May 11, 2006 at 1:29 pm Leave a comment

This morning I got an email from our friends at L'ARENGARIO STUDIO BIBLIOGRAFICO, announcing the release of their new erotica catalogue, which is available online. I generally don't bother checking out each new catalogue that's announced on the web, as there are so many of them, and my job doesn't really require that I know what's being sold where and for how much. But what the hell, it was an erotica catalogue and I had a bit of time on my hands and I decided to have a quick browse through some of the items.

SpankingThe first thing that hit me when I got to the site was the extreme garishness of the front-page. I guess, on a very simple level it was hard not to understand that this space was dedicated to erotica. Of course, at the same time, you could easily be led to believe that you had stumbled on one of the seedier sites on the net. 70's porn cheese comes to mind. These people need a serious lesson in clean web design. Tiled wallpaper made up of a single censored image of a woman exposing her genitals just doesn't work. Its really old fashioned and has very little appeal, even for the most deviant in mind. On top of this, the use of frames on the website is so old school its depressing. The poor guys are going to battle to get rated by search engines like google and the whole user experience is not particularly enthralling.

Techcrit out of the way, the catalogue is an interesting collection of old-world smut that is worth paging through just for interest's sake. I was amazed to discover how many of these items focussed on spanking and flagellation. It seems to me that while we live in an age where we are caught between a deluge of online pornography all competing to the extremes, and the critics fearing that we cannot venture much further into the darkness of our erotic interests, the beginning of the 20th century (and indeed somewhat before) marked some of our greatest exploration into this territory. Perhaps the most disturbing thought in all of this is that the majority of spanking and flagellation images came from a time when my grandmother was probably in her prime. Was this the norm of the time? Was this the stuff that got gramp's rising to the occassion? Perhaps this is the greatest value in erotica collections like this. It grounds us solidly in reality and acts as a social comment on our sense of social respectability and moral leaning.

A snapshot of history that is usually completely ignored and kept behind closed doors acts as a social compass against which we can map the changes in our attitudes through time. This is a wonderfully dark collection of pickings from the erotic landscape, presented on the appalling background of a severely ugly website.


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