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Five Things To Read Instead Of 50 Shades of Grey

At the Whitcoulls bookstore on Friday, I saw stacks and stacks of a new novel, piled up as high as I am tall: Fifty Shades of Grey. This ostensibly erotic novel is making lots of women foam at the mouth. Some are foaming at the mouth with enthusiasm and think its fantastic. Many feminists don't like it because it's about a woman reveling in kinky sex and submission. BDSM people don't like it because it's got no relationship to actual BDSM dynamics, or reality. The main problem with it seems to be that it's just not well written. It's been thoroughly slated by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, a review site that understands that sometimes trashy books are a rest from the burdens of our high IQ's, bless them. (In a quick flick through one of the sequels, the male protagonist lost me at "cable ties.") Still, there it was, stacked as high as my head... In discussing this with some of my friends, we were all shouting within five minutes, and one of us made an intelligent point. "I'm interested in BDSM and fetish and the like, I'm curious, but I have no experience and, this book is at least accessible. Reading this book seems like a safe option."  So I thought I would recommend some great alternative steamy reads. They may be harder to get a hold of - they're not stacked up in the front section of Whitcoull's - but you'll enjoy them.
From Fellini and Manara's Trip to Tulum.

From Fellini and Manara's Trip to Tulum.

Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series - Step away from the Grey, put down Game of Thrones, and give this a try. This three-book series about the adventures of a BDSM courtesan in a world connected to the divine has interludes of magnificent erotic escapism. Frequently lauded as a classic, this series has a balanced and tender view of all kinds of sexualities. This one is at Whitcoull's - check the sci-fi/fantasy section. Best American Erotica – Edited by Susie Bright - "I don't have time to read a whole book," people say to me, as if this was a decadent, impossible use of time in 2012, the temporal equivalent of eating a whole cake. This series is a reliable source of short, innovative erotica, edited by one of the world's most delightful sexperts. Apparently Kiwis need to be friendlier to Americans particularly, so American erotica is a grand way to bring us all together. These shorter pieces are also great to read aloud or co-read with that special someone. Several of these volumes are also available at Whitcoull's! Trip to Tulum, by Milo Manara in collaboration with Frederico Fellini - This isn't BDSM but it is definitely a better use of your  erotic reading time than Fifty Shades. Surreal, ethereal, laced with sexiness with two divinely desirable women characters - will you identify with the wickedly irresistible Sybil, or with the gentle goddess-on-earth Helen? You'll have to hunt it down on Abebooks, I'm afraid - it's worth the search. The Story of O – Of course you're familiar with this title; for many it's a vague byword for a BDSM novel. But have you read this? Seriously, now, have you? Written in 1954 by a Frenchwoman attempting to hold the attention of an indifferent lover, it combines jaded erotic anomie, hard-core BDSM, and astonishing sartorial awareness – the protagonist is a fashion photographer. It's here as a PDF if you can't wait to get started. Macho Sluts, by Pat Califia - A queer classic, this BDSM short story collection warped us all in the late '80s/early '90s. Rock n' roll fantasy turned kinky "Jessie" now reads as adorably retro, "Calyx of Isis" is as revolutionary as ever, and "The Spoiler" will make you realize how layered and complex kink can be. There's even " A Dash of Vanilla". Hunt this one down overseas, too.

2 Comments

  1. I have read O and it unsettled and upset me for a long time. Still does. The amount of mental and emotional abuse in it is far more upsetting than the physical. Very different from the dynamic of many modern, equitable s and m relationships!

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    • I agree that “Story of O” is a profoundly unsettling book. You’re right, I should have commented on the fact that it was one woman’s fantasy, and that it doesn’t reflect healthy relationships in the least. Does a work’s being a “classic” excuse/forgive its negativity? No. I’m going to let the recommendation stand so that our dialogue here retains its meaning…and I want to put reassurance out there for anyone reading this who is worried that they too may have a fantasy that is “abusive.” Being widely read in this area helps you distinguish between fantasy and reality, so that you can enjoy the former and conduct yourself safely in the latter. And it can lead to exchanges like this one documented by Dossie Easton, where she asked a friend what she was fantasizing about, and the friend, blushing, said, “I’m being kidnapped…by sexists!”

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