In 1960, Penguin Books was put on trial for its publication of D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The prosecution accused the book of obscenity, referring, in particular, to its numerous, exhaustively descriptive sex scenes. It’s a piece of literary history that many are at least partially aware of. But while people tend to focus on the scandalous words on the page, one of the most important elements of Chatterley’s past is that Penguin was found not guilty because, in large part, the courts deemed the novel’s sex scenes as entirely necessary. Chatterley’s is not a book about sex. Instead, it uses sex as a method to describe a deeply powerful love. When the novel’s protagonist, Connie, describes sleeping with her lover as a “poignant, marvelous death,” for example, this “death” of course does not refer to the act of intercourse itself. No, it is Connie’s love for gamekeeper Oliver Mellors that makes sex feel like an act that holds life and death in the palm of its hand.
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