With its kinky sex scenes involving whips and rope, E.?L. James’s 50 Shades trilogy has certainly grabbed people’s attention. Dubbed “mommy porn” by Ellen DeGeneres, the best-selling erotic novels about a young literature student’s relationship with an older, wildly successful, dominating businessman who likes to tie up submissive brunettes have made its author very rich quickly—despite her writing being critically panned.
So what is it about 50 Shades of Grey, 50 Shades Darker, and 50 Shades Freed that’s resonating with so many female readers worldwide? And if women want to incorporate BDSM into their own sex lives, what are healthy, safe ways to do so? Local sexperts weigh in on the fire that James seems to have started in millions of women’s minds, if not their bedrooms.
“The book gives permission to more people to talk about sex and BDSM,” says Vancouver-based registered psychologist and sex therapist Marelize Swart in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight. (The acronym BDSM is a combination of words: bondage/discipline, domination/submission, and sadism/masochism.) “The book is respectable, as it’s an international bestseller. This gives women permission to read it or to discuss the subject with friends without being labelled as perverts.”
The trilogy’s success shows just how untapped the female market has been when it comes to porn, notes Vancouver clinical counsellor and sex therapist Teesha Morgan.
“Mainstream pornography is generally made by and made for men,” Morgan tells the Straight. “Women are desire-seeking, sexually driven creatures as well.…Most women want some form of porn as well; they want their imagination fed so that they too—even for a few moments—can step outside the box of their normality, outside their humdrum, monotonous sexual routines. It just has to be packaged to them in the right way.”
In day-to-day conversations, people mistakenly apply the word sadist to any cruel person and masochist to anyone who is a “glutton for punishment”, Morgan explains.
“However, in the clinical world, these words are applied to individuals who are sexually fixated on inflicting or receiving pain or humiliation,” she notes. “Most people are not willing to participate in S?&?M activities with the intensity or duration that sadists and masochists often desire or to the degree or level that the characters in the book choose to take it to. But getting a glimpse or peek into the lifestyle through this book does appeal to the general population, which is far more voyeuristic in nature. The book feeds our society’s voyeurism.
“People can include sub/dom play in their everyday sexual life without crossing too far into S?&?M play.” Morgan adds. “Through the use of things such as light bondage, couples can experiment with this lifestyle without pushing too far past their comfort zone. Many people simply enjoy S?&?M activities as part of a varied sexual diet. This book is providing another source or outlet for those desires and activities.”
Morgan has two words for those who want to try boosting the kink content of their sexual relations: safe and consensual. ...
Local group Kingston Kinksters is a social and educational outlet for people interested in BDSM
Queens University Journal
Soft-spoken and well-mannered, the voice on the other end of the phone isn’t what people typically see as someone who enjoys BDSM — a practice that encompasses bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism and masochism.
I’m speaking with Gaelach, a single mother in her 40s. She has a nine-to-five job and, now that the summer weather is here, regularly attends barbecues with family and friends.
Gaelach is her “scene name” — an alias used by those who wish to protect their identity for what’s often still seen as a sexual taboo.
Gaelach and her partner Renshu regularly engage in BDSM in the bedroom.
“We met through friends who were also into BDSM,” Gaelach said. It was a friend that first introduced her to the BDSM community.
“That person had recognized in conversation … things I had said about the way I thought [and] the way I felt about things,” she said. “[They] recognized that I was a person who might be on a different side of things, and who kind of exposed me to the community very gently.”
Gaelach and Renshu are part of the Kingston Kinksters, a group of people with similar alternative sexual interests.
The umbrella term of BDSM covers a wide variety of activities. It can range from restraints and blindfolds to psychologically humiliating actions — like using degrading comments in bed. The common factor here is that use of these consensual actions end in sexual arousal.
The Kingston Kinksters provide social and emotional support for people interested in BDSM. The group was started in early 2011 and now has upwards of 250 people involved, including some Queen’s students.
“They provide a lot of education and activism and fundraising in the local community so that people who practice alternative sexuality aren’t persecuted because of their forms of expression,” she said.
Outside of these communities, Gaelach has faced the cold shoulder from her peers.
“I personally have experienced some difficulty because of my choices [from] people who have found out just through conversation … or they suspect something,” she said. “Not everyone takes it well.” ...
An ongoing "upscale" swingers sex party was shut down at the Mondrian SoHo hotel this weekend after security guards got wind that this wasn't just a normal photoshoot. Or as the party organizers claim, because they wanted some publicity: "The hotel security wanted to gain access because we had a famous celebrity show up and they thought it would be a great chance to expose that information," Jasmine from The School of Sextold the MailOnline. Jeez, don't these people know it's too hot outside to imagine lumpy human bodies writhing all over each other in pursuit of anonymous sexual bliss? And yet, here we are.
"Some of the guests actually saw the hotel security try to snap pictures of our guests paparazzi style when people were exiting," Jasmine added. The “SiN White Party” was thrown by Behind Closed Doors and School of Sex. You can watch some testimonials about the parties from porn stars, including Nina Hartley and Justine Joli.
"We host sex parties for a very upscale and young crowd. This event was a mixer. But the hotel security insisted on policing the event. We value the privacy of our guests and shut the event down immediately.” He confirmed one couple, clad in underwear, had carried on enjoying themselves on the terrace, but “they eventually agreed to leave after being repeatedly asked to do so.” ...
PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A married couple claim in court that they both lost their jobs after another couple they met on Craigslist, seeking "like-minded couples for consensual, discreet adult encounters," sent revealing photos to their employers, asking, "What kind of people do you employ?"
James P. and Lynette L. Ryan sued Michael R. and Sandra K. McDonnell, in Multnomah County Court.
The Ryans claim they posted an ad on Spokane's Craigslist page looking for "like-minded couples for consensual, discreet adult encounters" in October 2010.
The Ryans say they received a response from a couple whom they later learned were the defendants.
According to the complaint, the McDonnells posed as "Marc and Leah Olsen," using a shared email address and "very lengthy and complex stories" about themselves.
"Marc" said he was an attorney for the federal government, and "Leah" claimed to be a surgical nurse, and they gave the Ryans "no reason to doubt the plausibility of the couple, or their intentions," the complaint states.
After weeks of email exchanges, the couples agreed to arrange a face-to-face meeting, the Ryans say.
"On or about Thursday, October 14, 2010, the couples exchanged emails arranging for a 'date' on the following evening," according to the complaint.
It continues: "The next morning, Friday, Oct. 15, 2010, the plaintiffs' employer received an email from the same email address for 'Leah' and 'Marc,' but this time signed by a 'Megan Wilson,' and asking 'What kind of people do you employ?' with attachments detailing the email exchanges between the parties, and including the pictures of plaintiffs in various forms of undress. Also attached was a nude photo of a woman who is not either of plaintiffs, nor provided to defendants by plaintiffs. Within 48 hours of defendants' email to the plaintiffs' employer, both plaintiffs were fired from their employment as a result of the email exchanges provided by defendants to plaintiffs' employer.
"Following the termination of plaintiff's employment, plaintiffs ascertained the true identity of defendants as Michael R. McDonnell and Sandra K. McDonnell." ...
The notion of the girl next door takes on new meaning when she’s Shamaine, a girl next door like no other. Over lunch at Georgetown’s swanky Bourbon Steak, Shamaine (“No last name, please”) blends in with the other customers. The 33-year-old is dressed conservatively, looks fit, and has some attitude in her step. Don’t be fooled, though—demure is not her demeanor. In work mode, she becomes Domina Vontana, the self-described “premiere professional dominatrix” in Washington.
Of course, selling sex is nothing new here—ask Eliot Spitzer,Wayne Hays, and countless others—but Domina Vontana insists that what she does is as legal as a legitimate massage therapist’s work. She’s providing a service, not selling sex. Her website shows her in full leather—thigh-high boots, tight black dress, three-quarter-length gloves—walking near the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument in the background. Clearly the site of a good businesswoman, it includes her calendar, showing when she’s available or booked. Here’s a conversation with her.
You started when?
Two weeks after my father died—January 27, 2006. I put my first ad on Craigslist and had my first client February 3. I’m a Craigslist-generation dominatrix. I wouldn’t be here without them. Craigslist was good until they got on the radar of the police and closed down the adult-services page.
Were you nervous at the beginning?
Clueless. There was zero exposure to this lifestyle in northwest Montana, where I grew up, but I knew I had it in me. I had a background in the ministry through my work in the church. At 14 I began medical training and later did some nursing school and was certified as a medic. So I’d been working with people in vulnerable, intimate, emotional situations since I was a child.
How did you learn the tricks of the trade—were you self-taught?
I always had it in me. The first couple of months, though, I would get 20 minutes into an hour scene and be done with 40 minutes to go, and I didn’t know how to fill it. I’d made him undress, I’d made him kiss my shoes, I’d spanked him and there was still 40 minutes to go.
How did you spiff up your game?
Nine months after I started, I went to San Francisco and did a three-day intensive course for female dommes.
When did you feel you had a steady clientele?
I took a year off at the end of 2007 and went home to Montana. When I returned, not only had I grown but the scene in DC had grown. I had regular clients. Also, there were parties. People were coming out as kinksters in droves. It was no longer something to be ashamed of. It was like coming out as queer. For kinky social life, Washington is probably number one in the country. San Francisco has a longer tradition, Chicago and New York have a strong scene—but Washington is the hottest.
The intensity of this city. The people who are my clients help make decisions that affect the world. We’re in the capital of the most powerful nation. And the men who come to me for release live under great pressure. These are men who never stop working. That’s why one or two hours with me is so important. I help them let it all fall off their shoulders for a piece of time. ...
We get to hear the history of the NCSF, as well as all of the works and projects they do to support many different lifestyle choices; from helping people with child custody issues, to their recent intervention when the local NBC News went undercover in the Detroit area BDSM Community - as an odd side story of an ongoing murder investigation there.
Susan tells us about herself, her husband, that she is a member of Fet Life, and an active participant in her local Community.
Susan answered so many questions, and was such a great interviewee, that we asked her to consider coming back to cover some of the many other topics our discussion touched upon.
For connoisseurs of BDSM porn, San Francisco's Kink.com has built up a reputation that makes them the sadomasochistic equivalent of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Fans of the company's sites look to them not only for high-quality porn that caters to a wide variety of fetishes, but for an explicit ethical code. As cultural messages directly equating "sex work" with "trafficking" become stronger, Kink.com has established itself as the Good Guy of porn, where the models are there because they want to be and are able to stay safely within their personal limits.
These are not vague promises on Kink.com's part: On its website, there's a nine-point list of model's rights that includes the right to safewords, sanitized toys, condoms, and STD tests. An even more detailed list of rules for shooting includes strict guidelines that prohibit directors from pressuring performers to go beyond their stated limits and outlines safety measures for specific kinds of scenes. Thanks to policies like this, many in the local BDSM and fetish communities regard Kink.com as one of their own, a remarkable achievement in a town as anti-corporate as San Francisco.
But now, as a labor dispute heats up at the company's cam site, KinkLive, some people are taking a second look at that reputation. Maxine Holloway, a local artist, activist, and adult performer, is alleging that she was fired from KinkLive last month when she tried to organize her fellow performers in opposition to changes in the payment policy that would eliminate minimum payments for each shift in favor of a commission-only plan. The new plan, according to Holloway and her supporters, would amount to a drastic reduction in wages for most of KinkLive's performers.
According to Holloway, she was fired from Kink.com immediately after she started trying to get KinkLive models to sign a letter protesting the new system of payment. Peter Acworth, CEO of Kink.com, denies that she was fired at all, instead saying that she was asked to take a temporary leave. "It was only a temporary thing," Acworth says. "We asked her to take a break because her shows had turned nonprofitable. If she's no longer on the site for a while, then she comes back, maybe it'll be a different story." According to Acworth, Holloway has already been invited to perform on KinkLive at the end of June. She acknowledges the invitation, but says she received it only last week, after the situation had gone public. ...
With a place atop the New York Times bestseller list, a $5 million movie deal and endless media coverage, "Fifty Shades of Grey" has become a cultural phenomenon. Just as countless romance novels have done for decades, the book has hit a sweet spot for women from all walks of life. But men are not immune to the effects of "Fifty Shades." Some couples are crediting the book with spicing up their sex lives, and maybe even saving their marriages.
The book's author, E.L James, talked about the positive feedback in an interview with the Daily Mail. "One older woman sent me an email saying, 'You're waking the dead here,'" James told the Daily Mail. "Another woman wrote and said, 'You've spiced up my marriage. My husband wants to thank you, too.'"
With sex toys flying off the shelves and BDSM (that's an acronym for Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism -- for you vanilla folks) becoming more accepted, it's clear men aren't going to escape the "Fifty" craze untouched (in fact they may end up with a few bruises).
For those that have (somehow) managed to remain in the dark about "Fifty Shades of Grey," the book follows a 21-year-old virgin, Anastasia Steele, who agrees to become a gorgeous 27-year-old billionaire's submissive. Christian isn't so much a character as he is a projection of every woman's dream (or, rather, every insatiable woman's dream.) He's enigmatic, charming, and irretrievably smitten with Anastasia. Over the course of three books ("Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" round out the trilogy) he doesn't watch a single televised sporting event or stand her up to go drinking with his friends. In fact, Christian has no friends. His every waking moment is devoted to the sexual gratification of his paramour. The words "not tonight" just aren't in his vocabulary. He's unendingly ready to have passionate, primal sex with her ... sometimes moments after he's just had passionate, primal sex with her.
You could view the "Fifty Shades" phenomenon as a kind of post-feminist victory: Finally, men are being held to the same unrealistic standards that women have been. Much like "Twilight" (which inspired "Fifty Shades"), the sensual story presents an idealized, unattainable, romantic partner who has little in common with our real-life husbands and boyfriends. But instead of choosing to live in a fantasy world, many women are trying to incorporate the racy role-play of "Fifty Shades" in their own lives, with their own partners.
Hardware stores and sex shops have seen a dramatic spike in business from women stocking up on bondage accessories. New York's "Babes in Toyland" has had a 30% increase in overall sales since the books became popular. Certain products like bondage tape have seen a whopping 1500% increase in purchases, according to a CBS New York report.
It feels safe to assume that women aren't intending to test drive their new purchases alone. "Between sex shops and Home Depot, sales have really picked up," said Kim, the manager of the popular adult store Eve Garden in New York -- which has enjoyed a boost in sales. "A lot of costumers have come in looking for specific products that appear in the books." ...