My fellow literary snobs, sex educators, kinksters & sex positive community members may be shocked to hear me say this: STOP HATING ON 50 SHADES OF GREY!
Yep, you read that correctly. I’m defending 50 Shades of Grey.
Whether you have read the book or not, there are a few things we need to get out of the way. First, lets acknowledge the story is Twilight fan fiction. E. L. James originally wrote the story with the names Bella and Edward and published the story on a fanfic website. After it gained popularity, she yanked it down, reworked some of the details and published it. Any issues you have with the Twilight message you will have with this book. The same themes are there: secretive, emotionally unavailable, damaged, filthy rich male love interest + innocent, love struck heroine = every other damn love story we love to hate and hate to love.
Secondly, everyone agrees it’s poorly written. How bad is the writing? It’s so bad it makes my inner goddess vomit and get horrible leg cramps while she’s flamenco dancing in the lotus position. My inner goddess also won’t stop murmuring (those of you who read the book will get that). In this Today Show interview E.L. James even admits herself that she’s a dreadful writer. No one, not even the author, is claiming this is Pulitzer Prize winning material.
50 Shades of Grey isn’t Wuthering Heights– it’s a kinky sex-driven romance novel. Romance novels are written at a 5th grade reading level. Don’t let that fact cause you to tip your nose down on readers of this type of book. Romance novels are also one of the best selling genres. Whether you like it or not, millions love them. Many of those millions are highly intelligent, well educated people.
Lastly, most of us LOVE shitty fiction! We suck it down like ice cream on a hot day. When was the last time you parked your ass on the sofa and willingly watched a craptastic movie like Roadhouse, Showgirls or Megapython vs. Gatoroid? What about stereotypical, guy-gets-the-girl click flicks like P.S. I Love You, Maid in Manhattan or any Lifetime made-for-TV movie? You enjoy the hell out of that shit, don’t you? What makes 50 Shades any different?
Yes, there are many novels people could read instead of 50 Shades, The Story of O is a perfect example. It’s a classic BDSM love story credited for inspiring thousands to pursue their kinky fantasies. The problem is, The Story of O was published in 1954 and still hasn’t hit mass mainstream popularity. You can tell people until you are blue in the face there are better books out there than 50 Shades of Grey but you can’t change reality. 50 Shades caught on, The Story of O didn’t. Period.
People are downright hostile about 50 Shades of Grey, especially sex educators and members of the BDSM and sex positive communities. I don’t understand why. Yes, it’s basic, romantic fan fiction. It perpetuates male/female stereotypes and makes our inner feminists cringe (and murmur). The book is also doing a lot of wonderful things for people. Why are we all losing sight of that?
As a members of the sex positive community, when someone comes to us saying they found something that inspired them to explore their sexual fantasies or helped them renew the physical spark with their partner, we’re happy and supportive. If that inspiration happens to be porn we don’t bat an eye. For the most part, porn is exceptionally unrealistic. It’s not a sexual teaching tool, much of it does not support positive or feminist messages, many of the acts demonstrated are done so unsafely and it generally does portray sexual pleasure (especially female pleasure) in an accurate manner.
We all, however, accept porn is based in pure fantasy. We watch it, we get wet and hard and it inspires delicious, naughty thoughts. We aren’t a nation of people who bang every delivery person we see without a condom. We know spit isn’t really lube. Women recognize they won’t squirt as soon as a man with a 9” cock touches their nipples. When it comes to porn, we can easily discern fantasy from reality.
As sex educators, if we’re mentoring a person who was motivated to explore their sexual fantasies through pornography, we give them resources and tools to safely bring elements of that fantasy into their lives. We’d never belittle them for watching the “wrong kind of porn.” We also wouldn’t shame them by calling them poseurs, “not hard core enough” or someone who gets their information from sources equivalent to “sex for dummies.” Why are we doing this to readers of 50 Shades of Grey?
If you consider yourself a BDSM enthusiast you likely had one pivotal experience that caused you to discover you weren’t alone in your desires. That gateway gave you the courage to start exploring. Perhaps it was a book, movie or the exciting touch of a new, adventurous lover that lit the fire inside you. Whatever it was, you were thankful for it. Perhaps you spent your life feeling ashamed and guilty over those thoughts. You thought you were alone, that you were the only person who had sick and dirty desires. What a relief it was to realize your inclinations were nothing to be ashamed of and that there were others out there that safely acted on these thoughts.
That same scenario is happening right now to a nation full of people. Eyes are opening and people are finding the nerve to pursue their taboo sexual curiosities. Every day I hear from wonderful, intelligent folks looking for direction after reading 50 Shades. Every single day I’m bombarded with more and more messages and inquiries. It’s overwhelming!
Unfortunately, when these curious kinksters try to seek out information on their own, they are met with 2 types of information: 1. magazine style articles written by those quick to jump on the bandwagon that provide no realistic useable information. 2. Articles written by people who practice BDSM who poke fun at “the silly soccer moms who are so ridiculously swept up with Twlight-esque S&M for Dummies.”
I am astonished at the behavior and reactions I see from fellow members of the sex positive community. Shame on us for gossiping about the suspected IQ levels of 50 Shades readers. We are so preoccupied with trash-talking the author’s literary ability and picking apart the lack of realistic elements in this fantasy story that we are failing to give support to people who are trying to develop their sexual identity.
As a sex positive sexuality/BDSM educator my passion is to assist people in becoming comfortable with their deepest, darkest desires. I help build self esteem. Because of the work I do, people to stop feeling ashamed of their bodies, abilities and inclinations. They learn to have better sexual encounters, become empowered, cultivate healthier relationships and raise their overall level of happiness. Isn’t cutting down the one thing that encourages them to start the journey of sexual self discovery going against everything I and the sex positive moment stands for?
Every day I see a new thread on Facebook or Fetlife picking apart 50 Shades of Grey and shaming its readers. Stop it. Please, stop it. Be a constructive member of the sex positive community and of the human race. Help your fellow horny human beings find the resources they need to experiment with BDSM safely and not feel ashamed about it.
I’m about 25 pages away from the end of 50 Shades of Grey. After that I’ll give you my full synopsis of the book. In the youtube video above I also give a more in-depth explanation as to why I think everyone should lay off 50 shades and what good the book is doing for the sex positive movement as a whole.
In the meantime, if you happened upon this article because you are looking to find out more about how to safely incorporate elements of bondage, S&M and kinky sex into your life, you can find it at SunnyMegatron.com. I’m working on a series of articles that take a deeper, more realistic look at BDSM called Beyond 50 Shades of Grey. You can find the first in the series here: BDSM Without Sex?
My partner, Ken Melvoin-Berg and I will also be teaching a 2 hour BDSM 101 workshop at Taboo Tabou in Chicago on June 6th 2012.
~ Sunny Megatron, XO
The 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon has everyone talking about kink. This is part of a series of articles called Beyond 50 Shades of Grey that take a deeper, more realistic look at elements of BDSM. Get ready to go Beyond 50 Shades.
Yarrr! Well (and hilariously) said, Sunny! It’s awful and every single pore of my English perfectionist, writer-self cringed at every page, but it’s the new “bodice-ripper”, right? A silly little guilty pleasure for a bit of escapist fun. The only thing that makes me a bit leery is that Muffy Schmo Housewife is going to think that a D/s relationship includes gifts and some light spanking, and we all know sports cars and Louboutins aren’t really the door prize for a smack well received. ;)
Fabulous video, Sunny! Thanks so much for knocking some sense into us ~ I’ve been bashing it big time (even though I read all 3 books) and now it’s time for me to stop. So thanks!
I don’t get the “hate” either. And re the comment above about a D/s relationship and what one is and isn’t…well, isn’t that for the people involved in it to decide? BDSM and D/s can be as light or as heavy as the people involved care to make it. Doesn’t mean it’s any less “real”. I hate the snobbery that seems to imply that if you are only desirous of light bedroom kink, then you aren’t “truly kinky”. Or that a D/s relationship has to be some certian way or you are only playing at it. My two cents worth.
I got into m/m erotica via fanfiction, and there’s a lot of shaming about fic in romance reader/writer communities, let alone everyday life. So while I worry about people harming themselves with 50 Shades scenarios gone wrong, I get where you’re coming from.