Lady Chatterley's Lover controversy

Six reasons why the original Lady Chatterley’s Lover was so controversial

The novel was banned in five different countries

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is Netflix’s latest book adaptation and is based on the book of the same name by D.H. Lawrence. The book and movie follows the steamy love affair of Lady Constance ‘Connie’ Chatterley and Oliver Mellors, the estate gamekeeper. The book has had several adaptations over the years including one in 1993 starring Joely Richardson and Sean Bean, and another in 2015 starring Richard Madden.

The book was originally published in 1928 and was banned in multiple countries due to his sexually explicit nature. Although that seems laughable now, it caused quite the stir in its initial release. Here are six reasons why the original Lady Chatterley’s Lover faced so much controversy:

1. Lady Chatterley’s Lover was the subject of a watershed obscenity trial

Despite Lady Chatterley’s Lover being published in the late 1920s in Italy, D.H. Lawrence’s last novel became the subject of controversy in Britain in the 1960s when Penguin Books wanted to publish it. Due to the detailed sexual scenes between Lady Chatterley and her gamekeeper, it was considered shocking in Britain at the time.

The court case was a trial of Penguin Books, under the Obscene Publications Act. The trial lasted six days and after a three hour deliberation, the jury found the novel to be “not” obscene. The book was published a month later and 200,000 copies were sold on the first day, and three million thereafter. The success of R v Penguin Books led to the freedom of more books being published with explicit content.

via Netflix

2. Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned in five countries

D.H. Lawrence’s final book became notorious for its description of the relationship between a working class man and an upper class woman, its very explicit descriptions of sex and its use of the former unprintable four letter words. Because of this, the book was banned for obscenity in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, India and Japan.

In Australia, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and a book describing the British trial over the book was also banned. A year after it’s initial publication in 1928, it was banned in the US.

3. The full publication of the book led to a sexual revolution

In the US, when Lady Chatterley’s Lover was fully published, it led to the sexual revolution. The book became a topic of widespread discussion. In 1965, America singer Tom Lehrer recorded the song Smut, where he acknowledged his enjoyment of  Lawrence’s book. The lyrics said: “Who needs a hobby like tennis or philately? I’ve got a hobby: rereading Lady Chatterley”.

Lady Chatterley's Lover controversy

via Netflix

4. A bookseller was prosecuted for selling an uncensored version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover

India was one of the countries that banned D.H. Lawrence’s final novel. In 1964, bookseller Ranjit Udeshi was prosecuted under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code for selling an uncensored version of Lady Chatterley’s lover.

5. The novel is one of few books in English literature that addresses female sexual desire

According to Britannica, Lady Chatterley’s Lover “remains of of the few novels in English literary history that addresses female sexual desire.” Dillion said: “It depicts a woman’s experience of the exquisite pleasure of good sex, her apocalyptic disappointment in bad sex and her fulfillment in truly making love”.

In the novel, Lady Chatterley embarks on a love affair with her husband’s gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. She later falls pregnant with Oliver’s baby and leaves her husband. The novel ends with both Lady Chatterley and Oliver Mellor hoping to secure divorces and start a new life together.

Lady Chatterley's Lover controversy

via Netflix

6. The book was featured references to anal sex, which was illegal at the time

Lady Chatterley’s Lover was heavily illegal in many countries for the inclusion of references to anal sex. The novel was notorious for its explicit descriptions of sex, its use of the then-unprintable four-letter words and a reference to anal sex, which was illegal at the time. The then-unprintable four-letter words were the likes of f**k, sh*t, tw*t and sl*t and many others.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is available to watch on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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Featured image credit via Netflix.