To escape the heat of an August day in Madrid, Maite Zubiaurre ducked into an antique shop and there among world globes and old maps, she discovered a peculiar photo album. Tucked away among formal photos of King Alphonso XIII and Queen Isabel II was a whole collection of images of naked women and men. And, unlike the King, these women and men were not just posing. Rather they were engaged in a variety of “unnatural” sex acts, acts clearly at odds with the Spanish Catholic Church’s doctrine that sex should serve for procreation alone: menages a trois, fellatio, cunnilingus, and zoophilia. But perhaps the most surprising images of the collection were a series of photos and sketches devoted to nuns and priests frolicking together on consecrated ground.
Zubiaurre realized she had discovered more than just a half-hidden collection of “naughty pictures,” rather, she held in her hands a wealth of supressed or forgotten materials that revealed a subversive countercurrent to the orthodoxies of Spain’s male-dominated official high culture in the early 20th century. She set about to study these images and others like them as counter-text to traditional narratives of and about the time.
The result, Cultures of the Erotic in Spain, 1898-1939, is the first academic book to analyze the rich array of visual and textual representations of the erotic in Spanish popular culture during the first half of the twentieth century. It examines erotic magazines, illustrations, photographs, stereoscopic images, “French” postcards, and pornographic short films, as well as erotic novelettes, texts and images on naturism and nudism, writings on early sexology and psychoanalysis, moral-judicial treatises and philosophical essays on sexual love.
Cultures of the Erotic reveals a candid and irreverent Spain, which, before succumbing to the stifling circumstances of the post-Civil War Franco dictatorship, reveled in the undying impulses of the human libido.