This unique study of sexuality and society offers a provocative reframing of the subject—including what the author calls a periodic table of perversions.
In Smut, Murray S. Davis investigates sex in a way that differs from nearly all previous books on the subject. Discarding the simplistic theory of sex as a natural instinct, he sets out to develop new explanations for its universal appeal. Drawing on a wide variety of literary forms, including the work of novelists, poets, and even comedians—and exploring everything from theology to pornography—Davis recaptures sex for the social sciences.
First, Davis examines the difference between sexual arousal and ordinary experience, arguing that arousal alters a person's experience of the world. Positing an erotic reality distinct from everyday life, he demonstrates how different perceptions of time, space, human bodies, and other social types occur in each realm. Davis then asks why some people find this alternation between realities dirty, and offers a periodic table of perversions that summarizes the social elements out of which those who find sex dirty construct their world.
Finally, Davis considers other conceptual grids affected by the alternation between everyday and erotic realities: the pornographic, which portrays individual, social relations, and social organizations being disrupted by sex; and the naturalistic, which conceives of them in a way that cannot be disrupted by sex. Throughout history these ideologies have battled for control over Western society, and, in his conclusion, Davis offers a prognosis for the future of sex based on these historical ideological cycles.