Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 2. 1967.
Invisible Sex Censorship A Strange System
Invisible Sex Censorship A Strange System
One of the strange aberrations about book censorship in New Zealand is the practice of "invisible" censorship which operates from the publishing and distributing houses of Great Britain. This practice usually goes unnoticed, but was given publicity last year when the New Zealand edition of NOVA was published with about 10 pages missing. The subject matter, it was explained by the publishers, would be unacceptable in New Zealand.
This system of pre-censorship is more widespread, however, when we come to examine paperback lists of English publishers and then try to think whether this book or that is available here. Until last year this list was considerable, but it seems that following the decisions of the Indecent Publications Tribunal publishers and distributors have felt more adventurous in the selection of books made available in our bookshops.
It is now possible, for instance, for us to freely buy many books, mostly concerning sex, that have been published several years ago in England. This includes the entire Luxor Press catalogue of which the best are von Sacher-Masoch's Venus In Furs, Davenport's Aphrodisiacs And Love Stimulants and Straparola's Most Delectable Nights, all long unavailable classics. Luxor have also published two books on Lesbianism, R. Leighton Hasselrodt's Twilight Women Around The World and Walter Braun's Lesbian Love Old And New, both of which provide an intelligent survey of a sexual phenomenon long neglected since Queen Victoria's famous decree on homosexuality.
It is obvious that these books would have remained unavailable if it were not for the Tribunal's decision on The Perfumed Garden (now published in two paperback editions). Paperback editions of the Kama Sutra, the Koka Shastra, the Ananga Ranga, are also freely available for those interested in the Indian love classics. Many, it appears from sales, are.
But apart from these there have been many titles in the popular Corgi and Panther lists that have only been made available recently. These include Fernando Henriques's massive trilogy on sexual behaviour, which surpasses most other similar books for readability, information, and an intelligent non-puritan approach.
Recommended for all serious readers, the titles are: Love In Action, previously published as The Sociology Of Sex; The Pretence Of Love and The Immortal Tradition, previously published as Volumes I and II of Prostitution And Society (Panther Books, NZ Price 11/- each). All the books have small reproductions of the illustrations in the original hardback edition and if read carefully their thickness will not detract from their value; nor will they fall apart if you look at more than the pictures.
Another important book just released in paperback by Corgi (first published in 1963, paperback 1965, NZ February 1967, NZ Price 11/-) is Peter Fryer's Mrs. Grundy, subtitled "Studies In English Prudery," which is a very full survey of the various manifestations of puritanism that have permeated and coerced British society since the end of the medieval period. Fryer, with academic precision and satirical lightheartedness, gives us the whole gamut of puritanism as it has affected language, Sunday, drinking, clothes, births, dancing, nudity and entertainments like the strip-tease.
For addicts of the obscure fact to be read aloud to others within earshot while you are reading it is lull of delightful examples. For instance, in the seventeenth century male obstetricians had to deliver births either blindfolded or with blankets totally covering the mother and performed solely by groping beneath the bedcovers. And for those who desire new words for old, Fryer lists with encyclopaedic ease over 90 pages of "plain Words, prude words and rude words."
Since Mrs. Grundy, Fryer has had a long hard fight with the authorities of the British Museum to gain access to the world's largest collection of erotic and pornographic books and manuscripts. His experiences, plus condensations of many of the books in the collection, especially the "private case" collection, are contained in his latest book, Private Case—Public Scandal (Seeker and Warburg. English Price 21/-), which, to my knowledge, is unavailable in New Zealand as yet and has been banned in Australia.
Despite listing the 5000-odd items in the "private case," Fryer was unable to gain access to the secret unlisted "special shelf" collection. This book will be essential reference for all those who wish to go further than mere titillation in their quest for erotica. Of related interest, but of a more puritan stance, is Steven Marcus's study of Victorian pornography, The Other Victorians (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, English Price £3/3/-), bringing the more sober mind of the academic literary critic to the literature of an underground culture.
To come back to those books which are given belated release, presumably in order to placate New Zealand grundyism, it is worth mentioning that Sartre's first (and only) collection of short stories. Intimacy, was first published in English in 1949, In a Panther paperback in 1960 and is finally on sale in New Zealand in 1967 (NZ price. 6/6). Rough treatment is also meted out to the Marquis de Sade; the only freely available paperback is Geoffrey Gorer's Life And Ideas (Panther, first published 1964, New Zealand release 1966. NZ Price 4/6). In England a Corgi edition was published of Justine several years ago and Panther also have published a selection. Henry Miller's two Tropic books are published in Panther editions, but then Miller has not been submitted to the Tribunal. Some enterprising person should send some English postal notes to 108 Brompton Road. London, SW3, and see what happens. Not banned in hardback is John Rechy's City Of Light, but we still await Panther's paperback. We have also still to come: Genet's Our Lady Of The Flowers (Panther) and the non-fiction studies of Ivan Bloch (Sexual Life In England), Edwards and Beyfus (Lady Behave) and Kaufman and Borgeson (Man And Sex), all published by Corgi.
Apart from these books there are several others, some genuinely delayed because of late release of hardback edition (this could be the situation with Genet), but most are Inexcusable. Serious readers of both fiction and non-fiction that is thought to offend the sensibilities of our public morality have a difficult time in reading the books they wish within a reasonable time of its notice in the English book reviewing weeklies. We are at the mercy of either the distributors in England or our own importers. The books of avant-garde publishers such as Calder and Boyars can only be found in certain bookshops who import direct and even then they must be careful for fear of the eager eyes of the Customs Department. Booklovers have much to thank the Indecent Publications Tribunal for, but there remains still the problem of free and liberal access to the books we can only read about and never see.
Note: In the above review article I have deliberately omitted any reference to American publications. This is because, although Grove Press and other publishers books are available, the world market for many American titles is limited to outside of the British Commonwealth because of copyright. University texts, needless to say, are exempt from this but in general it is correct to say that New Zealand does lose by not having access to free importation from the larger American publishing industry. Once again, our only hope is the bookshop, which imports direct from the publisher.