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The Enduring Romance of Beauty and the Beast

20 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I remember the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in 1991. It was in the Berkeley Heights movie theater. Thursday nights were buy one, get one, but I went with my friends for a matinée. Funny, I can’t remember who I was with, but I distinctly remember that first moment when the curtain drew back (yes, it had a curtain across the screen) and the first image of the movie filled the frame.

I gasped. For real. I spent the first 90 seconds wavering back and forth between thinking it was real and believing it was a cartoon. The colors were so bright, the images so crisp, it was breathtaking, as in it literally took my breath away. Minutes later, the opening number “Belle” began and I was officially enraptured. The complexity of the song, the brilliance of the lyrics, the timing of the animation. This was revolutionary. It was pre-motion captured, when digital was only just becoming part of our vocabulary. There were no DVDs yet, CDs were only just becoming known, laser disks were still the premiere idea of home movies. The Little Mermaid had taken the world by storm barely a year earlier. But Beauty and the Beast was a wunderkind of animation never seen before. Its music was fresh and exciting. Its story took a well-known tale and infused it anew with adventure and romance.

And don’t even get me started on the ballroom scene.

A few days later, I took my sister to see it before I went back to college, and after she had to endure me going on and on about it. Within the first few minutes, she turned to me and whispered, “You were absolutely right.”

Last Friday, I saw the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, not another retelling of the story, but the same 1991 animated film remade with live people as opposed to cartoons. I’ve been anticipating this movie but at the same time, had little expectation as to what it might turn out to be. Like looking forward to seeing a favorite book brought to the screen, there was bound to be new interpretations to the story that would tick me off (I’m a purist, I confess), but as I was coming off a long convalescence from surgery, I went to a matinée solo simply to enjoy seeing an old friend given new life.

It was, in a word, perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Was it flawless? No. That’s an impossibility. But as Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney logo was replaced by the Beast’s enchanted castle and the familiar words of the prologue filled the air now in a female’s voice, I knew this was going to be the rare film that met the demands of its source material. Perhaps even exceeded it.

I’m not going to go over the particulars of the new movie as it’s enough to say it’s a near perfect match to its animated doppelgänger. OK, scratch that idea. A few quick thoughts: the new movie does address a few loopholes the animated film skipped over that have plague fans for years–or maybe that’s just me. Things like, why does no one in the village see the honking huge palace in the forest? Why is it beautiful autumn in the village and winter around the castle? How come no one seems to remember there was ever a prince in residence nearby? How the hell does wee Belle manage to get huge Beast up on Philippe the horse after Beast collapses following the wolf attack? Answers are finally found. Also, where I often loathe new music added to an established libretto (Phantom of the Opera, I’m looking at you), the new songs added to this version of Beauty and the Beast fit in perfectly. Oh and Luke Evans nearly steals the show as pitch-perfect Gaston. Finally, visually, it is a masterpiece. I don’t even want to know how it was done, which part is motion capture and which part is actual people, or where the animation begins or which pieces are on a set and which are in a proper 18th-century palace. It’s a sumptuous feast on par with the magnitude of its counterpart for its time. You will not be disappointed.

But what struck me as I teared up over the ending (and yea, I did sniffle, and applaud while the credits rolled) was how this well-known and beloved story still had the power to move me. Women are weened on romantic fantasy and Disney has made a killing exploiting that deeply ingrained expectation. But archetype stories like Beauty and the Beast endure because they resonate with truth that is better than any fantasy.

In both films, the key is that Belle must fall in love with a “hideous” beast in order to break the curse. But the prince’s outward beast is merely the reflection of the inner asshole that was hiding beneath his human pretty face. As he learns not only to love, but to be lovable, the core good person who yet lives beneath both beastly versions comes back to life. This is another aspect this film has the time and means to address. Mrs. Potts informs Belle of how the prince was warped by his cruel father after his mother’s death when the prince was but a boy. Adding the somewhat rout psychological element adds layers to the prince’s repulsive behavior prior to his beastliness being made manifest, which also explains why the staff remains so loyal to one who appeared to be so horrible in both guises.

Beast also learns the sacrificial aspect to love, that truly loving someone means putting their needs first and that sometimes can cause great agony for the lover. In the new film, when Beast releases Belle to go to her father, he watches her flee through the maze, her gold dress a beacon, and sings the beautiful, new, heart-wrenching song “Evermore”.

Sidebar: Holy cats, can Dan Stevens sing. Strewth.

In “Evermore,” Beast sings about how Belle has changed his life and how he knows he’ll now be haunted by her for the rest of his days. But even as he despairs over this and the expectation that he’ll never see her again, especially since, in this film, there is a very real threat to his and the others existence, (outside of Gaston and the mob, that is), Beast knows he’s forever been changed by falling in love with her. Whatever the future brings him, he will not be the same person, man or beast, because of Belle.

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she runs away
She will still torment me, calm me, hurt me
Move me, come what may

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she fades from view
She will still inspire me, be a part of
Everything I do

Wasting in my lonely tower
Waiting by an open door
I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in
And as the long, long nights begin
I’ll think of all that might have been
Waiting here for evermore!

– “Evermorefrom Beauty and the Beast 2017 ©Disney

Poor Beastie. Fortunately, we know he’s not meant to waste away in his lonely tower without his Belle, but still! Sob.

In this live-action version of the story, as Belle and her prince dance through the final moments, she makes a cheeky request of him that makes it clear she actually prefers or at least misses his hairier visage, a request that makes the prince laugh because he knows exactly what she’s saying. She doesn’t love him more or less for now being human; she loves him period. But having fallen in love with his beastly component, she’s not adverse to his human self sporting a sartorial reminder. (And I think, for those of us who may know, there was a sly sexual component to her request as well.)

But it’s not only the Beast/Prince who is loved for himself. Belle too doesn’t fit in her environment. She’s thought to be odd and out-of-place because she reads and longs for a life far beyond that of a provincial village. In the original film, when Belle has her Sound of Music moment running up the hill while she sings “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand. I want so much more than they’ve got planned…” my young heart swelled and I got chills. When Emma Watson did the same move and sang the same words in the live-action film, my battered, weary heart swelled and I got chills as I smiled and sang along.

So many of us were that girl, nose in a book, dreaming of more, maybe a prince or at least that one person who “got” us, who didn’t think we were weird because of who we are or what we like to do. Who wanted to be with us because of what others thought made us odd, not in spite of them. Who wanted us for us. Now, as women, some of us have been fortunate to have found that person. Some of us are still looking but remain hopeful. Meanwhile, we read and, in my case, write romances to keep that hope alive. Not because we’re entrenched in romantic fantasy, but because we know the truth that fantasy exploits: happily ever after isn’t just for fiction.

This is why Beauty and the Beast is such an enduring romance. And it’s why those of us who write romance continue to believe. Be it romantic suspense or epic fantasy or erotic romance or BDSM romance or Amish romance, whatever the genre or subgenre, whether we write about hot alpha heroes or handsome beta heroes or gorgeous women who’ve got it going on or ladies in search of their own kind of special who are the heroines of their own stories, at the core, we’re spinning relationships where the parties involved find the one who loves them for themselves, for who they are at the best and worst of times (thank you Victor Hugo), who love those moments when we’re all a unique beauty and more, when we show our inner beasts.

Women may be weened on romantic fantasy, but stories like Beauty and the Beast remind us that true love sees and loves all.

And that is no fantasy.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

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Alternative Endings to the Bachelor

16 Mar

Huzzah! Rachel Lindsay–The first POC bachelorette.

by Madeline Iva

I saw the very first season of the Bachlorette while packing for a Big Move to the South.  I made it through a few seasons after that because I was fascinated by watching grown women aggressively fight for the attention of one man–while pretending not to. So deliciously perverse! Alexa Day posted about the announcement of the latest bachelorette on Tuesday, and the rest below is just one long riff about The Bachelor and other thoughts her post inspired.

I loved how the most interesting women (to me) on The Bachelor in the end ultimately had to be–I mean HAD TO BE–there for the money. (Student loans, I’m guessing.) Top ways to tell:

  1. They were very popular with the other women in the house. This, I think, is a key sign. But at the same time, they didn’t seem to have a secret boyfriend at home, or were there for some kind of acting career –and thus could dodge the “you’re not here for the right reasons” attack.   (BTW has anyone ever gone up and attacked a contestant saying “You’re just here to pay off your student loans—aren’t you, bitch?”)
  2. Often they would acknowledge being on the fence about their feelings for the guy. Why? Because they weren’t that into Mr. Available.  This only helps them not seem like a threat to the other women, of course.
  3. The fact that they weren’t so into the bachelor often seemed to make the bachelor far more into them.  Like he wanted to chase them hard.  After all, for most men, chasing is their comfort zone.  (Some of us are challenged when it comes to being adored.) Logically, enlightened men *know* it’s okay for a girl to chase a guy.  But they’re not actually comfortable with it.  It’s not their usual pattern–and sometimes breaking patterns feels odd.
  4. Because these women were just “passing time” to earn their paycheck, they could neatly avoid conflict in the house with the rest of the women–and work on soothing things out.  This is where their attention was.  It’s like they reguard the other women in the house as their fellow co-workers and wanted to be team players more than they were actually vying for the heart of one man.
  5. There’s almost an instant, quick and quiet break up following the conclusion of the show when one of these women was chosen.  The fact that a break up would immediately follow seemed like wonderful karma to me.  That’s what you get, you bachelor guy, for going for the girl that’s “not that into you” and ignoring the ones who were good people and desperate for your man-love.

At any rate — I’m glad that the show chose a POC bachelorette.

But I gotta wonder: how is this show going to continue to appeal to any but the most conservative audience? Because with polyamory becoming an accepted thing amongst all the hipsters and millenials, doesn’t the idea of picking ‘the one’ seem just a wee bit old fashioned?

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with being a monogamous type of person (I’m one myself). I’m just saying that when the Batchelor says “OMG, I’m in love with BOTH of these women” is this still the shockingly upsetting drama that it used to be?  Aren’t twenty and thirty somethings across the land saying “And? This is a problem why?”

Or–a more radical theory still–was the repetition of season after season of The Bachelor/Bachelorette actually paving the way for widespread polyamory across our heartland over these last ***seventeen*** years by making TV America overly familiar with the idea that one person can easily fall in love with two (or more) people at the same time?  I mean, think back to when polyamory started becoming a thing–right? Amiright?

I’m just waiting for the season when the Bachelor/Bachelorette decides to propose to *both* women or accept a proposal from *both* guys.  Now that would be a ratings booster.

Maybe if this this new bachelorette says yes to a black man AND a white man we can all have our cake and eat it too.

MEANWHILE — Idris Elba for Bond.  Seriously.  Accept no other substitutes.  Unless it’s Tom Hiddleston.  Then we’ll have to talk.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

Spank Me! Pull My Hair! But He Says, “No.”

15 Mar

By Elizabeth Shore

In Madison, Wisconsin there’s a great hard rock radio station, WJJO, which, thanks to the internet, I can still listen to despite no longer living in the midwest. What I like about JJO, apart from the music, are the morning DJs.

Johnny, Greg, and Biatch (hey, I didn’t make it up) are unapologetically raunchy and laugh-out-loud funny. Their morning show includes everything from topical commentary on whatever’s in the news to the daily “fake at 8,” in which a woman calls in to fake an orgasm and win concert tickets if her “performance” gets a thumbs up from listeners. Every Monday morning, Mr. Skin gives his update on nude celebrities in TV and film, and every Tuesday and Thursday morning is the “Sex Fix.” A listener calls in to discuss a sexual conundrum he or she is dealing with and the morning crew lends their best advice.

Last week a female listener called in because she’s stressing over a compatibility issue with her boyfriend. His definition of “rough sex,” which is what she wants, is to land a few polite slaps on her bum and increase his pace. Her definition is to be choked, have her hair pulled, her ass smacked, and even, she said, “maybe draw a little blood” from biting. Just a little bit different.

The morning crew’s advice was for her to ease him into her kinky world by taking the bull by the horns and doing to him what she wants done to her. Start out slowly, they advised. Maybe tie him up and gently tease him with a flogger before venturing into the more intense territory she really wants. That said, they did caution that if he just doesn’t get turned on by her BDSM ways she may have to decide whether the relationship will ultimately work. A conundrum indeed.

If you do a web search on “sexual incompatibility” there are, as with most searches, an endless amount of information on the topic – good, bad, or nothin’ but fake news. Plenty of therapists offer their advice, but one of the best articles I’ve come across was one from a few years ago from dating advisor/coach and blogger Dr. NerdLove, who – as he clearly states – isn’t a real doctor. However, if you don’t know him, check out his blog. His sound advice is sprinkled with compassion and he’s amassed quite a following.

In a post he wrote back in 2014 about sexual compatibility he raised some excellent points, beginning with the culture that shapes our sexual views in the first place.

Even in the 21st century, we live in a profoundly sex-negative culture – just one that likes to think that it’s progressive. Our sexual education system is at best a glorified anatomy lesson; at worst, it’s a collection of lies and deliberate misinformation designed to (theoretically) keep children from having sex ever. We tell women to be sexy but not sexual – to be desirable but to not feel desire – while men are told that their worth depends upon as much sex as possible, setting men and women up for an inevitable conflict. Even the concept of making sure everybody is an eager participant is a new and radical concept.

…When we complain about being dissatisfied with our sex-lives then you risk plunging head-first into a wall of razor-sharp judgment from just about everyone around you. If the sexual dissatisfaction doesn’t conform to a very specific narrative… well, you’re really being selfish at best and a perv at worst.

Faced with the potential of harsh judgment, many couples choose to stay silent. Who wants to risk being viewed as a perv by one’s spouse if said perviness is deemed an undesireable trait? Better just to STFU, be thankful for what you do have and suffer in silence. Right?

Wrong. As NerdLove points out, “sex is a part of the relationship. It’s not something that can be excised when it’s inconvenient.” Having your needs in the bedroom unfulfilled will affect the relationship as a whole. Sexual incompatibility is one of the most common reasons why relationships end. No surprise that it’s an issue rarely tackled in romance novels. Who wants to read about that icky reality? Better to have your H&H happily f**king like bunnies whenever and wherever the mood (mutually) strikes.

But in the real world, as Dr. NerdLove reminds us, compromise is key. No one’s going to be a perfect sexual match. You may differ on drive, desire, or even views on fidelity and monogamy. Working out how to deal with those differences is what’ll get you to that mutual happy place.

And speaking of happy places, join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, toys, books and more. Goodybags to first 100 people in line! A raffle will be held for a big basket of books for all. Event: Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/ event/never-have-you-ever- ever-ever

Elizabeth Shore writes both contemporary and historical erotic romance. Her newest book is an erotic historical novella, Desire Rising, from The Wild Rose Press. Other releases include Hot Bayou Nights and The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires

 

 

 

 

NEVER SWEETER: The Sweet Darkness in Charlotte Stein’s Dark Obsessions Trilogy

9 Mar

This one is going into my “special” kindle folder. ; >

by Madeline Iva

We posted a fun excerpt from Charlotte Stein’s story NEVER BETTER last Sunday.  NEVER BETTER is the final book in her Dark Obsession trilogy, so of course, I read it first, and then worked my way backwards, cause I’m perverse like that. I gobbled down NEVER BETTER like a chocolate chip cookie and advise you to do the same.  Now I’d like to take you on a journey through the open-mouthed, kindle-clutching, eye-squeezing moments I had while reading NEVER SWEETER, the first book in the series.  How to do so without delivering any spoilers is gonna be hard, but here I go…

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE GOES TO THE DARK SIDE

What really keeps a man and a woman apart these days if they want to be together? Not much. After plundering the treasure chest of meet-cutes and other fabulously quirky ways to bring two people together and then keep them apart for two hundred odd pages, contemporary romance has gone to the dark side.

I personally blame paranormal romance.  Let’s face it–paranormal romance is just so much easier.  Look at the obstacles a heroine faces—Example: “He’s a vampire who’s killed THOUSANDS of people and he’s hundreds of years older than me.  How could we ever be together?” it’s a really messed up situation.

CRAZY-WRONG “I’D HAVE TO BE INSANE TO BE WITH SOMEONE AS EVIL AS YOU” SITUATION= STRONG ROMANTIC ROAD BLOCKS = LOTS OF ROMANCE FEELS & GREAT TENSION

After all, 50 Shades was based on a paranormal romance, wasn’t it?  E.L. James just fished around for a modern day ‘real’ equivalent for a evil-but-not-really, self-loathing, brooding hero.  She came up with a billionaire sadist, around the same time other authors were also plonking down flags into anti-hero territory. Do we want to blame 50 Shades for all the motorcycle clubs, hit-men, crime families, and other anti-hero-ish trappings that are so popular these days? No, but I think the E.L. James phenomenon illustrates a sweeping trend, and Charlotte Stein has taken some steps down the same path.

BUT CHARLOTTE STEIN ISN’T LIKE THAT! SHE’S SO SWEETLY DIRTY…

But maybe sometimes she isn’t. INTRUSION and some of her other works have strayed from abused heroines into more plum-colored territory. Which brings us to NEVER SWEETER.  Let’s look at the blurb:

Letty Carmichael can’t believe her eyes when she catches a glimpse of her high school tormenter, wrestling champ Tate Sullivan, on campus. College was supposed to be her escape from Tate’s constant ridicule. Now he’s in her classes again, just waiting for his chance to make her life hell.

skipping, skipping, skipping…

Loving him is impossible. Craving him is beyond all reason. So why can’t she stop?

Falling in love with your high school bully is messed up, peopleKids, don’t try this at home.

However, line by line Stein just sucks you in.  Great dialogue, great side-kick friend, very specific descriptions of torments she endured and then Tate — a classic Stein-i-an hero, just takes over.

What do we like about Tate? We like that he’s open, agreeable, and fast on his feet.  We like that he’s hotness plus, and can read people–especially the heroine–quickly.  We like that he’s a sexual beast wrapped up in a Nice Boy package–but is he really trustworthy?  It’s that last part that keeps readers furiously turning the pages and riding all the highs and shocking lows.

Why was he such a monumental dick? This is the big answer we need to know. Stein gives you answers, and then sweeps on by.  Do we believe these answers–ah! This is where she’s brilliant, because doubts may  linger, and she plays upon these same doubts later.

I just went through such a roller coaster of emotions with this book.  It really was so incredibly sweet at points–which is what I do look for from Stein–and so sweetly filthy at others–which is what I relish about Stein–and at other times it was kinda like a horror movie.  There’s a Carrie reference and it’s seriously well earned.

I think at one point I shouted “No!” in shock.  At another point I kinda cried, almost.  The whole time I felt as guilty as the heroine for being so sucked into a kind of situation that I would NEVER EVER EVER!!!! endorse in a million years in ‘real life’.

So go buy it already.

Meanwhile, I got the skinny from Charlotte Stein about RAW HEAT — her so good it hurts post-apocalyptic romance that’s out of print right now. Talk about bullying! It’s really unfair clobbering my friends and even total strangers over the head for not having read RAW HEAT if it’s not even in print. Stein has said she’s going to re-pub it in a collection with some of her other post-apocalyptic/paranormal stuff.  So happy about that. Soon none of you will have any excuse.

Okay, I’ve started going into Charlotte Stein withdrawal, so I’ll sign off for now.

Follow us at Lady Smut–if you want to.  It’s your own choice.  Really. We’d never bully you about it.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

If You’re An Alpha Female Looking For Love You’re Totally Doomed

1 Mar

By Elizabeth Shore

Are you an alpha female? Do you, for instance, always need to be right? Are you a perfectionist or overachiever? Are you a drill sergeant?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, you are, according to author and frequent Fox news contributor Suzanne Venker, an alpha female. And if you’re an alpha female, and you happen to be married, well, good luck with that, honey. Your marriage is screwed.

See, according to Venker – the niece of rabid conservative anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly – in her new book, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Love and Marriage, “If you took the alpha wife quiz and determined you’re an alpha, I have some news that at first will be hard to swallow: you’re going to have to cede control. If you don’t, your marriage or relationship will continue to be one giant fight.”

Yowza! That sounds ominous. I don’t want a bad relationship. Or “one giant fight.” Who does? Well, apparently, all those evil feminists, that’s who. Feminists are the cause of all relationship ills. Did you know that? Me, neither. But Venker’s book includes former Fox news anchor E.D. Hill’s assertion that her need for self-reliance led to a “power struggle” with her husband and that, “along with other issues” (who knows what those were), led to her divorce. This leads Venker to the following conclusion:

“Thanks to feminism, this ‘power struggle’ Hill describes is par for the course. Women today are effectively at war with the men in their lives, sometimes unknowingly. Even women who don’t consider themselves feminist have a feminist mind and as a result don’t understand men and marriage. The idea that the sexes are “equal,” as in the same, has supplanted what past generations have always known: that men and women are vastly different creatures. And that dismissing those differences makes marriage hell.”

Huh. So, wow. There’s a revelation for you, right? Men and women are vastly different creatures. Who knew! Well, apparently only past generations and not the dim-witted alpha females of today. So asserts Ms. Venker. And if you’re not bright enough to acknowledge those differences – and cede all control, let’s not forget that – then you’ve just punched your ticket to relationship purgatory. Take that, alpha female.

But, wait. About that quiz…above I only pulled out 3 of the 13 questions that help you determine whether you’re an alpha female. To help you out, the whole quiz is listed below, taken directly from Suzanne Venker’s website:

  • Do you feel nervous or out of control when you’re not the one in charge?
  • Are you a perfectionist or an overachiever?
  • Do you sometimes feel superior to your husband, as though he needs you to show him how to do things? (How to dress, what to say, how to grocery shop, how to parent, etc.)
  • Do you take your everyday frustrations out on your husband as though he’s the cause of those frustrations?
  • Do you generally expect your husband to go along with your plans, as opposed to the other way around?
  • When you listen to your husband, are you immediately formulating a response in your head before he’s finished speaking?
  • Do you roll your eyes when your husband says something with which you disagree or disapprove?
  • Do you frequently contradict your husband? (If your answer is no, would your husband agree?)
  • Are you a drill sergeant?
  • Do you tease your husband in front of others in a manner that could be construed as disrespectful?
  • Do you need to be right?
  • Do you frequently interrupt your husband or talk over him, even in public? (If your answer is no, would your husband agree?)
  • Does your marriage feel like one giant power struggle? (If your answer is no, would your husband agree?)

The more questions to which you answer in the affirmative, says, Venker, the more alpha you are. Well, hold on there, missy. Here’s my quibble with the damn quiz. In my world, if someone publically humiliates her spouse, or frequently contradicts him, or rolls her eyes when he’s speaking, I wouldn’t call her an alpha female. I’d call her an a**hole. Behaving like that isn’t asserting your alpha, it’s just being rude. Call me crazy, but to me an alpha female is a strong, confident, hard-working woman who knows what she wants and has the courage to pursue it. You know, kinda like an alpha man.

Some additional relationship insight from Ms. Venker: “insisting that a woman doesn’t need a man is a terrible precedent for marriage.” Again, I’ve gotta disagree with you there, Suz. I don’t think the basis for a good marriage is “needing” a man. I think it’s wanting him. Wanting the love, respect, support, and partnership that we should all receive in a relationship. Isn’t that the reason for having one in the first place? What it doesn’t mean is having to “cede” all control and letting the man always be in charge. Sometimes he is; sometimes you are. You find the balance that works for you both.

Elizabeth Shore writes both contemporary and historical erotic romance. Her newest book is an erotic historical novella, Desire Rising, from The Wild Rose Press. Other releases include Hot Bayou Nights and The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires

 

 

 

We Saw Fifty Shades Darker So You Don’t Have To

11 Feb

by Elizabeth SaFleur & Madeline Iva

Happy Weekend! We’re here to share with you all our thoughts after seeing FIFTY SHADES DARKER at the movie theatre last night. fifty-shades-darker

Madeline: I loved seeing that group of women who all came into the theatre wearing masks. In fact, my role here is to see the film with eyes of love.  To understand why women love it, why it’s so ridiculously successful.

Elizabeth: This blog post also could be titled, Fifty Scenes of Dakota’s Boobs. Or Fifty Shades of Mixed Messages.

Madeline: You’re in a mood this morning.  I can tell.

Elizabeth: I don’t hate the Fifty Shades franchise. I don’t love it either. I’m neutral, though I was really hoping Hollywood did a better job of portraying the lifestyle than they did previously. Of course, I recognized this story, from the get-go, isn’t a BDSM erotic romance at all.

Madeline: I mean, I agree.–But what is it then?

Elizabeth: It’s a story of a man with PTSD from his childhood who channels his angst by engaging in supposed sadism (I don’t think he’s really a sadist, by the way) with submissives. He meets an ordinary girl who sends this man mixed signals. But she would. She’s in her early twenties and still figuring herself out. But, Jesus, the back and forth!

All that chest--and no touching it. I would go mad.

All that chest–and no touching it. I would go mad.

Madeline: Yes, she’s still figuring it all out.  Jackie and I talked about that with the first movie. This is a strong message that’s getting out into the world these days and I applaud it.  You hear that men? Women are not playing games.  They’re not f**king with you.  They’re trying to figure it out, okay? And sometimes it’s not easy.

Elizabeth: I get why people love 50 Shades. Billionaires, mild kinky scenarios—

Madeline: Yay to mild-kink! Or, as I like to call it, Kinky-lite.  We need t-shirts.  I’ll get my people right on that.

Elizabeth: –especially if you’ve not been exposed before. People also love the luxurious settings, a man changed by the love of a woman. That trope is old as the hills.

Madeline Iva: As old as the hills–and yet there are real haters out there.  Haters who love romance, confoundingly.

Elizabeth: I get why people hate it. Bad BDSM benchmark set, a weak(er) story structure and did I mention the mixed signals from both characters?

Madeline: One thing about the mixed messages: I think that the movie makers had to do it the way that they did. They had to be true to the book and in the book, she’s walking away from kink.  On the other hand, what do we want? We want hot sex scenes in the movie! Like we had in the first movie, only different.  They delivered both.  Could they have delivered a movie that had a lot less sex? I don’t think so.

Elizabeth: The PR/Marketing person in me also thought they missed an opportunity to make the movie the best possible thing ever. No excuse! I mean, built-in audience, Hollywood! We had a row of women behind us who came as a group all wearing masks. You can’t buy this kind of loyalty.50-shades-darker-teaser-mask

Madeline: You think they should have really dug in and changed things, deepened the script, the plot, etc?

Elizabeth: Yes! So, sadly, this movie isn’t going to win any Oscars.

Madeline: So, here’s what I say — is this even really a movie? I mean, I thought of it as something in film form that was an homage to the book.  I think we’re in the early days of a whole new medium. We need to come up with a jazzy name for it.  I mean, that whole weird section with the helicopter crash? “Real” movies don’t actually work like that.  Which is okay–but comparing this to a movie is like comparing apples to…an apple flavored jolly roger candy.  You know?

Elizabeth: It will certainly please the 50 Shades crowd, but in equal measure that it will tick off the real-life BSDM enthusiasts. (I can’t help but think of how this mirrors our very-politically-divided country right now.)

Fifty pull ups. Cause you know *that* joke isn't getting old.

Fifty pull ups. Cause you know *that* joke isn’t getting old.

Madeline: Aren’t they already ticked off? I mean, by this point, I can’t imagine real-life BDSM enthusiasts going see this movie for sheer love.  Me, I was frankly relieved that it was so kinky-lite in the first movie.  FIFTY SHADES DARKER’s little play-time scenes were icing on the cake.  Besides, I brought my husband to see the movie, and was hoping to placate him with all the sexy biz.

Also, as Jezebel writers said: “What was good: basically nonstop puss eating.”

Elizabeth: !

Madeline: So sez Jezebel, so say we all. On the other hand, people kinda wanted to see Christian’s dick.  Not me, just…people.  #dickparity is a thing, I guess.

Elizabeth: What I liked about the movie: Dakota Johnson has got acting chops.

Madeline: I agree.

Elizabeth: She’d better than most people probably realize given she had to develop that character herself. Anastasia Steele’s clothes. I want that La Perla bustier garter set she’s wearing.

Madeline: We all want that La Perla bustier garter set.  And the body to go with it.

And it looks even better from the back...

And it looks even better from the back…

Elizabeth: –Ya know, for sitting around my home office so I can pretend I’m about to be whisked to a ball. Also, her lips. M and I agree – she had the best lipstick. And it stayed on no matter what they were doing like sucking face, which they did often.

Madeline: I liked the sucking face.  Jamie Dornan sucks face well.

Elizabeth: Christian Grey’s boat. Niiiice. Jamie Dornan’s buffness and scruffness – just the way I like it. Oh, and his neck! I just wanted to bury my face in it.

You want to grab him. Admit it.

You want to grab him. Admit it.

Madeline: I did not need him so buff.  But I am obsessed.  (Posting on that later.)

Elizabeth: The general eye candy was great. They live in a beautiful world.

Madeline: I was going through eye candy withdrawl. This movie definitely helped.

Elizabeth: But I can’t get over the mixed signals: “Christian, I can never, ever give you what you need.” Ten minutes later, “Christian, spank me.” “Take me to the red room.” Make up your mind, lady. You’re either into the kink or you’re not.

Madeline: Okay, here’s my take on that — at first in their relationship he wanted total control.  Even to the point of saying he didn’t “do relationships”.  Gah.  It’s like a dance, and he was always leading.

In FIFTY SHADES DARKER, she takes control.  It’s not about consistency.  It’s about her leading. In the past, with all his interactions the dominant dynamic was about them pleasing him.  Now he has to keep up with her, follow her lead, and prove to her that he can please her.  It’s all about her, people! (Which is catnip to us romance ladies.)

She's steering the ship now.

She’s steering the ship now.

Elizabeth: His admission that he’s not a Dominant, but a sadist really bothered me.

Madeline: It was certainly abrupt.

Elizabeth: And they acted like being a sadist must be a very, very, very bad thing. It’s not!!

Madeline: She’s getting on her BDSM soap box people.

Elizabeth: If you’re truly a responsible sadist, you play with consenting adults, and you never harm anyone.

Madeline: Which is different from causing them pain

Elizabeth: Right.  Pain is temporary, and some masochists get an endorphin rush off controlled pain, which registers as a kind of pleasure…so they like it.

Madeline: Yes, yes, yes!

Elizabeth: Harming someone is completely different.

Madeline: Noted.

Elizabeth: I had an issue with the symbolic kink. The movie brings out the usual kinky props, but clearly for symbolic reasons. There’s the blindfold and the cuffs but within one minute they’re having sex. They bring out the spreader bar and within one minute they’re having sex.  He gives her four spanks and then they’re having sex. I get it. They’re young, full of hormones and hot. But don’t expect any real BDSM. The movie had tons of sex and a little slap and tickle.

Madeline: I didn’t mind that at all. Huzzah to symbolic kinky sex!

Elizabeth: Speaking of the spreader bar. People…please DO NOT go to Amazon, buy the first spreader bar you see and do that flip move that Christian did to Ana without a lot of practice.

Do not try this at home...

Do not try this at home…

Madeline: It did look…quite…gymnastic.

Elizabeth: I’m not quite convinced that spreader bar exists in real life.

Madeline: A retractable spreader bar.  Yeah, that was a new one to me too.

Elizabeth: So don’t risk spraining an ankle or wrenching a back.

Madeline: Her breasts were like a third character in the movie.

Elizabeth: If there was an opportunity to show them off, the movie did.

Madeline: It’s actually in her contract–she must be topless or naked at least every fifteen minutes of the movie. (Joking.) But reading interviews, I think the actress has made this her thing.  And if an actor is a bit of an exhibitionist, who are we to complain? (I’m looking at you, Orlando Bloom.)

Elizabeth: Why couldn’t we get his glory to be the third character? Equal rights, man.

Madeline: #DickParity — starting that hashtag right now

Elizabeth: This movie was more sex positive than the last — and Ana wasn’t as big as a doormat as she was in the first movie.

Madeline: Amen to that!

Elizabeth: Oh, and for grins you really must check out this post from a Redbook writer, I Tried All the Sex From Fifty Shades Darker In One Weekend. Hilarious.

Madeline: I can’t believe Redbook did that…that is awesome.  Final comments?

Elizabeth: Bottom line: If you are a 50 Shades fan, you’ll love this movie.

Madeline: Durh.

Elizabeth: If you are a real-life BDSM lifestyler, you’ll probably stay away anyway. Christian is someone who needs to be “cured.” Yeah, right.  But what he needs (IMHO) is help with his PTSD, not his BDSM proclivities (though I’m not convinced BDSM even really is his thing).

Madeline: What is his thing?

Elizabeth: Okay–Growing up, Christian discovers how to use kink to channel his anger from his childhood trauma.  And so maybe when he gets together with her, and they bond, that anger starts to go away? And that’s why he walks away from it all.

Towards the end of the series, he says he doesn’t want to do it anymore.  In the third book he doesn’t want a red room in the new house.

A Dominant, meanwhile, that’s their main thing–being in control.  If he actually can be happy without being in control, yeah, he’s not a Dominant.  And a sadist — I’m sorry, but you don’t just actually decide not to be someone who gets off on pain.  It’s like trying to pray your way out of being gay.

Madeline: So if this was real life–which it’s not–Elena would be right.  Ana and Christian together as a couple would be a compromise for him.  A compromise most couples don’t survive.

Kim Basinger plays Elena in the movie--which makes it all very meta.

Kim Basinger plays Elena in the movie–which makes it all very meta.

Elizabeth: Right.  If it was real life.

Madeline: Which it’s not.

Elizabeth: I don’t care if this story is fiction, that idea should be sorted out. Okay, Hollywood, can you do that for us? So we’re ALL happy? See built-in audience above.50shadesshouldersleeping

And don’t forget out V-Day Giveaway.  Subscribe to Lady Smut — push the pink bottom at the top right of your screen and you’ll be entered to win. 

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

Bed Dance – Not Your Ordinary Lap Dance

11 Feb

…AS TOLD TO LADY SMUT BY SASHA SNOW

Sometimes you're in the mood for some lap dance action...only more horizontal.

Sometimes you’re in the mood for some lap dance action–only…more horizontal.

SASHA SNOW: I’ve been teaching exotic dance for the last seven or so years in a professional dance studio with curtains drawn, and the doors locked.  The idea behind these classes is to help ordinary women reclaim a part of themselves they often lose to years of child-rearing, stale marriages, and general malaise from living in the ordinary world.  I help them reclaim their sensual side to use however they see fit. One of the most popular offerings are lap dance workshops.

In the ninety minute workshop, you learn how to move seductively and give your partner a semi-choreographed dance on and around him while he’s sitting in a chair or on a couch. In the last few years, however, I made up a bed dance workshop. If you can seduce a man with dance and movement while he’s sitting in a chair, imagine what you can do with him lying in a bed.

This idea isn’t new. Bed dance has long been a staple in strip clubs. Female strippers charge big money to give a man a dance in a bed in the back room. But you can give your partner one at home.

LADY SMUT: There are good reasons to bring some movement and action into your bedroom.

“In fact, a recent science article suggests that instead of lying still in bed, women are actually much more aroused by moving around. University of Texas Dr. Cindy Meston reported this to the BBC:

‘For years we were told, ‘Have a bubble bath, calm down, listen to relaxing music, do deep breathing exercises, chill out before sex,” she says.

‘But my research shows the opposite, that you actually want to get women in an active state. So, you can run around the block with your partner and get them to chase you around the block, or watch a scary movie together, ride a rollercoaster together, even a good comedy act. If you really get laughing, you’re going to have a sympathetic activation response.’

Meston is talking about the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for subconscious muscle contractions that get us ready for the flight or fight mode, like heart rate and blood pressure. She has found that if this system is activated before sex it will help women respond more intensely and more quickly.

It’s quite the opposite for men.”

In other words, git up and dance! Sasha Snow has some helpful tips to offer.

TIPS FOR TRYING OUT A BED DANCE AT HOME:

Set some rules.  You need to do this so it doesn’t delve into sex right away:

  • no heels
  • no touching (this is a fun one to play with–how close can you get?)
  • no talking, no laughing
  • BE SAFE — hang onto the head board or hang onto the wall.
  • Move however feels good to you. 
  • Put on some music you like — not what he likes — what you like. (Cause he’s not really listening to the music.)
  • Spice it up! Remember — practice makes perfect.

And don’t forget — if you subscribe to LadySmut.com you are automatically entered in our V-day giveaway this weekend (2/10/17 to 2/14/17)

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

Includes massage oil, candle, lip balm, and soap. Continental US only, please!

Kinky F*ckery in 50 Shades: Interview with Jackie C. Horne

11 Feb

Ladies—Jackie from ROMANCE NOVELS FOR FEMINISTS is here with me today to delve deeply into the core themes of the 50 Shades phenomenon. We focussed on two questions:

Why do women love this fantasy?

Two reasons I love this fantasy--and they're big and blue.

Two reasons why I love this fantasy–they’re big and blue.

Does 50 SHADES represent a step forward in women’s sexual freedom—or a step back?

If you like 50 Shades and smart discussion – you’re in for a treat!

MADELINE IVA: I’m very interested in focusing on what it is that draws women to the 50 Shades fantasy…

JACKIE C. HORNE: To answer that, you first have to answer the question “what is the fantasy” that these books and films hold out to us? And that fantasy may be different for different readers and viewers. As a literary critic, I see three different fantasies at play in books 1 & 2. First, the fantasy that an ordinary girl (ordinary in both looks and intelligence) can catch the attention of a wealthy, handsome man (the cornerstone of much romance writing).

Second, the fantasy that said ordinary girl can rescue/save an emotionally messed-up man (again, a foundational trope in romance).

And finally, the fantasy that indulging in “kinky fuckery” is something to take pleasure in, rather than something to be ashamed of, even for an ordinary girl. The latter fantasy is the most progressive one, the most positive one as far as women’s rights and women’s sexual freedom goes. But the two former ones are what makes it safe, I think, for readers to accept the latter one. It’s the combination of all three that made the books such a phenomenon. Romance tropes as the life preserver, if you will, that allow readers to imagine themselves swimming out into the less familiar waters of sex with a touch of kink.50

MADELINE IVA: I’ve never heard it stated so well, Jackie! We’ve touched upon this topic before: I see the role of BDSM in the romance genre as representing a fundamental evolution in the role of consent.  Women are now asking for the sex they want and negotiating with their partners for sex that they want –or don’t want!–tons more than they used to.  I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts about this after watching the first movie.

JACKIE C. HORNE: I think this depends on the reader’s relationship with BDSM and the BDSM community. In the book 50 Shades Darker, when Ana is talking about Christian’s sexual needs with Christian’s psychiatrist, Dr. Flynn explains that “of course there is such a thing as sexual sadism, but it’s not a disease; it’s a lifestyle choice. And if it’s practiced in a safe, sane relationship between consenting adults, then it’s a non-issue” (412). If you are a reader who is a sexual sadist, or who is familiar with the BDSM community, then you’re probably going to find 50 Shades problematic when it comes to consent. The reason why I didn’t read these books until you asked me to participate in this discussion was because I had heard from romance writers who write erotic & BDSM romance that the books aren’t an accurate depiction of BDSM or of the BDSM community.

MADELINE IVA: True, but there’s a crap-ton of fantasy in BDSM erotic romance already. Inaccuracies abound and many fans want the fantasy—not the reality. (Esp. when it comes to sex clubs.)

JACKIE C. HORNE: If you’re not familiar with BDSM, though, if you read the consent to kinky sex not as a realistic possibility but as a metaphor, then yes, it can definitely be a metaphor for female consent.

It takes Ana a while (all the way to the end of book 1) to figure out what she wants, and doesn’t want, out of her sexual relationship with Christian. She’s up for bondage, up for spanking, up for lighter sexual pain, all things she never would have imagined she’d liked before she met Christian.

MADELINE IVA: Yes! And in the movie — what we see dominates what we hear. What we SEE is Ana enjoying lite kinky play…In the book, which is so much internal, her confusion and ambivalence take center stage.first-kiss-50

JACKIE C. HORNE: But in the book’s climactic scene, she realizes that she is not up for being punished, for being the object upon which Christian takes out his anger. Refusing to consent to the linking of love and male anger, the idea that male anger is always a part of male love—that may be the key shift from Old Skool romance novels to contemporary romances.

MADELINE IVA: This is a great interpretation, and I agree that if the fundamental message is not to accept male anger as a part of male love, that it’s a good one.  But I don’t know….(more on that later.)

What I saw as I watched that final scene in the first movie was her seeing his emotional pain and wanting to take on his pain — like a martyr.

Meanwhile, Cara McKenna is my touchstone for an author who shows consent VERY well without bogging down the plot or making us fall out of the fantasy.  50 Shades maybe does this less well, but it might be interesting to contrast how consent is carried out in the movie vs. the book.

JACKIE C. HORNE: Did you think there were major differences between book and movie in this regard? I didn’t notice any myself, but if you have specific scenes you can point to, I’d be happy to go back and re-watch the film again.

“Please, Ana, let me make love to you.”

“Yes,” I whisper, because that’s why I’m here. (50 Shades of Grey, 113) 

MADELINE IVA: I’m thinking of the contract stuff.  In the movie she was actively negotiating with him face to face and crossing out elements she vetoed. It seemed like there was energy to this exchange. To me this showed strong female agency — and have we ever seen a woman in a film before negotiating over sex so thoroughly? (Excepting scenes with sex workers–and even then not so much.)

In the book, meanwhile, the contract seemed (this is my interpretation) a packet of doom.  It seemed to make her cringe, and the details dwelt upon had to do with total control over her as well as painful sex acts.  It dragged her down into a pit of (again my take)  “No, no, no, no, OMG. Am I going to have to do this stuff? Gah!

JACKIE C. HORNE: Oh, yes, the contract scene is so great in the film! It shows Ana being far more empowered, and really enjoying the negotiating with Christian. Many film reviews cite that scene as the best thing in the movie.

In the book, the language of the contract appears not just once, but four times (at least in part). Is it just sloppy writing, that repetition? Or is there something really important in that legal language to James? The idea that this is a business relationship, rather than a personal one, to Christian? Which is an idea that Ana ultimately cannot accept.

MADELINE IVA: I’m interesting in talking about Jamie Dornan as a man/actor who was a kind of reluctant participant himself in the movie.  Yes, he did it for his career, and didn’t have long to think about his choice.  Also he is most definitely NOT a fan of the life style.

Dakota Johnson seems to have adapted a bit more (maybe because it’s the corner stone of her career?)

There are interviews where Dornan apologized profusely to Dakota Johnson before each take.  Do we care as much about male consent as we do about female consent? Is this going to be a problem? (Is it one already? Can men refuse sex without having their sexuality challenged, or facing aggressive repercussions –even if not physical violence?)

JACKIE C. HORNE: Your questions make me think about 15-year-old Christian, at the start of his affair with Elena. Did he consent? He says he did, but Ana is consistently appalled by the mere thought of an adult woman inviting a 15-year-old boy to have (kinky) sex with her. Ana never asks Christian to tell her more about his experience; she instantly assumes that he had no agency, no ability to consent, that he was molested and abused.50-shades-shower

I was disappointed that the books, which initially reserve judgment on this issue (was Christian abused? Or was his relationship with Elena a positive, even life-saving one?) end up coming down hard on the side of abuse by the end of book 2. Rather than presenting Ana’s intense jealousy of Elena as misguided or immature, the end of book 2 reinforces the idea that Ana is right to be wary of Elena. I thought this a very sexist move, complete with bitch-slap for the erring woman (not by Ana, but by Christian’s adopted mother).

I wished we could have heard more about Christian’s experience with Elena, that Ana had been more curious rather than judgmental about it. In some ways, you could say that Ana is infantilizing Christian by refusing to grant that even as a 15-year-old, he might have been capable of making informed decisions about his sexual desires.

MADELINE IVA: And this goes back to the core fantasies.  What you saw as the ordinary young woman saving/healing the wounded man I saw as a kind of mothering thing — the power of soothing.  “Let me make the hurt go away” kind of actions.

No cigarette burn scars on his chest in the first movie. Whoops! They fixed it for the second film.

No cigarette burn scars on his chest in the first movie. Whoops! They fixed it for the second film.

JACKIE C. HORNE: The larger issue—about male consent in general—is an interesting one. Yes, a man who turns down a chance to have sex is still likely to have his masculinity, or his heterosexuality, called into question, even in this day and age. But a man who turns down BDSM sex, or feels squicky about it, there’s something different going on there. BDSM sex isn’t as widely accepted, as widely admired, as straight heterosexual sex; there’s a taint attached to it for many people. Wanting to dominate women is a big no-no in our purportedly post-feminist age. So not consenting to participate in Dom/sub sex, or expressing uneasiness or discomfort with having to act as if you enjoy it, can be read by many as a positive thing, an endorsement of more equal power during sex between partners. A women’s rights kind of thing, no?

MADELINE IVA: Well, I actually know men who say “whatever she wants sexually I kinda have to do” and that with one man it’s kinky stuff with his wife. He’s okay with it, because she enjoys it.  With another man it’s about his incredible discomfort playing out semi-rape fantasies with women he’s having sex with…I think part of his discomfort involves reinforcing the perception that in some way he LOOKS predatory, etc.

JACKIE C. HORNE: I haven’t heard similar stories from any of my male friends or acquaintances. But your friends’ experiences do show how men can be subject to (or even victims of) sexual stereotypes. (I’m in the midst of reading a book about a gay asexual man, and he feels quite similarly, that he is surrounded by the imperative “men always want sex”). No man, or woman, should feel like they HAVE to do anything, sex-wise, that they don’t want to do. Ever. I hope your latter friend can find women to date who won’t push him to play the semi-rape game.

MADELINE IVA: Yup, I agree. The singles world of dating, hook-ups, etc, is a jungle—the price we pay for more sexual freedom seems to be more social pressure about sex and displaying sexuality in increasingly artificial ways.

Part of the conundrum of playing up one’s sexuality is that some men I know have that bad boy vibe, but at heart they’re good guys. They draw women to them, but eventually hit an impasse when looks and who he is just doesn’t match her expectations.  In this film the bad boy is gradually revealed as a ‘good boy’ on the inside. So maybe there’s hope for my friends…fifty-shades-ball-1486048963

Moving on! Has Trump ruined billionaire romances? Or put a significant dent in them? I remember thinking: “Consent all you want young woman from a poor family. Once you’re in handcuffs in his home he could do anything he wanted to you and probably get away with it…” and I know this is a direct line of thinking from the news/publicity about Trump during the election…

Yet there’s always one side in the romance world shouting “IT”S JUST A FANTASY!” Is there a problem with saying it’s all just a fantasy? And what are we to do with the constant  demand from women for forbidden sexual fantasy? Should we be pragmatic and accept this?

OR for instance, (as one who grew up watching male fantasies of women in the media), do we understand that this has deeply impacted and harmed our culture?

JACKIE C. HORNE: I was recently interviewed by a reporter for the Village Voice, who asked if I thought the billionaire romance trend had contributed to the acceptance of Trump by many women. Rather than ruining billionaire romances, Trump might be the logical outcome of this romance trend. Because billionaire romances paper over the trouble that actual billionaires present, don’t they? Unlike saintly Christian, whom we only ever see engaging in business that is meant to help the powerless (donating food to Darfur; developing solar technology; donating money to the university to develop sustainable food programs), most real-life billionaires make their money through capitalistic competition, competition that often relies on shortchanging the average Joe (or average Ana) worker. To fantasize about a powerful billionaire falling for them, women have to forget or ignore all the other women (and men) upon whom his billions were built, and upon whom his continued wealth still relies.

And they also have to keep imagining that the only path to power is an indirect one, by being in a relationship with a wealthy man, rather than imagining that they could gain power themselves. Those are both fantasies that limit, rather than empower, women.

So I don’t buy the “it’s just a fantasy” explanation/excuse. What is the fantasy, and why are we having it? That’s a far more productive question, and avenue for exploration.

MADELINE IVA: I have no problem with this, only sometimes the liberal peeps can be as judgmental and shaming as conservatives without exploring the needs, frustrations, and context of those who are very different from them in terms of race or class.  If we could explore all of these issues without a dose of shaming, it would be nice.

But you know, scientific research on sexuality seems to indicate that what sexually turns us on seems to be fixed.  Maybe the “Why” of the fantasy and the turn on go back to that slushy mix of our evolution and what we were exposed to in our youth/teens and that’s that…Which takes us right back to your point about Christian’s first sexual experiences…

Let’s turn to talking about the differences between the first book and movie.  Some things just not translate well from book to movie? I don’t recall when in the book he showed up in Savannah that it was as big a deal to me.  But in the movie I had an involuntary “Stalker!” reaction. He seemed so much creepier in the movie.  Or is this just that I’m coming off watching him in THE FALL where he played a serial killer? ; >50shadesbathrobe

JACKIE C. HORNE: Funny, I had just the opposite reaction!

MADELINE IVA: — Okay, I hang my head and accept that I am having a post-The Fall Dornan experience.

JACKIE C. HORNE: I thought he was far creepier in the book than he was in the film. Dornan just smiled too much to feel like the controlling Christian of the books to me! (Must say I’ve never seen The Fall, though). The film cut out many of book-Christian’s more stalker-y/controlling moves—no mention of him moving her to first class on the plane without asking her, and he’s not so insistent about her eating all the time—so he didn’t come across as quite so control-freakish in the film as he does in the book.

MADELINE IVA: The eating thing.  Ugh!  It also made Ana seem SO PASSIVE and waify/victim-y.50-touching-lips

JACKIE C. HORNE: On the other hand, in book 1, when Ana teases Christian in an email “Have you sought therapy for your stalker tendencies?” he tells her (and us) that “I pay the eminent Dr. Flynn a small fortune with regard to my stalker and other tendencies” (290). This reassured me; I had thought from what people had told me about the books that they normalized stalkery/über-controlling male behavior. That Christian is actively seeing a psychiatrist about his issues sends the opposite message: that stalkery/über-controlling behavior is psychologically problematic. I was disappointed that Christian’s shrink did not make it into the film.

MADELINE IVA: Yes! Anastasia seemed to enjoy most of what they did a whole lot more in the movie than her internals showed in the book.  And did that tilt the scales of problems some people had with the book?

ana-shirt-2JACKIE C. HORNE: For all that we get so much of her internal thoughts in the books, Anastasia of the novels is a pretty empty character. That’s not a good or a bad thing; it’s just a way of telling a story, a way that allows the reader more easily to project herself into the novel than if Ana’s character had more individuality, had been more fully developed. Ironically, though we get little of her internal thoughts in the film, seeing Dakota Johnson up on the screen made her more of a person to me, an individual with thoughts and emotions different from mine, rather than just an empty placeholder for me to project myself onto.

The lack of access to Ana’s thoughts makes her wishy-washy-ness re: the kinky sex less apparent. I agree that in the film, she seems to enjoy the kinky sex more than she does in the books. And that made the story more interesting to me—the story of a woman exploring the boundaries of her own sexual desires.

MADELINE IVA: I agree that Dakota Johnson did a great job of seeming vulnerable and kinda raw in her own skin, but also very fluid and interesting in the kinky scenes.  She also just seemed older, which I found reassuring…

Going back to how this series explores typical/conservative romance values side by side with the more progressive idea of a young woman exploring kinky sex—Ultimately, Ana rejects kinky sex.  Do you think that this is on par with the other more conservative values of the book’s romantic tropes and again, makes it more safe for more conservative romance readers to accept it?  (Noting that this move seems to enrage many BDSM erotic romance authors more than anything else.)

Are we back to the “forced seduction” sexual tropes of the 80’s? In those romance novels it was okay for the woman to have sex in those situations because she didn’t ask for it… In the 50 Shades franchise, is it okay for Ana to explore BDSM-lite because ultimately she rejects it and therefore is still ‘a good girl’?

Meanwhile, what are we in the audience doing throughout the movie if not enjoying Ana’s engaging in forbidden kink?

weredoingwhat

We’re doing WHAT? Everyone seems to agree that both actors are much more comfortable filming together now. Not surprising, given the success of the franchise, and the boost to their respective careers.

JACKIE C. HORNE: Funny, I was thinking about what title I would give this discussion and came up with “Having your kink and condemning it too”!

I agree with you that Ana’s disgust with and rejection of the punishment aspect of Dom/sub play does dovetail with the more conservative values of the book’s romance tropes. Her rejection gives readers an “out,” a having your cake and eating it too safety valve. Which does undercut the progressive message to a large degree.

But on the other hand, Ana doesn’t rejects ALL kink (at least by the end of book 2). As I noted above, she enjoys being tied up, being restrained, being spanked. And in DARKER the book, she’s bugging Christian all the time to go back to the Red Room of Pain. Which doesn’t seem to me to be just about serving Christian’s needs; it seems to be a deep curiosity of her own about kinky sex.

Ana’s rejection of Christian’s sadism (and the book’s rejection of that label for him) enrages many BDSM erotic romance authors because Ana’s decision at the end of book 1 has a larger ideological weight: it tells the reader that the power dynamics in ALL Dom/sub relationships are both shameful AND are signs of psychological damage that needs to be repaired. Which is exactly the opposite message of current psychological thinking, as Dr. Flynn explains. Someone is a sadist just because he (or she) is one, not because he or she was traumatized as a child.

Perhaps Ana should pay Dr. Flynn (or another qualified psychologist) a visit to talk about her own ambivalences about BDSM?

MADELINE IVA: Perhaps!

Thank you Jackie SO MUCH for chatting with me! And readers, don’t forget our KAMA SUTRA giveaway.  All you have to do is hit our pink subscribe button above and to the right.

kama-sutra-giveaway

This giveaway includes massage oil, candle, soap, and lip balm.  (Continental US only!)

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750

 

 

 

Fifty Shades Darker Celebration & Valentine’s Giveaway

9 Feb

by Madeline Iva

Are you going to see FIFTY SHADES DARKER this weekend? We are!fifty-ball

Well, Elizabeth SaFleur and I are. We’ve already got our tickets and we’re taking our spouses.  Not only that–we’re holding a celebration event on Facebook to chat with y’all about the FIFTY SHADES DARKER movie.  We hope you join us!50shadesshouldersleeping

Go to our event on facebook, press the *interested* button, then tell us what you thought about the movie:

  • What did you love? The actors, characters, settings, costumes, plot?
  • How did FIFTY SHADES DARKER compared to the book and the first movie?
  • Do you love billionaire romance themes in general? Or BDSM romances in particular? ; >

We’re also blogging about fascinating aspects of the movie here.  (Don’t worry, we’ll post everything over at the fb event too.)

  • Reasons Why Billionaire Romances Are Never Going Away
  • My obsession with Jamie Dornan
  • 5 Ways In Which Real Life Millionaires Aren’t Like Us
  • Jackie Horne from ROMANCE NOVELS WITH FEMINISTS will stop by. We’re discussing where young women are going with BDSM and how this is or isn’t reflected in the movie.
  • Joey Hill shares with us how to get kinky with her 10 favorite kitchen items.

50-shades-take-2

Admittedly, not all of us at the blog are 50 Shades lovers.  You might not be either — that’s why we have other smexy Valentine’s Day posts to offer you this month.  pantiesCheck out our posts on:

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

This Valentine’s Day weekend, we’re offering a Kama Sutra giveaway from Lux Aromatica that includes massage oil, soap, a candle, and lip balm.

To enter the giveaway, hit the SUBSCRIBE button on our blog now–it’s the pink button up at the top on the right–and fill out the form.  One random winner will be chosen from central Virginia where Kerensa’s stores are located and one random winner from the nation at large. (Continental US only, please!)

We look forward to seeing you all this weekend, even if you’re just stopping by to say hi. — xoxo

wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_low_res_500x750Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

One Hot Zombie Husband, Please!–And Other Lustful Zombie Stuff

2 Feb
santaclaritadiet

Let that repressed manic side out, Timothy Olyphant.

by Madeline Iva

On Friday night I’m watching a new show called THE SANTA CLARITA DIET on Netflix. Why? Two words: Timothy Olyphant. The guy has a kind of restrained mayhem vibe that makes women purr. He’s good when he’s a bad boy, and I like it when he does the humor thing, but really underplays it. Let’s hope he gets to do both in this new TV show.

What’s unusual is for Olyphant to be part of a duo, for he often plays the lone wolf.  Yet he’s a supportive husband (awwww) as his wife’s body goes undead and her twisted feral id coming to life. (Peeps, this could be my own marriage we’re talking about—esp. when I’m on deadline.)

As for the rest of the show–we shall see.  I lurv Drew Barrymore and early reviews say the supporting cast is excellent.  The creator is Victor Fresco who did the short lived but great (!) show BETTER OFF TED, which walked the line of absurdism and also had a supportive, understanding, and munch-a-licious lead.

But hey, let me be your zombie pimp and recommend some other zombie joy you may have overlooked. My preference is for zombie comedy/satire. Take R in WARM BODIES.  So cute and so protective in his own teenage, shuffling, groan-y way.

Click to buy the DVD

Click to buy the DVD

 

There’s also a wonderful funny little book call BREATHERS.  Subversive and with a sexy element that I quite enjoyed.

Click to buy.

Click to buy.

Have you seen the movie SEAN OF THE DEAD? It’s a bit like The Office meets zombies. Quite surprisingly daffy and satiric all the way through.

Imagine The Office as a zombie flick. Click to buy the DVD...

Imagine The Office as a zombie flick. Click to buy the DVD…

Meanwhile, let us not forget some serious Zombie smut, like what you’ll find with our own Isabelle Drake’s SERVANT OF THE UNDEAD along with Daisy Harris’ mix of not-quite-human stuff.  I lurved Hariss’ “Steins” and sex bots.  In BUILT FOR IT Harris discovered M/M erotic romance and never looked back. (Can you even get these books anymore Daisy?)

 

557e4e368babb5e201b7f2d2b531d8cbOnce upon a time, Lexi waxed philosophical on the ethics of sex with an undead body. I, dear readers, completely understand.  Who really wants to kiss decaying flesh?  On the other hand, a zombie is nothing if not a metaphor.  Give me your metaphors–satiric, comedic or full of pathos and killed by societal excess and ennui.  Sometimes we all seem a little rotten to the core.  Zombies get to wear their decay on the outside where it’s all embarrassing and visible.  Ultimately, they’re monsters and I dearly love a monster-hero, even if his heart is dead and cold.

That’s not to say that one can’t enjoy zombie horror.  Lexi has traced the path of an end-of-the-world romance on the Walking Dead that I’ve followed probably with more enjoyment that I took in watching the actual show.  Check out her posts:

LIFE AMONG THE DEAD: IS MICHONNE READY TO LOVE AGAIN?

THE DEAD DELIVER: IS THIS THE SEASON FOR RICHONNE? 

DEAD ON! REJOICING FOR RICHONNE

If you do like your zombies with a lot of blood splatter, there’s a movie coming out called THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.

You'll slurp it up if you like post-apocalyptic action/adventure. Click to buy.

You’ll slurp it up if you like post-apocalyptic action/adventure. Click to buy.

The book was gripping–I stayed up all night reading it.  I’m sure the movie will be excellent too, but check out the book first. It’s post apocalyptic, British, and I liked how the balance of characters in the book were female.  They seemed to have deliberately switched around the race of the characters in the movie.  Hmmmmmm.

There’s also World War Z — not your typical zombie genre book.  It’s totally different and only about a thousand times better than the movie. (Sorry Brad Pitt.)

Another book I've read in one sitting. Click to buy.

Another book I’ve read in one sitting. Click to buy.

Well, time for me to do some groaning and shuffling myself as I sign off to go jog, shower, and write. Follow us at Lady Smut.  We give you reasons to live.

wickedapprenticefinal-fjm_high_res_1800x2700Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

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