Tag Archives: Feminist

Why don’t you? The appeal of Fifty Shades of Grey

10 Mar

“Why don’t you write something like Fifty Shades of Grey?”

We romance writers get asked this question by friends and family. I have to admit this question puzzles me. Each time I’m asked I wonder:

  • Do you mean, why don’t I write something about two people seeking love and connection?
  • Do you mean, why don’t I write something erotic?
  • Do you mean, why don’t I write something that pushes the boundaries of relationships?

I only wonder these things because me asking them aloud would draw attention to the fact that the person asking the question hasn’t read any of my books. Of course, I don’t care whether or not the person has read my stuff but …well, I don’t want to make things awkward by pointing that out. Besides, as a writer, here’s the question that makes the most sense to me:

  • Do you mean why don’t I write something that sells millions of copies and creates just as many devoted readers and fans?

That one I don’t have an answer for. Nobody does. Many–many–of us writers have tried to figure out why that series in particular took off like that.

50 2

In my other life, I teach freshman composition at a college. We write essays, the standard sort that college freshman have been writing for years. Thesis statements, MLA formatting, research. All the usual stuff. One place where I get to mix things up is in the prompts. So, wondering what my students think of the 50 phenomenon, I include a prompt about the widespread popularity of the series. The prompt encourages the students to question the contrast between the book’s content, the relationship between the two characters, and the current wave of new feminism. Bottom line–why do women connect this book?

As you might imagine, the prompt generates interest. After reading seve50 3ral essays I’ve found a distinct difference between the younger, 18-20, and older, 25-30 women in regard to Mr. Grey’s relationship appeal.

The younger women find him super romantic. They are drawn to the idea of having a man so dedicated to you that he is “interested” in every aspect of your life. They don’t find him stalky or boundary-crossing, they find him devoted. These younger women write very little about the sex; they write almost exclusively about the attentive relationship. It seems that while young women view career and societal contribution as essential and validating, they still long for a dedicated partner.

The older women write about the sex. They are drawn to the idea of an extremely intense almost completely sexual relationship that has no emotional commitments. These women reflect that while they hope to have an emotionally intimate relationship in the future, they are, at present, busy with school and work and don’t have time to develop “that sort of thing” right now. This staying-single-longer, waiting-for-real-commitment life plan is on the rise,  but as noted above with the younger set, this older set seeks devotion. They simply define devotion in a different way.

If you’re one of the thousands, maybe millions, of people who’ve had this conversation–why is 50 so compelling–we’d love to hear what you think. Give us a shout in the comments.

And – follow us here at Lady Smut. We’re always here to inform, entertain, and keep you up to date.

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers.

I Do Need Feminism and Hope I Always Will

27 Jul
No idea where feminism is headed, but I'm glad it's been where it's been.

No idea where feminism is headed, but I’m glad it’s been where it’s been.

By Alexa Day

So last week, I was introduced to this hashtag: #WomenAgainstFeminism. I checked out this gallery to figure out what they’re all about, and I have to say I was a little disturbed by it.

The gallery features 15 young women holding up little handwritten signs describing all the various reasons for their animosity against feminism. They like chivalry. They don’t want their sex lives politicized. Most disappointing, they seem to think that one cannot enjoy sex and be feminist.

I think everyone in the gallery is at best a little confused about what feminism is.

Listen, I get it. When I was a college student, just half a lifetime ago, I was somewhat dismayed by feminism. Not only did it seem joyless and more than a little angry, there was a strong thread of weight room know-it-all running through it. You know what I mean. While you’re going merrily about your business, someone comes along and says, “You’re doing it wrong.”

Thankfully, I have learned a thing or two about feminism since then. And thankfully, feminism is not static. My mom’s feminism is different from mine. Her mom’s was different from both of ours. My niece’s feminism will hopefully be different, too.

I don’t want to be the know-it-all in the weight room, but this is what feminism has done for my family.

My grandmother needed a harder, angrier feminism to climb the professional ladder in New York’s fashion industry and bring her daughters to America. My mom’s all-or-nothing feminism, I think, was designed to keep the momentum up. Her mother had kids and a career, she had kids and two careers, and by God, her daughter was going to have it all, too. After trying to drink from that particular firehose long enough to get through law school, I turned to a new feminism, one where you can have as much of “it all” as you want, when you want it.

As far as I’m concerned, you can have sex, enjoy chivalry, cook for your boyfriend (or your girlfriend or whoever else) and still be a feminist. You can swear off sex, shun chivalry, never cook anything, and still be a feminist. You can be a man and still be a feminist. There’s always going to be someone out there to say otherwise. Sometimes, that person’s a woman. Feminism says other people — male or female — don’t get to tell me how to be a woman. It says that I get to handle my own business. It encourages me to help other women handle theirs. I do my part by writing “slutcelebratory” erotic romance and telling people what law school did to me, in the hope that my choices help inform theirs. They’ll do what I did or they won’t, but thanks to the feminists who came before me, both options are available, and we can all investigate them more thoroughly.

Because of the tremendous (and ongoing) efforts of a great many feminists, both male and female, we’re able to live up to that promise so many of us heard as little girls. We can do anything we set our minds to. And we don’t have to do it alone.

That includes participation in tumblr blogs insisting that feminism is now unnecessary.

So I’m not going to tell anyone they can’t be an anti-feminist. It’s my job to protect choice, and that’s a choice. I will tell the world that I think we need to examine what feminism is and what it has been and what it might one day be.

If my niece’s generation is going to abandon feminism, they should at the very least know what they’re missing.

Choose Lady Smut today. Feminism’s never been so much fun.

Guest Post: A Feminist Submissive by Kate Kinsey

11 Dec
A few weeks back, I reviewed Kate Kinsey’s book “Red” and loved it. We at Lady Smut also loved her honesty, integrity, and willingness to answer our questions, so we kept the conversation going. We realize most blog posts are not this long. But this is a subject and a lady that requires more than your average length post. So dear reader enjoy our first guest post—by the wonderful Kate Kinsey.
7271436_origI am a well-educated woman in my forties, unmarried and childless by choice, with not just one career, but three: graphic artist, fine artist/crafter and writer. I am independent, opinionated, and I have no qualms about calling myself a feminist.
I am also a submissive in a BDSM relationship of twelve years. That’s right. I wear a collar. I kneel. I say, “Yes, sir.” And I enjoy it.
Every woman with half a brain who approaches BDSM as a lifestyle choice has asked themselves the same question: how can any modern woman — let alone a card-carrying feminist — embrace submission?
Well, at first you feel kind of weird about it. Maybe a tad guilty. Then you do some long, hard thinking about the paradoxes that populate and define BDSM. You do some more long, hard thinking about who you are, what you want, and what makes you happy and fulfilled.
You think about the fundamental thing at the very heart of feminism: the right to choose your own path.
Fifty years ago, a woman being spanked over her husband’s knee for buying the wrong brand of coffee was considered completely acceptable. Now, if a wife wants to be spanked over her husband’s knee just for fun, it’s considered weird at best.
Fifty years ago, it was purely a man’s prerogative to spank/chastise/beat his wife for deviating from the acceptable “norm” in any way… or just because he wanted to.
Now, if it’s the wife asking for the spanking because it arouses her, and arouses him as well, that element of choice and the difference in the motivation for it changes everything completely. Or does it?
Because, of course, our collective psyche carries all the baggage about what those acts mean symbolically and historically. Most of us understand that we are playing with those stereotypes, and that these often arouse us precisely because, on some level, we are turning those stereotypes and expectations inside out.
A submissive is not synonymous with “doormat.” Submission is all about making a personal choice to submit to a particular person, at a particular time, within carefully negotiated limits. To participate in our reindeer games, you must first figure out what you want and what you don’t want, and you absolutely must learn how to be honest and clear in your communication about it.
This is how all relationships are supposed to be, but BDSM has made communication and consent its holy mantra. We actually have checklists, for God’s sake! Some of us even have contracts!
I think back to my first “vanilla” sexual experiences, and I wish that I’d had the strength and wisdom to say to my partner: I want this, not that. More of this, less of that. And can we try X, Y and a little Z? Because that is exactly what you do before engaging in play of any sort in the kinky world, whether it’s a casual “scene” at the local dungeon or beginning a relationship
Unfortunately, some women do come into this without understanding that being a submissive does not mean you are submissive to just anyone and everyone. Sometimes we have to educate those self-proclaimed dominants who think any and every submissive is his for the taking. Want to start a small-scale war? Just let a dominant man walk into a club and snap his finger at the first woman he sees with a collar around her neck, barking, “Bring me a drink!” It’s not her master that will cut his balls off, it’s her.
 
I’ve used “him” as dominant, and “her” for the submissive, but that’s simply because that’s the particular dynamic that concerns feminism. The female submissive/male dominant coupling gets the most attention from the vanilla world, but it’s not the whole of BDSM.
BDSM is NOT about gender roles. Submissive and dominant have nothing to do with male/female. There are many female dominants and male submissives. There are women – straight and lesbian – who submit to other women, men who submit to other men. We talk about dominant and submissive as an orientation, like straight, gay or bisexual. It’s not unusual for someone to be dominant with one or more partner, and submissive with another.
I began exploring my fantasies when I was 38. I had been a rebel since college, fiercely independent and determined not to be defined by the men in my life. Yet in my secret fantasies, being dominated by a man in the bedroom really got my juices flowing. (I blame it on a Southern Baptist upbringing. I was intensely curious about sex, but was convinced that I would never have sex until my wedding night. Unless, of course, some dashing, mysterious pirate kidnapped and ravished me. Yes, please!)
When I finally began meeting dominant men, I found myself thinking, “Hell, I’m more dominant that he is!” I nearly put a stiletto heel through the foot of one “dominant” who got a little too persistent one night at the dungeon.
Then I met the right dominant. Not the right dominant for everyone, but the right one for me, and he happened to be male. I’d submitted to several women, and enjoyed it, but the sexual dynamic wasn’t quite right. I’d played with several men, and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite right either… until I found him.
There is something inside me that wants to submit, that gains tremendous satisfaction from it, but it will only come out when the right person calls to it. And when that happens, it’s as if the floodgates open.
Consider the enormous intensity of emotions that come from “play” that taps into our deepest, darkest and most primal places, that engages not just the body but the heart and mind.
It’s deeper and wider than mere “sex”: new sensations that you never knew were possible, exploring the body more thoroughly than ever before, sending adrenaline and endorphins and hormones coursing through your veins to heighten every sensation. You are doing things you have always wanted to do but never before dared, things that require more trust and honesty than you have ever shared with another before….
How could I not adore the person who gave me all of that? When I came through whatever he asked of me, and saw his pleasure and pride in me, it was the sweetest satisfaction I’d ever known. Did I question myself as a woman? Yes. But I got over it. Because isn’t the surest definition of a feminist a woman who does exactly what she wants because it makes her happy and fulfilled?
It’s tough to admit but one of the things I came to love about D/s was the clarity and simplicity of it.
I’m certainly not arguing for a throwback to 1954, because such clearly defined roles can never work without the wholehearted choice of a willing heart. That was the whole problem with 1954: it was assumed that every woman would be a good little housewife whether she wanted to or not. There was no choice involved at all.
But neither should you think that a D/s relationship means Sir gets to have his way all the time and I just have to go along with it. I have choices. He has obligations. And every bit of it is open to negotiation all the time.
When I became my Sir’s “slave,” I willingly made all my thoughts and feelings his property, which meant that it was not my place to decide what to hide and what to reveal. Sounds barbaric? Then consider what it means: none of that silent stewing that we women so often fall pray to. I’m not allowed to say, “I’m fine” when I’m really pissed as hell. No sulking allowed.
In the D/s relationship, my responsibility is to be honest and truthful, as long as I express myself respectfully. And he has the responsibility to listen to what I tell him, to be sure my needs are being taken care of, that I feel valued and loved.
In agreeing to be his slave, I agreed to give up the struggle to always be right, and that was a BIG one for me. Not to get the last word. Not to score points with a stinging comeback. No more keeping score of his mistakes to hit him over the head with later. I realized just how much bullshit sexual warfare there had been in my other relationships. To give that up was such a relief!
There is no one correct way to do any of this. Do some masters/mistresses refuse to let anyone speak to their collared sub without their permission? Some do. Mine has always told me that he doesn’t require or want such micromanagement, and that he loves me for being an independent woman who can speak for herself. And if he’d wanted to micromanage me, I probably wouldn’t have remained his for all these years. The D/s only works when both individuals needs and desires mesh and complement each other.
The whole issue of the collar is a sore spot for many feminists. But there’s a vast difference in what an outsider believes the collar to mean, and what it really means to those who practice BDSM. A collar is as much as symbol of commitment as of ownership, the BDSM equivalent of a wedding ring, for those who take it seriously. For some, it’s just a fashion statement, a prop, a part of the “costume.” And it’s okay either way. We really like our costumes!
Last but not least, please understand that the desire to submit or to dominate is NOT the result of abuse or psychological damage. This is one of the most persistent and damaging stereotypes, and the favorite of those feminists who protest against BDSM as degrading to women. Are there survivors of abuse and incest in the BDSM community? Of course. They are also in your local Chamber of Commerce and PTA, because physical and sexual abuse is an epidemic in our society. But most of the people I know who practice BDSM come from very uneventful backgrounds.
The few I’ve known who do have abuse of some kind in their past have come to BDSM as a way of reclaiming the sexuality that was stolen from them. With its emphasis on communication and the sanctity of consent, BDSM gives them a safe space in which to work out those hurts and fears.
What has made Fifty Shades of Grey and other BDSM erotica so popular is exactly the same thing that brings women to BDSM in general. It’s arousing to think of being swept away by passion, to be so desired by a man that he wants to “take” you and “own” you. It’s exciting to break the taboos and walk along the edge of naughty. But none of it would be at all exciting or arousing if choice wasn’t at the core of it.
BDSM is all about choice, power, pleasure and self-realization. And if my book (Red) has helped readers understand BDSM even a little bit better, than I am more than pleased. I’m grateful.
For more information on Kate, check out her website.
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