What was Rimbaud writing about here?
Dark and puckered like a violet carnation
It breathes, humbly lurking amidst the moss,
Still moist from an amorous inclination which follows the gentle dip
Of the white buttocks down to the edge of its scarlet hem.
Germaine Greer feels that these lines get too much of a pass, because they’re talking about an anus and are associated with the transgressions of anal sex. Her point is that it’s not so transgressive — it’s a banal act. We shouldn’t be so impressed by it.
As a variant on the penetration theme, anal intercourse has been used probably more often by heterosexuals than homosexuals. There are few human societies in which it is unknown, though none is prepared to admit that the practice is at all common. In the 1970s, Italian boys used to tell me that American girls insisted on it because they wanted to keep their hymens for their husbands; American men told me the same thing about Italian girls. … long before contraceptive appliances, birth rates fell in western Europe when people began to want to limit their families, almost certainly because of variations on the penetration theme.
P.S. It’s fine to diss a book. Not so fine to explain that you only read it because it was a birthday present.