing her feverishly, and snatching her gown at once up to her shoulders.
'Oh, you do need me so!' the close-eyed girl murmured, as yet not feeling much of anything except the certainty of having to fit this abstraction to the case.''
5 of 24
THE CARPETBAGGERS, by Harold Robbins (1961)
The New York Times probably ensured the book's popularity with generations of kids when it wrote in its original review, ''It was not quite proper to have printed The Carpetbaggers between covers of a book. It should have been inscribed on the walls of a public lavatory.''
''I took the towel and moved closer to her. She let the big bath towel slide down from her shoulders. I patted the beads of moisture from her flawless skin. The scent of her perfume came up to me, pungent from her bath warmth.
I pressed my lips to her neck. She turned toward me in surprise. 'Stop that, Jonas! Your father said this morning you were a sex maniac but you don't have to try to prove it!'''
6 of 24
VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, by Jacqueline Susann (1966)
Before there was Jackie Collins, there was Jacqueline Susann. Enough said.
''Look, I'm a virgin, but I do know that sex and love are two different things for a man.''
7 of 24
DIARY OF ANAÏS NIN, by Anaïs Nin (1966)
The diaries were long and you sometimes had to hunt for the good stuff — but that was all part of the fun.
''He wants to remain within her, to lie blind in the furls of her flesh. On what wings does she take flight from Henry? As if the sensual act had been but a mouth applied to an opium pipe.''
8 of 24
COFFEE TEA OR ME?, by Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones (1967)
This ''memoir'' of two stewardesses looks pretty dated and sexist today. But if you grew up in the 1970s and early 1980s, chances are pretty good that you came across it at some point — and read it very, very carefully.
''Just before dinner a passenger toward the rear of the plane signaled. I went back. A man sat there. His pants were unzippered and he was fully exposed.''
9 of 24
PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, by Philip Roth (1969)
''A treasure trove, filled with references to things I understood — and things that I didn't.''
''After dessert I am back in the bathroom again. I burrow through the week's laundry until I uncover one of my sister's soiled brassieres. I string one shoulder strap over the knob of the bathroom door and the other on the knob of the linen closet: A scarecrow to bring on more dreams.''
10 of 24
THE GODFATHER, by Mario Puzo (1969)
Everything you needed to know about sex was on page 27.
''Spread-eagled on the floor, her brocaded gown hitched up above her thighs, she taunted him between giggles. 'Come on....'''
11 of 24
THE HAPPY HOOKER, by Xaviera Hollander (1971)
If you managed to sneak a peek at this memoir of a call girl, chances are you've never forgotten it.
''I couldn't care less who I did it with, even my relatives. In fact, the idea of sampling forbidden fruit made incest all the more exciting. The only taboo against it was don't make babies, that's all.''
12 of 24
MY SECRET GARDEN, by Nancy Friday (1973)
Who could resist a book of women's sexual fantasies? Especially when it bore Friday's scholarly imprimatur....
''You may therefore find it strange that in my latest fantasy I tell my husband that I think I would enjoy watching him having sex with another woman. Not really someone we know — preferably some strange female.''
13 of 24
RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE, by Rita Mae Brown (1973)
One of the first great lesbian sex novels.
''If I closed my eyes I could still feel her lips on mine. Even now it gave me a shudder.''
14 of 24
THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT, by Sidney Sheldon (1973)
Yes, it was schlocky. And soapy. But anyone who filched this #1 best-seller from Mom and Dad didn't care, since it also seemed to have sex on every single page.
''She caught a glimpse in the dressing-table mirror. It looked like a French farce, sordid and dirty. Everything inside her except the hot pain in her groin told her that this was dreary and ugly and wrong, but there was no way to stop it now.''
15 of 24
THE THORN BIRDS, by Colleen McCullough (1977)
Plenty of us didn't even have to sneak this one: It arrived in the mail as a Literary Guild Main Selection. But there was plenty of dirt beneath that veneer of respectability.
''Not, not tonight. On my mouth, Ralph! Kiss my mouth as if we were lovers!''
''Mary, I'm a priest! I can't!''
16 of 24
JAWS, by Peter Benchley, (1977)
Forget all the great white shark stuff: ''It had the first sex scenes I'd ever read...I skipped through the beach mayhem, just looking for more dirty stuff.''
''Hooper's teeth were clenched, and he ground them the way people do during sleep. From his voice there came a gurgling whine, whose tone rose higher and higher with each frenzied thrust. Even after his obvious, violent climax, Hooper's countenance had not changed. His teeth were still clenched, his eyes still fixed on the wall, and he continued to pump madly.''
17 of 24
SCRUPLES, by Judith Krantz (1978)
One of the early sex-and-shopping novels, ''I got quite an education: about gay sex, about oral sex, about the fashion world, about opening a boutique... but mostly about sex.''
''She was a belt notcher. What became important to her was not whether the sex had been good, bad, or indifferent, but the fact that she, Maggie MacGregor, had had sex with famous men, men whose names were household words. Fame turned her on. She was three quarters of the way to an orgasm with a famous man as soon as they were alone together.''
18 of 24
ENDLESS LOVE, Scott Spencer (1979)
This tale of young love and obsession was hailed by the critics as a modern classic — which made it very easy to find.
''Sex no longer lifted us up and outside of time, but sent us streaming back and forth, into our own beginnings and toward the shrouded marker of someone's future.''
19 of 24
THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, by Jean Auel (1980)
We should just call it prehistoric porn. ''I'm pretty sure my mom knew I was reading it — I mean, she was the one who had to drive me to the mall to go book shopping — but I don't think she had any idea how capital-F filthy that book is.''
''Broud gave her a signal, and Ayla's eyes flew open. It was unexpected. Iza told her men only wanted that from women they considered attractive; she knew Broud thought she was ugly. Broud hadn't missed Ayla's shocked surprise, her reaction encouraged him. He signaled her again, imperiously, to assume the position so he could relieve his needs, the position for sexual intercourse.''
20 of 24
LACE, by Shirley Conran (1982)
This tale of a Hollywood sex kitten tracing her parentage seemed to have an unusual amount of sex in it. ''I read it once. Twice. Three times. My mom said, 'Have you seen this book of mine called Lace? I started it and I can't find it anywhere....'''
''Pagan had never been passionately interested in sex, so at first she merely thought that all Robert needed was a bit of practice. She was wrong. A couple of months after their marriage, she tentatively said, ''Could you possibly wait for me?'' He immediately stiffened, said he didn't know what she meant and accused her of being frigid. Amiably, Pagan agreed that she might be. ''It's just that I haven't been so far,'' she added. Robert turned purple with rage. Quoting the Kinsey Report, he said the average man took two and a half minutes to climax, which meant that she was getting thirty seconds more than average, didn't it?''
21 of 24
FEAR OF FLYING, by Erica Jong (1983)
Women's sexual liberation, fantasies, sex with strangers: It's all here.
''The zipless f--- was more than a f---. It was a platonic ideal. Zipless because when you came together zippers fell away like rose petals, underwear blew off in one breath like dandelion fluff.''
22 of 24
PRESUMED INNOCENT, by Scott Turow (1987)
The famous legal thriller ''had the first sex scene I ever read, and it wasn't, er, traditional sex. I could barely figure out what was going on. But I did figure it out, thanks to careful study, and many, many readings.''
''We could start anywhere around the apartment, and move, in growing deshabille, across the rug and towards the bedroom. This would sometimes go on for more than an hour...as we lolled and meandered over one another.''
23 of 24
FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, by V.C. Andrews (1989)
Over half the women polled mentioned V.C. Andrews' incest classics. Said one, ''The Flowers in the Attic series wouldn't have gone over very well if my mother had ever peeked inside.''
''Somehow we ended up on that old mattress — that filthy, smelly, stained mattress that must have known lovers long before this night. And that is where he took me...''
24 of 24
PARADISE, by Judith McNaught (1991)
Combine a teenage socialite, a cute steel worker, and an autocratic father dead set against the match, and you have a pretty intoxicating mix. ''I think I read this about ten times!'' said one EW staffer.
''They put him to sleep, but in that drug-induced state, he dreamed of her...endless, heated dreams, where Meredith turned into his arms, naked and eager, running her hands over him, making him groan with pleasure. He made love to her over and over again until he finally scared her because he couldn't stop....' Matt, stop this, you're scaring me!'''
Read Books editor Tina Jordan's original article that started this all.