So 50 Shades just got kind of outrageous.
I find it hard to believe that this woman who is 21, graduating from college, and has a roommate who is kind of a sex pot knows nothing of the way sex works… Didn’t everyone take sex ed classes in, like, middle school? It’s one thing to be a virgin, that’s fine and believable, it was a stretch that she didn’t masturbate (especially after falling for Grey)… I guess that’s plausible, but that she didn’t know that the vagina expands to meet the size of the penis… come on now. I get that she is supposed to be innocent and Grey is the exact opposite, but come on.
So of course the irony is… Most sex ed classes don’t teach you a damn thing about how sex actually works. Not in the U.S. anyway, I have no idea how sex ed works in the UK where James is from.
It’s fascinating to me what parts of this book people find believable versus not.
According to Guttmacher, the average age of sexual onset is 17. That leaves a variance of about 3 years in either direction as fairly normal. (Yes, some people have sex for the first time when they’re 13 or 14.)
The Kinsey Institute even has a CHART! Of ages which is pretty fascinating. According to this, 77% of women will have had sexual intercourse by age 19, which increases to 92% by age 22-24. So Ana’s sexual inexperience isn’t that bizarre.
Fyi, Abstinence-Only Sex Ed programs don’t have any impact on the age of sexual onset, but they do have a strongly negative impact on how people approach sex when they do get around to having it, and whether they are prepared (Ana isn’t, she’s “shocked” by Christian asking whether she’s on the Pill. Sigh.) Ab-Only definitely won’t go into the mechanics of female sexual arousal, but then again, I don’t think most “comprehensive” sex-ed classes do either.
Onto Masturbation! I’ve noticed a lot of people find the idea that Ana never masturbated before really hard to swallow, but it’s actually not that far fetched.
Generally speaking, women seem to start masturbating at a later age than men do, and the average age for first orgasm in women is much later than men.
The average age of first orgasm is generally around 17-19, with many women not experiencing one until their early 20s. The reason for this is hard to explain, but two likely contributors is the fact that when people talk about “masturbation” they’re often implicitly referring to men, and there’s a large resource of cultural jokes about boys jerking off, but the same is not true for women. Women’s genitalia are also not as “obvious”; during puberty boys often literally start experiencing spontaneous erections.
On the point about sex education, the vast majority of programs do not talk about pleasure, not even the comprehensive ones. And they often completely ignore the Clitoris! Western culture is obnoxiously phallocentric, so even if a girl were interested in masturbating, the intercourse-based sexual script might not lead her explorations to anything pleasurably productive enough to keep at it.
Story time! When I was in high school, a good friend of mine absolutely blew. my. mind. when she said she never masturbated, because it “just wasn’t that interesting.” Looking back since then I often wonder if it was because she was focused on penetration instead of clitoral stimulation.
There’s a significant gap between both the frequency and overall masturbation rates of men at women at age 18, where 61% of men reported masturbating in the last month and 86% say they’ve ever masturbated, compared to 26% of women in the last month and 66% having ever masturbated. (Talk about an enthusiasm gap?) These rates increase but never quite reach parity by the 25-29 age bracket, where they’re closest to equal.
So it’s not that bizarre that Ana has never masturbated herself to orgasm either.
I think what ends up being particularly just no insanity, is how she is so completely bewildered by all the feels she has “down there” in those “strange muscles.”
Here are some stats on Sex Education in the U.S. from Guttmacher:
One last point: 5% of women say they can achieve orgasm through non-genital stimulation such as fantasy, nipple stimulation or by simply squeezing their legs together. And, less than 8% of ladies have an orgasm during their first intercourse.
So, congrats to EL James! For creating the most unbelievable virginal character ever!
I just want to take a moment to appreciate this.
I don’t really know how to label this other than, #PlotDeviceisaBadPlotDevice
There’s a whole sequence where Christian’s mother is practically banging his door down while Taylor-the-Butler-Ninja is trying to politely convince her not to. Christian forces Ana to meet his mother, just out of the blue… Oh you know honey we were just fucking and have known each other a week, here’s my mom!
I think this is the author’s horrible attempt at establishing that, like, Christian has feelings for Ana because “omg none of his other subs ever met his family” and his family apparently was also super-worried that he was gay (…Why do you care if he’s gay?!) But of course, Ana is too dense to come to that conclusion, so instead she spends the whole time using Mrs. Grey as a means to feel bad about herself because Mrs. Grey is *le gasp!* pretty.
So the whole intro to this scene is that Mrs. Grey Desperately. Needs. To See. Her Son. And how DARE Taylor. Try. To. Stop. Her. From Barging. Into. The Bedroom. Of a 27-year-old Man…. Or something.
And then like 2 minutes later it’s all LOLWELL “DON’T WANT TO INTERRUPT YOUR DAY!”
Yeah. Okay Writer.
Why?! WHY IS SHE BRAVE?! WHY WOULD YOU SAY THIS?!
I don’t understand. This happens right after he shows her his dungeon/playroom, and some of the rules, but then he says “fuck the rules,” so apparently none of that actually applies, and he asks her to spend the night so that he can “rectify the [virginity] situation.”
WHY ON EARTH would you say “you’re really brave” to someone you’re about to have (non-kinky, mind you!) sex with?
Why does this book want SO BADLY to convince us that Christian, and the things that he likes to do, are dangerous, sick and twisted… When the author is generally insisting that the books are a “love story”? WHY!
You cannot tell me that this is not a book about creepy stalking abuse. You just can’t. I refuse. Clearly even withinthe book’s own universe, everything that Christian does is wrong. Not just, “oo this is so kinky and wrong, hee hee!” But actually seriously dangerous and unhealthy. …I do not understand. I think this line is supposed to be a compliment or something, but I just don’t even…
This is so…I want to think wrong, but somehow it’s not. It’s right for Chrisitan. It’s what he wants - and after the last few days…after all he’s done, I have to man up and take whatever he decides he wants, whatever he thinks he needs.
NO. IT’S NOT ABOUT WHAT HE WANTS. IT’S ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT. THAT’S WHY DOM/SUB RELATIONSHIPS WORK, BECAUSE IT’S WHAT BOTH PEOPLE IN THE RELATIONSHIP WANT.
That right there is my big problem with this book. Because it’s all about what Christian wants, about whether Christian is happy, whether Christian wants her or not.
What do YOU want, Ana? If the things he asks you to do make you feel dirty, if you want a simple relationship like Kate and Elliot have, DUMP HIS ASS AND GO FIND A BOY WHO MAKES YOU HAPPY.
And you shouldn’t let this guy tie you up and beat you with a riding crop just because he bought you a bunch of new clothes and bought you some first class tickets and took you gliding or whatever. You should want him to tie you up and beat you with a riding crop because it’s what YOU WANT, because it makes you feel good or whatever.
THIS IS NOT A DIFFICULT CONCEPT.
Omg this. Emphasis added by me.
She even actually mentions feeling whorish and used, multiple times, and for the longest time I thought it was just because money can make people feel awkward. Because it can, and the differences between how a rich person spends money and a person of modest means spends money aren’t just about dollars for the poorer person, it becomes about “throwing money away” and that’s not something that the poorer classes are raised to feel is appropriate. So the way he so casually dismisses her concerns about this, about feeling cheap, annoyed me for his inability to see his fucking upper class privilege.
But it’s not just that. It’s that she see’s him as something unattainable, that she’s unworthy of, this gorgeous powerful hugely wealthy man whose teeth are always pearly white and his butt smells of roses… Like, that level of unattainable, so she figures that she has to make this big sacrifice in order to keep him— and of course, that’s the romance/fairy tale formula, so it makes a certain kind of sense.
But it’s wrong, so wrong.
So I work at a bookstore. And like most bookstores, we’ve been selling out of 50 Shades of Grey like it’s going out of style.
It’s not a book that’s on my must-read list, but none of those reasons have to do with the fact that it’s unrepentant smut. (I prefer my unrepentant smut to be of the non-hetero variety.) However, I’m getting sick of the fact that much of the criticism of this book and its sudden popularity revolve around the fact that it’s unrepentant smut, and the fact that it’s targeted to and primarily purchased by women. At a regular bookstore! Where it’s stocked not only on the shelves, but on special displays! IN BROAD DAYLIGHT! How dare they.
So at the end of the day, whatever the quality of the book and whatever its Twilight-fan fic origins, it comes down to this: Women are buying porn, buy the bucketload, with no shame.
I can’t even comprehend how extremely fucking awesome that is. This is porn written by a woman, for women, and from the perspective of a woman, and when you consider that, it’s not surprising that it came out of the fan fic community. If 50 Shades wasn’t the “it” book of the moment, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity of a septuagenarian recommending me porn over the phone while complaining about her hip.
Porn is supposed to be covert, and it’s supposed to be for men. Our (straight) erotica section is tucked away in the Health section. Even though there’s hints of porn everywhere, there’s still a culture of shame around it, and especially around porn for women. And what’s interesting about 50 Shades is that it exists in a variety of public places. Yes, you can covertly order it on Amazon or read it as an e-book, but it’s also telling that our big-box independent bookstore can’t get paperback copies in fast enough. Reading is a solo activity, but the physical presence of a book allows it to be lent out and passed along. And 50 Shades’ cover is suggestive, but not overtly sexual, which makes it appropriate to read in public as well as in private, as well as the fact that text-based porn is less obvious than image-based porn.
But we’ve still got the fact that one of the most commonly-mocked aspects of 50 Shades is the fact that it’s not just sex, it’s kinky sex.
But I do know that porn for straight girls is a rare creature (as is porn for queer girls and most people who are not cis men), and part of it is because women aren’t supposed to have sexual appetites independent of men. And 50 Shades’ popularity is debunking the hell out of that.
I don’t really understand how trends happen. I don’t get why 50 Shades took off in a way that other smut hasn’t.
50 Shades is mockable, just as anything is mockable. I have no qualms about making fun of it. I don’t think it’s the best quality porn I’ve read, and I’m all for mocking the writing style. A sketch about Gilbert Gottfried reading a 50 Shades audiobook? Absolutely fucking hilarious. There’s a lot about porn that’s really funny, especially when it takes itself too seriously, which 50 Shades does at times. But I’m really, really sick of people criticizing, belittling, and generally being asshats about the fact that women are buying kinky porn.
Lots of the above. Breaking down the shame factor surrounding porn, and the idea that women (still, somehow, people have this idea) don’t enjoy porn— All pluses! Hopefully this blog does not ever fall into the trap of making fun of these books because it’s porn, or because it’s for women… My point on this blog is usually to look at the problems with the books that the media is largely completely incapable (or refuses) to look at at all.
Glad y’alls are enjoying the 50 Shades of Grey liveblogs.
I’m waiting for my family to ask me what I’m reading.
OH NOTHING, JUST HILARIOUSLY BAD PORN. LET’S HAVE A READ-ALOUD!
Oo, and fun drinking game for this book: Drink every time Anastasia says “Oh my…” in her head. Drink again every time…
Omg. A read-aloud-round on all the tumblr’s currently engaged in sporking this book chapter by chapter (or however they’ve decided to break it up) …. That would be kind of hilariously awfulsome.
This is one of those moments where I really wish this book was something other than what it is. I reeeaaalllyyyy do.
I want this book to be about the awkwardness of being uninitiated, about not having the experience to even be able to articulate where your limits are or what you do and don’t like. I want this book to be about not knowing whether you like a particular toy or not because not only have you never used one, but it’s a foreign word and you don’t know what it means.
I want this book to be about how uncomfortable and nervousness-inducing that is. And that it’s okay. And that when people expect you to be able to rattle off this long litany of specific hard and soft limits like you’re reciting the pledge or the capitals of all 50 states, that they’re flipping insane and that’s not how desire works anyway.
… But instead, he just gets irrationally angry with her for not having told him beforehand that she was a virgin— AS IF THAT WAS WHY SHE COULDN’T GIVE SPECIFIC LIMITS FOR A BDSM RELATIONSHIP GOD THIS BOOK IS STUPID, and I’m immediately disappointed.
… Did he just imply she shouldn’t use her safe words? Did he really? Really Book, Really?
I think, if you don’t know anything about BDSM at all, this line reads something vaguely like, “I hope I never accidentally push you too far, because I don’t want to hurt you.” I think it’s supposed to be reassuring, and sweet, or something.
However, what this actually says is, “Lol I am Lord Domly Dom I know what I’m doing, Of Course I would never push you too far, and if you are really submissive you will never safe word!” Especially because this comes right after the “I Never Make Mistakes" glare, and not even 5 minutes ago, he was actively intimidating her.
It’s also important to understand where Ana’s mindset is, and what her motivations are… We’ve already been told numerous important and alarming things about her: she “desperately wants to please” Christian, she is totally star-struck by him, she doesn’t believe she is “worthy” of him but desperately wants him to continue liking her. She believes that he is incapable of love and that BDSM is the stuff she has to do, to suffer through, in order to have any kind of relationship with him. And, she’s regularly intimidated by him anyway. …Are we really supposed to believe that this is a situation where she feels empowered enough to use her safe words if she really needed to? (Answer: Fuck No.)
The BDSM community has a lot of conversations about safe words and such, and what it means when somebody uses them, and they can become quite contentious debates sometimes. Some people take it as a personal insult, like safe wording is like the most awful thing because it suggests that they make a mistake or they went too far. Some people also seem to treat safe words as an automatic end to all sceneing, that all play not only stops, but ends any future play for that scene.
I don’t agree with either of those perspectives. The first is an ego-centric response and indicates to me, someone who thinks too highly of themselves and isn’t capable of admitting their faults. All dom/tops have faults. All of them. We all make mistakes because we’re human. The second makes safe wording ‘dangerous’ because it becomes an all-or-nothing situation. When using a safe word to try to protect yourself turns into a punishment, maybe because all play stops when you really just couldn’t do that one particular thing, you have a problem.
There is also sometimes an attitude of competitiveness towards who can be the most “extreme”, who can take or give the most pain, do the most intense scenes, people who look down their noses at the concept of safe words because it’s not “extreme” or “real” enough. Or that safe wording out means you are weak or “not a real [sub/bottom/slave]”.
These things together create a coercive environment against bottom/subs using their safe words, which is dangerous and unhealthy.
In MY Opinion… A safe dom/top would encourage a new sub/bottom to use their safe words, because playing with someone you don’t know very well means you can’t be certain whether they’ll safe word early, or too late, or try to prove themselves and refuse to safe word at all even though they have long passed the point of enjoyment into actual torture. A safe dom/top wants to reassure their play partner that they truly care about their safety, and thatit is in fact safe to use a safe word, that they will never be disappointed or angry about having to stop play unexpectedly. A wise dom/top also knows that treating their toys well and caring about them enough to do this means they get to play more often.
Personally I’m in favor of check-ins and green/yellow/red (or similar) safe words that allow frequent communication when something becomes uncomfortable or starts to go beyond what they can handle. Ideally, regular communication means you can distinguish between when something just needs to “change” versus “everything needs to stop, now, end scene.” No one should ever feel intimidated about using their safe words.
Also, back to the point about abuse… Abusers will regularly intimidate their partners out of using their safe words, while simultaneously arguing that “you had a safe word, and you didn’t use it, therefore you consented to everything I did to you, and this is not abuse.”
There are so, so many things wrong with this book.
This is how you know that this relationship is abuse:
warns threatens Ana not to “make” him apologize. Make him apologize? I thought apologies were for when you fuck up, hurt someone, or make a mistake?? Christian Grey never makes mistakes? Fuck you book. Fuck. You.
Ana is visibly fearful and falls back in line. She’s cowed and subdued. In her head she vaguely acknowledges that maybe this is sort of inappropriate, but she does absolutely fuck all about it. This is either a conditioned response of survival by someone in an abusive situation who knows that it’s dangerous to push their abuser too far, or she’s just an idiot and has no backbone.
This is during a “negotiation” conversation about limits. Is he trying to Dom her while negotiating?
Ana has just been told that Christian never makes mistakes, to never question him or force him to look at things from her perspective under implied threat during a conversation about what her limits are, where she needs to be clearly and firmly setting boundaries. Where the communication channels need to be as open and honest as possible.
Worst. Dom. EVER.
If anything, the novel accurately portrays how submissives in the BDSM community actually have more control than their “Doms”.
Why. Why would you say this. Why. This is insanity. No. Stop. Just stop. #Stopitrightnow! #Crying