This article appears in the March '17 issue of Esquire. Sex in fiction, like sex on a beach, ought to be a no-brainer. On the one hand, there's, well, sex, a source of mystifying pleasure and profundity that for most people rarely elicits any articulation other than a contented grunt, groan, or gasp. On the other hand, there's the novel, an artistic enterprise devoted to making verbal sense of mute experience.
Unlike a lot of my sneering literary colleagues, I was excited to read Fifty Shades of Grey. A naughty novel that American women are going wild for? Sign me up! Imagine my tremendous disappointment, then, to discover that Fifty Shades of Grey didn't even have all that much transgressive sex in it, certainly not by erotica standards. If memory serves, it took about 80 or so pages of the least erotic blather around to even get to the first sex scene. Instead of—or, in addition to, we're not judging—E. James' trilogy, here are 15 erotic books to wet your whistle.