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"Fifty Shades of Grey, the Mainstreaming of Fetish, and Why it's Okay to 'Like' Erotica"

on Friday, 30 March 2012. Hits 276

Film School Rejects

The past few weeks have been incredibly exciting for anyone following the curious case of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, the sexually adventurous stars of E.L. James’s erotic romance e-book Fifty Shades of Grey. What started off as a Twilight fan fiction has turned out to be at the center of an American literary explosion not seen since James’s own inspiration was up for auction at Little, Brown, and Company in 2007. Now the foreign erotica import has not only been snatched up for seven figures by a literary arm of Random House Publishing known as Vintage (I am shocked, honestly), but as Kate Erbland mentioned Monday it has also been optioned by Focus Features and Universal. This has been a very busy month for the British author, and I don’t even have the heart to hate her for it.

As an unabashed fan of erotic romance novels, I was taken aback by the fervor this bondage novel has caused, but not for the reasons many of my colleagues and friends share. Although I do tend to favor BDSM in cinema, bondage in erotic literature has never been my favorite. I’ve often felt it to be far-fetched, overly clinical, and even a bit stale. I mean, as clinical and stale as sexual power play, leather cuffs, and object insertion can possibly be when story and character development take a back seat. This isn’t to say something like Fifty Shades of Grey couldn’t change my mind, because it instantly intrigued me a few months ago when Good Morning America and The Today Show both discussed the book’s popularity amongst book clubs like it was some dirty little secret. As if women had never before fantasized about being sexual dominated.

The subject matter within its digital pages is nothing new or particularly fresh for anyone who has read Shayla Black, Emma Holly, or if you need me to go modern classic, Anais Nin. The fact that it began as fan fiction also didn’t make me feel the way many non-erotica readers have felt, in a word, duped. Hell, I’ll admit it. I can’t possibly be the only one who has spent late nights surfing fan fiction forums for just a little naughty taste of what some of my favorite characters might get up to when the scenes faded to black.

But what is fresh about this book is the mainstream attention it is getting, especially from the film industry. If Fifty Shades of Grey is actually relinquished from Option Hell, it would be nearly impossible to make it anything but NC-17 without jeopardizing the integrity of the story. I would even venture to say a film version wouldn’t fare as well as an HBO or Showtime series – two networks well known for profiting from the salacious. Sure, the spicier bondage scenes could be filmed from a male gaze perspective of Ana, where we see her reactions to her punishment rather than the actual spanking, binding, and choking exacted by dominant partner in crime. But that sort of visual treatment would not be fitting of a book whose language is so sexually blunt and provocative. No, this film needs to be honest to the book’s genre and show all the dirty bits in a way no film (not even Shame) has done before. Popcorn erotica is the last frontier of mainstream American cinema. ...

"Feels So Good Being Bad"

on Friday, 30 March 2012. Hits 430

Discussing masochism and more in Harvard’s kink community.

The Harvard Independent

BDSM. For some the concept repulses, for others it excites. Encompassing a wide variety of kinky activities, BDSM is usually thought to exist on the peripheries of sexual practice — a voyeur’s sport rather than a participant’s. Yet, 22% of Sex Survey respondents regard themselves as kinky or very kinky, and a full third of respondents’ reported kinks lie in the BDSM category. Clearly, Harvard students aren’t afraid to get freaky, and neither is Harvard’s very own munch (informal lunch for kinksters) group, which is currently seeking student organization recognition. The Indy sat down with a freshman member of Harvard’s kink community this weekend to discuss all things BDSM. From safe words to sadism, here’s what she had to say:

Indy: How do you define BDSM?

Kinky: A good place to start is the acronym: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. I guess that if I’m explaining it to people, it’s playing with power, or pain, or both. It includes everything from spanking and biting to suspending people from things with rope, with piercings. There’s playing with knives, or master and slave relationships where one person is completely in control. There’s a really wide range of things, and I think the purpose of the BDSM label is really to build a community around doing some of the things that are less mainstream. It serves the purpose of uniting people.

Indy: What’s really interesting and, perhaps, not generally known about BDSM is the amount of community that actually goes into it. There’s the kink community in general, and then there is a kink community here at Harvard. What does the community here look like?

Kinky: We’re organized around an e-mail list that announces munch events, speakers, workshops, movie nights, shopping trips — it’s all pretty new. There are people who do unofficial parties, but that’s of course outside of any Harvard sanctioning. The community is new, but I think that in terms of diversity, you’d be surprised. There’s quite a lot of it. Having people who you might know come out to you as kinky…one of the things about having different sexual interests is that people tend to feel alone and that they’re on the fringes of society when, in fact, there are a lot of people who like things that fall under the category of BDSM — and these are things you’d read about in Cosmo. ...

"Who's on top? You'd be surprised"

on Friday, 30 March 2012. Hits 977

Globe and Mail

In an era of political correctness, the last thing in the world you’d expect to be a hit is a novel about sadomasochism, about how much women like subordinating themselves to men in bed.

Bottoming is the term. Who knew that women had such a longing to be bottoms? Yet, London TV executive E.L. James’s novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, has proven a huge hit in the United States, and the trilogy it belongs to has sold more than 250,000 copies, rocketing to No. 1 on The New York Times e-book fiction bestseller list.

What’s going on here? Collective lunacy on the part of today’s autonomous, self-propelled career woman? A kind of mass erotic auto-da-fé? Or were we sold a bill of goods in the 1970s about women and sexuality?

If you’ll remember, the feminist message in the ’70s was about sex and power. Sex wasn’t really supposed to be fun and joyous. It was an exercise in power relations between men and women. So the idea of bottoming for some guy was about as appealing as gouging out an eyeball. But what if that analysis was wrong? What if sex is really about sensuality and not about power? Then the huge success of Fifty Shades of Grey starts to make more sense. This kind of fetish/S&M sex, way over to the right on the spectrum of normal (but still on the spectrum), can be delicious because it involves not the infliction of pain but the exchange of control.

I’m going to tell you about mainstream opinion in the world of fetish/S&M. This is the script that’s out there:

What is erotic in fetish/S&M is the feeling of surrendering completely to someone else’s control over your body. But only for a limited time and in a strictly defined setting – yet, within that setting, giving absolute control to someone else. Hence the idea of handcuffs – you grant physical control to someone else. Hence the popularity of fetish, a symbolic acknowledgment that the one who wears the boots holds the reins.

Leather and latex are symbols, not of the jollity of whipping someone hard and inflicting pain, but of the establishment of control.

So it turns out that all these independent, high-powered women out there long for this erotic frisson of briefly, and revocably if need be, surrendering control over their own bodies. This really represents the definitive burial of ’70s-style feminism. ...

"‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Movie Rights Acquired By Focus Features, Universal Pictures"

on Monday, 26 March 2012. Hits 472

International Business Times

"Fifty Shades of Grey," the erotic romance novel with prominent BDSM themes, is coming to theaters near you. Focus Features and Universal Pictures acquired the movie rights to British author E.L. James' racy novel, the first in a trilogy, the Associated Press reported.

Modern-day romance novels have been adapted for the screen before, but that has mostly been restricted to television. Several of romance author Nora Roberts' books, for example, including "Montana Sky" and "Carolina Moon," have been made into Lifetime movies.

But now a romance novel -- one with graphic BDSM scenes, no less -- has been picked by the movie gods that be for a journey to the big screen. "Fifty Shades" is about Anastasia Steele, a college student who sets out to interview Christian Grey, a young and handsome rich guy, for her campus magazine. What follows is a relationship that incorporates BDSM. ...

"The Sweet Spot: A Death in the Family Unveils Massive BDSM Archive"

on Monday, 26 March 2012. Hits 574

SF Weekly

Not everyone likes to have their cock pierced by needles. But for those who do, they have Larry Townsend as a champion. Credited with having coined the term Leather Daddy, Townsend was an avid collector of the art of hot man pain.

Back in 1972, he was the president of the Homophile Effort for Legal Protection, an organization dedicated to defending gays during and after arrests. A regular contributor to Drummer magazine, an artful early zine celebrating all things leather and bad daddy, ooh bad, he was also the author of The Leatherman's Handbook, the seminal leather daddy bible.

Not your average uncle, Larry Townsend -- as his niece Tracy Tingle discovered upon his death in 2008, when she was made executor of his estate.

"I had known for a long while that he had an extensive S&M erotic art collection," Tingle says. "But once he died and the work of going through all of his belongings began, the depth and amount of work he had was revealed." Tingle said even though Townsend had stressed the potential financial gain that could be had in selling the work, "I quickly became much more interested in keeping everything that he had together as a complete archive." And that is what Tingle did.

She donated the collection to the Center for Sex Culture, which is exhibiting just a taste of the vast collection. Co-founder Carol Queen says, "We are so grateful to have been gifted Townsend's archives, and that he was a fortunate man to have a family member who understood the importance of his life and work." ...

"'Mommy Porn' Is Making its Way to a Theater Near You"

on Monday, 26 March 2012. Hits 369

The Atlantic Wire

If bestselling books turned into movies are hot, bestselling books about kinky sex turned into movies about kinky sex must be even hotter. 50 Shades of Grey is the "triple-X" trilogy originally self-published by E.L. James that's being devoured by women across the U.S. The New York Post's Dana Schuster recently covered the growing popularity of the series among Upper East Side moms, who say it has changed their lives; in many bookstores, it's sold out entirely, and aspiring customers are not happy about that. (You can get it for your e-reader, friends.)

In the three books in the series, readers get the story of 27-year-old billionaire and BDSM-aficionado Christian Grey, who seduces the innocent Anastasia Steele into becoming his submissive sex slave. During the course of their developing relationship, there's plenty of sex, and not of the vanilla sort. Despite what many are calling mediocre or worse writing, the book has been touted as a sex-revitalizer for couples, a reading-revitalizer for people who haven't read a book in years, and a bonding tool for women. And movie studios have clearly seen the potential of making a movie based on a book with a zealous built-in readership, a fact that has resulted in some dramatic bidding negotiations. Today, it's been made official: Universal Pictures and Focus Features have won the rights to make the movies. According to a statement from James Schamus, chief executive of Focus Features (via The New York Times): "At its core, this is a romance of the most emotionally resonant, but delicate, order – and we look forward to working with our colleagues at Universal to transform E L James’s vision into a great film."

Delicate, indeed. These are some tricky issues the studios are facing. It's a movie about sex rather than one about violence (see The Hunger Games) and so the rating will certainly not be PG-13, nor will the studios attempt to appeal to a fanbase of young adults. But even for an adult audience, the making of the movie is sure to present some challenges: Going all-out for an NC-17 rating, for example, versus getting complaints about a dulled-down movie version of the book to suit an R rating, is just one. The possibility of being banned in certain towns and theaters is surely another. ...

In International News...

on Saturday, 24 March 2012. Hits 1170

"Egypt police arrest sex swingers"

EGYPTIAN police have arrested a married couple who advertised on Facebook to sexually swap spouses and to host orgies at their Cairo apartment.

The case involving a 30-year-old accountant and his wife of the same age had been referred to prosecutors, the official said, adding that their Facebook posting had been titled "Wife-swapping."

In April 2009, a Cairo court sentenced a man to seven years and his wife to three for setting up a swingers' club, according to their lawyer. The court said they confessed to having sex with other couples.

Extra-marital sex is generally frowned upon in Egypt, although couples go ahead with it after obtaining informal marriages, and could lead to prostitution charges.

""Fifty Shades of Grey" a big hit in the suburbs"

on Friday, 23 March 2012. Hits 201

CBS

The erotic book, "Fifty Shades of Grey" is now a best-seller because women who can't put it down are sharing it with just about everyone they know.

The novel by British author E.L. James tells the story of a virginal college student seduced by an older chief executive officer. The book's being called "Twilight for moms."

But there's nothing PG-13 about it. Sari Cooper a sex and relationship expert, said of the book, "The more graphic domination, submission sex scenes, I think that's why it's creating more of a buzz. What woman are saying is, 'This is so hot.'"

Mostly through word of mouth, the novel and its two sequels, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed," have topped the New York Times e-books chart.

Cooper said, "When women enter their late 30s or their 40s, they come into their own sexually, they're more willing and confident to start thinking about what they want, especially if they've been in a long-term relationship. So maybe it has hit that group and they happen to be at that age, so that they're really willing to be able to talk about it." ...

Latest Reader Comments

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    luisa

    22. February, 2011 |

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