It goes without saying that the record-breaking sales of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series are the publishing industry's success story of the year. In addition to the millions upon millions of books sold, E L James' racy and buzzworthy novels sparked a studio bidding war for movie rights and growing interest from various actors and actresses interested in taking on the roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
But what is perhaps most intriguing about the "Fifty Shades" phenomenon is how the sexually explicit, borderline X-rated BDSM (a blanket term for erotic activities that include bondage, dominance/submission and sadomasochism) material in the books crossed over into the mainstream. MTV News spoke with several publishing experts about the "Fifty Shades" effect and why it's such a positive thing for fans and authors of erotic fiction.
"We've been [publishing] erotica since 2006, so you can imagine our kind of shock, but we're really excited about it," said Michelle Renaud, senior manager of public relations at Harlequin books. "It's bringing more readers into the genre and more women are getting excited about it and kind of returning to reading and using reading as an escape. It's been very, very positive for us."
"It's a sign that we are actually getting new readers to the industry," added Cindy Hwang, executive editor of Berkley Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Books that publishes a variety of romance and erotic fiction. "That is always gratifying, because there's been a lot of concern that there haven't been new readers coming in for a while. I think the 'Fifty Shades' trilogy has been a great entry point for people who may not have been more than casual readers before but [are] intrigued enough by the experience of reading 'Fifty Shades' to go back to reading."
With James' books flying off the shelves, mainstream retailers have started trying to fill readers' needs with storefront displays of other titles in erotic fiction, something that used to be reserved for the back of bookstores or specific "romance" sections.
"Once the media picked up on it and then people were talking about it in daily casual conversations, merchants were like, 'Wow, there's really a demographic that would like to get this and we should probably be serving them.' And they made room on their shelves where they didn't before," noted bestselling author Sylvia Day, whose latest novel "Bared to You" has received "Fifty Shades"-esque buzz. "Previously you're writing erotic fiction, you're in trade paperback, and the covers usually, you know, left very little to the imagination and they were only stocked in traditional bookstores or you had to buy it online at the e-tailers. That really limits impulse buys. It limits recognition among the populace that it's out there, so now the books are in the grocery stores, they're in Target, they're in Walmart. All of those places would not stalk erotic fiction before and now they do, and that's huge." ...
E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey series has sold an astounding 20 million copies in the U.S. alone. We asked Passional Boutique and Sexploratorium’s resident sex educator Andrea Renae, who’s hosting a more realistic workshop on BDSM play titled “50 Shades Safer” this weekend, to help us navigate the hype.
City Paper: Why is this book so popular?
Andrea Renae: This is not the first book of its kind, and won’t be the last, but the media coverage and discussion around this particular series is undeniable. The book is written more like a romance novel than erotic fiction, which is far more accessible to the general population. For those who were intrigued by the 50 Shades series, I recommend Please, Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission by Rachel Kramer Bussel or The Beauty series by Anne Rice.
CP: How realistically is BDSM portrayed in the book?
AR: Like all romance novels, this book is based on fantasy. It is entertaining, but it is not a realistic guide to BDSM. When practicing BDSM, it is imperative that all play be safe, sane and consensual. Certain aspects of 50 Shades definitely go against that creed. Even though [the protagonist] consents to it, asking someone to sign a slave contract before getting properly acquainted is unsafe and negligent. Think of it like dating: You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you before dating them for a little while, right? I was pleased to see how communication was presented. People think the submissive partner doesn’t have a say in what happens to them. Yet, prior to a play session, hard limits are discussed and agreed upon, including a pre-determined safe word. Throughout the book, [the dominant character] promotes [the sub’s] use of safe words and encourages her to verbalize consent — definitely the most realistic part of the book.
CP: What are some tips on introducing BDSM in the bedroom?
AR: Take things slow and communicate. BDSM can range from light and sensual to heavy and extreme. It’s a good rule of thumb to start with something simple and work your way up as you explore different types of play. One idea could be as easy as introducing toys, such as blindfolds, fuzzy handcuffs and gentle teasers. But remember, your partner is not a mind reader. Make sure to constantly communicate your fantasies ... and your limits. BDSM — and sex in general — is always more enjoyable when everyone involved is on the same page.
Profit-minded people are rushing to capitalize on the erotic trilogy’s huge success. From allegedly real-life versions of Anastasia Steele to Fifty Shades vacations to a kind of Fifty Shades Kama Sutra, see nine attempts to rip off the global phenom. ...
Right now — at least for Comcast subscribers — you can get Showtime for $9.95 a month. Not a terrible deal. And worth it if only for the most jaw-dropping (and pants-dropping) reality show to yet hit American airwaves. It’s called “Polyamory: Married and Dating” and it’s about the same.
Don’t know what “polyamory” means? Courtesy of Merriam-Webster: “the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.”
Or, to use another definition, “a television show where you get to watch a bunch of whining narcissists slut around.”
I’m not one to judge … oh screw it. I’m judging. See, I don’t care if you’re straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, monogamous, polygamous whatever. Really. I don’t care. To each his own. But if you decide to allow cameras into your home and allow yourself to be filmed having sex for all the world to see, and then complain about not getting enough “attention” from other members of your “pod,” well then yes, I do reserve the right to call you a whining narcissist who sluts around.
Not to say this isn’t great television, because let me tell you this: This is GREAT TELEVISION. Basically, it follows two groups of people, one a “triad” (a dude, his wife, and their girlfriend) and the other a “pod” (two married couples who live together). Not only do we get to see their domestic lives, we also get to see their bedroom lives. What I’m trying to say is we get to see them have sex. (Thursdays, 11 p.m., for those keeping score at home). And not only do we see the sex, but we get to see the aftermath, which more often than not consists of at least one person thinking they’re getting the raw end of the deal. (No pun intended. At all.)
In Gone With the Wind, Rhett Butler tells Scarlett O’Hara he won’t be refused and carries her up a velvet staircase to thrust—err, drive—Ashley Wilkes out of her mind. This famous scene leaves many female readers with their hearts racing.
But at the same time, many people hear “BDSM” and recoil or become outraged. In fact, Dr. Drew recently came out against Fifty Shades of Grey, despite having never read the book. According to Dr. Drew and other opponents, BDSM is anti-feminist, it glorifies subjugation, and it encourages domestic abuse. There’s a disconnect here that’s impossible to ignore.
How many of us have had the “pirate captive” or “sheik’s harem girl” fantasy? How many of us fantasize about bondage or have Google-d “Christian Grey?” This eternal conflict plagues many confident, healthy adult women. How many of us have wondered, “What’s wrong with me?” Not. A. Thing.
Ladies, take comfort – the desire to submit isn’t anti-feminist and a true BDSM relationship has nothing to do with abuse. Consider ballroom dancing. When we give our partner the opportunity to lead, and choose to follow, we dance together. The desire isn’t to be conquered – it’s to surrender.
While Dominant/submissive inclinations are as old as human nature itself, there’s a reason the BDSM fantasy is engaging the female imagination now. We’ve come a long way, baby. We’re in positions of corporate and political power. We have a voice when we stand up and demand to be heard. Yet, at the same time, we’re still the primary emotional hub of the family, and coordinate most of the domestic chores. Getting swept away in a fantasy where our significant other takes the reins, protects and cares for us, takes away any responsibility? I’d argue it’s natural.
Has your partner ever told you to leave your hands above your head while he was… doing wonderful things to you? He didn’t tie you up; he simply gave you the command. Suddenly what he was doing was even more stimulating - simply because you were letting him take the lead. That’s part of BDSM. Whether it’s psychological or physical restraint, giving up power can be very liberating, especially when you trust your partner to take you both where you want to go.
“But that’s not what BDSM is,” you insist. “I saw the truth on an episode of Law and Order!” Perhaps you saw whips, chains, leather – all sorts of stuff that you’re sure will put you on the FBI’s deviant watch list. Certainly those trappings exist – and can be a lot of fun, especially when you decide to do “FBI interrogation” role-play – but they aren’t the true heart of BDSM. ...
Barrister Simon Walsh, 50, acquitted over images that prosecution argued showed activities likely to cause injury
A barrister has been acquitted of possessing extreme pornography in a landmark case over the boundaries of what can be described as "extreme".
The jury was unanimous and took less than 90 minutes to clear Simon Walsh, 50, a former aide to London mayor Boris Johnson, and who served as a magistrate and alderman in the City of London, after a week-long trial.
The case is believed to be the first to address whether images of anal fisting, a sexual practice which is legal, and urethral sounding are extreme pornography, as defined under the controversial section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. Earlier this year Michael Peacock was acquitted of charges under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 of distributing obscene DVDs, which featured fisting and bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM).
Walsh was charged with possession of six email attachment images, which were not found by police on either his work or home computers, but on a Hotmail server account he set up to receive and send sexual messages.
Oxford-educated Walsh was sacked from his position on the London Fire Authority on his arrest in April last year. He was a man of impeccable character who had made an outstanding contribution to society, the court heard, and had previously chaired the City of London Corporation police authority and licensing authority. He had been unable to work as a barrister since his arrest on the charges, which carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.
His lawyer, Matthew Buckland, told Kingston crown court that the case raised issues of private personal encounters and "how we view them in an inclusive democracy".
Walsh faced five charges under the 2008 act, which stipulates images are extreme if they are "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character" and if they "portray, in an explicit and realistic way" any act "which results in, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals". ...
Announcing the NCSF Master/slave Advisory Committee
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) is announcing the formation of the NCSF Master/slave Advisory Committee. As part of NCSF's ongoing efforts to remain sensitive to, and informed about, the specific needs of the various factions of the BDSM and kink communities, this committee has been formed.
The committee is tasked with providing NCSF with insight and information about the Master/slave community so that NCSF can best serve that community. This allows NCSF to better carry out its mission to fight for sexual freedom and privacy rights for all adults who engage in safe, sane and consensual behavior.
The members of the Committee are all notable and respected people within the Master/slave community and include Master Jerome Bambrick, Race Bannon, Master Bob Blount, Tina Dunham, Lady Hilary, MsSuzan and Justin Tanis.
NCSF looks forward to listening to, and engaging in discussions with, these fine people in order to best serve the needs of the people who consider Master/slave dynamics and identity part of their core erotic makeup.
Police say ' 'fetishes' motive for Killgore killers
The disappearance and gruesome slaying of Brittany Killgore, 22, whose naked body was dumped in a ditch in April while her Marine husband was fighting in Afghanistan, has drawn worldwide attention ---- largely because of the sexual kinks of her three suspected killers.
In court documents released last month, police described a sex dungeon and bondage toys, and suggested that the Fallbrook suspects killed Killgore to satisfy their sexual desires. The documents mentioned no evidence that Killgore was involved in their practices.
The case has heightened fears of misunderstanding or persecution in the local bondage community, especially when the best-selling novels in America are those in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy, an erotic series that includes acts of bondage, binding and disciplining for pleasure.
Members of the local bondage community ---- who organize primarily through niche social media websites, discreet clubs, and parties at neighborhood homes or specialty businesses ---- fear being seen as crazy or violent.
Psychologists and sex educators said that bondage relationships can be healthy and are somewhat common, though they often remain hidden from public view.
Such secrets are usually exposed only when something has gone terribly wrong, experts said. ...