We have become accustomed to increasingly realistic sex scenes in film but what about the similar pleasures from literature? Examples of literary homoeroticism abound, many times long before cinematic breakthroughs became routine.
In celebration of the lost art of reading, we’ve rounded up excerpts from some sexy works of fictions, from popular novels to great literature, from explicit scenes to flowery eroticism, for your reading pleasure…
1. Michael Tolliver Lives
Your reward for reading all of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books — other than the pure pleasure of reading them — is that you get to experience the very sexy conclusion in book seven.
Example: “He was lying against a headboard, smiling sleepily, a white sheet pulled down to the first suggestion of pubic hair. For reasons I still can’t name, he came across like someone from another century, a stalwart captured on daguerrotype, casually masculine and tender of heart.”
Author: Armistead Maupin
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Pub date: 2008
2. Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal
One of the earliest examples of widely-published Western porn, rumored to have been written by Oscar Wilde.
“As he had already lost his maidenhood long ago, my rod entered far more easily in him than his had done in me, nor did I give him the pain that I had felt, although my tool is of no mean size. He stretched his hole open, the tip entered, he moved a little, half the phallus was plunged in; he pressed down, lifted himself up, then came down again; after one or two strokes the whole turgid column was lodged within his body. When he was well impaled he put his arms around my neck, and hugged and kissed me.”
Author: Unknown, maybe Oscar Wilde
Publisher: Leonard Smithers
Pub date: First in 1893
E.M. Forster’s take on a lad exploring his attraction to men in a world that looks unsympathetically at such passions is a true classic. Uncharacteristic for this kind of literature of the time, it ends happily. But it also was withheld for Forster’s entire life, and only published after he died.
One theory about Forster’s literary output is that when he finally did have gay sex — in his late 30s — he felt that he could no longer write about non-gay society, and simply stopped writing.
“I think you’re beautiful, the only beautiful person I’ve ever seen. I love your voice and everything to do with you, down to your clothes or the room you are sitting in. I adore you.”
Author: E. M. Forster
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Pub date: 1971, posthumously
We’d be crazy to omit this story, though surely you’re familiar with the cinematic version already. Whether or not you’ve seen the film, the original short story deserves your attention. It has come to represent the narrative of impossible love and become a touchstone, a shared cultural reference that gay men of all ages refer to in conversation. Even if the author, Annie Proulx, wishes she’d never written it we thank God that she did.
Excerpt: “Late in the afternoon, thunder growling, that same old green pickup rolled in and he saw Jack get out of the truck, beat up Resistol tilted back. A hot jolt scalded Ennis and he was out on the landing pulling the door closed behind him. Jack took the stairs two and two. They seized each other by the shoulders, hugged mightily, squeezing the breath out of each other, saying, son of a bitch, son of a bitch, then, and easily as the right key turns the lock tumblers, their mouths came together, and hard, Jack’s big teeth bringing blood, his hat falling to the floor, stubble rasping, wet saliva welling, and the door opening and Alma looking out for a few seconds at Ennis’s straining shoulders and shutting the door again and still they clinched, pressing chest and groin and thigh and leg together, treading on each other’s toes until they pulled apart to breathe and Ennis, not big on endearments, said what he said to his horses and his daughters, little darlin.”
Author: Annie Proulx
Pub date: 1998 (New Yorker), 2005 (first edition)
5. The Front Runner
Inspired by a real-life story, this was one of the first novels about same sex relationships that attracted a mainstream audience. A coach and his athlete grapple with their sexuality in a world that’s not ready for them. At stake: a chance to compete in the Olympics, or a chance to fall in love and live honestly.
Excerpt: “How many more times would I have embraced him that night, how many more times would I have kissed him, if I had known the name of that stranger lover who was already in Montreal, who had already bought his stadium ticket from a scalper for the 5,000 tomorrow. That implacable lover who was going to turn Billy’s eyes away from me forever.”
Author: Patricia Nell Warren
Publisher: Wildcat PRess
Pub date: 1974
6. Running with Scissors
A pre-teen boy pursues a relationship with a man in his thirties — what could possibly go wrong? This frequently-banned memoir retraces Augusten Burroughs’ childhood, and includes some extremely troubling sexual situations. An older man forces Burroughs to perform oral sex on him, and then the kid turns the tables — sort of — by threatening to expose the man and accuse him of rape.
Excerpt: “I missed him so much that I had physical sensations of loss, all over my body. Like one minute I was missing an arm, the next my spleen. It was making me feel sick, like throwing up. He wasn’t rough to me anymore, like he was the first time we ‘did it.’ He was nice now, slow. He told me he was falling in love with me.”
Author: Augusten Burroughs
Pub date: 2003
7. Leaves of Grass
Imaging writing a poem so raunchy it got you fired from the Department of the Interior in the 1800s no less. Not a great career move, perhaps, but a great victory for the history of queer literature. A celebration of nature, spirituality, and humanity, Leaves of Grass is shockingly candid for its time. Of course, that provoked plenty of controversy: “a mass of stupid filth,” one critic called it.
Or, if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart, or rest upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;
For thus, merely touching you, is enough—is best,
And thus, touching you, would I silently sleep and be carried eternally.
Author: Walt Whitman
Pub Date: 1855
8. Less than Zero
There’s so much to think about in this book, in which a young college kid returns to Los Angeles on winter break, parties, feels disconnected from the world, and questions his path. Throughout the story, characters flit between straight and gay and sometimes don’t even seem to realize they’re doing it.
Excerpt: “…and the girl and I get into her car and drive off into the hills and we go to her room and I take off my clothes and lie on her bed and she goes into the bathroom and I wait a couple of minutes and then she finally comes out, a towel wrapped around her, and sits on the bed and I put my hands on her shoulders, and she says stop it and, after I let her go, she tells me to lean against the headboard and I do and then she takes off the towel and she’s naked and she reaches into the drawer by her bed and brings out a tube of Bain De Soleil and she hands it to me and then she reaches into the drawer and brings out a pair of Wayfarer sunglasses and she tells me to put them on and I do. And she takes the tube of suntan lotion form me and squeezes some onto her fingers and then touches herself and motions for me to do the same, and I do. After a while I stop and reach over to her and she stops me and says no, and then places my hand back on myself and her hand begins again and after this goes on for a while I tell her that I’m going to come and she tells me to hold on a minute and that she’s almost there and she begins to move her hand faster, spreading her legs wider, leaning back against the pillows, and I take the sunglasses off and she tells me to put them back on and I put them back on and it stings when I come and then I guess she comes too. Bowie’s on the stereo and she gets up, flushed, and turns the stereo off and turns on MTV. I lie there, naked, sunglasses still on and she hands me a box of Kleenex. I wipe myself off then look through a Vogue that’s lying by the side of the bed. She puts a robe on and stares at me. I can hear thunder in the distance and it begins to rain harder.”
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub date: 1985
9. At Swim, Two Boys
If you are James Joyce fan, boy have we got a novel for you. Tow young Irishmen fall in love, despite (or maybe because of) their opposite personalities. The 1916 Easter Uprising is happening around them, during which Ireland rebels against British rule. There’s a sex scene on an island.
Excerpt: “MacMurrough recalled his own discovery of touch, the willing of it, its exploration: so very different from the being touched, the receiving into one’s seclusion the touch of another, and so maddeningly sensual.”
Author: Jamie O’Neill
Pub Date: 2001
10. The Bible
Nestled amidst all of the death and begetting is the sexy story of Jonathan and David in the Old Testament Book of Samuel. After slaying the giant Goliath, David falls head over heels and the two become lovers.
Example: “Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.”
Publisher: Various monks
Pub date: Whenever a new hotel room is furnished