50 Shades of what?

As I was last having the hairs ripped out of my scrotum, Zoe, the beautician (now there’s an odd concept – testicular depilation and beauty) brought up the subject of momy porn and 50 Shades of Grey. A month or two ago I’d seen the books on the shelves in shops without giving them any thought, but as I knelt half naked, my balls dangling, in front of a women I’ve only met a handful of times, and she plucked the hairs from around my anus, I admit my interest was pricked. (Not a little ironic in the circumstances.)

And then I started to hear more and more about the book(s) and I kind of lost interest. The hype is enormous (as is the hero’s cock, apparently), I’m a bit of an iconoclast and I wouldn’t be seen dead on a bandwaggon, even if you covered it with porn stars and gave me a month’s supplies of condoms, lube and energy bars. But when Channel 4 broadcast a documentary on the perverted publication last week, I felt obliged to see what it was all about.

The book has been an unpreciented success. You don’t need me to tell you that. Apparently it’s sold 3.5 million copies to date, and is the first e-book to sell 1 million Kindle copies. Obviously this is helped by the fact that e-readers allow you to read smut in public places without those around you knowing why your faces is flushed and you don’t want to stand up.
(A small aside : When Harry Potter fever was at it’s height, and I was commuting daily into the heart of The City on public transport, many of those around me would be reading one of JK Rowling’s weighty tomes, be it with the standard cover, or those disguised as a grown-ups’ book. I rebelled. I openly and proudly read The Gothic Tales of the Marquis de Sade. No. You won’t catch me being ashamed of reading smut in public. Obviously I won’t be reading it in front of my Wife, but that’s a different issue altogether!)

With the book being as controversial as it is, the documentary inevitably looked at what readers might find erotic, and why it has been such a success. I have wondered myself why so many women are suddenly taking an interest in BDSM – perhaps it is more normal to be kinky than we’re led to believe, and really we’re all just too shy to admit it. After all, I suspect that most people who’ve had fun in the bedroom will have experimented with some light bondage and possibly an occasional spank, and the respected feminist writer Bonnie Greer described the book as being “about a lot of women’s need to be involved in non consensual sex”. This was echoed by the clinical psychologist and sexpert, Pamela Stephenson Connolly, who said some women want to give up control and to get a bit of “do it to me honey”. So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that women are buying the book by the crate load. obviously there are those that disagree and criticism came from one particular member of a Colchester book group. The self-proclaimed feminist maintained that even mild BDSM, such as spanking,  is entirely about assault and said that “the mind boggles”. She was quite clear that she thought 50 Shades to be detrimental to the cause of feminism. Maybe she’s right, but millions of women either disagree, or don’t care.

A woman’s role in a relationship may not be the only aspect of this book that references the past. It’s easy to see echoes in Christian Grey of more respected literary characters, and literary agent Jonnie Geller likened 50 Shades to “Wuthering Heights with whips”.

So what about those whips? Are BDSM novices getting to read about the joyous delights of S&M as they actually are, or are they being sold a candy coated fantasy? Well apparently it’s not that good a representation. Mistress Morigan, who featured in the show, said its all quite tame, and the BDSM lifestyle couple interviewed said Christian Grey gets so much wrong. For one thing, he’s damaged, but as Pamela Stephenson Connolly found when she researched the topic, scars in your past are not what brings people to BDSM.

Yet the author seems to have done at least some research. On the ABC documentary (US tv) “20/20” the interviewer seemed shocked that EL James watched porn movies on her own as research and on “The View” she blushed as she acknowledged her book is her own fantasy. And she seems a pretty normal person – I guess like most of her readers.

Maybe it’s not great literature, it has received criticism for beating round the bush in terms of language (and not just when Christian Grey takes a whip to Anastasia’s pussy), but you can’t ignore the fact that it’s having. Ok, we don’t know how many couples are trying their hand at anal fisting after reading it, but it certainly seems sex is selling more. The show claimed “in the past month, sales of erotica and porn have rocketed by 130%” and Ann Summers reported having sold 30-70% more of BDSM toys off the back 50 Shades. They had also sold out of Jiggle Balls (also known as Ben Wa Balls), as used in the book (they had 90,000 sets on order at the time of filming for the documentary!) and have seen an increase of 65% for sales of nipple clamps, esp vibrating varieties.

And for those who are not brave enough to take the plunge into the deeper waters of the book themselves, Hollywood has inevitably decided to cash in too. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone to know there’s going to be a movie, (I wonder if they’ll shoot it in black and white or Technicolor™?) but surely this is not the film for mainstream studios. Will they do the sex justice? Unlikely. By all accounts there are strong references to 9½ Weeks and Secretary in the book (Grey is also the surname of the male Dom in Secretary) so there is a chance that we will see some tits and ass, but from what I know of the text, I can’t help but think Hollywood will shy away from the juicy bits. Should th Hollywood porn industry have a go at the film, they’d probably capture the BDSM scenes perfectly, providing a more shocking depiction of clit whipping than many porn mommies might be comfortable with, yet the porn makers would probably trash the script and just make a badly shot skin flick. So perhaps the two should collaborate – the big budget production standards from Universal and Focus and hardcore sex scenes from Vivid or Private. That’s a film I’d like to see.

Despite the promise of eroticism, however, I shall not reading 50 Shades Of Grey, But it has made me think a little about my relationship with my Wife. The show suggested that women want to be dominated as they spend so much of their time having to run things, both as mothers in the home and at work (as a full time dad I have issues with this idea, but still) and I’ve thought about how my Wife might view it as she is a card carrying feminist and works in a senior managerial role. But I can’t possibly imagine a situation where She’d want to be tied up, flogged and have sex toys shoved up Her ass. I’ve enjoyed some BDSM – I’ve spanked and been spanked – I’ve bound wrists and been hog-tied – I’ve had my genitals covered in clothes pegs and I’ve pinched a clit till its owner used her safe word … and fucking loved every sordid, wanton second of it. But would I want to do this with my Wife? Maybe it’s what She needs – some merciless domination. Maybe She needs a blindfold, ball gag, tit bondage, a clit pump and a butt plug, all whilst I pound away at Her cunt for my pleasure. Maybe. But I can’t envisage a time when I’d ever feel comfortable doing that for Her.

12 Responses to “50 Shades of what?”

  1. freechick Says:

    Apparently Universal Studios have bid to make the film, as has Mark Wahlberg’s film company. From what I’ve read, the guy who wrote the screenplay for American Psycho has said he’d be interested in doing the script. I have the books though I’m reading them slowly. May invest in a pair of those balls too

  2. Your post is all I’ve read about the series. I’m with you on mainstream pop – whatever it is. The subject of this kind of relationship is one I honestly think can be beneficial though. I think it clarifies roles in a fun and powerful way. If it can be a dynamic in the bedroom, respected and all that – it can satisfy both people. I’m not into being hurt but a couple blogs about couples doing this are actually quite happy in a way I don’t hear about. The woman feels desired and loved, the man feels desired and love and the roles empower their sense of self while also building a stronger bond between them. It seems like a win win. Neither couple is oppressive or psychologically harmful to the woman but the sexual dynamic is awesome and so erotic. I don’t know how people get there as a couple – carefully and respectfully I think. How awesome would that be if you could get there with your wife? Thanks for the info here.

    • I think I don’t want to get there with my Wife. A little role play (and switching), maybe. But lifestyle, no. I am genuinely baffled by those that do. Not criticising, but baffled.

    • I wouldn’t want it to be a lifestyle either. There is something about the role definition that seems to allow acceptance of the role of masculinity an femininity. I am always against any kind of oppression, but that isn’t what I see in what works. I still can’t identify what it is that works for the people.

  3. sexuallifeofawife Says:

    Great post Accidental!
    I too am not an avid fan of going with the mainstream (although I do like really trashy pop music!)
    Someone left a comment on my blog the other day that I am living 50 shades of grey. I take this as a compliment as they really love the book – but the excerpts that I’ve read from it are pretty appalling
    My husband and I are not in the lifestyle – I think we’re too private for that (apart from me blogging our sex life in great detail to the whole world!) But as Jane Ayres said we def have a stronger bond than ever before. Then again that could just be because we are having sex a lot more (from not having much of it at all) because we are doing/acting out what turns us on…
    If you’re wife doesn’t have submissive tendencies – then maybe she leans more to being your dominatrix ; )

  4. I’m on to the third book and it’s like pulling teeth. The writing is ATROCIOUS. As a writer of erotica myself, I’m appalled that anyone finds her “scenes” even remotely titillating. Seriously. The writing is shit.

    However, the whole BDSM thing is interesting. She paints it in a deviant light all the while her heroine is strangely drawn to it though she was a virgin. It’s all bullshit.

    The real pull is women’s desire to be dominated and “taken care of.” I think it’s less the pain aspect of BDSM as the sense of trust a woman must give her Dom; we all want to be protected, cared for, and have our next thought anticipated.

    I know you’re a stay at home dad, but I’m willing to bet your Wife still would love to be dominated in bed because she’s in charge of keeping the family housed, etc., and letting loose and relaxing sexually would relieve her of having to be in charge of that, too.

    Maybe it’s tapping into some primal thing, I don’t know. Women and men are equal partners in running a life together, don’t get me wrong, but when I was in charge of running my house I wanted nothing more than to be dominated (from time to time). Like you, I wouldn’t do it as a lifestyle, but I do enjoy it. Hell, you’ve read my shit. You know my proclivities. I love a good hard spank and to be bossed around, but I also like to switch it up.

    And those “feminists” that are speaking up are just SOME feminists. I’m a feminist and in so being I declare that I may let anyone do whatever I want to me. It’s part of me having equal power. Gah – those chicks who draw hard lines about everything really piss me off.

    Anyway, great post, AM! xx Hy

    • I confess I’m a little confused, Hy: if the writing is as bad as you say, and BDSM is as poorly represented as it seems to be, and the character’s are equally unbelievable, why have you made it as far as the third book?

      Whilst I have know women who have liked a bit of care / domination / control / call it what you will, I don’t believe it is even remotely universal. The giving of trust makes sense, but I remain to be convinced that enjoying to be a sub shares ground with that. As for the notion that my Wife wants to be dominated in any way, I would strongly refute that. If I touch Her too much (and by that I mean far less than most women would either touch themselves or permit anyone else) I get firmly stopped. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had my hand moved away from Her tits or pussy. The number of times I’ve been permitted to slip my fingers inside Her I can count on fewer fingers than I had inside Her.) It really is beyond my imagining that She might respond positively to being tied up or given sexual orders. As for being spanked – I can’t help but laugh.

      You make a very intereting point on a feminist having the power to give power to someone else.

      Thanks for the compliment on the post. Coming from you, high praise indeed. (I didn’t think it was one of my best!)

  5. Sigh. I’ll write it again :

    Touché on why I’m reading the third book. It’s pure stubbornness, really. I want to see what stupid shit she does. I couldn’t even tell you where that book is right now and I borrowed it. Shit, better find it!

    And the way you describe your wife, she’d be the perfect heroine to turn into a sub in some story. Literarily she’s perfect. 🙂 xx Hy

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