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08 September 2012

Hot Topic ~ A look at literature, sex & 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

Sex in books? Sex creating conversation in RL? The content of said sex in stories?

It's nothing new people...

I'm bringing up this topic because my writing partner and I were asked in an interview we completed recently what our thoughts are about the current surge in erotica due to the Fifty Shades phenomenon. My answer: "IMO, it’s nothing new, just another crest of yet another wave peaking in a sea that’s been around for ages. Back in the early 90’s I took a Literature and Sexuality course in college. We read stories from centuries ago up to the present date centering around the theme of eroticism in literature and its impact. I find it interesting that people ooh and ah over stuff like this and get all worked up acting like sex in stories is something novel. Even the content in 50SOG isn’t original." Along with the interview question, my writing partner and another friend of mine back east have both wondered themselves & asked me in different ways what I believe makes the book so popular. I'll touch on that, too.

To begin, yes, I read the book.

I didn't want to at first. I wanted to keep away from it like I've done with the Twilight stuff. Yep, I still haven't read those books or seen any of the movies & I don't ever plan to. But, since I'm an erotic romance writer & I kept hearing about the story -- it's bad in its writing style but good on the kink -- I decided to give it a whirl. Wow. And I'm not saying that in a good way. It took me quite some time to get into the book -- to turn off the internal editor, get past the writing style and see it for the actual story. I have to agree with most of the reviewers out there, the grammar is 'particularly positively ghastly.' ;) Then when it came to the meat of the book, I agree with the ones who gave it low stars on Amazon, too, for example saying, "Not a good representation of the lifestyle." "Seems to be written by a teenager." I had some of the same questions and issues as did the reviewers. How old is this leading character chick? "And what's with down there?" I kept expecting a picture to pop up of a group of pre-teen to young teenaged girls, tittering and whispering with hands and fingers hovering in front of their mouths as they discussed such wicked and risqué things like sex and body parts. Did I find most of the story juvenile? Yes. Did I keep expecting it to change and get dark and gritty and kinky like I believed it would be from what I kept hearing? Yes. Did it? No. "Fifty" could have been so much more. More dark. Much more kinky. Every time I thought the story was getting to around to the nitty gritty sex, starting to descend to some deeper point, it stopped short. Pricktease... or in a female's case: clittease!

The characters... At times I likened "Fifty" to a cross between the movies Pretty Woman and American Psycho. Also, if this book is along the lines of that sparkly vampire book with the vapid heroine, thank God I never read that series. It was bad enough there were times I wanted to reach in and slap the chick in "Fifty". I can't imagine what my reaction would be to the other character. Though I do have to say I can relate to Mr. Grey on a small level and felt for him at the end of the book. It's hard being a control freak and not being open to love and relationships due to past events and fear of being hurt after being hurt over and over again. How the only way to release the frustration and anger is to sometime lash out (literally in his case) at the ones you love and who are close to you. Hoping that with them you'll be safe to express yourself and they'll be there to see you through and maybe even help you out of the darkness. Granted, it's not so much fun for the person/people on the receiving end, but think about what it's like for the person who's living with the ghosts of their past. The twisted images and haunting voices taunting them, playing over and over in their head like some warped record that's stuck in a particular groove, never getting to the silent center...craving peace and love and to feel needed but not being able to take the necessary steps to get there. Then when the time seems right to open up and let people in because with them the 'safety net' appears to be there, you find out it's not and you're left in the dark again feeling more alone than when you started. Yeah, it sucks and can be uber lonely.

But back to the main focus of this post -- the 'ooh-ing' and 'aah-ing' over this piece and the rise of interest in the erotic romance/erotica markets. (Yes, they are two different genres, but that's for another discussion.) Like I said, it's nothing new. Sex in all its forms has been in stories for ages and tongues have been wagging about it all ever since.

* From the bible ~ "The Song of Solomon" (a.k.a. "The Song of Songs") In SparkNote it states, "that the love story is an allegory of God’s love for humankind, or of the intensity of divine love within the human heart. However, it is undeniable that the song celebrates not only human love but also the sensuous and mystical quality of erotic desire." Yep, eroticism in the bible. I'm sure that caused a stir once upon a time.
* In the 1350's there was Boccaccio's Decameron which is like our modern Hollywood movies complete with sex and violence. In the eighteen hundreds, erotic literary works included pieces written by Casanova, James Boswell, Voltaire. Then between the 1700's and 1800's the Marquis de Sade wrote his stories, and from his name came the words 'sadism' and 'sadist.'
* Then the Victorian age made the erotic stories go underground. But this descent made them all the more spicy and unrestrained.
* Speaking of stories that caused controversy... Let's look at John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill). It came out in two parts -- one part in 1748 and the other in 1749. The writer and publisher were arrested. The book was banned in the United States until the late 1960's to early 70's under obscenity laws, as was D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. All those books were known for being sexually candid and upfront. And what about Story of O by Pauline Réage published in 1954? That's full of female submission, was also brought up on obscenity charges, but still won a French literature prize.
* Come closer to present day and there's titillating reading when it comes to A. N. Roquelaure's (Anne Rice) The Sleeping Beauty trilogy -- fantasy erotica with heavy BDSM; Exit to Eden by Anne Rampling (Anne Rice) -- explores BDSM within the romance genre; a 1992 phone-sex novel called Vox written by Nicholson Baker (this was a book that Monica Lewinsky gave as a gift to Bill Clinton.) And, yes, I've read Anne's books and Baker's book. There are more erotic books out there, but these few I can at least attest to. ;)

So even though erotic works have been around forever, why the hoopla now over something like "Fifty?" Well, perhaps some of it was luck, being in the right place at the right time...the stars were aligned just right. But mostly, its popularity could be attributed to the use of social media -- a form of communication that wasn't available several years ago. Nowadays, word of mouth travels much faster than what it used to. Videos, headlines and stories go viral in a blink of an eye. Tolerance over discussions on sex, sexuality and all that is more lax now than what it used to be. Word got out about this particular story. The news spread. It's an easy read for the general populace. People liked it. People talked about it. Word about the book spread even more, and the snowball effect took over. It's something every author hopes will happen with his or her stories.

Recommendation? Well... I don't think men should read this book as a guide to anything. If he really wants to know what his woman wants, the couple should sit down and have an open discussion. Perhaps men should take into consideration that it's the little things that count, and if they need to take a page from "Mr. Grey," then do some of the things he did outside of the sexual part of the relationship: treat a woman with respect, make sure she's well taken care of in the form of clothing, food and shelter, keep the lines of communication open and working. If someone wants to read "Fifty," I won't dissuade or persuade them. They're free to read it and form their own opinions. I don't begrudge the author's success on her series, and if people are getting turned on by her work and experimenting with toys and such, huzzah! I will say, though, that I've read much better stories, like Exit to Eden, Vox, The White Hotel, amongst others, and would recommend them first. There are also great gems through the publishers I'm with. Check out the stories at Decadent Publishing & Evernight Publishing. And, if you're in the mood for hot sex and some light BDSM action check out the Wild West stories my writing partner and I created by visiting the Double D Ranch Tales Blog

But if you're still in the mood for information out there regarding "Fifty," here are a couple of other links you can check out (the first link is what finally spurred me on to write this blog post): &

Feel free to share your thoughts about this post &/or about the "Fifty" phenomenon in a comment. I'd love to hear from you. :)

As always ~ Happy Reading!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read the first book and hated it. However, some of the fan videos online are sexy as hell. One of them introduced me to the song "Bilingual" by Jose Nunez and that song is wonderful. The first BDSM/Romance book I read was Exit to Eden. That one was a trip, but in a good way. It blew my mind, because I was very sheltered growing up and was about 15 when I read it lol. Since then, I've become more aware and experienced with the world around me ;)