Once upon a time, fathers and sons hid their Playboys beneath their mattresses. But what did women do with their Playgirls?
Somehow, this is less well recorded, though society--or whatever is left of it--surely frowned more strongly on the notion that women openly read books of steamy intent.
I find myself excited by an in-depth analysis from the Daily Mail, which offered that sales of erotic novels aimed at women have soared 30 percent.
It cites Mills and Boon--the company that once published somewhat sedate bodice-rippers--as swooning with excitement at the speed with which digital sales are spurting from its catalog.
For it seems that if no one can see what you are reading, you can read whatever you like. This principle first appeared when people realized the main use for a broadsheet newspaper: a place to hide your naughty magazine.
The more enterprising in olden times would have simply bought a paperback of "Jane Eyre," torn out the body, replaced it with "Debbie Gets Her Dues," and then glued the new body to the "Jane Eyre" cover.
Now, however, you can download the filthiest fiction and sit on the subway with pursed lips and ever-tightening eyes. And the lovely thing about downloading is that no one, but no one, can see what is being downloaded. They will think "recipe book," and you will think "'On Being Flayed By Bobby'? Sounds interesting."
The publishing world seems especially moved by the collected works of E.L. James (who appears to be no relation of P.D. or Henry).
James is a TV executive whose "Fifty Shades of Grey" apparently manages to fill a gaping need in reading. Yes, it's a "Twilight" for grown-ups. And it's riding high on top of the New York Times bestseller list.
While you consider what the more grown-up versions of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart might look like (and do), I can only feel delighted that modern gadgetry has liberated women from the need to reveal themselves.
What perfect timing for the new iPad to have a much shinier, more gorgeous screen in order to fill women's retinas with everything of which they had always dreamed. Allegedly.