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By Deborah Yaffe, May 8 2017 01:00PM

Jane Austen and sex: By now, you’ve heard all the arguments.


1. She’s a sex-free zone, where female modesty and male decorum are prized and celebrated. (And thank goodness for that.)


2. She’s a simmering cauldron of veiled sexual references, from Lydia Bennet’s ripped petticoat to Mary Crawford’s accomplished horseback riding. (The Regency was earthy; it’s the Victorians who were repressed prudes.)


3. She’s the ur-romance novelist, whose Elizabeth and Darcy would certainly have had a super-hot married life. (See under: seventy percent of Jane Austen fanfic.)


4. She’s the anti-romance novelist, who keeps pairing her heroines off with condescending father figures. (Sleep with Edmund Bertram? Ick! No, thank you!)


Clearly, what’s been missing from this discussion is a truly delightful piece of merchandise whose existence I learned of only recently: the Austen-themed condom. Turns out that for this year’s fourth annual Independent Bookstore Day, an April event celebrating places that are not Amazon or Barnes & Noble, participating retailers could lay in a stock of “literary condoms” – perfect for the reader in your bed.


Judging from the order form (scroll down for condom reference), only two designs were available this year: the Dickensian “Great Expectations” (no pressure!); and the Austen-themed “Give Me That Darcy,” in a package adorned with a cartoon of a pants-less Regency gentleman using his top hat in a somewhat unorthodox fashion. But Instagram evidence suggests that the line created last year by the San Francisco store The Booksmith also included two other designs: the Alice-inspired “Eat Me”; and “Dive Deep,” illustrated with a picture of a lasciviously grinning Great White Whale, clearly based on Moby Dick. (Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat.)


The romantic possibilities here are obvious. We all have tests for our prospective partners – movies or books or songs that s/he must like, or it’s a dealbreaker. Now we can move that conversation to an even more intimate stage: can’t sleep with someone who fails to identify the literary reference on the condom package.


Alas, it doesn’t look like these adorably naughty items are available for purchase by the general public, except through indie booksellers stocking them for the celebration. Just for the record, though, the wholesale price was $47.88 for a package of twelve, or $3.99 per prophylactic. As a boring married person, I haven’t bought condoms in so long that I have no idea if this is a bargain or not. And whatever your views on Jane Austen and sex, I doubt she would have known, either.


2 comments
May 8 2017 07:46PM by Christina Boyd

Speechless. But like Miss Bates, I can't stop talking about it!

May 11 2017 11:40PM by dyaffe

Ha! I know what you mean -- this is one unforgettable piece of Austeniana. . .

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