For many readers (and their mothers), Anne Rice’s Beauty trilogy was their first foray into the world of erotic romance. Writing under the pseudonym of A.N. Roquelaure, the trilogy comprised of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (1983), Beauty’s Punishment (1984), and Beauty’s Release (1985).
The political context of this book series is interesting, at the time many feminists were very opposed to pornography arguing that it is inherently harmful or exploitative to women. However, Rice disagreed and she resisted all efforts to politicize or sanitize women’s fantasies. She firmly believed that women should be able to write and read whatever erotica they wanted, a sentiment probably supported by many in the H&H community. Unafraid to make a political statement, Rice released her hardcore fantasy erotica and it came to be considered a classic of the genre and a departure point for many discussions concerning the role of feminism within erotica.
The trilogy is not for the faint of heart; by comparison it makes a lot of today’s erotica look very tame. A lot of the action is non-consensual and the slavery theme is not for everyone. The series is loosely based on the fairy tale, it is set in a medieval fantasy world. The action starts when the young protagonist princess Beauty is awakened from a 100 year sleep by the Prince through having sex with her (apparently a chaste Disney kiss wasn’t going to do it). Beauty is then stripped naked and led to Kingdom where she joins other princes and princesses who have been sent to court to be trained as sexual slaves. Both submissives and dominants are male and female. It’s explicit material—degradation, sadomasochistic punishment, pony play, bisexuality and homosexuality. While there is a plot, it’s interspersed between the sex scenes, which are the focus.