Book discontinued
by Ballantine Books

Putting O in context

This is a book that is worth looking beyond the mystique with and considering as a cultural object. Whether you are kinky or not. If you are a sex-positive person, O will get you thinking about our standards of decency and the line between private and public.
Fascinating when you think of it historically.
You don't really have to read the whole thing to appreciate the book.
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review
How does one evaluate The Story of O? Well it depends on what you go into it looking for.

Want a realistic portrayal of a consensual BDSM relationship? Don't look here.
Want fine literary value? Nope.
Decent wank-off material? Perhaps...
Something that is at least better than 50 Shade of Grey? Probably.

The Story of O is a classic in the kink community for portraying some pretty hot examples of BDSM play. However, like its modern equivalents, it sometimes reads like an extended piece of internet erotica that got bigger than the author might have intended. Do I even need to summarize the plot for you? Yes? Well, it is simple. O is turned into a sex slave and she learns to enjoy it. The end. What happens along the way to get her from point A to B is what is truly important here.

Now, despite my better judgement, I think it is worth putting this book in it's literary context. I recognize that this is a sex toy retail site and not the New York Times Review of Books but I have an advanced degree in Literature, so I can't help it.

One thing to know about O off the bat is that this English version of the book is translated from the original French. That isn't surprising either because the book has a distinct "Frenchness" to it. What do I mean about that? Well, let's just leave it at "je ne said quoi." It was published in 1954 and won a prestigious literary prize that is generally presented to avant garde works. It is important to take O in its context of France in the 1950s. France was actually shockingly like America in the 1950s. There was a post-war baby boom that was actively encouraged by government incentives for women to give birth. The sexual morality of the nation became more conservative than it had previously as well. In short, this book was not written in the Paris of the turn of the century or the Paris of today.

So, for it's environment, it is shocking and fascinating. It also isn't surprising that obscenity charges were brought against the publishers. There are sheriffs in small-town America that would be more than willing to bring obscenity charges against it today.

Thinking about O in this way, I think it is not just an interesting book to read but a fascinating cultural artifact. The US was churning out Betty Page porn and France was printing The Story of O and meanwhile network television would not show married couples sleeping in the same bed or use the word "pregnant." The literature of repressed societies always fascinates me and when that repression is sexual, well you get all sorts of wild smut.

Is it a light read? Not really. Does it drag in parts? Yes. Can you wank to it? I did! However, more than all that, I think this is a cultural artifact that is important and can tell us something about ourselves. That alone makes it worthwhile.
Follow-up commentary
I stand by my word that this is a book that helps contextualize BDSM in the culture and set our start date a little earlier than current pop culture interests.
This product was provided at a discounted price in exchange for an unbiased review. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.

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My Story of O tags
  • Who / How / What
    [ ? ]
    Who might this product be best for? How is it best used? What are the best circumstances or situations for using this product?
    • Bdsm
    • Couples
    • Masturbation
  • Where
    [ ? ]
    Where / what types of places can this product be used?
    • Anywhere
  • Features
    [ ? ]
    What kind of features does this product offer?
    • Travel friendly
  • Body / part areas
    [ ? ]
    What areas on the body can this product be used / what areas does it stimulate best?
    • Brain
This review was edited by
  • SubmissiveFeminist Contributor: SubmissiveFeminist
  • Rank:
    6.5 / 10
  • Edited reviews: 263
Subscribe to comments
  • Contributor: G&L
    Great review! I appreciate your take as a historian, however, the French student in me has to point out- je ne sais quoi.
  • Contributor: Bex1331
    Thanks for the review, I've been meaning to pick this one up
  • Contributor: KrissyNovacaine
    Thanks for the review!
  • Contributor: ellieprobable
    G&L - Oops! I know that. I guess that it is a typo we can't expect the editors to catch.
  • Contributor: ellieprobable
    I actually just caught a bunch of other typos. Geez. Fixing those now.
  • Contributor: lokidies
    not a bad book at all
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