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“Fifty Shades of Grey” Starts a New Conversation, But It’s Not the One ABC or CNBC Thinks It Is

WOMEN DON’T like gonzo erotica. Alert the media. I’m serious, because when it comes to women and sexuality the American media is C.L.U.E.L.E.S.S.

Thank the gods for E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, because now at least erotica that turns women on is being talked about in a way that is relatable by a larger number of women. Whether it’s “mommy porn” or a conversation starter, or something worthy of alerting the decency police, depends on your frame of mind.

At Sundance, sex is selling big this year, starting with “Lovelace,” starring triple threat Amanda Seyfried, which I can’t wait to see.

Whether traditional press will be able to digest what’s unraveling is a crap shoot that women can’t afford to lose.

It’s great that companies like New Sensations, and outlets like CNBC, are helping to legitimize women as viewers of pornography. But female interest in the genre is nothing new, and the collective fantasies of half of the human population can’t be served by one narrow niche. “Porn for women” is not for all women. And many elements of it appeal to men, too. Nobody knows this better than Jacky St. James, a screenwriter, director, and publicist for New Sensations who’s crafted both steamy romantic narratives and explicit all-sex releases. [...] – Amanda Hess for Slate.com

The absolute worst article on the subject landed yesterday from ABC. It actually descends back into the “shame” dialogue with women and sex.

Romance Porn Lures More Women, With Loss of Shame

For decades, the female market has eluded pornographers, whose all-male lenses zoomed in on body parts and had little context or dialogue. But today, with cultural and technological shifts that make pornography more acceptable and accessible, Noelle has a fan base that includes women — lots of them.

Well, at least the conversation is widening, including profiles of “Masterpiece Theater” like erotica filmmakers Nica Noelle, even if not everyone writing about it knows what he or she is talking about.

Jezebel took it very personally, which I applaud, because women should care how our sexuality is being talked about when the word “shame” is being hoisted on us, this time in the second decade of the 21st century, no less.

It’s awesome that some women are into Noelle’s porn. But blanket statements about what women currently and historically jill off to are getting really old. Calling Noelle’s work porn that “lures women without loss of shame” implies that women can only shamelessly enjoy porn that’s “romantic” and that all women were too afraid or turned off by other forms of erotica until now. It also insinuates that men are only into more hardcore porn and couldn’t possibly enjoy emotional erotica. Filmmakers like Noelle should definitely be profiled and it’s worth noting that there are different types of pornography out there, options that are easier to privately explore thanks to the internet and appeal more to some segments of the population. But why does it always have to be framed as “ladies be watching the porn”? [Jezebel]

It’s interesting to me that the conversation is being couched as it is today. I spent almost 10 years in the romance, sex and dating business, working and investigating everything from online dating and its precursor, personal ads, to the soft-core industry before online porn took off, as well as the phone sex industry. Back in 2000, I self-published my experiences in the online soft-core erotic biz (the boss wouldn’t allow it to be called pornography), mostly to mark the history I saw happen at the web’s infancy. Like the VHS, the adult industry exploited the financial possibilities of the web first. Working at the first outlet to make money on the web, which was run by women, and was covered on the Wall Street Journal front page, got me pictured in USA Today, too. I highlighted briefly in the book the women taking erotica into their own hands in the film market. Pioneers like Candida Royale to whom I can actually link, because landing on her site won’t freak you out, because today’s internet is no longer soft-core, like when I was working in erotica. Royale calls her product “Erotic Cinema” and also highlights female directors in the genre.

This has been around for over 12 years, likely before E.L. James started thinking about Anastasia Steele or Christian Grey. So whatever news CNBC thought they were breaking, instead they just come off looking ignorant, but at least ABC wasn’t alone. Women aren’t porn’s “new market,” as Candida Royale proved years ago and she’s hardly alone, though I’m not a porn expert and never have been.

Slate: What’s the biggest misconception about “porn for women”?

St. James: Women weren’t sexualized by 50 Shades of Grey. They’ve been watching porn and reading erotica for centuries. It’s shocking to me that there’s suddenly a consciousness that women are sexual. We’ve always been that way. 50 Shades has allowed us to make it more of a talking point. And that’s the only positive thing I can take away from that f—ing book, because I thought it was horrible.

I couldn’t disagree with St. James more about Fifty Shades of Grey, and she’s wrong, in my opinion, about this being about “a consciousness that women are sexual.”

Our national media isn’t much better today than they were in the days when Alfred Kinsey made people’s heads explode when he announced women were sexual. U.S. media doesn’t have a clue how to write or talk about women’s sexuality, as ABC and CNBC proves yet again. They only give themselves an excuse to cover it by hoisting old stereotypes on the subject, while hoping to draw eyes to their pages or programs.

What Fifty Shades of Grey has done is put characters and a salty plot line into an era where our major reality is the “pornification” of modern culture and that labiaplasty is the third most popular cosmetic surgery, because women want to look like adult starlets. Fifty Shades is the bookend behind which is a whole library of erotica for women and couples that competes with the American obsession of boys of all ages, hard core pornography.

Fifty Shades of Grey is the framework through which our traditional media can venture without freaking themselves out, because women gave them permission to cover it. This is what’s important. That doesn’t mean networks, outlets or journalists will get the story right.

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3 Responses to “Fifty Shades of Grey” Starts a New Conversation, But It’s Not the One ABC or CNBC Thinks It Is

  1. mjsmith January 30, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    A friend of mine said this “50 Shades of Grey” book is not at all what BDSM is all about. His/her criticizim is based on the unhealthy relationships of the characters in the story.

    I see that this type of subject is becoming more popular.

    I wonder what the big deal about all this porn stuff is anyways. Maybe one day I will take a look myself and see.

    • Taylor Marsh January 30, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      Thanks for your comment and the thoughts on your friend.

      Yeah, the Fifty Shades relationship is indeed toxic in the midst of some wonderful steamy stuff.

  2. secularhumanizinevoluter January 31, 2013 at 5:46 am #

    I know people into the B&D and S&M scene. Some simply as erotic play and one couple(pretty strange I can tell you) into 24/7 life style.
    My concern with this mainstreaming of this is that while many, many women have and enjoy fantasies of being overpowered or dominated this unfortunately re-enforces the mentality of a lot of men that women really WANT to be raped or forced into sex in reality.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong