Tag Archives: Fifty Shades of Grey

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

 

 

 

Why We Can’t Have Naughty Things: Keeping Private Parties Private

3 May
Your chain is okay with me, neighbor.

Your chain is okay with me, neighbor.

By Alexa Day

Fifty Shades is back in the news again. It’s apparently coming out on Blu-ray soon, which means I’ll have to start avoiding the trailer again, and I heard that E.L. James is planning on publishing a writing guide, which promises to be very interesting indeed. But neither of those two things really bothered me last week.

Last week, I was pointed at a news story from New York City. I really hate to link to the story because I want it to keep going away. The lede, as it should, sets the tone for the rest of the article. It describes a “fetish party attendee … blowing the whistle” on activities that “would shock even the authors of Fifty Shades of Grey.”

That doesn’t really mean anything. I mean, my grocery list would shock the FSOG folks. (Who needs that many clothespins, ice trays, and latex gloves at the same time? I do. Back off.) I wondered what must have happened at this party. Thorough, thoughtful negotiation? Aftercare? And really, much is communicated by the fact that the reporters and their entire editorial chain evidently believe that Fifty Shades has more than one author. But I’m digressing.

According to the story, a medical doctor at a BDSM party, hosted by a well established group in the city, was engaged in blood play with his fellow partygoers. I’m not going to mention any names here, and my larger point doesn’t demand a deep focus on the type of blood play. (I will say that I wasn’t shocked by it, but hey, I didn’t write Fifty Shades, either.) What really distresses me about the story is that the “whistleblower” remained anonymous while the reporters named the doctor.

The reporters named the doctor, posted his picture, and excerpted a couple of clips from his YouTube channel.

Blood play doesn’t scare me. *That* scares me.

In my daytime life, I’m still keeping my bills paid with a conservative job in a conservative industry in a conservative part of the country. If you’re following me here or on social media, you know that I’m working in the legal industry. I have to keep my driver’s-license identity relatively secret because sadly, I know the sort of damage that judgmental, misinformed people can do to someone’s career. I also know that the BDSM community is careful about protecting folks’ identities for exactly this reason. Clubs have rules about taking pictures, making videos, and disclosing the identities of club members. “Whistleblowing” like this isn’t supposed to happen.

What else is the BDSM community really careful about? Safety and consent. Indeed, safety and consent are two of the three pillars upon which BDSM play rests; the community’s watchwords are “safe, sane, and consensual.” If people are engaged in blood play at a party hosted by a well established club, I’m comfortable with the presumption that the players fully understand the level of risk involved with what they’re doing, that the level of risk has been controlled to the fullest extent possible, and that they’ve chosen to move forward anyway. When that isn’t the case, the community is pretty efficient with regard to self-policing. Parties are hip deep in rules and monitors and any number of safety measures, and enforcement is swift and sure. I’m not worried about lack of consent and I’m not worried about unsafe play in large part because I know that a decent club makes safety everyone’s business. If I see something (and I haven’t yet), I say something. To them. Not to the news.

I’m not sure how a “whistleblower” made its way in. I’m also not sure why a “whistleblower” felt it was necessary to head to the local TV station, although I’ll concede that I don’t know who else was a party to that person’s grievances before the story was aired. What really worries me here is that some person, who doesn’t have all the facts but who might very well have an agenda, might now also have a way to do serious damage to others’ reputations and private lives. This doctor’s name is out there now. Even if the licensing board does nothing, there’s a huge possibility that gossip — sorry, “whistleblowing” — will do significant damage to his practice.

And for what? Because someone who somehow managed to get into that party couldn’t handle what was going on? Because that person wasn’t satisfied that everyone involved was okay with what they were doing? Because that person decided to superimpose his or her personal standards over those of her hosts and her fellow guests and a well established community with little meaningful relationship to Fifty Shades?

The story seems to be going away, and I’m immensely relieved to see only three comments attached to it. It sounds like this particular tree has fallen in the forest without making much of a sound.

But now I’m nervous. How can I be sure that there’s no “whistleblower” out there with my name and bar number? How can any of us be sure?

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50 Shades of Red

12 Feb
This is our publisher's cheeky poke at 50 Shades promoting their online romance festival last weekend.

This is our publisher’s cheeky poke at 50 Shades promoting their online romance festival last weekend.

by Madeline Iva

“Just finished Fifty Shades of Grey and am now Fifty Shades of Red.” That’s what my sister posted on fb.

Are you all going to watch the movie? I just don’t know.  I’ll read and watch anything I want in the privacy of my own home–but watch the movie in a theatre with people all around me? Eeeesh!

I’ve already sat through many an awkward moment watching unexpectedly graphic sex scenes at the movies, thank you very much.  That time on my first date in high school when neither of us knew where to look.  That time with my then-friend-now-husband during an excruciatingly long sex scene where the actor’s face went red and stayed that way for five minutes while he writhed, grunted and groaned. Oh, it was bad.  I mean, it had to be longest orgasm in oscar history.

The worst part was when I tried to laugh it off afterwards at dinner, but apparently my own face went as red as a beet, totally foiling my attempt at sangfroid.  Neither of us were laughing though, sitting on either side of my prim mother-in-law while watching the lesbian sex scene in Black Swan.  I still slap my hand to my face remembering it.  Of course it was my bright idea to go see it on Christmas day. I’d heard a review describing the film as Hitchcock-ian. Right.  It was only as we got close to the movie theatre that I saw a giant poster for the movie proclaiming in bold letters PSYCHO-SEXUAL THRILLER.  Ugh. (hitting myself) ugh. ugh.

If you’ve been living on Jupiter and haven’t read the book, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Aside from the hype, at its core the plot has an icy/hot hero who’s been deeply emotionally and physically hurt.  He needs healing (and the love of a good woman to bring that about.)  Yum!

It’s total catnip to a lot of readers. Meanwhile, it’s also (surprise!) an anti-BDSM book.  This drives my erotic romance writer friends up the wall.  Yet the heroine is constantly negotiating for what she wants out of her relationship with Christian.  Good for her, right? Okay, well, she ends up compromising a whole lot, but in the end she sticks to her guns–and she wins.

But riddle me this Batman — How the hell did E.L. James get away with depicting a sexual encounter while the heroine is on her period?

!!!!!!

People–Aunt Flo never ever comes to visit in romances.  The hero never massages bad cramps.  The heroine never sends him out for Advil, tampons, and Ben & Jerry’s.  No period-related migraines ever drove a heroine to lie upon her couch with a pillow over her eyes.  It just doesn’t happen.  

Yeah–if you were around in the early 80’s I think Erica Jong had some young guy pull a tampon out of her protagonist’s body and chomp on it a bit.  But I mean, common — first of all that’s not romance, and second of all, we know she did it purely for the shock value.  If there’s ever been a romance published that was this popular that treated the crimson tide this casually–I haven’t heard about it.

Page 427:

“I want you,” he breathes.

I moan and reach up and grasp his arms.

“Are you bleeding?” He continues to kiss me.

Holy f***.  Does nothing slip by him?

“Yes,” I whisper, embarrassed.

“Do you have cramps?”

“No,” I flush. Jeez

blah, blah, blah…

“Let’s go have a bath.”

Oh?

I mean, then we really go beyond the beyond when a bit later on he turns her around against the sink, bends her over, pulls out her tampon, (!!!) and has sex with her.

They collapse on the floor afterwards and…

“I’m bleeding,” I murmur.

“Doesn’t bother me,” he breathes.

“I noticed.” I can’t keep the dryness out of my voice.

He tenses.  “Does it bother you?” he asks softly.

blah blah blah

“No, not at all.” 

“Good. Let’s have a bath.” 

I don’t want to make a big deal of this.  I’m not saying that we romance writers should ALL include this kind of a scene in our romances, etc.  I’m just saying that OUR BODIES OURSELVES would give a thumbs up to how they treat a natural bodily function.  That is all.

But it’s interesting to note that no reader-lovers or reader-haters have pointed out this scene in shock and horror.

Which just goes to show that we’re living in the wild west here.  Along comes an indie author with her spurs a-jangling and rules were made to be broken, sacred cows put on the bbq.  Who knows what the romance gods have to say about all this. One thing you can count on–if something shocking happens out there we’ll keep you posted here at LadySmut.com.  Follow us for 7 days of delectable romance dish.

Laters.

Fifty Shades of F–king Success

10 Feb

By Liz Everly

A word from Liz: This is a repost from a few weeks back with a few changes here and there. Since we are dedicating the week to FSOG, I decided to run it again. And this time next week C. Margery Kempe will be here in this spot. We’ll be sharing Tuesdays. Fridays will be guest posts, interviews, and new voices for you. It’s always good to spread your wings a bit, dontchya know. 

Madeline Iva and I were JUST talking about Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie. I wondered out loud about my small-town Southern community. We happen to have a wonderful movie theater—new, comfy, and huge. Folks travel from nearby towns just to come to this theater. I wondered if they would dare to run the movie. When I got home that night, I had a message in my Facebook personal messages folder from a group of middle-aged moms in my town. The theater is going to run the movie one night—and one night only—and do I want to go?

Do I want to go?

Hell yes.

If for no other reason, then just to satisfy my curiosity. How is this movie going to play out? It should be fascinating.

For the record, I’m not a big FSOG fan. I read it, thought it was interesting, but not written well. I didn’t like the female lead at all. And while I did didn’t “like” Grey, I found his story compelling. Frankly, it’s what kept me reading. I do appreciate what the book has done for erotic romance fiction. And I am a complete champion for any writer who manages to do so well. I read the other books in the series and the writing does get a bit better with each book. But I don’t think she will ever write as well as Sylvia Day. Just my opinion.

Given all of the astounding success of the book series, can this movie fail?

I wonder.

I think that it will definitely be a financial success. If for no other reason than people want to see what all the fuss is about. People are curious about it. But I wonder if it will succeed in other ways. Could the movie, perhaps, be done better than the books?

It’s possible that the movie could get at the heart of the story better than the book did, without the clunkiness of that prose. I really don’t know the actors’ or director’s work, so I have no expectations there. So yes, I suppose the POSSIBILITY of the movie being very good. It might play well over film.

The trailer offers me very little hope, though.  I mean, it just seems very so-so and meh. I am left shrugging my shoulders.

Right now, I think the most interesting thing about this movie is my little town and the reaction to it. We get to see it one night. And one night only. You have to buy the tickets in advance. I’m also wondering if this kind of marketing of the movie will be the way many small towns deal are handling it.  And that FB group conversation I was added to? Many people “left” it in droves…Which ignites my curiosity even further. I’ll be looking for those folks at the theater that night. Wink.

What do you think? Are you going to watch the movie? Do think it will succeed? Fail? Lady Smut wants to know. While you’re at it, subscribe to our blog so that you don’t miss anything from our crew.

I’m not a BDSM writer, but one of my books CRAVINGS has a light take on BDSM, with an ex-paid Dominatrix and a sweet, sexy, but straight-laced Indian man, coming to sexual (and other) terms with one another. It’s set in Ecuador and St. Lucia. Check it out.

Crave

Fifty Shades of Grim Acceptance: Living with the Hatred of “That Book”

8 Feb
If you hated That Book (as I did), this book will help you live with it.

If you hated That Book (as I did), this book will help you live with it. Click to buy.

By Alexa Day

If you’re following me on social media (which I encourage) or in real life (those folks, sadly, are stuck with me), then you’re well aware of my feelings toward Fifty Shades of Grey. You know that I insist on calling it out of its name; I refer to it as That Book with the Tie. You know that I will dive for the remote rather than let the movie trailer play on any television in my home. You know that it is one of only two books I’ve been ashamed to be seen with. (The other, for trivia’s sake, was Why He Didn’t Call You Back, a dating book which also no longer resides with me.)

In short, if you know me, you know that I hate Fifty Shades of Grey. You know that I hate it so much that I stopped reading shortly after the first sex scene and then took pains to get it out of my home. Seriously, I took it out to the car that very night and shipped it back the next morning to the person who sold it to me.

Who greenlighted this cover? Today, it's called Have Him at Hello. Click to buy.

Who greenlighted this cover? Today, it’s called Have Him at Hello. Click to buy.

I’m not a fan of innocent heroines, and this one crossed the line between innocent and dim more than once. I thought the sex was unsexy, even though I stopped after the “weird, pinching sensation.” I still don’t understand what’s attractive about Mr. Grey, who is worse than the classic alph-hole hero from romance’s Bad Old Days. I have very, very serious misgivings about the sex masquerading as BDSM. I wanted to kick the Inner Goddess down a flight of stairs while she was doing the Funky Chicken. I never understood why Ana’s roommate, if she was the editor of the paper, didn’t assign a member of her staff to use a telephone to conduct an important interview, rather than to send her completely inexperienced roommate to do it in person. And, God, if I had to read one more “holy crap” or “down there,” I was going to scream.

I might have forgiven some or all of this if Fifty Shades were a better written book, but it isn’t. I can’t get around poor writing. I can’t. I’m not the world’s best writer, but dammit, I think it’s important to try harder. I do not aspire to be popular in spite of poor writing.

A great many fans of That Book are kind of defensive when they hear how much people hate it. “If you hated it so much,” they say, “don’t read it!” Sound advice. Putting That Book back in the mail was absolutely the right thing to do. I still try to warn people away from it — it’s that horrendous — but hey, I stopped reading it. Life’s too short, as I said last week.

But as long as thinking about That Book causes bright pinpoints of light to dance before my eyes, I have

You *can* do better than Fifty Shades. Click to become a believer.

You *can* do better than Fifty Shades. Click to become a believer.

to deal with it somehow. It’s not going away. People who are new to erotica and erotic romance are using Fifty Shades as a barometer of sorts. When they ask whether my work is like Fifty Shades, they’re asking whether the heroine is innocent or whether there’s any BDSM in it or whether the sex is explicit. They’re curious and open-minded. They don’t understand that That Book causes me to grind my teeth. So I’m trying to be better about That Book. Nobody takes book recommendations from someone grinding her teeth.

Now I want to help you live with it, too. As That Book becomes That Movie, here’s a reading list of sorts. Whether you’re looking for something to read after Fifty Shades or a way to avoid That Book altogether, I hope you’ll find something that holds your attention in a way that doesn’t make you fear for our literary future.

No one throws shade at Fifty Shades like Jenny Trout. If you hated That Book, you’ll love her chapter-by-chapter recaps.

Listening to Laura Antoniou read her short story “Fifty Shades of Sellout” was a bit like getting a hug from the author of the classic Marketplace series. If you’re a writer living in a Fifty Shades world, see if you don’t feel better after just thirty seconds of this parody. Actually, if you’re curious about erotica focused on the total power exchange elements of the BDSM lifestyle, why don’t you go right to The Marketplace series? You’ll find secret societies, service contracts, and participants discovering themselves as they explore consent, submission and domination.

Laura Antoniou’s work also appears in Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s a collection of essays from writers, sexuality experts,  and participants in the BDSM lifestyle. Tiffany Reisz, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Midori, and Dr. Katherine Ramsland all contribute to the examination of That Book and its effect on pop culture at large. Whether you enjoyed Fifty Shades or couldn’t wait to be rid of it, this book will help you live with it.

You might also try anything in this Buzzfeed list. Seriously, just pick a number and go for it.

And finally, have you read Twilight yet? I did. I was curious to see if the source material was any better than the fanfic that became That Book, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself quite immersed in the story. It works so well because Bella’s a teenager (and appropriately clueless), Edward’s a vampire (and appropriately threatening), and there’s no horribly written, unsexy, unsafe, nonconsensual, non-BDSM sex in it. I would say that it is Fifty Shades with all the awful Fifty Shades written out of it, but Twilight came first.

How are you getting through this difficult period before That Movie comes out? How did you feel about That Book? Mix it up in the comments.

And follow Lady Smut. Our goddesses are all on the outside.

Fifty Shades of Sexy Success

27 Jan

By Liz Everly

Unknown-2I was on a road trip with Madeline Iva and we were JUST talking about Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie. I wondered out loud about my small-town Southern community. We happen to have a wonderful movie theater—new, comfy, and huge. Folks travel from nearby towns just to come to this theater. I wondered if they would dare to run the movie. When I got home that night, I had a message in my Facebook personal messages folder from a group of middle-aged moms in my town. The theater is going to run the movie one night—and one night only—and do I want to go?

Do I want to go?

Hell yes.

If for no other reason, then just to satisfy my curiosity. How is this movie going to play out? It should be fascinating.

For the record, I’m not a big FSOG fan. I read it, thought it was interesting, but not written well. I didn’t like the female lead at all. And while I did didn’t “like” Grey, I found his story compelling. Frankly, it’s what kept me reading. I do appreciate what the book has done for erotic romance fiction. And I am a complete champion for any writer who manages to do so well. I read the other books in the series and the writing does get a bit better with each book. But I don’t think she will ever write as well as Sylvia Day. Just my opinion.

Given all of the astounding success of the book series, can this movie fail?

I wonder.

I think that it will definitely be a financial success. If for no other reason than people want to see what all the fuss is about. People are curious about it. But I wonder if it will succeed in other ways. Could the movie, perhaps, be done better than the books?

It’s possible that the movie could get at the heart of the story better than the book did, without the clunkiness of that prose. I really don’t know the actors’ or director’s work, so I have no expectations there. So yes, I suppose the POSSIBILITY of the movie being very good. It might play well over film.

The trailer offers me very little hope, though.  I mean, it just seems very so-so and meh. I am left shrugging my shoulders.

Right now, I think the most interesting thing about this movie is my little town and the reaction to it. We get to see it one night. And one night only. You have to buy the tickets in advance. I’m also wondering if this kind of marketing of the movie will be the way many small towns deal are handling it.  And that FB group conversation I was added to? Many people “left” it in droves…Which ignites my curiosity even further. I’ll be looking for those folks at the theater that night. Wink.

What do you think? Are you going to watch the movie? Do think it will succeed? Fail? Lady smut wants to know. While you’re at it, subscribe to our blog so that you don’t miss anything from our crew.

While you’re pondering, just to let you know, installment #5 in my EIGHT LAYS AROUND THE WORLD Series is now out. This one is set in Mexico and involves food play.

MexiccoverFinals

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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Fifty Shades of Cozy?

9 Oct

As I mentioned in another blog post, I write cozy mysteries, along with my steamy romantic suspense novels. I’ve just returned from the huge mystery fan conference, Bouchercon, which was in Cleveland this year.

It’s fascinating that I heard a lot of discussion about “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Yes, even at a mystery conference. Most of the writers thought the book was poorly written and are amazed by its success. There was a great deal of dissecting going on. I was standing in a circle of about 12 writers and had the distinction of having been the only one who read all three books in the series. “I wanted to see what all the fuss is about, ” I told them. And I did.  I’m not sure I would have admitted to reading erotic romance in such company  a year ago. But that’s one of the gifts of this trend—it’s opened up the discussion on many different levels.

In fact, I sat in on a  panel titled “Fifty Shades of Cozy.”  The panelists were Rosemary Harris, Clare O’Donohue. Catriona McPherson, Duffy Brown, and Dorothy St. James.

To be clear, these women are not writing erotic scenes in their books, but they do push the “cozy” boundaries. Rosemary suggested that the definition of cozy has changed and that nobody really knows what it is anymore.

Should there be cursing in a cozy?  Should there be sex? Both answers from all panelists were similar. If the situation and characters call for it, it’s fine for both. Clare O’Donohue said that where the line is drawn for her is with violence.

They all agree that graphic scenes of violence do not belong in a cozy. I also think that when they were talking about writing sex they are not talking about writing graphic sex scenes—but there is definite room in this genre to heat it up a bit, as I mentioned in the previous post about this.

It seems to me that many genres and sub-genres are shifting these days. As a reader, I like to explore a variety of books. I rarely pay attention to the categories that the New York execs in the industry come up with. What about you?

Spanking the Princess, Pt. 2

22 Aug

Welcome to Lady Smut.  I’m Madeline Iva, and starting in September, I’ll be blogging about all topics smart and sexy on Mondays and Thursdays.  ‘Spanking the Princess‘, btw, refers to female masturbation.

This is part two, you may have noticed.  Where is part one? It’s back on my web page blog.  You can find it here.

Part one was inspired by wondering what I would find trolling the Amazon cheap reads section if I tried looking for spanking romances a la Fifty Shades of Grey.

For Part Two, I’d like to explore the Taboo Wishes series, published by Resplendence Publishing (what a name, eh? I feel like a princess just saying it–or like a tinkle of fairy bells should chime when I say the name).

The first book in the Taboo Wishes series is called Punished by Brynn Paulin.  It came out a while ago, and was high on the Amazon charts — perhaps because it was .99 cents.  Perhaps because of the cover.

I liked the cover.  Usually, I’m drawn to covers that are soft and tastefully provocative.  I don’t really care for covers with bare bottoms full on–to me they may be arousing, but they look too much like porn.  This cover, however, is pretty explicit.  Yet it has a retro pulp fiction look to it that I really like.  Also the woman is shown with full agency–I mean, she looks like she’s a full partner in what’s going on.  They’re being naughty together–I like that.  The blurb also makes it clear that these folks are sophisticated adults, bravely trying out something when they are instantly drawn to each other.

This is really important to me.  While erotica sounds fine to me (the more campy the set-up the better) I find as a reader that nothing makes me drop a book faster than reading a scene about  two folks knocking boots who are utterly indifferent to each other.

So what I like about this entire series–and this book in particular–is that while each plot flirts with the forbidden fruit of taboo fantasies, the situations remain highly consensual, well written, and you know even from the sample that a deeper romantic interest is going to quickly emerge.

Punished starts in a club.  Sex club stuff is too ish for my finicky tastes.  Yet the club scene here is merely used as a set-up.  (I think.) Happily, in the beginning of the story, you’re not even seeing the club.  So much of the first scene is about the two protagonists that I get the feeling that the story isn’t going to remain in the club sphere much longer.

You can check out a sample of the book before you buy it.  If you do end up reading Punished, please tell us in the comments section below what you thought of it.

XO,

Madeline

Next week: I’ll review a very sweet erotic romance, SHELTERED by CHARLOTTE STEIN

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