"Now being a literary man who prefers to curl up with a good book as opposed to a movie, I don’t watch a lot of porn. Unlike my Chronicling companions, I have never once been to the back room at Miracle Video and, while I understand there’s a fair amount of free porn to be found on the internet, it doesn’t do me any good, since I don’t know how to use the internet. But I’ll admit I’ve read a few Penthouse Letters in my time. People always claim that men need visual stimulation while women prefer stories, but personally I find that a well-written erotic tale can awaken Little Sm.lie almost as much as the sight of a Q’s waitress bending over to pick up my receipt when I “accidentally” drop it. And while I tend to prefer more high-minded erotica, such as Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, from time to time I find myself craving a more old-fashioned kind of fuck-story, and my intention here is to argue that Penthouse Letters are actually a much more complex form of literature than most (especially feminists) would care to admit. Allow me to explain.
There’s an art to a good Penthouse Letter, as well as a formula that just can’t miss. Just as fairy tales begin with a standard opening line (“Once upon a time”), the Letter tends to open with some variation of either “Dear Penthouse, I never thought this could happen to me” or “Dear Penthouse, I’m a freshman at a small university…” (but these of course are not fairy tales, but rather stories of real people getting it on…a lot of people believe they are simply made up, but I disagree...I choose to believe that there are in fact threesomes and blowjobs going on all around me and that if I just keep my eyes open long enough I might eventually experience such a thing myself).
Most people probably believe that the writing style of the Letters is fairly crude and simplistic, consisting mainly of four or five word sentences with at least two of the words being “cock” and “pussy,” but I believe a close examination of a passage will reveal something quite different. Take a look:
“I took her and carried her to the massive dining room table. There I laid her down on the highly polished surface. Her beautiful head lay to one side and her eyes were fixed on the sizable bulge in my jeans as again I spread her housecoat open. She knew she was going to get fucked, and I believe the thought of it was as delicious to her as it was to me…She lay on the table like a main course…My heart beat faster as I feasted my eyes on her love treasure” (and yes, dear readers, this is a real letter and not something Richard concocted for the blog!).
Of course I realize that a feminist reading of this passage is that the woman has been reduced quite literally to a “piece of meat” to be devoured by the man, but that’s simplistic. The very fact that the writer is consciously employing that idea makes it very interesting (plus, the woman is quite comfortable with the situation and indeed wants to get fucked, as the text makes quite clear). Notice too that the writer gives us a detailed description of the table, which has a “highly polished” surface. That’s called “setting the scene,” a technique which I personally believe is better suited to Harlequin romances, which are mostly for women who feel a need to know not only where the sex is taking place but also what the bed covers are like and what color the drapes are, details that I personally find as intrusive as I do irrelevant. This writer quickly moves on, however, to more important details, mercifully sparing us a description of his own “crank” and moving instead to the woman’s “love treasure,” at which point the writer loses sight of the food metaphors but nonetheless offers a powerful phrase.
I’ll end my analysis there, but you may suspect what comes next. Yes, that’s right: a feast is enjoyed. And by this I mean they have sex.
To conclude, I don’t mean to imply that Penthouse Letters are great literature (although they are certainly more entertaining and often better-written than most modern novels, I'm looking at you White Noise!). But if you occasionally get tired of beating off to the dirty parts of Shakespeare, one could do worse than peruse the Letters. One of these days I hope to publish one of my own, and let’s hope it involves a waitress from Q’s."