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Clean Smut for Kids

Author Nicholson Baker's pornographic House of Holes is great reading for kids, says Elaine Blair in the New York Review of Books.

In the House of Holes alternate universe, men and women are full of desire and matter-of-fact about expressing even the most outlandish sex wishes. While the characters enthusiastically couple in the frictionless, athletic and exotic ways common in porn, what's different here, according to Blair is that, not only are all relations completely consensual; they are without shame or degradation.

Blair writes,

The book’s sex is never colored by real-world social relations. There are no chambermaids, whores, virgins, handymen, babysitters, bosses, nurses, teachers, teenagers, uncles, or incestuous couples at the House of Holes—none of the picturesque stock characters, in other words, whose corrupt authority or bashful submission or gleeful abjection lends such haunting piquancy to whatever pornographic stories they star in.

... having banished these troubling reprobates from his paradise, Baker can draw a magic circle of wholesomeness around sexual situations that we normally interpret as scenes of defilement.

Even though we may not buy into the concept of the female slut any more, Blair says, the concept still seems to creep into our relationships.

However, while today's adults, having grown up, most of us, under the shadow of the Scarlet S, can't approach Baker's material with the candor and joy his characters do, our kids could -- and should.

Blair says,

In the traditional sex talk, parents don’t say much about pleasure—presumably neither party wants to get into details. But wouldn’t it be nice for parents to have a way to convey our highest ideals on the subject? House of Holes will introduce impressionable readers to many interesting sexual possibilities without a whisper of stereotype or slur. You can be sure that no matter what scene your children are masturbating to, they are not objectifying women.

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