Sunday, September 02, 2012

Recap: MBS Sunday Brunch for Sep 2

Our topic this week was the impact upon our community and the larger society of the Fifty Shades books. Here's what you had to say.

Fondles: As with anything that remains largely hidden from social view, and then finds its way into the limelight, the effects will varied and no one really can predict the outcome.

Having said that, I'm not crazy about my vanilla friends' responses to it. They're all gushing about how wonderful the male lead is for abandoning his BDSM tendencies for love.

Sigh. That can't be good at all (imho).

Six of the Best: In my opinion, it will put spanking on the sexual map of the world. Like Columbus, Marco Polo, and Vasco de Gama, it will be explored, for better or worse.

That analogy seems right on target. The places those explorers “discovered” were already populated.

Mick: Adult spanking has been slowly gaining acceptability for some time. They flirt with subject all the time on TV.

I haven't read the book either and don't plan to. But I think it's safe to say that it is one more baby step in the progression this subject has been making in mainline society.

Or perhaps spanking is making a return in society, as it used to be more accepted.

Faerie: I haven't read the books and don't intend to, but anything that gets women talking about and exploring there own sexuality is a good thing.

Ana: I feel a bit unqualified to respond because, like Mick, I haven't read the books and don't plan to. From the very little I've seen quoted, I have to say from a writer's standpoint, it's not much to write home about.

I don't think it will make much difference because, from what I understand, the fantasies upon which the book is based are all familiar and old ones. A rich older guy sweeps an young innocent girl off her feet and needs to heal some of his own hurts.

Personally, I think it would be more original and more interesting (if definitely less popular) to see a popularized F/M or F/F novel, or one that included platonic spanking. *That*, I think, would have a positive influence on our community.

Hermione: I think it's great that the books have brought spanking out of the closet and people are talking openly about it. There has never been such a widespread public reaction to a fictional portrayal of BDSM - movie, book or other - that has caused such a stir. I agree, it portrays TTWD in a somewhat bad light, and there are inaccuracies that could give people the wrong impression. But on the whole, what's happening is good, and will have a positive effect on the acceptance of spanking as an acceptable lifestyle.

Kate Fresh: I love the books! My best friend recommended that I read them because they were "so hot." I was shocked when I started reading a story similar to the spanking fiction that I tucked away in private to save myself from the mortification of having someone see what I was reading.

In my opinion, the fact that millions of "vanilla" readers are enjoying and creating dialog about these books and the lifestyle is a good thing. The list of rules the dom creates for the sub can easily be translated into a domestic discipline relationship, give or take a few things. I imagine that someone who plans to pursue a relationship like Christian and Ana's will also do alternative research on the Internet and will possibly end up at one of our blogs. There, they will find accurate stereotypes for whatever type of alternative lifestyle they choose to embark upon.

Personally, knowing that so many people have read the books allows me to be a little less embarrassed when my husband smacks my butt in public or warns me to behave in front of our friends.

Lillie: I have no plans to read them, as others have said. I just am not really interested in that sort of thing. But c'est la vie. If that floats your boat, go for it.

It is probably a fad, like Segways, and the next thing we know, the masses will move on to something else. Maybe they'll be wearing a bone through the nose or something.

Rosie: I found the books offensive. Let's ignore the extraordinarily poor writing and disgustingly dependent relationship. Just the spanking.

It was a pathetic attempt at making it appealing to the masses. Nine smacks with his hand as a punishment? That is a joke. Six swats with the belt and she breaks up with him? Good lord.

Most importantly, I am offended that the BDSM/spanker in the relationship had to have an abusive childhood to be attracted to this lifestyle. And that he had to be "cured" in order to stop. What next? Is the author going to tell us that being gay is a mental illness too? That's the way to set us back a couple of decades. Ugh! :)

Emen: I doubt there'll much lasting impact. :) That was your pun, sweetie, not mine. I remember the vanilla frenzy over Nine and a Half Weeks. The wretched movie adaptation pretty much killed that.

My best vanilla gf read Shades for her book club. She was offended by the awful writing and in her disappointment that she didn't think that was "good kink." She asked me where was the good kink? I sent her The Story of O. No reply yet. :)

We've been under a liberal administration. The mainstream boundaries always stretch during those times. It's all that pent up frustration from the previous conservative time. I'm for anything that widens constructs and lets the soul breathe. I love many vanilla. If that gave them a tickle, it's all good.

This was a great topic for brunch, but I'm amazed that I could speak after the picture of that sandwich. Could I just go back and look at that? What are we drinking with that?

Please enjoy the sandwich in any manner that pleases you. We have a wide variety of tasty beverages at brunch. Please help yourself.

Julia: I am not sure whether this will be a benefit to our little community. To a degree, yes. We will have a few more members that will stick to this lifestyle, but others will want to try, and may just disappear again as the frenzy of the books is slowly leaving the news...

David: When you've been spanked for over forty years, a book isn't going to make much difference to the colour of my bottom. It will encourage people to explore. I didn't know that you and all our friends just lived over the fence. I lurked for ages until I had to wave. It's you and Hermione who deserve the credit, not a badly written book.

Thank you, David. You make an interesting point. Those books really aren't aimed at us. The target audience is the vanilla world that doesn't even know we exist.

Minelle Labraun: I think whatever floats your boat. Obviously, it is nothing like this side of the fence, but I enjoyed them for what they were. I do believe there are way more spankos out of the closet due in part to the acceptability of the books. Listen, anything that gets the conversation going.

Lil Misses: Fifty Shades is what got me investigating and eventually committing to a DD lifestyle. But I don't think that is necessarily true for the masses. I wrote a post about it a while back. I am a spanko who is out of the closet now...

Abby: I did read all three. On the positive side, the books got people talking about spanking and sexuality. On the very negative side, I don't think the author even bothered to research anything about BDSM. Last week, I surprised my daughters when they were asking each other if they had read it... and informed them that I had!

Reece Seever: It is with embarrassment that I say I have, indeed, read the books. I have you yet to meet another male who will admit to doing so, so I admit my reader status with more than a little embarrassment.

I have mixed feelings about them. First, as Rosie says, the writing is, for the most part, awful. Especially the first book. And, it does degenerate pretty quickly into a fairly pedestrian "good girl saves and heals bad boy" tale.

But, they have undeniably tapped into something. I was on an airplane recently, and I saw at least three women reading it openly, and their age range appeared to be from mid-20s to low-70s. And, it seems like all of my female friends have read or are in the process of reading them.

I don't think it can hurt the spanking and DD communities to have this kind of attention paid to BDSM themes and to have it achieve such open examination and, seemingly, not only acceptance but active interest.

However, anyone who has read the books knows there actually is very little spanking in them. As Rosie points out, a few swats with a belt leaves the heroine running away in horror. From that point forward, I think there is only one spanking and it is light stuff. The heroine does come to explore her kinky side, which I think is good for everyone, but there is really more in the book for the bondage crowd than for those of us who are into DD or spanking.

My view is the books don't hurt, and probably help in that everyone is discussing them openly. Anything that encourages exploration of alternative lifestyles is probably a good thing. But, I admit, I am as clueless as others who have commented regarding WHY such poorly written books have achieved such commercial success.

I am also curious whether Ana is right that a F/m oriented book would be less popular. I think the answer is yes, but who knows? I wouldn't have thought there was much interest in the M/f variety found in Shades, and I was sure wrong about that.

Our Bottoms Burn: I am dumbfounded to read that folks here think that spanking is in the closet.

Sublime Wifey: I read this with my book club a few months ago and most of my friends were SHOCKED that such relationships actually exist... except one (She and I have since confessed to each other that our marriages dabble in kink). But the last time I got together with my book club, it was pretty obvious that most had tried a little spanking and light bondage after reading the book. Some hated it, some were silent (my guess is they loved it), and some said it was fun for a night, but nothing they'd do every time. I think that's how it will go. Some will try. Most will remain vanilla except after a few tequila shots or Halloween when they pull out the blindfold and riding crop.

S.N.M.: I haven't read the books, but I've read excerpts and extensive commentaries and reviews. From my admittedly limited exposure, it sounds like these books are not only horribly written and plotted, but also romanticize a completely bizarre and self-destructive relationship and perpetuate very weird ideas about the psychology of BDSM.

It could be that my impression of the subject matter is wrong (I'm not going to read them myself, the prose is just too bad for me to get through). If that subject matter is really as bad as I've been led to believe, then I really hope the books don't effect people's perceptions of reality.

Ana: @Emen (completely off-topic): That sandwich is indeed ridiculously mouthwatering and makes me want one. It took me a while to focus on the question in order to answer.

Saoirse: In a way, anything that gets lots of people to read gets a thumbs up from me. In the same vein, anything that gets people to explore sexuality is a positive. I don't think the world will be more open to non-vanilla sexuality because of Fifty Shades. I think Fifty Shades found the world receptive because of a growing interest in non- vanilla sex.

Years from now, someone will write of their intense reaction to Fifty Shades the way so many, myself included, have referred to movies like 9 1/2 Weeks and Last Tango In Paris speaking to something inside themselves they'd never spoken of, or perhaps even admitted to themselves.

I tried to read the first one and got bored. That's just my taste. I refuse to be a book snob since I hate it when people condescend about my own reading choices. And after all, many of us here in blog land have been reading, writing, discussing, analyzing these topics for a long time. Most readers of Fifty Shades are novices, I'd guess.

Like everything, interest will fade. Some readers will dabble. Some will go further. Some will get the 'wrong' idea. Some will research and meet us on various web sites. The world as we know it will carry on...

A-Non: Lillie, Segways are alive. There are airport cops on Segways, community college cops on them, and even Segway tours of places like DC and New Orleans. Maybe that means that this fad in popular culture will stay around a bit.

I won't read the books because, from the reviews and excerpts I've read, I won't like them. I generally don't read fiction, but when I do, I like my fiction to be more realistic. Poor writing is another reason I won't read them. The comments above from those of you who have read them have reinforced to me that I should not read them.

More interesting is the recent book, "A Billion Wicked Thoughts" which discussed women's vampire fantasies, along with many other fascinating subjects I had never even heard of. Women shouldn't have to apologize for whatever their fantasies are. If a rich, well-dressed man who pays close attention to you and gives you physical thrills turns you on, then enjoy it.

I think it is interesting that these books have been such bestsellers while other romance novel publishers have a policy of "no spanking". Maybe that will change, although I won't know because I don't read romance novels either!

D & S: We have read them all. The BDSM bits are sexy and exciting, but also plausible and not too extreme, so that Ana returns without too much protest for a second helping from time to time. The main story line we found well written and full of twists and turns. At the end of the last book, there is a footnote hinting at a fourth book. We hope so, that is, if Ana's bottom can take the strain!

Felicia Nemo: I can't say I liked the books much. It was hard to put them down (it could have also been that I was bored in bed sick), and I will admit that it was written better after the first book. But seriously, there are only so many ways you can say someone is hot or that jealousy rears its head with every woman who shows interest in hot guys.

The story line was fairly well done. The dialog was alright.

What bothered me a lot (and the reason I didn't like the books) was the fact that was clear to me that the main character, who was abused as a child, was this way because of it. I was sexually harassed/assaulted as a kid but I don't consider that the reason I liked to be spanked. In fact, it's one of the struggles I've had with this interest as I struggle to have physical contact sometimes. It could have been done in such a way that, yes it happened because it was necessary for the story line, but no, it is not the reason he was into BDSM.

It was such a strong connection that there was really no other way around it. Breaking through the abuse brought a change to their already unhealthy relationship from complete control with indifference to complete control under the guise of love. Do I doubt the main characters loved each other? No. I think if there had been less of the connection between BDSM and past abuse, I would have enjoyed the books more.

I really hope this book doesn't damage the image of DD relationships but I fear it will cause tension. The main characters did have a very unhealthy relationship for most of the three books (maybe a fourth will help with that image) and the fact that he gave it up for her creates an even worse one, as in something that should be given up. I hope I am wrong.

Enzo and Charlotte: We believe that we are "born" with defined sexual interests. Then the environment helps us to express our sexuality or otherwise to repress. These books may be useful in helping people to express those desires that we all have at our core. But they will never convert vanilla people.

Kaelah: I haven't read the books, either, because from what I have read about them written by people whom I trust, they aren't of any interest for me. Adele wrote a wonderful post at Heresy Corner called Fifty Shades of Grr in which she pointed out all the misconceptions about BDSM which appear in Fifty Shades of Grey. What shocks me the most is that punishing someone “even if they haven’t consented, as long as you’ve warned them in advance that you don’t like certain behaviours” is presented as acceptable behaviour and not as assault. And the misconception that lovers don't need safewords is scary as well. I find both aspects very critical because I think that these misconceptions are sometimes told newbies in the scene as well and it scares me that readers who identify as submissives might get the impression that this is the way it has to be. The connection between childhood abuse and kink is another frustrating aspect as well as the fact that giving up one's kink is presented as something good. Given these things, I don't think that the books are going to have a very positive impact on our community. Maybe some kinksters will be “awakened” by reading the books, though. I just hope that they don't believe the dangerous misconceptions which are presented in them.

There are several other reasons why the books have no appeal for me whatsoever. First of all, I find the idea of a person being pushed into sexual explorations which don't have any appeal for them appalling. I have chosen this lifestyle because I am into BDSM and I live out my fantasies with a like-minded and equal mate. Secondly, the older guy and younger woman M/F dynamic doesn't hold much appeal, either. I am a switch (an orientation which almost doesn't exist in mainstream books or videos that contain BDSM), and therefore not interested in BDSM stories that only depict an unidirectional M/F power dynamic.

Generally, I don't mind people reading whatever they fancy and I won't tell anyone that enjoying the books or getting aroused by them is in any way wrong. I just wished people who are really interested to learn more about BDSM would read books like Niki Flynn's Dances With Werewolves instead of Fifty Shades. It is very well written, it really provides a glimpse into the scene and it is written by a self-reliant woman who actively explored the world of BDSM because she wanted it and got something out of it. I don't think that this will happen, though, because Niki's book dives deeper into the realms of BDSM and lacks the kitschy love story (even though it involves real love). So I just hope that those who prefer to read Fifty Shades just enjoy the kinky parts, but don't believe any of the dangerous misconceptions which are presented in the books.

Maybe it isn't necessary to spend so much time discussing the pros and cons of the books anyway though. I don't think that the books will have such a huge impact in the long run. Which in my opinion is a rather good thing. And if they really inspire some people to explore their sexuality and/or to try out some healthy forms of BDSM and/or to be more relaxed about BDSM and its practitioners, then the books have at least some positive impact. I just hope that the good outcome outweighs the bad.

Dr. Ken: The "Grey" books really aren't for people who are already into spanking and other related activities. They're for the Mrs./Miss/Ms. Vanilla who wants a safe sneak peek into this world (what could be safer than just reading about it?). Maybe they didn't even know this world or lifestyle existed until they picked up a copy. Now they know, so that's something of a plus. And if they get a few smutty tingles going from what they read, well, nothing wrong with that, either.

I've heard of many women who read the books, and then share them with their boyfriends/husbands/SOs and it's absolutely rekindled their sex lives. Also a plus...

I think we're seeing a few short-term good things coming out of the books, pushing spanking a bit more into the mainstream way of thinking, and it will probably stay there until the next big thing comes along and captures the attention of people who read these books. We may see a slight long-term overall effect, perhaps, but nothing major.

The major downside I can see these books producing is that many newbies will look at them almost as turorials, and think the way it is done in the books is the way it must be done in real life – i.e., Christian Grey did and said this, so therefore, I expect you to say and do this, and if you don't, then you're not doing it "right."

Bonnie: This episode reminds me of the much smaller explosion of general interest that accompanied the release of the Secretary movie. I so wanted to like the film. It was a kind of coming out party for erotic spanking in mainstream film. Unfortunately, the scriptwriters chose to create characters who were broken. Lea, the female lead, had just been released from a mental institution. It wasn't difficult to connect the dots and conclude that her kinky interests were a result of or at least associated with mental illness. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

Fifty Shades feels like another chapter in the same story. I hope to see a day when people of kink are presented by the popular media first as people. Other minorities, particularly the GLBT communities, have made great strides in recent years, but we clearly have a long way yet to go.

We can wonder whether a flawed message is superior to no message at all. But the answer is largely moot. Flawed or not, the Fifty Shades message is definitely out there.

My hope is that fans of Fifty Shades will explore a little further and discover some of the truly wonderful writers who are proud members of our community. If those same writers get more consideration from mainstream publishers as a result of Fifty Shades, that would be a real win.

I love it when we see a wide range of reactions. I wasn't sure how much discussion we'd get, but I needn't have worried. Thank you all for sharing your perspectives!


Kate Fresh said...

Thank you!

Blue Sunflower said...

I not only read the books but read them twice. I have heard comments in my community from people who are in the scene and those who arn't. My mother says it is all evil, lol! I heard some comments about how unreal six strokes of the belt were and her leaving him...but I remember the very first time a man spanked me with his hand. Three swats and I was ready to leave! So for some, it is quite real. I thought the books had a great plot and even though he gave up most of his BDSM activities, he did still keep some. He still had the feelings of wanting to control but his partner wasn't into it and because it was a relationship each gave a little and gave up a little. Giving up the BDSM wasn't that big of a deal, her love was. Totally real for me. I may in the future read them again. Even his psychiatrist said that it was a lifestyle choice, not a mental problem.

Stormy said...

I enjoyed reading the various perspectives. I wrote my review of the books (two of them) on my blog awhile back. "Fifty Shades Of Ogre"

I didn't get a thrill from the books, but its interesting what topics can arise from them.

Adaline Raine said...

Love all the opinions and ideas. Another reason I just freaking love this community. Anything can start a discussion! :D
Have a fantastic weekend Bonnie!

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