My 50 Shades Confession
True confession: I haven’t seen Fifty Shades. I haven’t even read the book. I started the book, but after eight pages, more pressing tasks (like reading Hemingway, doing laundry, having my own fascinating sex, napping) got the best of me and I cast the novel aside and never picked it up again. Please don’t get me wrong–I’m not a Fifty Shades Hater. Having read only eight pages, I’m hardly qualified to judge the (unimpressive) writing or the (trite) content. On the contrary, I’m quite excited about how the Fifty Shades phenomenon has benefitted the adult industry and, more importantly, women and couples worldwide.
Here’s a recap of the story: mousey but actually very pretty girl meets powerful but actually very rich and also very handsome man who has a penchant for domination. Coincidentally, mousey, pretty girl is a natural submissive and powerful, handsome man takes her to virtual places she’s never been through a variety of ideas, acts, and props. Afterwards, the couple either lives happily ever after or they part, setting the woman free with a fresh and empowering outlook on life, love, and sex. (Remember, I’m only eight pages in, so I’m kind of guessing here.)
The reason the story didn’t capture my attention is also the reason for its success: it’s the most common fantasy out there. It’s a wonderful thing that more and more women are finding satisfaction and empowerment and taking control of their own lives and relationships. We work hard to keep ourselves and our families happy and stimulated, and many of us also nurture demanding careers. It only makes sense that in our down time we’d find the ultimate pleasure and relaxation in being taken care of, and, well, taken.
It’s uncomfortable to say, but rape fantasies are among women’s most common. It’s sad that I feel the need to clarify, but I do–we do not want to be raped. It’s ultimate surrender that gets us off. Temporarily losing ourselves can be just what we need to refresh and replenish the power that successful women hold dear. Also, it feels really good to be powerlessly pleasured. If the man doing the pleasuring is young and attractive and has a kick ass name, all the better. At least for book sales.
A year before the first Fifty Shades novel made it’s debut, Taboo on Broad Street opened a fetish room. Filled with whips, cuffs, and kink, it catered to BDSM lifestyle clinetele and experimenters alike. At that time, the lifestylers vastly outnumbered the newbies. Patrons who ventured into that room generally knew exactly what they were looking for and were wonderfully unapologetic and unafraid.
These days, new customers come in daily requesting light restraints or “those balls.” I was recently asked in an interview if industry folk and lifestylers are reluctant to accept this new wave of would-be fetishists. It would take a very snobbish purveyor to be scornful or turned off. Kink isn’t a club (well, it probably is, somewhere) and there’s no such thing as a sexual poseur. Helping people test their boundaries and explore their bliss is why I took the job. It’s delightfully rewarding to be the first step towards satisfaction.
Fifty Shades of Grey mighty be a crappy novel. I’m shamefully (punish me?) in no position to judge. Even if that’s so, it’s undoubtably a catalyst for sexual exploration. What self-respecting, empathetic adult could begrudge another that? Taboo’s fetish room will always be filled with pony gear, sounds, and anal suction devices. It’s also happily home to Plushy cuffs and grey satin scarves. You don’t need a dungeon in your basement to be qualified to enjoy power play. The very nature of fantasy is that it knows no bounds. So come one, come all, into the fetish room. Take home a ball crushing Humbler, a silk blindfold, or nothing at all. I applaud you for showing up. I applaud you too, E.L. James, for penning the maybe unimpressive, maybe trite book. You’ve inspired a lot of satisfaction.