‘Lost Girls’ by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie challenges me. That’s the simplest way to describe it. I find myself amused, conflicted, disturbed and intrigued with every page. I finished reading it Thursday and I’m still digesting it.
The premise is genius. Dorothy from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ books, Alice from ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and Wendy from ‘Peter Pan’, meet at a European hotel. They find that they share a lot in common so they take turns telling each other stories from their adventures. They also have non-stop sex with each other.
What intrigues me is that the three characters did not have wild adventures in fantasy worlds. What happened is they had sex, and because sex is new and magical, they remember it in a fantasy context because it is the only way they reconcile what they have been through. Dorothy had sex with a wild farmer who was actually shy and timid instead of a real cowardly lion. Wendy’s Captain Hook was actually a military man who stalked the park that she and her lover frolicked in. Alice’s Mad Hatter tea party was a wild orgy clouded by opium. It’s a delightful idea as we get caught up in the ‘mundane’ version of the story and then you turn the page and realize that the wild hot sex you were reading was the ‘real’ version of say, how Dorothy met the Tin Man. It makes the fantastic version seem quant compared to what really happened.
The first part that conflicts me is the age of the characters. There is a lot of underage sex. I understand that a lot of us had sex before the age of consent, and I could argue that the age of consent in this time period was lower, but there is something distinctly disturbing to my 20th century libido to see Wendy playing masturbation games with the Lost Boys. About the time I did get used to reading, the subject of incest rears it’s head and I go right back to being conflicted. It was hard to lose myself and really enjoy the sensuality when there was so much incest and underage sex going on.
While the characters recount their childhood adventures, there is also the continuing story of the events going on in the hotel. Wendy is in a sexless marriage to an older gentleman, Alice is an aging lesbian shunned by her family and Dorothy, well she’s just plucky and horny. The threat of World War One looms at the end of the book and you can’t ever shake the feeling of how fragile everything is. These women find comfort in each other and reclaim the young super sensual women they once were. That story trumps the experiences they recount, and in my mind, saves the story and gives it heart. Part of me can’t help feel that if this took place in modern times, Alice, Dorothy and Wendy would be sex bloggers, trying to make sense of how they turned from young sex stars to frustrated housewives.
The part that challenges me the most is a discussion held by the characters with the hotel owner in the third book. The hotel owner reads aloud a story about a family that is incestuous. Wendy objects that the story is not proper. The hotel owner agrees, but argues that it is pornography so it makes everything okay. It only happens on the pages of the book so there is nothing to upset about. As Monsignor says,
“Fiction and Fact: Only madmen and magistrates cannot discriminate between the two.”
And later this line,
“Pornographies are the enchanted parklands where the most secret and vulnerable of all our many selves can safely play”
Now, as an erotica writer I often read and study how censorship works. The basic premise is that a book should be banned because the ideas within are dangerous to some reader. There is always the double standard of sex and violence where a book about the murder of twenty people is considered okay, but a book about sex involving twenty people is dangerous. It’s clear here that the creators of ‘Lost Girls’ want us to understand that censorship is wrong. Okay, I get and support that. What happens to characters in a book isn’t what is happening in real life. However, it feels to me that creators then dare us to hold true to that belief by deliberately illustrating the story of incest that is told next by the women. We are asked to not get offended by the incest, but instead to treat it as a secret desire that we can entertain without guilt because we are not acting on it.
I don’t know about that. I mean I kind of do just from being a BDSM writer. I had many vanilla erotica friends who thought a story about domination was just very pretty abuse porn. To them, what I was writing should be banned which struck me as funny because to a lot of people with Puritanical values, the vanilla explicit sex they were writing should be banned. My porn is your disgust and your porn is someone else’s disgust and so on.
I think that’s where I get stumped. I may feel a story shouldn’t be banned, but it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. That’s the weakness of any Erotica, no matter how well done. I applaud Lost Girl’s art, its writing and a majority of the book is just fucking awesome. It’s the twenty percent that in real life would be abusive to real people that makes me unsure of myself. I can’t let go as much as Monsignor suggests and it makes me examine how I view porn in general. Which I guess is the sign of a good book. It makes me think.
Lastly I want to discuss the visuals of the book. This is a gorgeous three book collection. It’s massive. It has a variety of art styles in it and plenty of pages that I would love to own as posters or prints. The style is reminiscent of the age and can take a little getting used to but like the writing, the rewards are well worth the effort. At seventy-five dollars, I feel that I got every penny’s worth. No matter how I feel about the story, the sheer beauty inside will be something I will always treasure. I wish more erotica was given this level of grandeur in its presentation.