JOPLIN, Mo. — When you say “romance novels,” you’re covering a whole lot of territory. From sweet to BDSM (which I looked up: It stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism), romance books fly off the shelf faster than any other genre.
You have doubts? Here are the facts from Romance Writers of America:
Romance fiction brought in $1.358 billion in estimated revenue for 2010.
Religion/inspirational: $759 million
Mystery: $682 million
Science fiction/fantasy: $559 million
Classic literary fiction: $455 million
And these facts don’t account for independently published e-books because RWA doesn’t recognize them. What passed for sexy romance back in the ‘80s is tame stuff today. Leading the charge is a book which, some speculate, has created a whole new genre -- which I don’t see as possible considering how far the romance novels labeled “erotica” have already gone.
“50 Shades of Gray” by E. L. James is either erotica or porn, depending on who you ask. It’s also a New York Times bestseller “because women across the world are enamored with the book,” according to Rt.com.
The novel has become an international smash, but “are thousands of women buying a book that encourages them to submit to male domination?” Rt.com wonders.
Some call it mommy porn, which outraged a writer at Chicagonow.com. She calls that label “the worst term ever invented. Ever.” She also calls the book “soft core BDSM,” a new genre of literature. This is better than mommy porn? ...
Crowds of fuzzy, cuddly bears will flock to Manhattan's West Side this week, but not the kind that live in the woods.
Urban Bear NYC will celebrate the subculture of gay men who refer to themselves as "bears" from Thursday through Sunday in the Meatpacking District, Greenwich Village and Chelsea, with a full calendar that includes a street fair, a pub crawl and an all-bear comedy show.
Robert Valin, executive producer of the festival now celebrating its fourth year, defined "bear" for the uninitiated.
"The stereotypical bear is a blue-collar guy with a little bit of extra weight and facial hair," Valin said. "I don't think most bears look gay to people. They look like the kind of guys women want to bring home to their families."
The bear fest is expecting about 2,000 people this year, up from 1,500 last year, Valin said. Men from as far away as New Zealand, Australia and Spain have said they will attend. ...
We met at a local bar on a Monday night, as friends do, to talk about the meaning of life and such. As we finished our second beer, he cleared his throat.
"We should probably discuss what we like to make sure we're on the same page," he said.
This was how my first BDSM relationship began — with a conversation.
The topic comes on the heels of the hype created by the controversial New York Times best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic trilogy where a virginal college student participates in a BDSM relationship as a result of the sexual interests of a new lover. Dubbed "mommy porn" because of its suburban female demographic and strong sexual nature, the e-book shot to No. 1 on the New York Times e-book fiction best-seller list, leaving America to wonder, "What does this say about modern American women?"
Although I haven't read it, mostly due to its seemingly cheesy Twilight nature, the book's popularity thrills me. Its success strikes me as a slap across the face to slut-shamers the nation over, with women assuming control of their sex lives. Not because they're going to run out and buy a bunch of S&M gear (although, trends show they have in some parts of the country), but because it means women are curious and hungry to explore other facets of intimacy, even if they don't stick with it. ...
Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has claimed it is "normal" for him to have sex with six different women at orgies, Daily Mail reported Monday.
The 63-year-old economist, once tipped as the next French president, gave the extraordinary explanation to magistrates probing claims he used 800-pounds-a-night prostitutes at swingers' parties.
He has been charged with conspiring with pimps and of knowing fraudulently obtained money was being paid to the vice girls by the racket based in Lille, northern France.
In a hearing from March, the transcript of which has only been published Monday, a magistrate asks Strauss-Khan: "Bearing in mind the high number of girls, their age and their behaviour, do you maintain you did not know they were prostitutes?"
"I counted that there were six girls in total," Strauss-Khan replied. "That does not seem to me to be a considerable number."
"Numerous young women with whom I've had sexual exchanges - no, that's the wrong word - sexual relations, had the same age difference," Strauss-Kahn answered when he was asked if the girls would have agreed to have sex with him, considering their huge age difference with him, if they had not been paid.
Strauss-Kahn openly confessed to attending swingers parties in France and Belgium, but said he never knew the girls were prostitutes because "they were all naked at the time".
For thousands of years, every reasonable person knew that the sun revolved around the earth. After all, people could see it happen with their own eyes. And when Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler used science to show otherwise, people laughed at them. It took a century for the idea that the earth revolved around the sun to even begin to catch on.
History is full of popular ideas that science has disproved -- but which still remain popular. The reasons are typically religion, politics, or economics -- but the fact remains that, well, facts are not the only determinant of what people believe.
When the subject is sexuality, facts have a pretty poor reputation in America. The media, cynical politicians, and various pressure groups get tremendous benefits from misinforming -- and frightening -- the American public. And when someone speaks up with the facts, they're often shouted down, dismissed as simply having a personal belief. Bill O'Reilly is famous for equating a progressive's facts with his own, albeit differing, opinion.
Let's look at some popular beliefs about sex that science conclusively disproves -- and which continue nevertheless.
The Internet Myth: The Internet is a hotbed of sexual predators, and children are at terrible risk.
Science: The overwhelming majority of the "unwanted sexual solicitation" on the Internet reported by young people is from their peers, and is generally benign. According to the state-of-the-art Harvard/Berkman Institute report, the main risk faced by minors on the Internet is bullying, not sexual predation.
Sex education Myth: Talking about sex honestly and using the proper names for body parts inflames kids' curiosity; teaching them about sexual decision-making and safer sex encourages them to have sex.
Science: Young people taught comprehensive sexuality information that does not focus on promoting fear or religious messages tend to postpone their first intercourse, are more likely to use condoms the first time they have intercourse, and tend to have fewer sexual partners.
Strip clubs Myth: Strip clubs destroy neighborhoods with crime and prostitution.
Science: No police department in the U.S. has documented an increase in police calls or violence in neighborhoods with strip clubs when measured against comparable neighborhoods without strip clubs.
Swingers' clubs Myth: Swingers' clubs are a hotbed of STDs and drug use.
Science: Swingers do not have a higher rate of STDs than their non-swinging peers; in fact, people with open relationships use more safer-sex behaviors than people having clandestine affairs. Police departments that raid swingers' clubs (typically for minor zoning infractions) virtually never document illegal drug use.
Sex offenders Myth: Sex offenders are snarling predators with no conscience, whose behavior is so compulsive it cannot be controlled or influenced.
Science: According to the Department of Justice, sex offenders have a strikingly lower recidivism rate than any other non-sexual felony.
Pornography Myth: Consuming pornography leads men to be more sexually violent.
Science: According to the FBI, in the 11 years since the Internet has flooded America with porn, the rates of sexual violence have decreased. And while crimes of sexual violence are typically under-reported, there is no reason to think that under-reporting has increased; in fact, public awareness campaigns have almost certainly decreased the under-reporting. ...
Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey yet? Do you plan to?
The erotic New York Times best-seller has created a national stir and the local chatter shows that despite how controversial the novel is, it’s on high demand to either love or hate.
The book is part of a trilogy that includes Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, written by E L James. Some say it’s just the next generation of popular erotica, though others believe it’s a new, inappropriate level of “porn for mommies.”
Regardless of all of the conflicting circles of criticism and praise, it seems locals are doing whatever they can to get their hands on a copy, just to see for themselves. The Ferndale Public Library’s copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, currently has 10 holds on it.
Is its fame a surprise?
Victor Wooddell, owner of Berkley Book Corner, says he’s trying to keep up with the demand of area readers requesting Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s been next to impossible, though.
“I can’t keep it on my shelf. I’ve had at least a dozen special orders,” he said.
Wooddell noticed a sudden spike in interest three or four weeks ago when the book was featured on NPR, he said, and has had a constant stream of orders ever since. ...
What's driving independent successful women around the world to a tale of BDSM? Author EL James talks about how her erotic Fifty Shades trilogy is changing bedroom habits In the first of the trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey, the 21-year-old Anastasia Steele has a fateful meeting with her hero, the uber rich, sinfully sexy entrepreneur Christian Grey. The only catch is that Mr Perfect is a bossy dominant who likes to whip women into submission. Will they have an, er, happy ending?
EL James may have unwittingly tapped into a primitive and primal urge in women around the world to hand over control between the sheets. How else do you explain the runaway success of the racy series that was originally written as Twilight fan fiction? It became a mega success as an e-book and its popularity had publishers and Hollywood studios falling all over themselves to bid for the rights to the "mommy porn". Racing to the top of the bestseller lists, it has become the fastest selling book of the year. That's multiple-orgasms material for publishers.
Fifty Shades... reads like the Twilight of erotica. It will never win awards for its quality of writing but the books are simply and inexplicably addictive. Christian wants to spank, whip, handcuff and do sadistic things to her in his 'playroom'. He wants her to sign a detailed, explicit contract about the rules of a submissive that involve clamps, steel balls, fisting and even how the fuzz down there should be fashioned. And while the flawed side of the irresistible billionaire disturbs her, Ana still has enough orgasms for the entire city. She flutters at his mere touch, her uniquely mobile 'inner goddess' does back flips and they climax on demand. But the trilogy is essentially their love story as they negotiate boundaries that involve domination, bondage, pain as pleasure and absolute submission. Ultimately, despite the explicit scenes, the sex stays in a reassuringly safe area as Ana is given the choice to stop any time she likes.
British author EL James is shocked that her shocking tale has unleashed this tidal wave of interest. Sex shops have reported a boost in sales, bedroom habits around the world are changing, sexperts and feminists are getting their knickers in a twist. The unassuming author says, "I never expected this kind of success. I'm overwhelmed. Women mail me to say that it's a page-turner and they've made their husbands read it. Submissives get in touch and say 'I want to do this'. My time is no longer my own. I'm not used to the attention." She pauses before adding, "I've got e-mails from very young readers from India, which is a bit alarming really." ...
In last week's Newsweek cover story, "Spanking Goes Mainstream," author Katie Roiphe set the blogosphere atwitter with her commentary on the cultural trend of bright young women willingly engaged in BDSM relationships: 50 Shades of Grey, Lena Dunham's HBO series Girls --even the wedding night of teen heart throbs Bella and Edward in the third Twilight movie. Roiphe pointed to the paradox that our postmodern freedoms are leading to an embrace of sexual subordination. Because Roiphe's modernist assertions of individual responsibility often clash with postmodern feminists' more nuanced understanding of how cultural and social forces shape us, her analysis was largely dismissed as just another of her potshots against contemporary feminism. But she's picking up something about female agency that I've had on my radar for a while, something women need to think about deeply: Why, when the women's movement aimed to liberate us from being sexually objectified and degraded in a male-dominant culture, are so many women objectifying and degrading themselves?
Feminists get their knickers in a twist, as they say in the UK, whenever anyone dares to question a women's right to choose whatever she wants to choose -- particularly in the bedroom. Culturally mandated chastity, modesty and marriage were the means of controlling women's reproductive lives and their sexuality between the 17th and early 20th centuries. The "Sexual Revolution" of the 1960s and the second wave of the women's movement were deeply intertwined, and for complex reasons, sexual freedom became the sine qua non of women's liberation. I show how free I am by flaunting the taboos that cloistered women's sexuality for hundreds of years. The funny thing is that this form of sexual-transgression-as-liberation has been going on now for fifty years, with each upcoming generation feeling that they have discovered something new. Choice is, of course, the expression of human agency; and it's only right that women choose their own path to sexual pleasure. But at this point, I would argue that our continued focus on sexual agency is a distraction.
Choice is a most precious capacity. It makes us human. It's not simply about preferences -- soup or salad, flats or heels, top or bottom. Human agency, expressed through our creative engagement with choice, is how we expand the measure of freedom that we have as human beings. Through it, we can define new potentials and pathways in culture. The capacity for creative agency through choice is what has enabled human beings to thrive and will be the only thing that will enable life to develop further here on Earth. Expressing sexual agency -- doing whatever the f--- we want to do -- has little to do with stretching our capacities toward anything new or significant. It should be a given, exercised in our personal lives, rather than some badge of courage. There's nothing new there. ...