The Juliette Society by Sasha Grey

29th May 2013

Readers are likely to have certain expectations of The Juliette Society before even flicking through its pages. Written by the feminist former adult entertainer Sasha Grey – who claims to have written a personal manifesto that stated she’d make porn as a kind of feminist performance art before she had even lost her virginity – it’s loaded with expectations.

The “Juliette” of the title is a reference to the lesser known of the Marquis de Sade’s fictional creations, the one who literally got away with murder. References to classic erotic literature and film are sprinkled throughout the book. Indeed, the book’s protagonist Catherine is a film student whose id and sex drive seem to be very much as one.

The works of Freud, as well as those of Kinsey, de Sade and the filmmaker Emanuel Bunuel are, it seems amongst the author’s favourites when it comes to considering human sexuality.

As well as containing some gratifyingly filthy sex, the book also contains elements of mystery, and considerations on human sexuality itself...When discussing sex and sexual fantasies, her heroine talks about them a lot. At points it’s not unlike reading a third year thesis by a student who is determined to prove just how clever and well-read they are.

On the other hand though, The Juliette Society is not a bad novel at all. Categorised as “erotica” there is some form of sex or a discussion of sexuality on every page and Sasha Grey has taken care to craft an actual novel, complete with character development and plot.

Rather than simply write down a lot of sexual episodes and let a ghost writer try and tie them together, the author has worked hard to create a novel that as well as containing some gratifyingly filthy sex, also contains elements of mystery, and considerations on human sexuality itself.

In terms of the genre, the last two elements, while not rendered with complete success (the ending is, frankly, ridiculous) are still refreshing to see.

The sex itself is as impure as anyone picking up this kind of book may want. Readers are taken on tours of the darkest of online fetish sites and amateur porn sites, into a depraved downtown sex club that has to change locations each month, and finally into the lair of the Juliette Society itself.

There’s group sex, fetishism, the kind of BDSM that while interesting may not be for everyone, and, of course, some more vanilla fare, most of which is exceptionally well-rendered.

The Juliette Society was published by Sphere earlier this month and is available in paperback or hardback from Foyles, Amazon and your local independent bookseller, or it’s also available as an e-book.