The Problem of Instruction in Literature: Proper Kinky Sex Edition

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  1. Avatar North
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    Yeah happily the only thing I knew about 50 was that it existed and was the shining example of a fanfic writers wettest dream. The Atlantic article definitely raised my consciousness about its contents. What I find most interesting is how they note that as the books progress Mr. Grey gradually emerges from his BDSM fondness into more tender love. So 50 is far from complimentary to the BDSM community in portraying it as a thing wounded/damaged people resort to and then discard as they heal. If I were into BDSM I’m sure I’d be mightily annoyed by that subtext.

    That said, as the saying goes “Most people can, as they will, make of this world either a palace or a prison.” If the BDSM community plays their cards right maybe they could open up the sexual horizons of people who’ve had their curiosity piqued by the inaccurate portrayals of 50 Shades of Grey. I came away from the Atlantic article with a lower opinion of the novel itself but quixotically a rather higher opinion of the community it inaccurately portrays.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North
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      The entire life of 50 Shades of Grey is probably the most exciting thing that could happen to an actual fanfic writer. The only thing that might top it is if it was allowed to remain Twilight fanfiction when it it mainstream success.

      According to Wikipedia, E.L. James, the author seems to be cosmopolitan and well-educated but her book doesn’t reflect that much.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    I kind of understand why the BDSM/kinky sex community is very upset over 50 Shades of Grey. For one thing, they face more ridicule and pressure in society than High Society types so presenting a fantasy version of BDSM/kinky sex for a popular audience is more problematic than a fantasy version of upper-class Philadelphia. Another problem is that in many countries, it isn’t entirely clear if BDSM/kinky sex is legal. I believe that the Canadian Supreme Court recently held that a person can’t give meaningful consent to be on the receiving end of BDSM. This means that consensual BDSM can result in you becoming a criminal defendant for assault, battery, or other crimes.

    The other thing is that BDSM can be injurious if you do it wrong and if a couple decides to experiment based on 50 Shades than things can get problematic. Sometimes you really need instruction.Report

  3. Avatar j r
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    says:

    I read that Emma Green piece (OK, I skimmed it). And the first thing I thought was that she probable spent more time writing that article that the author of 50 Shades spent on the first book.

    Here is a contrary take. 50 Shades is not problematic. It does not raise many interesting questions at all. It is a series of bad books made into what is probably a bad movie, all of which have been or will be incredibly popular forms of escapism.

    The reasons why these books are popular are so astoundingly simple, so incredibly basic that it is no wonder that the pop-culture journos at The Atlantic can’t see the forest for the trees.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r
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      says:

      I think this is more or less right. There is a long history of salacious bad books making a mint and than becoming salacious bad movies that make a mint. Peyton Place, anybody? Gone with the Wind? The allow a form of escapism that lets people imagine things they want to experience or at least gawk at but from a safe distance.

      My disagreement is that its understandable why the kink community would be submit about 50 Shades.Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to j r
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      says:

      I generally agree. There is absolutely a trend for overanalysis of pop culture and we can probably all get along better if we just let things be what they are including stuff like 50 Shades but I also think there could be a problem if people get the impression that all you need for kinky sex is the BDSM stuff and don’t know anything about safewords.Report

  4. Avatar morat20
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    says:

    50 Shades of Grey is about a rich, abusive guy who woos/sexually harasses a beautiful princess with confidence issues into sex.

    As it’s a fantasy, he spends most of the book detailing what he wants in bed — yet what happens is what she wants. In the end, she tries it his way and hates it. Also, for some reason, there’s two more books.

    As it’s a fantasy, the fact that he mingles abuse and kink interchangeably is harmless — the writer is in control, ensuring that the rich guy dances to the tune she likes properly.

    From a literary perspective, the characters are laughable. Rich, handsome 23 year old inexplicable interested in young woman acclaimed as beautiful by all who know her, and who is ‘charmingly’ reluctant to believe HER of all people is anything special? (“You’re secretly a princess!). The sheer tension that occurs are the reader struggles to understand why the handsome prince desires the beautiful, modest princess…

    From a kinky perspective, the issue is simply that such a relationship as described would work horribly in real life, in much the way a ‘rape scene’ differs from a ‘rape’. As pure erotica, it’s stunningly normal — the female character is the writer’s avatar, the man a blank slate Dom whose every action she controls (thus he does nothing to the female that isn’t desired, never crosses a line, never makes a mistake, has no flaws, needs to communication, etc) — the only issue is if anyone decides to try to use that as a guide to actual kinky sex.

    Now Secretary, that was quite an interesting exploration of kink. Both main characters were deeply flawed and struggling with their issues, their relationship, and their sexual desires.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to morat20
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      says:

      The sheer tension that occurs are the reader struggles to understand why the handsome prince desires the beautiful, modest princess…

      This about nails it. 50 Shades is basically a formulaic Disney movie, with the one wrinkle being that it combines the Handsome Prince and the Evil Stepmother into one character.Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to morat20
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      says:

      I still need to watch Secretary.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        Yes. You do. A lot.

        HAWT! AS! FUCK!Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        Veronica,

        Actually, I’d recommend it entirely on other grounds — it shows a real, common struggle over sexuality and sexual desires, with a realistic set of responses and an upbeat, but not preachy or moralistic ending.

        (Sorry, trying to avoid spoilers). In short, it feels very much like two people trying to understand and accept what they want, with varying degrees of honesty (to themselves or others) and the ending isn’t “Kink/sex good!” or “Kink/sex bad” or even “True love conquers all!” (which is a standard cop out).

        It really covers communication, understanding (especially of yourself) and acceptance.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        I thought Secretary was a surprisingly sweet story about two people who needed each other, found each other, and made each others’ lives better. Kind of a stealth romance. Good movie.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        I thought Secretary was a surprisingly sweet story about two people who needed each other, found each other, and made each others’ lives better. Kind of a stealth romance. Good movie.
        Indeed. Spader (can’t recall the character’s name) struggles with his own likes/dislikes was really telling and realistic, and a nice counterpoint to Maggie’s (again, can’t remember the character’s name) almost…innocent…opening up to a world she’d never really experienced (everything about the movie was Maggie freeing herself from the bonds of her life, the expectations and troubles and worries she was bound by).Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        says:

        @glyph

        See my completely OT comment below.Report

  5. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    How many here have read any of the books?Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Chris
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      Oh sure. Ruin a perfectly good thread with a practical question!

      🙂Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        I worry that we’re talking about a book (and for most of us, a community) that we know little about, and furthermore, I worry that we’re having this conversation as much because it’s a book about women having sex written by a woman, for women.

        Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like there are some real issues with the book: several people in BDSM communities have spoken out against it (though how representative are those people?), and there appears to be real concern that the relationships it details are rather abusive (not surprising, since it started out as Twilight fan fiction). I just worry, again, that those of us who haven’t read it and who aren’t really familiar with BDSM might be jumping on this book for less righteous reasons.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul DeGraw
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        Chris,
        there are thousands of books on that subject. And people write pearl clutching about guys fantasizing about raping people (or about child pornography, something that NOBODY clutches pearls about when it’s soft-core explicitly aimed at women.)

        We’re talking about this because it’s popular. And because Someone On The Internet thinks its wrong.Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to Chris
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      says:

      I’ve read and heard excerpts of the book. The writing is rather not that good.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Chris
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      says:

      @chris
      I haven’t. Never will. But about 90% of every woman’s dating profile that I’ve read listed it as one of the books they had read, almost 100% if they were divorced and had kids.Report

    • Avatar morat20 in reply to Chris
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      says:

      I tried. I put it down about a quarter of the way through (cost me 50 bucks. Stupid wife and stupid bet). And I’ve read the entire Merry Gentry series.

      The Merry Gentry series, in case you’re wondering, is the result of Laura K. Hamilton hearing too many people complain her Anita Blake books had basically just ended up pure erotica with a thin urban fantasy veneer, so she wrote the Merry Gentry books to show people what “pure erotica with a thin urban fantasy veneer” really IS.

      50 Shades of Grey was….look, take Twilight. Edward, the most sparkliest, handsome vampire of all. And Bella, the shy but beautiful princess waiting only for true love to make her understand how super sexy and hot and desired she was.

      Picturing that? Now imagine someone decided “It’d be hotter if Edward was all “yeah, I’m gonna spank you!” and Bella was all “Oh nos, no! I can’t! It’s too naughty. I just want to be held and loved!” and then Edward was all like “Smack!” and Bella was all like “Ooh! I love it but I hate loving it! Never!” and then Edward was all like “Smack! Smack!” and then wrote a story about that.

      And then they changed the names of the characters and turned ‘sparkly vampire’ into ‘self-made 23 year old billionaire’.

      The characters are…cutouts, because the initial ‘draft’ was a fanfiction of two characters already defined in multiple books, and then basically cut and pasted into a new name.

      I probably could have stuck it out despite cardboard characters and third-rate plot and fifth rate sex scenes, but honestly my real problem was the Grey character wasn’t just thin, his characterization is summed up with ‘abusive a**hole’ except the author glorified it and conflated it with kink, which irritated me on many levels.

      I could not tell you why people liked it. But I didn’t get what people liked about Twilight. I just know why I didn’t like it, and that boiled down to “The male lead was abusive and this was shown in a positive light”. I’ve read books with abusive, unpleasant, or even evil main characters. I’ve read books where the ending is not pleasant.

      But apparently I can’t read a book where the author’s implicit message to the readers is “Girls? You gotta love them when they’re abusive, manipulative, and controlling”.

      Ever heard the song ‘Tyler’ by the Toadies? Yeah, that vibe for the guy with the author going “THIS IS THE GUY YOU LADIES WANT!”.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to morat20
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        10 bucks says you like School Days better.
        That at least bothered with characterization.

        Nah, why women like the idea of Twilight is because there really are women who don’t want to do jack, and have gorgeous men fall all over them, simply because they’re a “pretty, but doesn’t think she’s pretty” girl. It’s anti-feminism, and I’m not sure they really realize that, but it really is a fledgling movement. “I dont want to be a person, but I do want to be idolized by some hot guy, for totally no reason other than I’m a contentless girl”Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20
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        *tongue in cheek* “It’s not anti-feminism! It’s the free market in action! This girl’s assets are obviously undervalued by the owner, so picking it up for a song is a no-brainer!”

        More seriously, I’d say there’s more to it than that — it’s like the dream of winning the lottery. ‘I get what I want, and I don’t have to do anything. Good things just shower down upon me like rain’.

        Whether it’s money, women, success, adulation — everyone, man or woman, has a bit of that inside them. “Wouldn’t it be nice if [thing I want] just happened, out of the blue?”.

        it’s why I’ve got 2 bucks on Powerball this week.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to morat20
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        says:

        Morat,
        just gamble on a stock or something. Or silver, or oil, or whatnot. Sure, it’s a little more expensive, but at least your brother won’t try and kill you.

        [sidenote: if you do win, find one of these lawyers around here to make you a blind trust. You’ll Need It.]Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to morat20
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        says:

        morat20,
        yes…. but… most girls who aren’t anti-feminist want someone they can relate to. Pern had girls who loved music, A Swiftly Tilting planet — all the good books I read as a kid, they had girls with passions, interests, who were Good at Stuff (even if it wasn’t terribly relevant stuff)Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20
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        says:

        Kimmi,

        That would absolutely be my first move (the blind trust). 10% to splurge, the rest locked away and living on income only. (And not all of it, even). I’d like to think I’d do better than most when it came to managing it, but I think I’d rather limit the potential damage I could do. Better to screw up with a defined income stream then lose it all, you know?

        And if I was of a mind to play in the markets, I’d day-trade the futures market. I’ve got some data mining software (personal, custom written) that has had some significant success on test data. (Fully independent, never before seen, data). My actual investment strategy is ‘buy and hold’ and ‘timing the market is for suckers’. 🙂

        I read many of the Pern books when I was younger. The Talent ones too (as well as the Crystal books and the Brainship books). As I got older, I came to prefer Barbara Hambly’s writing to McCafferty’s. (Although I once stumbled upon a Menolly focused BDSM fanfic entitled ‘On Tempo and Beat’ which I thought was a delightfully inspired name for a story about spanking in that setting).Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to morat20
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        says:

        Why does the trust need to be blind? You’re not planning on running for public office with all them LottoBucks™, are you?

        First thing I’d buy with all them LottoBucks™, like even before paying off debt first thing, would be his-and-hers perpetual annuities, one for me and one for my wife.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20
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        Burt,

        You’re right, it wouldn’t be a blind trust. Just a trust, because Texas (like most states) doesn’t allow anonymous claiming of lottery prizes for whatever reason.

        Still, first step for THIS big (like 200 million after taxes, lump sum) is “See a lawyer with experience with trusts and estates. Preferably one that has handled large lottery wins before”. Step two would be “Ask him about who else you should find, like investment managers and such”.

        Step three would be “Become incredibly paranoid that some weird turn of events will destroy the ticket or see it stolen. Darkly wonder if 200 million is enough for the lawyer to abscond with your ticket and money. Suddenly have really important opinions about the capital gains rate”. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to morat20
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        says:

        Oh, I have fantasies about needing to be that deeply concerned with the capital gains tax rate, @morat20 . They usually culminate in my wearing very nice clothing, in a very nicely-appointed sitting room, drinking very good Scotch, emphatically tapping my fist on the arm of my very nice chair and expounding to the then-present members of my new peer group selected from the ranks of the 1% the great importance of the preservation of capital, as they nod sagely and accept my entry into their ranks with the emotionally distant, WASPy embrace of Old Money consisting of a referral to a Swiss banker and a casual invitation to come boating at the “cottage” on Narragansett Bay next season.

        More realistically, I’d probably invest it in strip malls and sequels to comic book movies.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to morat20
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        My dreams are a bit more modest. 🙂

        Although my father-in-law has decided he needs a new woodworking project, and we have decided on a TARDIS drinks cabinet. (Well, booze, drinks, cookbooks, and glasses. The interior layout is still being discussed).

        Being able to afford a higher class of booze to go in my ridiculously geeky cabinet would be nice!

        I have also recently assembled a wishlist of board and card games — sudden wealth would allow acquisition AND time to explore them. (Some I’m ashamed I don’t have yet — Dixit and Settlers of Catan come to mind. Galaxy Truckers and Cosmic Encounters I’m excited about though).Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to morat20
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        Burt,
        leave it to me to screw up the lawyer talk. Basically, all you want is a way to firewall yourself off from the lottery folks, so they can’t announce you as being the winner. Because the first step to winning the lottery and not going insane is not letting anyone know (possibly, possibly with the exception of significant others).Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to morat20
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        says:

        morat20,
        Hambly is awesome. So is Bujold…
        (sidenote: Hambly wrote an episode of She-ra? Who knew?)Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    I think your third paragraph getst the success of 50 Shades right. Its a romance novel with all the standard tropes, a rich and experienced rake who seduces an innocent young women but ends up redeemed by her love, but adds a BDSM gimmick to spice up the plot.

    Can some enterprising creative person create a romance for short, charming, funny men? Michael J. Fox movies aren’t cutting it anymore.Report

  7. Avatar ktward
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    Although I genuinely appreciate sophisticated erotica–Anais Nin & A. N. Roquelaure lover here–I’ve not been interested enough in 50SoG to bother reading it. Nevertheless, the first book of the trilogy is now a mere two bucks on Amazon, so I bought it. Guess I’ll finally read first-hand what all the hoopla’s been about.

    If it matters … I myself dipped my toes (along with other body parts) into the BDSM community. My take: it was an intriguing sexual adventure because I had a sexy partner. But the reality doesn’t remotely match the hype. It’s way healthier to read the books than live the life.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to ktward
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      I suspected as much.

      I appreciate the share, and assure you it wasn’t an over-share.Report

      • Avatar ktward in reply to Burt Likko
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        It’s hard to think of a topic more touchy than sex. Politics is waaay uglier, but not nearly as touchy.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Burt Likko
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        I see what you did there.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
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        “I suspected as much.”

        An interesting thing to suspect…..Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Burt Likko
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        I suspect that of lots of people.

        After reading that Atlantic piece, I do not suspect it of Emma Green.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko
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        I see what you did there. Thanks for making me look bad, fellas.

        FTR, I suspected that people who had actually experimented with this sort of sexplay found it less exciting than it’s advertised to be. Now, sex being what it is, you can’t really control your own reaction to it, you can’t consciously pick what’s appealing to you, because that’s happening down below the level of consciousness. So it seems to me that this is the sort of thing that you pick one of three responses:

        a) your partner brings it up and you say, “Umm, I dunno, but okay, I’m GGG so I’ll try it,” and then you do and it’s not so good and you don’t do it again, or

        b) your partner brings it up and you say “Holy crap that sounds SO HOT” and then you do it and it’s SO HOT IT’S THE BEST THING EVER EVER, or

        c) your partner brings it up and you say, “Get that riding crop the hell away from me RIGHT NOW I want nothing to do with anything resembling this and while you’re at it take off that ridiculous leather getup because it ain’t working for me.”

        My prejudice is that the number of people for whom the reaction is b) is relatively small, the sorts of people the OP refers to as the “kink community.” They try it, they like it, they find each other, and they do the things that they enjoy doing and more power to ’em so long as the mutual consent is genuine and no one gets hurt (well, in a bad way).Report

    • Avatar ktward in reply to ktward
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      I neglected to add …

      So, when did we decide that fiction is obligated to accurately represent reality? The only reason the BDSM community gives a shit about whatever it is 50 portrays is because 50 sold a lot of books. Trust me, there have been plenty of crazy BDSM novels published that never caused such a ruckus.

      Fiction is fiction. Some novels are more heavily researched and weighted in fact than others, but ultimately we should not expect a movie to be a documentary. I think most of us understand the distinctions.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to ktward
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        R100 isn’t fact, that’s for sure. But, it at least bothers to show the consequences of giving someone a blank, signed check.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to ktward
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        So, when did we decide that fiction is obligated to accurately represent reality?

        When it’s about sex for women. When it’s something that women like in large numbers. Women thinking about, talking about, and reading about sex turns so many libertines into pearl-clutchers.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to ktward
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        @ktward

        I think it is a bit more than what Chris wrote and possibly a factor of the Internet. 50 Shades could not be 50 Shades without the Internet but the Internet allows many cultures and subcultures to have a very loud and noticeable platform where previously they might have only had zines photocopied at a Kinkos.

        There is a whole strain of pop culture writing which is basically what X (X is usually something big in pop culture) gets wrong about Y. My brother made fun of me for writing pieces like this even though I am not a superfan of Alyssa Rosenberg who is one of the primary What X Gets Wrong about Y stylists.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to ktward
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        I had a friend who used to write adult fairy tails that she published in an internet community… back in 1999. The internet has always had adult communities of various sorts, though some of these are almost entirely separate from the rest of the internet (I remember seeing a great graph of all the clusters and connections between various parts of the internet, with the largest clusters being news and blogs, sports, and adult; the first two were deeply interconnected, and the third out in space almost entirely on its own). Romance novels have been a thing even longer, and many of those, including many popular ones, have explored sexual subcultures. None have been quite the phenomenon that 50 Shades of Gray has, however, which is likely a result not of the internet, per se, but of the specific path it took through the internet and into mainstream culture. And it was only when it finally stepped off the internet, where this sort of thing is a dime a dozen, and into mainstream culture, where the tacit expectation is for that stuff to stay hidden on the internet in little communities of the perverted and the perverse, that otherwise open people began clutching their pearls and revealing their deep prudish sides.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to ktward
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        ktward, its the Internet’s fault. The broadcast power of the Internet allows everybody and every group to complain about inaccurate, in their mind, representation and they will make their objection known.Report

  8. Avatar veronica d
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    Okay, so I’ve written a metric ton of erotica, and it contained elements of non-consent. Likewise it contained kink that would make your average reader of 50-shades — well, I mean, you guys can probably guess how kinky I get.

    *cough*

    Anyway yeah, 50 shades seems to be literary junk food with a side of fakey bondage. Oh plus sexual abuse and stuff. Blah!

    Thing is, I don’t get the impression the author knows what she is talking about. Which, I guess others get to decide if I knew what I was talking about when I wrote kinky porn. But then, at least I’ve done some of the things I write about.

    (‘cept the one story about the pretty little sociopath into fishhooks. Ouch!)

    But on the bigger topic, kinky erotica — I mean, when I get kinky, I pretend I’m really doing these terrible things. Which, I’m not. I mean, the physical stuff is real. The paddles sting, the canes bite flesh. But the psychological aspects, the sense of powerlessness, the abuse — those are not real. I’m doing these things in a safe environment with partners I trust. We have boundaries. They know how far to take me. But when the do it well, the illusion happens, if only temporarily, that this is real. That’s part of the excitement.

    Like, we watch a play about crime. We don’t watch a play about a play about crime. (Yes, exceptions exist.)

    When I read kink, I want to read the real hot stuff, past the real life boundary, just like my crime novel should be about actual crime.

    Actual kink would be kinda boring to read about. It’s fun to *do*, just as any kind of roleplaying is fun. But a movie about kink would have to find its drama somewhere other than the dungeon.

    Closing the book is the safe word.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to veronica d
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      Actual kink would be kinda boring to read about. It’s fun to *do*, just as any kind of roleplaying is fun. But a movie about kink would have to find its drama somewhere other than the dungeon.

      This, along with what @ktward says above, about sums up my feelings.

      Lots of people want to see Top Gun. Many less people want to climb into a realistic flight simulator to practice basic stick and rudder technique.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to veronica d
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      @veronica-d

      I also suspect that E.L. James is not part of the BDSM and kink communities.

      What I wonder with this kinds of stories is if the you just have people focusing on different things? We are both noting that 50 Shades is still basically a stereotypical romance novel with a twist. Perhaps the stereotypical stuff is what the primary market/readers are concentrating on while the BDSM and Kink communities is focusing on what is their primary interest without realizing that the BDSM is probably just window dressing for the average reader because it is not window dressing for them?Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw
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        Well the reality is a fair number of young women are joining FetLife or showing up at munches wanting to meet their own Christian Gray, so at least for some women the kink is central to the story.

        These women are — shall we say — going to be disappointed with the actual state of male doms.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @veronica-d

        Fair enough. I think your last part is what I was getting at. The Kink people I know swing towards the geeky and counter-cultural. They don’t swing towards being Captains of Industry who like to wear really fancy suits and drive fancy sports cars. Most of them would probably dislike an Audi sportscar as a matter of aesthetics and ideology.Report

      • Avatar morat20 in reply to Saul Degraw
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        Well the reality is a fair number of young women are joining FetLife or showing up at munches wanting to meet their own Christian Gray, so at least for some women the kink is central to the story.
        Or worse yet, meet them.

        It’s hard to explain if you’ve never actually interacted with kinky people, but one of the real pitfalls is that there’s a fine line between kink and abuse. One of the things the kink community pushes really, really hard is that that line is called ‘informed consent’ and that “kink” and “abuse” are not the same.

        At the same time, if you’re the…super controlling, manipulative, abusive sort (male or female), this is like catnip, because the whole nature of kinky play tends to open people up — which means they’re ripe for manipulation.

        Which to me is the reason the kink community hates 50 Shades of Grey. It promotes the dangerous sort of Dom as the ‘ideal’. The guy people with experience view as ‘That guy? Stay away from him. He’ll f*ck you over bad”. 50 Shades of Grey literally glorifies the type of person people with experience hold up as a SERIOUS ‘danger ahead’ sign.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @saul-degraw, @veronica-d “you have to have a gimmick” as they say. Every stereotypical romance, fantasy, detective or other genre book needs something that distinguishes it from other books in its genre. For 50 Shades, the gimmick is BDSM. Otherwise, it just reads like a stereotypical romance book where a beautiful, innocent young woman meets and falls in love with a trouble, rakish and fabulously wealthy handsome man and redeems him with her love.

        @veronica-d, there is nothing inconsistent with liking 50 Shades primarily for its romance angle and diving into the kinky sex community to meet their own Christian Grey. These women might really be into the idea that men into BDSM are just damaged souls that need to be redeemed by love.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw
        Ignored
        says:

        @morat20 — Yeah, I think that’s pretty much it. Christian Gray does not exist, but many abusers will find such women good hunting grounds.

        Which, consent is everything, and if the women know the deal, then I am fine with it. I know folks in “24/7” dom/sub relationships, and while I don’t like such things, I respect their right to choose. But these young women don’t (yet) have the background to give truly informed consent. And E.L. James has done nothing to help education. She has done the opposite.

        On the other hand, these women are grown-ups. They get to choose their path. I hope they find good guidance.

        (There are predators in kink, but their are many angels.)

        ####

        It probably helps that your average male dom is a fat software engineer in a utilikilt. So there’s that.Report

    • Avatar ktward in reply to veronica d
      Ignored
      says:

      @chris et al

      Other than being heavily promoted by Amazon, why is it that y’all think this book’s success is due to the internet? I mean, near as I can tell it is simply a popular book. No more popular than, say, Riddle’s scifi Atlantis Gene trilogy. (Which, rumor has it, is in the pipe for a TV adaptation.)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to ktward
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t think it’s a result of the internet. If the internet were responsible for this book, there’d be a bunch of others like it, because the internet produces fan fiction and adult fiction in droves. It was only when this book broke from the internet that it became a phenomenon. It broke from the internet because, for whatever reason, many grown ass women really enjoy it, including, from what I can tell, a lot of women who don’t read romance novels. I’m not sure what caused that, and I’m quite certain the twins aren’t either. I’m pretty sure the transition from fan fiction for a really popular book series (Twighlight) to independent fiction had something to do with it, but this is, again, not something unique to the internet, and definitely isn’t the whole story.

        Granted, pre-internet, you weren’t going to find much fan fiction making the transition from a small community to the mainstream, but it wasn’t impossible, the route simply would have been different. So yes, Amazon and the ability to self-publish there played a role, but again, this was possible pre-internet as well, and given how rare the success of this book is, I’m not sure it’s any less difficult now than back then.Report

  9. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    There’s like this whole genre of fiction, much of it written by men (Harold Robbins ring any bells?) about women getting their kink on. My grandmother lived on a steady diet of it. The genre’s called romance, and it varies from soft-porn (Danielle Steele) all the way through to Robbins, some of the most horrid stuff I’ve ever read.

    Now I have this theory that much of this stuff was/is popular because it recognized that women are sexual; and that often, the type of sex didn’t matter so much as your comfort level with the implicity of any particular novel; hinted at (fade the scene as the couple kiss) to full-on falling-in-love with your rapist. And I don’t think reading this stuff, for woman, is all that much different then from the way men watch porn, to be perfectly honest.

    But it is all about the fantasy. What sort of cultural analysis does the top porn video deserve? Do the same here. If anything, I’d guess the movie will increase the demand for porn to stream from women.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic
      Ignored
      says:

      I don’t think the “top selling” of anything deserves analysis based on that.
      But I’d be glad to write about /good/ pornography, just as I’m glad to write about good “choose your genre”.

      Hell, right now I’m watching something out of the “Americana” genre… not generally my style, but…Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to zic
      Ignored
      says:

      “There’s like this whole genre of fiction, much of it written by men (Harold Robbins ring any bells?)”

      Only from the Squeeze song “Pulling Muscles from a Shell” and this Sleeper song:

      Report

    • Avatar ktward in reply to zic
      Ignored
      says:

      Indeed. For whatever reasons, women seem to prefer their porn in literary form. I suppose we call it “erotica” to distinguish it from, say, Penthouse forum.

      I’m struggling to recall a big-budget mainstream erotic movie that women liked. That I liked.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to ktward
        Ignored
        says:

        @ktward

        I Am Curious Yellow? The Pillowbook*? The Dreamers?

        Okay all these are probably not very mainstream

        *The Pillowbook is fairly straight forward for a Peter Greenaway movie. Someone looked at me like I was from Mars when I said this.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to ktward
        Ignored
        says:

        There are plenty of female pornographers, some of whom draw with the female audience in mind. (I still agree with your points, just chiming in)Report

  10. Avatar ktward
    Ignored
    says:

    I haven’t yet read 50 the book yet, so I could totally be wrong. But maybe it’s been the hit it is because it’s simply an expertly edited, well told yarn. It’s fiction. It’s sole onus, to weave a good tale. If it’s not entirely factual, well, I’m sure the BDSM community can find a way to endure the literary torture.

    Now, the movie is a whole other thing.

    Way back when, I remember Anne Rice being seriously pissed off with how Exit to Eden, the film, turned out. It was hard to blame her.Report

    • Avatar El Muneco in reply to ktward
      Ignored
      says:

      Unfortunately, the sordid history is that it’s just _Twilight_ fanfic with the only editing changes being the word “Edward” scratched out and replaced by “Christian” hastily scrawled in the margin in crayon.

      It really is that bad. In fact, the “Trout Nation” blog gives it the same treatment that Fred Clark’s “Slacktivist” gives to “Left Behind”. Very similar, in fact – like Clark is an evangelical criticizing what is basically subculture fanfic from an inside perspective, the “50 Shades” deconstruction is being done by a published erotic romance writer. And she is not pleased by what she finds.

      I’d recommend both of the above very highly – they aren’t quite as consistently funny as the MST3K version of “Eye of Argon”, but they aren’t trying to be. They’re trying to let the air out of something that has been inflated far higher than it deserves, and they succeed admirably at that.Report

  11. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    We’re doomed and at best they seem like an average, quirky indie band.Report

  12. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m uncomfortable with this post. Saul, you didn’t read the book. You aren’t a member of either the specific group it discusses (BDSM/king) or the broader group it attempts to represent (women).

    If someone who read the book wants to write a review, great. If someone from the group wants to discuss the subject matter, great. If someone was offended by it, have at it. But none of that is happening here. So I’m at a loss…Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      I disagree. Saul’s post was in his balliwick as somebody who knows a lot about drama. Writing a post on how 50 Shades of Grey fulfills certain literary requirements and needs even if it doesn’t accurately depict BDSM/kinky sex is a perfectly legitimate thing for him to work out. It is also important to have outside criticism at times because an inside group can overlook a lot. Saul’s post was not judgmental towards 50 Shades fans or the BDSM/kinky sex community. He was merely pointing out that 50 Shades does not need to accurately depict BDSM/kinky sex because that isn’t the purpose of the book or the audience it is aiming for.Report

  13. Avatar LWA
    Ignored
    says:

    I actually have read the book (OK skimmed).

    Erotica is never just about sex- sex itself is never just about sex. The allure is about all the senses from eros to food to power and wealth.

    Thats why Playboy was not just about pictures of naked women, but the entire lifestyle of privilege and position and comfort.

    50 Shades would be nothing if it were about a convenience store clerk and a 26 year old unemployed grad student. The central conceit to most erotica is that an ordinary person suddenly finds themself being desired passionately by someone wildly unobtainable in the real world.
    Why on earth would a wealthy powerful handsome 26 year old desire a rather ordinarily pretty woman? For the same reason an insanely hot 18 year old girl in a porn film desires a 40 year old cable repairman.

    50 Shades, like the Beauty trilogy and The Story of O, are all female fantasies. Even as dominant as the male characters are, they are a female fantasy of what a men is.

    That is, he conforms to female desires- he is wealthy and powerful and handsome, yet he only wants one woman. He never looks at others or strays, he is assertive yet sensitive, attentive yet not needy. And of course, she is showered with gifts and adventures.
    Meanwhile, the female is usually pursued by many, even if outwardly she resists, she is always the object of desire.

    The fantasy here is not to submit to a man, but to find a man who fits her dictates. Thats why 50 Shades seems so familiar- a Harlequin romance with a novel ingredient.Report

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