So I was talking to a friend of mine last week about how Twilight is basically two thousand pages of teenage ‘anticipation porn’ – endless passages of Bella running her hands down Edward’s sculpted, perfect chest, or endless stretches of kissing, interrupted by talking about how they can’t go any further. And while certainly this has some clear, and interesting, associations with Stephanie Meyer’s religion (two unmarried teenagers cannot have sex or else dire things will happen), I realized that Anticipation Porn is actually a fine literary tradition. So here for you is a list of some of the most excruciating not-actually-having-sex in literature:
THE BOOK: The Bible
WHO’S NOT DOING IT: Adam and Eve
WHY NO BANGING?: Because they are innocents, and do not have the desire or knowledge to do so until they eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
HOTNESS FACTOR: Zero blue balls (out of five). There can be no lusty looks across the Eden greenery, no descriptions of lightening at every forbidden touch, as lust technically doesn’t exist yet. So, snoresville.
THE BOOK: Camelot (okay fine, it’s a musical).
WHO’S NOT DOING IT: Guenivere and Lancelot.
WHY NO BANGING?: Guenivere is the Queen, and married to the very worthy Arthur, whom she loves in a sort of platonic way, we infer. Lancelot is Arthur’s favorite knight. Neither of them want to hurt Arthur, or the kingdom.
HOTNESS FACTOR: Three blue balls (out of five). Although the story (and there are many, many versions) itself is almost always romantic rather than sexual, the tension between these two classic characters, and the pressure of what will happen if they actually submit, makes it a classic in the canon of anticipation porn. The musical gets extra points for having Lancelot finally sing the song ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’, which basically says that he would rather stay around forever just staring at Guenivere than ever actually move on from his love. After that, you really can’t blame her for breaking Arthur’s heart and risking the entire country just to get at what’s underneath Lancelot’s tabard, now can you?
THE BOOK: The Age of Innocence
WHO’S NOT DOING IT: Newland Archer and Countess Ellen Olenska.
WHY NO BANGING?: Newland is engaged to a lovely young (and slightly bland) socialite, and Ellen is married to a Count, and a little bohemian for New York society even if she weren’t.
HOTNESS FACTOR: Four blue balls (out of five). Wharton has repressed Victorian society down pat, and of course, nothing helps Anticipation Porn better than a healthy dose of repression. And corsets always help. This courtship is notable for two great moments of literary Anticipation Porn: One, the scene (beautifully executed in the film version) in which Newland takes off Ellen’s glove and kisses her wrist, which is one of the sexiest moments in film, and one of many such moments in the book, all hot. The second addition to the canon is the choice at the end of the book which Archer, now an old Widower, makes not to see Ellen. Now they are both technically single, but Newland would rather have his memories intact rather than actually pursue a relationship – just going to show that sometimes the excruciating anticipation is better than unhindered having.
THE BOOK: Twilight, et al.
WHO’S NOT DOING IT: Bella and Edward
WHY NO BANGING?: Edward, being a (sparkly) vampire with superstrength, is afraid he will accidentally kill Bella in the throws of passion. Also, being an old-fashioned (and just old) sparkly vampire with superstrength, he doesn’t want to risk it without being married first. Because if you’re going to accidentally kill your lover, she better be your wife first, because otherwise God will be angry.
HOTNESS FACTOR: Five blue balls (out of five). Okay, it’s not the subtlest, or particularly well written, but damn, those are some hot non-sex scenes. Kept clean for the teens, and somehow managing to capture all the hotness of the promise of future sex with none of the cutesy avoiding of the topic that teen books sometimes do, chances are that anyone reading this will end up as hot and bothered as Edward is physically cold and withholding.