Monday, April 23, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey: Spanking Goes Mainstream

This post has been modified. Please see note at bottom for details.

Mainstream magazines are all atwitter with E.L. James' wildly successful book Fifty Shades of Grey, riding atop the New York Times Bestseller List (and holding steady for seven weeks!) even before it landed Stateside. Newsweek, ABC News, Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly and Access Hollywood are all talking about this kinky "mommy porn" as it's been dubbed, whatever that is. In fact, it's this week's cover story on Newsweek

E L James, a television segment producer for the BBC originally began submitting Twilight fan fiction online that became so popular she modified the work into her trilogy of BDSM-tinged spanking erotica. Now the book is out in the States selling like London Tanner implements at a vendor fair and a feature film deal has already been inked to the tune of USD$5 million.

The interesting thing isn't that people are eating up this fluffy bit of erotica, it's that the erotica is based in spanking, D/s and BDSM. Though Newsweek refers to Fifty Shades of Grey as "...[a] watered-down, skinny-vanilla-latte version of sadomasochism" I'd say low-cal latte versions of our particular brand of kink hitting the mainstream is better than having it vilified. 

Evidently, like home video made porn more mainstream and the internet made it really explode, devices like Kindles, iPads and Nooks are allowing women readers in droves to surreptitiously get moist on busses, subways, airplanes and office cubicles without worrying about anyone catching the main character's bondage tie on the slipcover. Again, all good things. 

Could Fifty Shades of Grey be the trojan horse us kinksters have been looking for to get people more accepting and interested in kink, or at least something more blushingly acceptable as a good bit of over-the-knee spanking. Could a satisfied rader of E L James' work lead to a search of Amazon and discovering the works of other writers, such as Erica Scott or onto Bethany's Woodshed? 

Of course, we had last year's A Dangerous Method in which sexy, skinny Keira Knightley of Pirates of the Caribbean fame got tied to a bedpost and spanked, which also couldn't hurt our "cause" and could lead to people discovering more straight-ahead spanking videos.

Newsweek says:  "It is intriguing that huge numbers of women are eagerly consuming myriad and disparate fantasies of submission at a moment when women are ascendant in the workplace, when they make up almost 60 percent of college students, when they are close to surpassing men as breadwinners, with four in 10 working women now outearning their husbands, when the majority of women under 30 are having and supporting children on their own, a moment when-in hard economic terms-women are less dependent or subjugated than before."

Yes, it is intriguing. Is it simply because women feel they are empowered enough, strong enough and open enough to say what they want without fear of being dragged by the hair back into the cave? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Psychology Today estimates that between 31-57% of women entertain fantasies of forced sex. For all the control women are getting in the world today, are these put-together, go-getter, fast-paced, type-A in-control ladies really looking for a little release once in a while? And for those not compelled enough to seek it out in person, does a little fluffy semipornographic kinky erotica just the thing to help them out? Or am I oversimplifying the situation?

In Fifty Shades, the heroine Anastasia Steele isn't a kinkster herself, she's in love with one, so she's willing to subject herself to his pain, punishments, domination and humiliations in order to be with him. Perhaps that's part of the allure. Vanilla women can relate to Anastasia because she's not "fucked up" like most of my Kinky Friends and I are here. Maybe that makes it okay. Perhaps it's just because it's a romanticized fantasy.

I posit it's just the books' Snickers-like approach: a little firm, a little soft & chewy and just the right amount of nuttiness to satisfy. It's not too weird as to truly offend (okay, it'll always offend those on the far, far right, but so does mainstream non-kink that may just be a bit too promiscuous for their Puritanical tastes, for Pete's sake) but racy enough to go beyond the typical Harlequin cookie cutter.

It doesn't matter to me. Any PR for spanking is good PR as far as I'm concerned. E L James has two more books in the trilogy out, already on the Best Seller list as well, I'm told. I eagerly await a day when we don't have to skulk around hotels with paddles under our trenchcoats on our way to a suite party or regale our posts online to "fringe" blogs like this one.

I am eager to hear your thoughts on this one, Kinky Friends.

[Updated April 24, 5:30 p.m.: This post originally reported that E L James' two additional books in her trilogy were forthcoming in the States. As noted by a Commenter, they are already out in the U.S. The post has been corrected.]


  1. I wrote two blog posts on topic. Her three books are on the shelves and are first, second and third on some best seller lists.

  2. Very well-written.

    I have a myriad of thoughts on the subject; I'm not sure how popular they'd be.

    The book unsettles me, but I am determined not to form any opinions on the book itself 'til I've read it. I need to put that on my to-do list. :D

    I will say, on my Facebook another Mother commented that she was curling up with this book and a bag of peppermint patties, and you'd be impressed by the enthusiastic response from others out there of the same ilk.

  3. I guess I'm a little behind, joeyred51. I thought the other two weren't out for a bit. Thanks for the clarification. Guess I'm not as in the know as I thought...

  4. Thanks for writing again, A'marie. I'm not going to comment on your friend. I think she's pretty representative of the primary consumer of the book...

  5. I haven't read the book(s). I may end up doing so just for the sake of cultural literacy, but I have a feeling I won't care for them. Not because I don't like the subject matter, because I certainly do. But I've heard and read from several sources that the books are badly written, repetitive and cliché-ridden. I hate reading bad writing, even if it's kinky.

    HOWEVER -- as you said, I'm happy to see anything that could help TTWD to be looked upon as something hot and romantic and fun (as we know it is), rather than a dark and sick activity reserved for weirdos in dungeons. Now, if we could have a series of similar books that are well-written... but perhaps that's asking too much!

  6. Thanks for your thoughts, Erica.

    BTW, I'm one of those "dark and sick weirdos in dungeons" fuckyouverymuch. ;-)

  7. I haven't read the book, but I have read the Newsweek article, and I found it both disappointing and disturbing. I've read a number of columns and essays that criticized that article; this one is as good a place as any to start.

  8. Yes, there's a lot out there complaining about her rape talk, Indy. I appreciate you writing twice with two posts! Wow!

  9. I'm going to have to check this book out because I keep hearing about it. I can't form too much of an opinion without having read it, but I agree with you that any kink related things going mainstream could do good with opening a few people's eyes to it. I do like hiding implements in my trenchcoat, though.

  10. Glad to hear it, Lea. From those I know who have read it (and I'll admit, I haven't-nor do I have any interest in reading anything dubbed "mommy porn") they say the sex is hot, the kink is misinformed and the story weak, so there you go.

  11. You can get all three books on Amazon KIndle

  12. Well, there you go. Thanks, Anonymous!

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  15. at least i don't feel like such a weird for liking spanking now haha

    1. Well, you shouldn't! There's absolutely nothing wrong with it.