By Summer Skyes 11 (OMG Ikr lolUploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Summer Skyes 11 via Wikimedia Commons

An interesting article  from Daily Mail Online popped up in my Facebook’s stream a while back, called Experiment That Convinced Me That Porn Is The Most Pernicious Threat Facing Children Today. The subject porn and youth, something that illicits strong opinions among caregivers and educators. The idea that porn can have negative effects for younger viewers is a common perspective. It’s also one that I don’t entirely disagree with, although I certainly don’t think it’s the worst thing to ever could ever happen to a kid EVER.

At any rate the title sounded ominous/sensationalist enough that I was curious about the nature of the “experiment”. What was the methodology? Who was conducting the experiment? And what was the outcome that had convinced author, Martin Daubney – a former skin mag editor – about the unequivocal danger posed by pornography? But by the end of the introductory my curiosity was replaced by big time skepticism:

The moment I knew internet pornography had cast its dark shadow over the lives of millions of ordinary British teenagers will live with me for ever….Before me were a group of 20 boys and girls, aged 13-14. Largely white, working class children, they were well turned-out, polite, giggly and shy. 

I had trouble with the way the issue was framed. “Good” kids vs. sex. Goodness in this case being demonstrated by the students’ general whiteness and not-being poor. I guess it’s okay, or at least expected that ethnic kids from low-income families be exposed to pornography?  Only when it infiltrates the sweet ranks of society’s most valuable children should we sound the alarm bells.

Right under this paragraph is a picture of the author, his wife and his very young son who looks three, maybe four years old. The grown-ups look concerned verging on frightened. The kid is nine kinds of adorable, with blond curls and a pursed-lipped smile. And I can’t think it’s a coincidence that the editors chose this photo to lead the article. You have the words “Children” and “Porn” looming over the head of this cutey-cute little person and whoa! Suddenly, porn does seem pretty threatening!

The subjects of the actual experiment are a group of 13 to 14 year-old students. Teenagers. I do think that it’s necessary for adults to be aware that youth today have unprecedented access to sexually explicit material. A kid has with a smartphone they can see porn. And not just the commercially available stuff. Snapchat and other apps have made sending sexy selfies super-easy. I don’t think it’s necessary for us parent-types to panic. But I think we need to be aware that there’s a high likelihood our kids will be exposed to more sexual content at an earlier age than most of us were.

Under instruction from a sex-educator, the youth are asked to write down the terminology they’ve picked up from porn. The lists are pinned on the board and according to the article, there are words that none of the adults know. This shocks the grown-ups. One of the terms is “nugget”. (Full-disclosure: I heard the term for the first time very recently and it did shock me. It’s slang for a porn performer – typically a woman – who doesn’t have arms or legs).

Daubry goes on to report:

But the more mundane answers were just as shocking. For example, the first word every single boy and girl in the group put on their list was ‘anal’.

Daubry explains that he hadn’t heard of sodomy at that young age and he’s deeply troubled by the thought that some of these  youth may have a) seen it, b) may want to try it.

I was still annoyed by the sensationalism, but I can understand the alarm.  It seems to be pretty common for adults to feel thrown when they discover that the kids in their life are more sexually knowledgable than they assumed. I was a pre-teen when my peers and I started flipping through romance novels to find the sex scenes. I heard guys talk about a stash of Playboy or Penthouse they’d unearthed from the basement or their parents bedroom. We started hearing terms like “blow job” and giggled when someone explained what it was. This started when were ten, eleven, twelve. I don’t think any of us were ready to have sex yet  – I certainly wasn’t –  but we were old enough to be curious.

Now that I’m a parent, I look at my son. He seems so very young. It’s hard to fathom that the talks about sex – not just “these are your body parts/this is how babies are made” talks – might start happening in just a few years. I think it’s totally understandable for us grown-ups to have an initial freak-out. THE KIDS ARE WATCHING WHAT?!! But I think the next step is to get it together and figure out what to do next. If my kid does find himself amongst a group like the one in the article, here are some things I hope I remember to bring up:

  • What do you think about the fact that amputees are being referred to here as “nuggets”? How might it make that person feel? What message does that send about people with disabilities? What do you think about the fact that people with different bodies can and do have sex?
  • Do you know the differences between having anal sex in real life and the way it’s shown in porn? Do you know why it’s important to use lubricant? Do you know reducing your risk of infection with barriers? Do you know why communication with your sex partner is super-important here.
  • Let’s talk about why you’re watching this. How did you find it? Airial Clark a.k.a. The Sex Positive Parent had some great advice around kids discovering porn. Ask them if *they* think this is material is appropriate for their age. Remind them that the performers are real people, adults doing adult things. How do they think the people in the movie might feel if they knew kids were watching? How would they feel if a grown-up was naked or tried to have sex in front of them?
  • It’s also an opportunity to find out from kids what they find compelling about the material. Because it may not be what you think. It’s an opportunity to talk about the difference between porn sex and sex-in-real life.

Daubrey does have some follow-up conversation with some of the youth after the class. He finds the ensuing conversation “horrifying”, saddened that these kid’s expectations around sex have been shaped almost entirely by pornography and shocked by some of the content the teens have been consuming.

These kids were balanced, smart and savvy. They were the most academically gifted and sporting in the school. They came from ordinary, hard-working households. This was not ‘Broken Britain’.

Once again, folks – sex is for bad people. Who’s bad? Kids who struggle in school. The one’s who come from weird, poor households. The ones who are “broken”.

Most of us become curious about sex long before we feel ready to engage in partnered sexual activity. Sexuality isn’t something that suddenly kicks in on our 18th birthday. It’s with us all of our lives and it develops over time. When I was a kid, my friends and I didn’t look at novels, or Playboy and unscrambled pay-per-view because we wanted to run out and do those things. We just wanted to know what it was about. We were trying to understand.

Youth today are curious too. They’re seeing more because there’s more material and easier access to explicit content than we had at that age. Unfortunately, that isn’t something that we can change. I knew more about sex at a younger age than my parents had…and they probably knew more than their parents. Depending on our kids’ ages and situations, we can limit their exposure to porn for a time. But at some point they’re going to get on the Internet. And if they want to find porn they will. And I think the best tool we can give them is a whack-ton of real-world information about sex, so that porn isn’t the only influence.

Daubrey does conclude with cursory call for parents to teach their kids that  that real sex “is not about lust, it’s about love.

So, I agree with the spirit but I don’t love the phrasing.Lust and love aren’t mutually exclusive. And personally I’m not interested in judging the rightness or realness of  people’s sex based on how much of either is involved. I want to teach my child to  honour his own ethics when it comes to sex. I want him to understand their options when it comes to safer sex and if it applies, contraception. I want him  to understand why respect, consent and care for our sexual partners is essential. I want them to know that sex isn’t about being normal and doing what everyone else is doing, it’s about doing what feels good, what feels right for the people involved. And yes I will try to teach him about love and lust, just not as an either/or proposition. And finally, I will try my best to teach him to look at media with a critical eye, so hopefully he can distinguish between reality and a carefully crafted performance.

The very last sentence of Daubrey’s article tells us to communicate with our children.  “By talking to them, they stand a chance”.

At least we agree on something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My departure from Ottawa is at hand. But first I have to make sure all my sexy essentials are packed and ready to ship out west. Check out the vlog below for a peek at my favourite books, toys and of course my box o’ porn!

Every Friday I ask you a question of the week. You can answer often, occasionally or not at all. And if you have something to say but you’re feeling shy, you’re always welcome to comment anonymously.

 

 

Porn: Do you enjoy it or avoid it? Are there erotic media that you prefer over others?

It’s no secret that this gal likes porn. My teens and early twenties were all about exploring, discovering and basically grab-handing anything with explicit depictions of sex. I took a long time but I’ve learned to distinguish between the stuff that turns me on in a fun pleasurable way, the stuff that turns me on but leaves me feeling kind of icky and the stuff that doesn’t do anything for me at all.

I almost always watch pornographic films with my partner. We both love movies, we both love sex and porn is pretty effective when we want to jump start the frisky times. Except for gay porn. That’s all me. On  rare occasions when my guys take off and leave me on my own for a  couple of days, I like to chill out with a big bowl of chips and some hot guy-on-guy action.

Erotic books are my go-to for solo pursuits. Nothing enhances wanking like words. Smutty scenes in paper romance novels were my gateway to porn. When I was eleven or twelve I had a Harlequin-esque novel stashed under my mattress. All of the sexy scenes were dog-eared for quick access. From there I moved on to explicitly erotic/pornographic novels. There was a lot more sex but my masturbatory frequency doesn’t mesh well with long form fiction. Too much stopping and starting. Sexy short stories are perfect for me. A quick hit of literary inspiration and then my mind and hands are free to wander.

I almost never buy pornographic magazines. I find static pictures don’t do much for me.  I’ve also heard there’s porn on the Internet but generally I steer clear. I know there’s stuff I’d like out there, but the thought of navigating Webland to find it intimidates the crap out of me.

My favourite porn medium might be comics books. Comic serve my desire for visual stimulation AND fulfil my craving for dirty words and phrases. Colleen Coover’s Small Favours is one of the best discoveries I have ever made. .  It’s cute, explicit fantasy that makes me hella happy and hella horny at the same time.

While I’m taking it easy over here, I thought I’d share some of the fun, funny, thought-provoking and sexy things I’ve been enjoying on the intarbets!

Thanks to some inventive fundraising, Cards Against Humanity raised dough to purchase oodles of condoms and buckets of boar sperm. (They didn’t, though.)

Cliff says “…it’s easy– especially in areas as private and emotionally loaded as sex–to have a totally skewed idea of what everyone else is doing, and to try to conform to that skewed idea,”  and other stuff that makes a whole lot of sense to me.

I’d love to be a sex educator for parents and kids. Like The Mama Sutra!

I hear tell that some folks think we’re all going to die in a fiery inferno this weekend. That’s probably not true, but if Armageddon does come to pass, 25% of men will regret that they didn’t have more sex.

This spoken word piece on fatherhood is super dope!

I have a new Internet/blog friend! Annie is a wise, witty wordsmith and her blog, The Belle Jar is a treasure trove of feminist musings.

A mega-sized coffee table book of photography and graphic art from The Golden Age Of Porn? YES, PLEASE!

This article about perceptions of black sexuality in the U.S. fascinates me.

Hands up if you love The Lingerie Addict as much as I do!

Before I jet, I just want to say thank you everyone who commented, Tweeted or e-mailed with well-wishes after last week’s post. I’ve read all of them several times over and I feel very blessed to be part of  such a supportive community of friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

 

 

On Saturday I will be 37. And while that’s clear evidence that I’m growing older chronologically, I still look forward to my birthday with child-like (or more accurately, childish) excitement.

I’m jazzed about this birthday but I’m also aware that my 40th is tantalizingly close. I have to admit I’ve been looking forward to hitting that milestone for a long time.  Assuming I still have health, love, family and friendship in my life, making it to forty definitely feels like  accomplishment. And I’m almost there! Almost, but not quite.

I see the big 4-0 in the distance. But I must remember that life is journey and I should enjoy the ride. I should also eat fewer fortune cookies, because I’m starting to sound like one. Basically, I’m excited about turning forty but I also want to be excited about the three years before that happens.

So…

I’ve made a list. My 40 Before 40.

Long time readers of this blog and its predecessor, Adorkable Thespian, may remember my 101 in 1001. It was a list of 101 things I would attempt to do in 1,001 days. My time on that list expired a couple of weeks ago (If anyone is curious, I completed 58 of the 101 items). So this seemed like the perfect time to gear up  and ride out my thirties with a new set of goals.

The 40 Before 40 is a  list of forty things I hope to do before I celebrate my fortieth birthday. Will I achieve them all? Unlikely. Will I have fun trying? Hopefully.  As with the 101 in 1001, I’ll likely post about my progress as I check certain tasks off the list. I’ll begin on Saturday when I will attempt to bake my own birthday cake.  It all wraps up November 2nd, 2015 – the eve of my 40th birthday!

Here we go…

NADINE’S 40 BEFORE 40

1. Bake a cake from scratch.

2. Make a coconut cream pie for my dad.

3. Perfect a French fry recipe.

4. Co-host a Passover seder.

5. Get a non-ugly, non-holiday themed apron.

 

6. Go to grad school.

7. Earn my Master’s in Human Sexuality.

8. Live in San Francisco.

9. Attend a SAR.

10. Become an AASECT certified sexuality educator.

 

11. Write a book.

12. Speak at a conference.

13. Run my own sexuality workshop/seminar.

14. Plant a vegetable garden.

15.Don’t kill the vegetable garden.

 

16. Teach The Green Bean to ride his bike without training wheels.

17. Take The Green Bean to an San Francisco Giant’s game.

18. Take The Green Bean to lunch at Shopsy’s.

19. Run the National Capital 5K with The Green Bean.

20. Compete in a duathlon.

 

21. Go cross country skiing.

22. Go downhill skking.

23. Skate the length of the Rideau Canal.

24. Master backwards roller skating.

25. Learn to skate-jump.

 

26. Learn to make my own burlesque costumes.

27. Perform in a burlesque show outside of Ottawa.

28. Take a burlesque class/workshop.

29. Attend the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto.

30. Visit The Museum of Sex.

 

31. Visit The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

32. Visit Danielle in Seattle.

33. Visit Corsica.

34. Rent a cottage and relax for a week.

35. Take some yoga classes.

 

36. Organize my closet.

37. Consign some unwanted clothes.

38. Get a pair of beautiful yellow pumps.

39. Have a new family portrait done.

40. Plan a celebration for my 15th wedding anniversary.

 

 

 

EAT ALL THE CANDY!

You know what I love? Sugar. And candy. And sugary candy.

And though this is a post about one of my favourite things, it is not a post about candy. Though it does make me supremely happy. I would eat it more – almost exclusively, if I could. Unfortunately, my doctor has recommended that I cut waaaay back on the sweetstuffs, lest I develop troublesome conditions such as diabetes or dying.

So my intention is to keep my super-sweet indulgences to a minimum. I will miss them. Still, I have the cherished memory of the that in high school when I discharged an entire can of whipped cream into a mixing bowl and ate it while watching The Three Amigos. It was infinitely more pleasurable than the first time I had intercourse.

Fortunately, I’ve become better at sex since my first attempt. Good enough that substituting sugar lust with actual lust seems like a viable strategy when cravings hit.*  Rather than gobble up a bag of green apple licorice (*drools*), I’ll try devouring some of my favourite book porn. And who better to read than my literary crush and fellow candyphile, Steve Almond.

When I read Steve Almond’s book  Candyfreak: A Journey Through America’s Chocolate Underbelly , he immediately secured place in my heart. Initially my adoration was strcitly platonic; the kind of love you feel for someone who is clearly your kindred spirit. Reading Candyfreak was like reading my own brain. I finished the book and I was so sad to learn that Almond lives in Massachusetts which made it unlikely that we would cross paths. What the hell good is a kindred spirit that you’ll never meet?

Later I learned that Steve Almond writes a kinds of stuff. Like erotic short fiction. Like really, really, good erotic fiction. Feelings were stirred. To date one, my favourite piece of Almond-smut is Slippy For President. It’s word-porn with a quintessentially nerdy protagonist that does magnificent things to my most private parts! Dude is one sexy mofo!

His novel Which Brings Me To You (Co-Authored with Julianna Baggott – the lucky gal!) is the kind smart, contemporary romance of my dreams!

Steve Almond knows Susie Bright. Knowing Susie Bright instantly gives you 10 extra sexy point in my book.

So yeah, cutting back on the sugar will be a challenge. Fortunately, I’ve got the sweet words of Steve Almond to soothe my withdrawal symptoms. Meanwhile, if you’re not familiar with his work, I suggest check out some Almond-joy as soon as possible. He will rock your pants…or lack thereof!

*Speaking of lust, things have definitely improved since last week’s post – thank for all the great advice, peeps!

I was poking around my old blog and came across a few entries that would fit right in at Adorkable Undies.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be reposting some of them so that all of my sex/gender/feminist related content can live happily together on one site.

Avert your eyes, children. People offended by pornography. Mom!

Today I met with Sterling.  We shared mediocre cake and excellent conversation.  During our discourse, Sterling mentioned a recent entry I’d written on the subject of good/bad TV. Because Sterling is Sterling he’d honed in on a reference I’d made to the amazing Tristan Taormino.   He reiterated a request he’d left in the comments for an expanded post on pornography, complete with many hyperlinks.

One last warning for good measure:  DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINKS AT WORK OR IN CHURCH!

Tristan Taormino is a sex educator, author and porn star in her own right.  She’s also a self-proclaimed feminist.  She’s one of the sex industry’s leading advocates of anal sex and pleasure. Taormino’s website links to another site called Everythingbutt.com, which according to her,  is the web-manifestation of her anal-centric imagination.  Taormino is an advocate of female-friendly porn.  But Sterling observed that the scenarios presented in the video clips aren’t necessarily that different from mainstream porn, save for cuddling at the end.

There’s on going debate amongst feminists about the merits of porn.  I’m just one woman.  I’m not out to rehash the debate.  But for record  know that I’m a feminist who watches and enjoys porn.

I saw my first hard core adult flick when I was a teenager.  I was babysitting for a couple with a statellite dish (cutting edge in 1991!)  Long after my charge had gone to bed, I was diddling (pun intended) through channels and – HOLY SHIT, PEOPLE DOING IT!  Completely naked, with all the parts showing having actual sex for real and for true!  As a friend of mine once said, when you’re a horny teenager, seeing porn for the first time has virtual the same effect as having sex yourself. I just about came and had a stroke all at the same time!

Porn was instantly arousing.  It wasn’t long before I began seeking it out. My developing libido learned to respond to all the thrusting and skin. But emotionally  I was a bit at sea.  There was a disconnect between my own sexuality and what I saw depicted on screen. Though I didn’t have the awareness to describe it as such at the time, I knew I wasn’t entirely comfortable despite the fact that I was very turned on.

As a teenager I bought into a lot of dichotomies ideas about who I could/should be as a woman.  I could be smart girl or a pretty girl.  I could be a nice girl or slut.  I definitely saw myself as a good girl with brains.  The porn I was watching placed women firmly in the beautiful whore group.  Mainstream porn told me that my sexuality was about empty-headed passivity.   I hated that.   The thrusting and skin was still fascinating, but the arousal I experienced felt like a betrayal.

When The Man of Mans and I started dating we tried watching porn together. When I complained to him about the content The MoMs suggested we do some research and explore more female-friendly fare. We discovered a producer named Candida Royalle. Royalle is a porn-star-turned producer, who’s entire mandate is to produce erotic films from a female point of view.   The first video we watched was The Gift. While it was a relief to feel that porn producer was actually acknowledging women as consumers of porn, there was far too much plot and not nearly enough nastiness for my horny tastes.

But as I said, it was an improvement.  Encouraged, I sought out other alternatives to mainstream.  And I got a clearer sense of what I liked and disliked.  I liked lots of nudity, smutty dialogue and the hot, hot sexors. What I disliked were female characters who only served to fulfill the male characters desires. I wanted down and dirty, I just wanted to feel like everyone involved was into it.

(Royalle’s more recent films are more explicit and less dialogue driven, while still maintaining a female point-of -view.  I highly recommend Afrodite Superstar.)

A little while later, I discovered producer Anna Span’s series of films.  I adore her stuff. All of her movies, whether scripted or not have an authentic sense of spontaneity and great fun and her actors are all sexy without surgical alterations.

I also really liked the early episodes of the  Shane’s World series’.  Just a friendly girl and her friends, going on weekend trips and having lots of hot, unapologetic sex.  Eventually Shane left the business and the films. The series continued, but without Shane the franchise took an icky, vaguely exploitative turn.

I LOVE  classic, 70-era porn.  I love the diversity in terms of age, ethnicity and body type.  Yes there’s plot, but it rarely takes itself seriously.   I kind of love the original Debbie Does Dallas, which is disarmingly effervescent in it’s portrayal teenage prostitution.   I also love the “Girl” series (Pizza Girls, Taxi Girls and Garage Girls).  Cute women with regular breasts,  who enjoy sex and are proficient at auto-mechanics.  There’s a reason they call it the The Golden Age of Porn!

As for cuddles?  They’re fine.  But the presence or lack of romantic affection isn’t what defines a good porn experience for me.  I want to watch people who are into the sex they’re having…or at least people who are good enough actors to make me believe they’re into it! I don’t want to be told that women who like sex are dumb, passive or damaged.  Good, smart girls have sex.  If they want to make movies about it, I want to see it!

Originally posted July 24th, 2009

I may have mentioned my fondness for golden era porn once or twice (or eleventy) times before. What can I say? I love me some camp. Also? Nothing turns me on like a glorious pubic mane captured on 35 mm film!

I also like balls! And boobs – the kind that move when the actor lies down!*

Amongst my treasured collection of classics are various films about women who combine career with the carnal. The horny “whatever-her-job-is” girl is one of the most familiar pornographic trope, so common it’s become a parody of itself. But I find the early incarnation of these stories refreshingly evervescent and un-ironic. There are several incarnations of the premise the golden age genre, but my personal favourite is Garage Girls.

Lisa De Leeuw heads up a quartet of smart, capable, sexy female mechanics, struggling to make their way in the male-dominated field of auto repair. My favourite thing about this film might be that it portrays the women as highly skilled, competent career women. Don’t get me wrong. They’re hella promiscuous but at the same time they make sure to take care of business before they…take care of business. Don’t let the fact that they’re topless under those coveralls fool you!  The Garage Girls get paid and then laid!

There’s also a fair bit of slapstick comedy, including a bizzare thing with a gorilla. I could try to explain it but it’s better if you see it for yourself.

As much as I love classic adult films for all that they are – these films aren’t perfect and Garage Girls is no exception. Like a lot of mainstream porn, Garage Girls is pretty heterocentric. It does have the requisite girl-on-girl scene but that’s about it. One character makes a homophobic comment and that I could have definitely done with out.

All the principal characters in Garage Girls are young and white. Which isn’t to say I don’t think  my caucasian peeps are hawt! But if diversity is what you desire, this flick is less multicultural than others adult films of the time.

All of that having been said this flick is still one of my golden age faves! If you like cheesy comedy and sassy women who know their way around a drive train, I highly recommend Garage Girls. It’s one hell of a lube job!

<small>*No judgement to those of you who have or prefer breast implants.  I just really enjoy a floppy bosom!</small>

 

 

 

Not all condoms are created equal. For years my nightstand was stocked with Trojans, Lifestyles and other big wigs in the prophylactic game. And it was fine. It was much better than fine – it was sex! The kind of fun, feel-good sex that comes from knowing my risk of STIs and pregnancy were drastically reduced!

I was perfectly happy with the old latex standbys, until I began work at Venus Envy. That’s when I discovered Crown condoms. Crowns are (to the best of my knowledge) the thinnest condoms available on the market today. They’re crafted by top condom engineers, who use a super-duper strong grade of latex, so we can enjoy the same barrier protection with significantly less material. To put things in perspective, a standard-issue Trojan condom has a thickness of 0.0027″. A Trojan thin has a thickness of 0.0o19″. Meanwhile the Crown condom has a thickness of  0.00181″.

What difference does a thousandth of a inch makes? I can say from experience that it’s like having a whole different kind of sex.

Crowns provide significantly more transmission of sensation during sex. Significantly more. They’re also great if you’re into blowjobs but not into the taste or smell of latex. In addition to being thinner, Crowns are a slightly longer and larger than average condoms, with means they may work for some of the Magnum wearing crew as well. Crowns are lightly lubricated, but I recommend adding more for extended penetration and always for going up the bum.

Not only are Crowns amazing for sensation and safer sex fun, they’re also movie stars. If you watch adult films, you may have noticed that most actors use the same pink condoms before getting down to action. Those are Crowns!

Unfortunately these wundergummis are rarely available in major chain grocery stores. But they’re frequently in stock at sex shops like Venus Envy, The Condom Shack and Good Vibrations. Alternatively, you can order online through sites like Condom Depot, Top Condoms Canada or even Amazon.com.

When it comes to increased sensation I gotta say, for my money, Crowns are king!

 

Last week I read 50 Shades Of Grey, the erotic, pulp fiction sensation that is sweeping several nations. I’ve heard a lot about this book and now that I’ve read it I have a LOT to say about it. In the spirit of the 50 Shades trilogy, this week I’ll be posting three entries on my experience in the Grey zone.

MY BOOK REPORT ON 50 SHADES OF GREY

by Nadine K. Thornhill

Synopsis

50 Shades of Grey is the first in a trilogy of erotic novels written by E.L. James. It was originally conceived as Twilight fan fiction and then later reconceived as book porn. The story is told from the perspective of 21-year-old Anastasia Steele, who falls in love/lust with Christian Grey, a 27-year-old business magnate. Christian entices Ana to explore BDSM and a whole lot of kinky sex ensues. Over the course of the book we learn that Christian is dominant with a troubled past who has difficulty wearing pants correctly. Ana… bites her lip a lot.

What I Liked About 50 Shades Of Grey

The sex scenes. They are, in my opinion, some of the better written scenes in the book. Spanking and sexual power roles are big turn ons for me. When I chose to disregard the surrounding narrative, the tawdriest parts of 50 Shades definitely stimulated my libido and imagination. It’s also inspired a few ideas that I’d like to try with my partner…and a plethora of masturbatory fantasies!

On a meta-level, I like that 50 Shades Of Grey is bringing discussions of BDSM and other kink into the mainstream. I like that it has prompted conversations about other, arguably better, erotic literature. Reading about sex can be hella fun and if this book helps people feel more comfortable with book porn, I’m all for that!

What I Didn’t Like About 50 Shades Of Grey

Sex scenes not withstanding, I thought the writing was remarkably bad.

As a fellow writer, I can’t bring myself to hate on E.L. James. Like me, she’s just a woman sitting at her computer typing words and doing the best she can. But unlike me, a publisher looked her work and decided it was suitable for mass publishing. That’s the part that baffles me. I can’t imagine reading this manuscript and wanting to distribute it (although it is a runaway hit, so what do I know from publishing).

Here’s an example of what I mean. There’s running commentary by Ana’s “subsconscious”  and “inner goddess” respectively . It’s all meant to very be Freudian (I think). It could have been an interesting convention if it weren’t executed thusly:

Stop Stop now! my subsconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration. Get in the car, go home, do your studying. Forget about him…Now! And stop all this self-pitying, wallowing crap. (p. 37)

First of all, this isn’t Ana’s subconscious.  It’s a straight up conscience. Also? What’s metaphorical screaming? Since when do psychological processes have arms, legs and feet?  And why does her inner voice “speak” in italics but then doesn’t? Which brings me to another beef…

Why didn’t 50 Shades have an editor? I’m assuming there was no editor because of style glitches like those in the previous paragraph. Also because of the excessive repetition of phrases such as:

“Foil packet” (10 times)

“He cocks/is cocking his head to one side” (23 times)

There are also 43 references to lip biting.

There are weird character inconsistencies, odd uses of language , awkward metaphors and on and on. At the end of the day this book is meant to be escapist fantasy and many won’t care that this isn’t Pulitzer calibre writing. I just found it irksome after awhile.

Sorry…one more writing gripe. Christian wants to send Ana e-mail and she’s all a-fluster because Oh no, the Internet! and Yikes, technology! and Eek! I don’t even have a computer! Reminder: Ana is a COLLEGE LITERATURE MAJOR LIVING IN THIS CENTURY!

Feh.

What Bummed Me Out About 50 Shades Of Grey

It isn’t hard to see the Twilight-y origins of 50 Shades. I think that Twilight is for suck. Unfortunately, 50 Shades has a lot in common with it’s source material.

Christian Grey shares many of the same repellent qualities as Edward Cullen. We’re told ad nauseum that he’s irresistibly good looking. He’s also controlling, manipulative and a full on creeper a la Edward. Like in Twilight, 50 Shades tells us that creepers are romantic. For real. Dude stalk because they care. When Christian suddenly appears in Ana’s bedroom or follows her across the country (after she EXPRESSLY TOLD HIM NOT TO), it’s not douchebaggery, it’s love.

Bumming hard, you guys. Bumming hard.

Christian chastises Ana when she isn’t completely open with him, yet he shuts down emotionally when she asks about his personal life. When Ana breaks down and confesses that her first experience with spanking was sexually exciting but also left her feeling “demeaned, debased and abused”, Christian’s response is “Do you feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this?”  Pressumably, we’re meant to see this as part of Christian Gray’s powerful, commanding allure but in my opinion, he’s just being a jerk.

Meanwhile Ana is completely passive. 50 Shades of Grey is about Ana’s adventures as the submissive to Grey’s dominant. However, as a wise friend once put it ,”being submissive isn’t the same as being passive.” Ana is a woman without any sexual agency. As it’s written, the woman has had no sexual feelings, let alone sexual experiences until her libido is triggered by alleged for of nature that is Christian Gray. She’s a good girl who loves her mom and never masturbates, who succumbs to sex, rather than actively participating in it.  Like Twilight’s Bella Swan, Anastasia Steele never instigates the action, she only reacts to sexy, good-looking dude of the story.

I cannot tell you how much it depresses me that both Bella and Ana were created by female authors.

What  Pissed Me Off About 50 Shades Of Grey

My final complaint is also my biggest. For a book that’s mostly about sex, I found 50 Shades of Grey to be intensely sex-negative. Like I said, the sex scenes themselves didn’t bother me (except for those ubiquitous foil packets), but everything that happened around them made rage with frustration.

In some ways, 50 Shades is no more offensive than any other bodice-ripping novel. That having been said, I think a lot of those books perpetuate some pretty unfortunately myths about what constitutes great romance and hot sex. And yes they’re just books, but I think  many of those myths have influenced our real-life ideas and negotiations around sex. Again, I’m happy if erotica is moving into the mainstream. But I’m not happy that the book that’s leading the movement relies on tropes such as:

 – For women, being “good” means existing in a default state of naiveté, innocence and sexual passivity.

– Desirable women are young, straight, slender, white and have long hair that goes wavy on command.

– Desirable men are wealthy, well-muscled, also straight and highly skilled lovers.

– Women never want sex until a dude comes along and makes them want sex.

– Men never want love or emotional commitment until a woman comes along a makes them want love.

– When men do fall in love, they hate it. The get grumpy and start muttering – usually stuff about how the woman is “doing something” to him.

– Women should be happy when men get grouchy and start blaming them for feelings. It’s love!

– Women should be happy when men are controlling, stalkery and jealous. It’s love!

50 Shades also perpetuates some pretty negative stereotypes about BDSM and how the type of people who practice it are fucked up. . Ana repeatedly comments (internally, of course) on Christian’s fucked up childhood, his fucked up attitude and how they’ve contributed to the fucked up ways he likes to have sex.

Christian isn’t just a dominant. He’s domineering. He manipulates Ana at every opportunity. He uses sex and kink to to alternately entice and terrorize her. Despite having only been sexual partners for a couple of weeks, Grey insists that Ana “trust him” and sign a contract that would not only give him complete sexual control but also control over virtually ever aspect of her life.

Christian does explain to Ana that as a sexual submissive she always has the power to say no. However every time she says no, expresses resistance or uncertainty, he either shuts her out or seduces her with his I’m-So-Sexy sexmagiks.

So yes, Christian is fucked up. But BDSM is not. In fact the motto I’ve always heard regarding BDSM is safe, sane and consensual. Many, many people explore various aspects of BDSM in their sex lives for no other reason than it feels good and they enjoy it. I’m so tired of the CSI/Law & Order portrayal of kink as a manifestation of some dark psychological problem.

Again, I know it’s a fantasy. I don’t expect chapters dedicated to a long-term relationship with nuanced  sexual negotiation. But sanity and consent can still be part of a sexy make-believe world. Why did Christian have to be screwed up. Why did Ana have spend the whole book resisting?

Instead it was a lot of manipulation and Ana feeling ambivalent and implications that Christian’s desire to exert sexual pain and control had to do with an abusive childhood, rather a simple sexual desire.

Seriously, there were times 50 Shades got me so pissy I wanted to throw it across the room. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) I was reading it on my iPad.

Conclusion

I know a lot of people have read and liked 50 Shades of Grey. Despite my personal criticisms, I don’t want to make anyone feel bad for enjoying the book. Some people will be able to overlook it’s shortcomings and simply take as the sexy story I suspect it was intended to be. But 50 Shades just wasn’t my speed. I found the characters deeply flawed and the sexual politics troubling. I felt relieved when I finished…and not in the pleasant, post-coital way.

Have or someone you know read 50 Shades Of Grey? What did you think? Or are you someone who’s avoiding it like the plague? Can’t wait to read what you have to say in the comments!