Tag Archives: films

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.

Goodnight innocence

9 Sep

Isabelle Drake’s Fetish 101

Who doesn’t love the sweet fairytale Sleeping Beauty? A beautiful woman, frozen in time, awaiting her true love’s, awakening tender kiss. Ahhh.

Recently, I stumbled upon a very different version of Sleeping Beauty. In this one, from 2011, the main character is a university student who needs cash. She replies to an ad and starts working as a series of erotic freelance jobs.

I started to wonder, did a little research, and sure enough this sleeping beauty thing is a fetish: somnophilia. In its simplest form, the somnophiliac seeks to awaken a sleeping person with erotic caresses, gentle non-violent touches. Some scholars speculate that this particular interest is related to the much less romantic necrophilia, the desire to have sex with dead bodies. Obviously in this case the goal is not to awaken the sleeping but rather to take advantage of their incapacitated state.

It was difficult finding scholarly work on this topic but I did find an article from Psychology Today that offers some analysis. “Although somnophilia appears to have some characteristics in common with necrophilia, the two syndromes do not necessarily reflect the same underlying pathology. Using Freudian theory, Calef and Weinshel speculated that underlying somnophilia was the desire to return to the maternal womb, and that somnophiliacs had unresolved Oedipal complex issues, fixations on pre-genital stages of psychosexual development, and castration anxiety. However, as with almost all psychoanalytic theory, it is hard to design any research to either confirm or deny such speculations.”princessaurorasleeps

Carolyn Fay’s of the University of Virginia, explores the sinister side of this fetish. “Contemporary sleep fetish culture is driven by the idea that the sleeping person is an absent person…To the fetishist, sleep is that perfect moment when consciousness is evacuated, leaving a living, breathing fragment, worthy of love.” [Those who seek to actualize their desire to have intercourse with a sleeping person may use drugs to maintain the unconscious state] “for if the person wakes up, the fantasy and the fetish object become lost.” (2002).

That’s all very dark. Whatever happened to the sweet, delicate princess trapped under the glass? Is that innocence gone forever?

After some looking, I found House of the Sleeping Beauties (2006). Plot info from IMDb: Edmond, a man in his sixties whose wife has recently passed away, is told about a secret establishment where men can spend an entire night in bed alongside beautiful, sleeping young women, who stretch, roll over and dream, but never awaken. Bedazzled by their seductive yet innocent tenderness, but distressed about the reason for their deep sleep, he delves into the mystery of the house of sleeping beauties.

The film is German and the only trailer I could find is without subtitles, but I don’t think you need to understand the words to understand the story or main character.

What have we learned? The Sleeping Beauty fetish is out there and until some of the other fetishes we’ve explored here on Lady Smut this one comes in extremes. From sweetly romantic to darkly dangerous.

Keeping you up-to-date and informed is what we do here at Lady Smut. So follow us. We know what you like.


Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers. Best Friends Never, her newest release is the first in the Cherry Grove dark YA series. You can follow her serial SERVANT OF THE UNDEAD here, every Sunday on Lady Smut.

The Best Forbidden Romances Streaming on Netflix

5 Feb

like water

By G.G. Andrew

It’s a little over a week until Valentine’s Day, and the time is ripe to queue up some romance movies. You’re in luck: there are hundreds of love stories to stream.

But sometimes you want to watch something that’s a bit more racy, a touch more taboo…

I got your back. Here’s a list of four of the most tantalizing films on Netflix of people falling in love with someone who’s forbidden by their family, society, or marital vows. There’s something for everyone here: these films are set all over the world and throughout time, and they have different steam settings–from the repressed to the ultra-hot.

A Royal Affair (2012)
If you like your taboo dressed up in period clothing, A Royal Affair is the forbidden romance you’re after. Set in Europe in the late 18th century, it tells the story of Caroline (Alicia Vikander), an English woman who marries the king of Denmark–whom she soon realizes is mentally unstable. To deal with the king’s erratic behavior, the court hires a German doctor, Johann (Mads Mikkelsen), to be his healer and confidant. Gradually, the doctor and Queen Caroline are drawn to each other, against all good sense. The romance here is a slow burn, and much of the couple’s attraction is intellectual, as they’re kindred spirits as book lovers and supporters of the Enlightenment. But once their passion catches fire, it burns as hot as any candle. Along with gorgeous sets, A Royal Affair features some of the most well-developed, three-dimensional characters and relationships I’ve seen in a movie.

I Am Love (2009)
Possibly the most lush film on this list, I Am Love is the tale of Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton), a Russian married into a prominent Italian family. When she meets her son’s chef friend, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), she quickly falls into a love affair with his food–and eventually with him. Set in Milan, this May/December film is beautiful and sensual, especially with its many scenes involving cooking (not to mention Emma and Antonio making love in the mountains). The many closeups of Antonio focusing on his hands, as he cooks or touches Emma, are especially great. So much of the movie is intense and melodramatic, but it suits the setting so well. Watch it when you’re in the mood for drama, or at least Italian scenery. Plus: food porn.

Like Water for Chocolate (1992)
Based on Laura Esquivel’s novel, Like Water for Chocolate is a charming little film that feels almost like a fairy tale. In late 19th century Mexico, Pedro (Marco Leonardi) asks for the hand of the young Tita (Luma Cavazos), but is rejected by her mother, who upholds a tradition that the youngest daughter of each family must care for her mother. Instead, Tita’s mother suggests Pedro marry Tita’s sister, and he agrees–if only to be closer to Tita. What follows is Tita’s journey as she watches the man she loves marry her sister, and she’s denied the passion she craves under her abusive mother’s watchful eye. This film plays with magical realism: as Tita grieves, the food she cooks imparts her emotions, leading to some interesting results for her family. And there are ghosts. And a sister who runs away naked on horseback. If you haven’t seen this one yet, queue it up ASAP.

Take this Waltz (2011)
Set in Toronto, Take this Waltz stars Michelle Williams as Margo, a writer living with her husband of five years, Lou (Seth Rogen). Despite her loving marriage, when Margo meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), she’s attracted to him and finds herself falling for him, even with many attempts to hold herself at arm’s length. Margo is a very realistic and relatable heroine in this film, as we see her care for her friends and family and struggle within her marriage. The movie also sizzles with sexual tension, as Margo tries to keep herself from entering into an affair that seems inevitable. There’s a scene at a restaurant where Margo asks Daniel what he’d do to her if he could, and his answer is one of the hottest, sweetest pieces of dialogue in romantic movies (and lasts at least a couple minutes). The film, though, is complex, and the ending is one of those surprising conclusions that cast the whole movie in a different light. Watch it when you like your steam paired with a great conversation starter.


G.G. Andrew writes quirky romantic comedy–stories about people who fall in love with the most unlikely person, and stumble through some awkward conversations, mistaken identities, and ill-advised kisses along the way. Her latest book is GRAFFITI IN LOVE, a romance between an infamous British graffiti artist and the American woman who hates him.

Follow us here at Lady Smut for more recommendations on steamy films and hot books!

What Do Robot Women Want?

6 Nov

by G.G. Andrew

I just finished the final volume of the comic Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, which is a futuristic love story between a human man and a female android. Since I started reading this fantastic comic, I’ve thought a lot about romances between robots and humans–specifically when comparing Alex + Ada to the movie Ex Machina which came out last year and also features a female robot/male human pairing.

Drones aside, we’re not in a world of widespread advanced artificial intelligence. At least, I’m 86% sure none of my neighbors have robots. They’re certainly not having sex with any sentient ones, even if maybe they really want to. But in the world of Alex + Ada and Ex Machina, androids can talk and walk among us, wear cardigans, and kiss. They can be aware–and in each of these stories, female robots have a man interested in them, who sees beyond their machinery and wants them, body and mind.

But the question is, Do the robot women want them?

Tales of artificial intelligence are fascinating because they make us wonder what it means to be a person, not to mention the gifts and dangers of man creating life.

With stories of female robots, there’s an additional layer of meaning. I don’t have to remind anyone here that, historically, women have often been treated like robots to men: considered property, denied rights, asked to serve without question. These stories remind us of that reality along with the taboo-but-tantalizing idea of robot/human pairing.

Alex + Ada and Ex Machina present different worlds. In Alex + Ada, artificial intelligence is widespread, along with laws to govern its use, while in Ex Machina, this technology is still in its adolescence, with one man who has started to create androids in his isolated lab. But in both, there’s a female robot who becomes sentient while still trapped under oppression–caged or carted in a box, and in one case containing an on/off switch to be controlled by her owner.

They each present a small example of what it would mean to suddenly move from being confined to free as a woman–and what that would mean for how you felt about human relationships, love, and sex.

Both Ada and Ava in the film (played by Alicia Vikander) seem to fall for similar male types: kind, sensitive guys who treat them with respect. These guys, Alex in the comic and Caleb in Ex Machina (Domhnall Gleeson), are shown in stark contrast to other hypermasculine bro-dudes in their world. Alex’s neighbor tries to discuss having sex with androids with him like he’s comparing notes on the big football game. Nathan (Oscar Isaac), Ava’s creator, is the polar opposite of the sweet programmer Caleb she befriends–brilliant but an overly aggressive, bearded and often shirtless drunk–almost more ape than man at times.

So maybe that’s the first thing robot women want: caring guys who will respect them. Who won’t just see them as things. And both guys do find themselves surprised to develop feelings for the female androids and eventually a desire to emancipate them…and more.

But is it enough?

It’s curious to think, as non-robot women, what choice we’d make in these situations. If you were treated as a thing, as property, and you suddenly gained a taste of freedom, would you want to be in a human man’s arms? Would you run from his touch or crave it? Would you enter into a relationship with someone who used to own you, or used to observe you on a monitor? And what would that relationship even look like?

As a gender flip, in the comic Alex’s grandmother has her own android, Daniel, whom she beds enthusiastically. A hilarious and sexual older woman, she’s a great character…although the question is raised as to whether Daniel would stay if he was allowed to be sentient.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to share spoilers to either of these stories. Let’s just say Ada and Ava take different paths, at varying times, answering the questions their characters raise. When they’re both given freedom, they make their own choices. What they do makes us think not only what it means to be a person, but a woman.

Because the choice between love and freedom, passion and oppression, independence and closeness? That’s a question females have struggled with for centuries, robot women or not.

Follow us here at Lady Smut for more on sex, robots, awesome reads, and women–maybe but not necessarily in that order!

I’ll Take Manhattan

7 Mar

By C. Margery Kempe

If all has gone according to plan, I should be waking up in New York today. Actually not Manhattan as in this Wikimedia photo, but upstate. However, I have noticed that when you say ‘New York’ people inevitably make the jump to ‘Manhattan’ and you have to head that off if you want people to realize where you actually are.

There’s a romance associated with the city that doesn’t extend to the actually very glorious upstate regions, but that’s okay. We’d just as soon avoid Manhattan real estate prices! Like my favourite city, London, the boom in prices has put the city out of reach of most folks. As this photo shows, it’s led to a bland corporate landscape that removes all the wonderful things that made you love the city in the first place.

I don’t think the allure of NY will pass any time soon: there are too many wonderful films that ensure the love affair with Manhattan will go on.

One of my favourites is His Girl Friday in which Howard Hawks directs a fabulous Rosalind Russell and a snappily speedy Cary Grant in one of the fast-talkingest screwball comedies ever filmed. It makes fun of Albany where I teach, so even more fun. Ralph Bellamy plays his always believable nice guy (with a nice in-joke about that).

Speaking of Rosalind Russell, there’s also Auntie Mame. Mame Dennis has long been my role model for declaring, ‘Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!’ She has a family made up of the people she chooses to have with her as well as those actually related to her. And she’s hilarious and adventurous. Great role model for anyone! And I like to think of my NY house as my ‘3 Beekman Place’ even if it’s a little more remote.

A sentimental fave: while Rock-n-Roll High School  might have defined my high school ambitions, it was so Californian that I found Times Square was a little more ‘real’ to me just because it was New York. It  feels very much of its time now, but I am still just as fond of it. It’s got an immensely fantastic soundtrack. Still got the double disk LP 🙂 And hey, Tim Curry!

What’s your fave NY film?

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Only Lovers Left Alive

31 Jan


“This is your wilderness? Detroit?”
“Everyone left.”

A couple of people left midway through the advance screening we caught. Perhaps they were expecting Thor pyrotechnics. Already a fan of Jim Jarmusch’s work, I knew the sort of film I’d be getting—in fact, I was eager for it.

Only Lovers Left Alive hooked me from the opening notes of Wanda Jackson’s ‘Funnel of Love’ played at a slightly slower pace with a looping crackle of vinyl sound, the swirling 45 alternating with swirling images of Tilda Swinton’s Eve in Tangier and Tom Hiddleston’s Adam in Detroit. The circular, swirling images repeat throughout the film and heighten the impression of the circularity of time for the long-living vampires. Even at the start of the film, we see things from Eve and Adam’s viewpoint, looking down at the world below.

The music drives the film from Adam’s morose soundscapes created with his treasure trove of antique guitars and classic Premiere drum kit. Jarmusch’s own band, Sqürl (I laughed out loud at the name) and Jozek van Wissem have created a wonderful soundtrack that I can’t wait to get. It has the same feel of swirling spirals that the narrative evokes.

Vampires offer a way to see the world over a long period of time. You can get the maudlin world-weariness of Anne Rice’s Louis or the hedonistic heedlessness of the teens in Lost Boys. Mia Wasikowska’s Ava seems to embody the latter with a great sense of puppy-like fun. Hiddleston’s Adam rises above the breast-beating self-pity some vamps have (cough *Angel* cough) despite his nigh on suicidal depression. This is in sharp contrast to Eve’s joi de vivre (or would that be mort?); she asks him at one point why he doesn’t just dance. She fills her suitcase with inspiring books—from Orlando Furioso, where she pauses to look at an illustration of the creation of Adam and Eve to Don Quixote and even the hipster’s handbook Infinite Jest)—in fact Eve fills her days with wonder and beauty.

Adam’s depression is not the usual “I’ve lived too long, seen too much” vamp sob, but the pain of the creator. That’s what Jarmusch is really after: reigniting that spark. Adam has a familiar desire to get his work “out there” but to resent the “zombies” (as they all call humans) having access to it. His pet zombie Ian (Anton Yelchin) warns him that his reclusiveness only makes him more interesting, but he can’t see that. The jokey part of this is that he of course wrote many famous pieces but gave the credit away to others.

The agony of influence is a big part of that (and inevitable for a vampire film). When Eve refers to his heroes, Adam angrily spits back “I have no heroes!” Yet the wall of his room has (seemingly signed) portraits of many friends and influences from William Blake, Mary Shelley and Oscar Wilde to more modern folk like Iggy Pop. John Hurt’s ‘Kit Marlowe’ (yes, this movie is just full of things that delight me) clearly has a career beyond that particular name, but after centuries he’s still writing and has a devoted apprentice, Bilal. I can easily imagine continuing to write for centuries, reading all the time, but it seems music requires more outside input and hearing new people to spark ideas. Playing the same old vinyl seems to increase Adam’s depression. When he sees people actually enjoying his music, it affects him.

Detroit as a golden wreck, preserved like a fly in amber at its apex of dissolution. It feels more like an art installation than a rapidly imploding city. The destruction is clear, but also held at a distance, as the Ren Center appears almost as a ghost in the distance of one shot. Apart from the hospital where Jeffrey Wright’s “Dr. Watson” works, it’s also a remarkably white city, which jars. Mostly it’s empty; coyotes wander the streets and out of season amanita muscaria grow, in contrast to Ava’s L.A. which Adam dismisses as “zombie central” (heh).

I don’t want to say too much about it. I was grateful that all I knew was the cast and it was about vampires, which turns out to be a motif rather than a subject. I love the music, the imagery and the completely realized world Jarmusch has created (the Thousand and One Nights café!). I love the little rituals of normalcy for them, such as the politeness of asking to remove their gloves (they glean so much from touch) or waiting for an invitation to cross a threshold. I know I’ll want to watch it over and over just to admire the set decorating and costumes.

And the music: that I’m already listening to now. The cast of course is superb. Even small roles are perfectly cast. The film is beautiful, intoxicating and mesmerizing — and very sensual. I recommend it to anyone who usually enjoys this kind of immersive film experience. Dive in.

[Big tip o’ the hat to Jay for alerting me to the preview tickets via Total Film]

Take a Bite of Summer

5 Jul

JAWS_Movie_posterby C. Margery Kempe

This time of year I only have one thing on my mind: Jaws.

Even in Dundee, that’s what comes to mind. I know most folks in the US are thinking fireworks and picnics in the park for the nation’s independence day, but I hear the words “fourth of July” and I always add “You’re going to have a panic on your hands on –” just before it.

Jaws was the original summer blockbuster. People who’ve never seen the film recognise John Williams’ iconic score, the rumble of low notes that mean danger. I can quote just about every other line from the film, which you know comes in handy on job interviews and such (um…).

At least I’m not alone in that obsession: I have a friend with a tattoo of the image of the shark on the chalkboard behind Quint in the town meeting scene.

Do you have the kind of friends who will sing “Show Me the Way to Go Home” at the drop of a hat? Or compare scars? Maybe you need them!

There’s a slight romance angle I can shoehorn in here: one subplot in Peter Benchley’s novel that was dropped from the film was the affair between Hooper and Ellen Brody. I thought it was terrible in the book — awkward and unconvincing. It slowed down the action, too, and it seemed too much like Benchley was trying to make Hooper a sexy adventurer type. One of the rare instances where the film is superior to the book. If you get the deluxe editions of the film, you can hear all about the technical problems that dogged the shoot. But those problems helped make it the taut thriller it became.

So make the most of the weekend, get the film out and watch it again. Raise a glass to the USS Indianapolis — and keep out of the deep water! The sharks were there first.

Here’s a cute riff on the scar scene from the movie:


Friday Fun: Sexy Movies

3 May

by C. Margery Kempe

What are your favourite sexy films? What does it take to get you in the mood on movie night?

Okay , it’s noir, so you know not everyone’s going to come out of it well but oh my are the scenes between Turner and Hurt hot hot hot.


There’s not actually any sex in this film, but there’s such a sensuality built into the story, yum.


This romance isn’t to everyone’s taste, but those who love it, adore it.


And of course, my inspiration! Anaïs provides plenty of oohs here.


No sexy list would be complete without Joanne Harris’ lovely Chocolat. Mmmm!

What would you add to the list?

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