What's happening to the sex lives of American women when an erotic trilogy focused on kinky sex becomes a top seller?
The books in question explicitly describe bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM) as a relationship unfolds between recent college graduate Anastasia Steele and handsome young billionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey, who wants her to share his secret dominant/submissive sexual proclivities.
British writer E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed took the top three spots in USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, out today. The first book has been in the No. 1 spot for three weeks. It has been banned from library shelves across Florida and Georgia and parodied on Saturday Night Live.
"It's challenging for many people to define what a BDSM behavior is," says Debby Herbenick, an educator at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University- Bloomington.
The spectrum ranges from "handcuffs and little devices meant for spanking and things like that" to more extremes involving real pain.
Experts say that a big part of BDSM involves role-playing and an exchange of power. So how many people are tying up their partners or brandishing riding crops behind closed doors?
And is it OK?
"I would certainly say millions of people participate in it," Herbenick says, but there are no good numbers because no large national surveys have asked.
Don't call it 'mommy porn'
"We hear fairly often that the estimate on prevalence of BDSM is one in 10. We don't know whether or not that's accurate," says clinical psychologist Peggy Kleinplatz, a certified sex therapist and professor of medicine at University of Ottawa in Canada.
Susan Wright of Phoenix, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an advocacy group, says the trilogy shows BDSM "in a very responsible way," citing the "extended discussion about what each character wants from the sexual relationship, with great examples of 'hard limits' but also compromises."
She says, however, that the term "mommy porn" some have used to describe the books is "another way of denigrating women's interest in sexuality." ...
It's the twist in the Bashara case that had everyone whispering. Are there dungeons of debauchery in quiet, local communities? Wait until you see what Defender hidden cameras reveal!
Note: NCSF was alerted to the story the morning it was scheduled to air and was active in discussions with WDIV to convince them to further blur and obscure identifying characteristics of the attendees. We also specifically asked that they include positive information about BDSM, such as everyone in attendance is a consenting adult and is doing nothing illegal. As per NCSF's Incident Reporting and Response guidelines, NCSF continues to work with the local community to minimize any fallout from this story.
When I decided to read and review Fifty Shades of Grey, I was hopeful. I had heard Shades of Grey was erotica that catered to women and that women couldn’t stop talking about it. Because so much erotica is exploitive, demeaning, and just boring after awhile, I thought erotica that catered to women might stress women’s pleasure and power. I thought it might even be instructional.
There is little in the way of a productive dialogue about the mechanics of sex despite our culture dripping with teens hooking up on Glee, women throwing themselves at any Bachelor that shows up on TV, The Jersey Shore, and my neighborhood high school dance where my daughter informs me that “… [girls] don’t bend over more than 45 degrees because that’s just asking some guy to come up and grind on you.”
I thought that Shades of Grey might be a start of discussing how to improve sex within the context of sustaining relationships. After all, committed, sustaining relationships are very sexy to women. However, decades into a committed relationship when couples still want to connect sexually, where do they go other than the porn industry for real ideas about sex? ...
Shades of Grey isn’t anything close to what I thought it could be, so let me get this over with. It’s cliché porn. It’s just more cliché porn. The characters are predictable and two-dimensional. The story is too familiar and portrays a controlling, disturbed man as sexy and desirable. Remember Twilight’s Edward? The writing doesn’t help the story by being awful.
As a therapist who specializes in women and girls’ issues, my caseload usually has one client who is in therapy because of a relationship with a controlling, disturbed man. It’s damned discouraging to see women eating up this book like it’s Greek yogurt. ...
While you may find most New York Times bestsellers at the Dacula Library or Hamilton Mill Library, there are three you will not find.
“Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” -- currently numbers one through three on the New York Times bestseller fiction list -- are not part of the Gwinnett County Public Library’s (GCPL) collection.
Would you like GCPL to carry the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments.
Deborah George, the division director for materials management at GCPL, explained the wildly popular books by E. L. James are “out of scope.” The trilogy, referred to by some critics as “mommy porn,” is a series of erotic novels about the relationship between college student Anastasia Steele and businessman Christian Grey -- a man with a unique sexual appetite.
“Our collection development plan states that we do not collect self-proclaimed erotica, which is the primary reason for our decision not to purchase this and similar materials,” George wrote in an email to Dacula Patch.
GCPL is not the only library system to decide against carrying the highly successful erotic series. According to a FloridaToday.com report, the Brevard County Public Library system in Florida recently pulled “Fifty Shades of Grey” from its shelves after belatedly realizing the nature of the material. ...
This weekend, SNL had a field day teasing moms about their obsession with Fifty Shades of Grey, further acknowledging that we pretty much all have our noses buried in the E.L. James BDSM series right now. (I can attest to witnessing proof of this last week: Grey and book #3 Fifty Shades Freed were for sale at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, but book #2 Fifty Shades Darker was SOLD OUT. Guess most of us are reading at the same pace? Ha!) Most women are reading it on their e-readers, though some of us bolder types are consuming it in paperback form. (Even in public. What? It's for work!) And believe it or not, there are those who would rather borrow their "mommy porn" fix from their local library. Unfortunately, curious ladies in Florida won't have the chance to do that now.
The series has been banned in 17 Florida libraries (specifically, in Brevard County) after being called "too pornographic." Oh, give me a break.
The library services director in Brevard County told The Palm Beach Post that the book doesn't meet their "selection criteria." Still, there are a couple of copies floating around, because the library acquired them prior to realizing that they didn't approve of its "soft porn" content. Ha. Now, they're eagerly awaiting the return of the books, so they can get rid of 'em. (Maybe they shouldn't hold their breath? Perhaps women are now lending these rogue copies of Grey on the black market!)
The sad thing here is that it's all a matter of perception. First of all, there are much dirtier books out there. Second of all, while Fifty Shades isn't in the same category as sexually-charged, controversial classics Lolita or Tropic of Cancer (in other words, of course it's not literature and never will be!), it's not total trash. It may be erotica, but there is character development and a real plot, which should deem it library shelf-worthy.
What's more, there's obviously a HUGE demand for the books. People who may not have made time to read in years are picking up this series, which should make librarians -- who I'm sure live in fear of us all going to hell in an illiterate hand-basket -- jump for joy! In a time when libraries are threatening to close, because "everything is digital or online," the least they can do to make the case that they're still relevant is to offer the bestseller everyone wants to read. By refusing to, these Florida libraries are making a tremendous mistake.
Here's a news report on how the racy book isn't exactly for everyone ...
The erotic “Fifty Shades of Grey” apparently is too blue for the Brevard County Public Libraries system.
The wildly popular first installment of a titillating trilogy by British author E.L. James, “Fifty Shades” is parked atop every best-seller list in the country, from Amazon to the New York Times.
But the sadomasochistic saga won’t be found any longer on Space Coast library shelves. All of a “handful” of copies were removed from circulation earlier this week.
“It’s quite simple — it doesn’t meet our selection criteria,” said Cathy Schweinsberg, library services director.
“Nobody asked us to take it off the shelves. But we bought some copies before we realized what it was. We looked at it, because it’s been called ‘mommy porn’ and ‘soft porn.’ We don’t collect porn.”
The “Fifty Shades” trilogy has sold more than 3 million copies in all formats. Local bookstores report brisk sales of the first book, a hit with women of all ages, and the Volusia County Public Library system had 13 copies as of Thursday. The Orange County Library System doesn’t stock it.
Trashed by many critics speaking to its literary quality, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is explicitly sexual in its description of the relationship between heroine Anastasia Steele, an innocent recent college graduate, and Christian Grey, a 27-year-old billionaire businessman with domineering and sadistic tendencies.
While the naughty novel doesn’t check out with local library officials, a quick look at the Brevard system’s online catalogue reveals a solid stash of some of the most erotic and enduring literature.
Copies of “The Complete Kama Sutra” are available through the Cocoa Beach, Mims/Scottsmoor, Palm Bay and Titusville branches. Also up for grabs countywide: “Fanny Hill,” “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” “Fear of Flying,” “Tropic of Cancer” and “Lolita.”
So what makes “Fifty Shades of Grey” different?
“I think because those other books were written years ago and became classics because of the quality of the writing,” Schweinsberg said. “This is not a classic.”...
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. ...