Thursday, October 11, 2012

Consenting Adults

After the debate tonight, I'm burning some midnight oil in order to write a warm welcome back to Camille Paglia. She's been researching a new book for the past few years and has diminished women's debates by her absence. Now she is back in the fray and does not disappoint. Until I can write more, I'm bumping this Paglia inspired post from March.

So this is apparently the new thing for moms, specifically the Winchester set (rich, New England, not-just-a-housewife types) to devour: erotic tales of total physical male dominance over a young woman, consensual, of course.  I had heard that Camille Paglia had fallen out of favor, but not for long. She told feminists that their quest for sexual equality would bring them here, defending, nay, getting off on, aggressive male dominance.  Try to negate Nature, get it in spades instead, she said. 

On the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, many comments come to mind: One, wasn't this a movie with Kim Basinger? Two, quick right blogosphere diagnostics suggests that conservative women haven't caught onto the books yet.  Instapundit just linked a few hours ago, and I don't see commentary anywhere else yet, even though collecting illustrations of feminist contortionist reasoning is a hobby of ours.  The books are new to us.  I wonder how we will react to them? [UPDATE: The books showed up in some book clubs and I know a few women who read them, but only one who loved them. In London though, everyone read the books. Picture is from a London Bus with a Fifty Shades promo that went through Sloane Square, i.e. the heart of the books' audience.] Three, a fair few of my recent fan-fiction finds do better erotica than excerpts of Fifty Shades suggest, though I might be confirming my bias since I'm not into S&M. [UPDATE: I finally read the book last month. It is one step above fan fic writers writing cliched erotica in their second, and not fluent, language. It is shockingly awful.]  Four, unforgiving critiques of Twilight are strewn across the web, complaining of the creepy dominance and S&M taint of Edward and Bella's relationship. Yet in regard to a story about straight up S&M, I read this [bold mine]: 
The strange thing is that it’s very clearly sex written for a female audience: it’s explicit but not graphic, it’s domineering (very much so) but always consensual and always very much enjoyed by the woman. Clueless guys might do well to take a peek at this book.
So if a guy is purposefully beating up a girl for a temporary sex adventure, that's just consenting adults. Real guys should take notes so that they can better sexually satisfy their women.  If, however, a preternaturally strong guy accidentally bruises his consenting wife in their marital bed, then she's a dominated wimp and smart women are terrified that young men might be taking notes.  Interesting logic, that.  

Even poor feminists are confused.  At Jezebel I found commenter Fairy Princess (?!) asking "Where can I find an awesome, feminist man who also just so happens to want to tie me up?"  Poor girl.  Since awesome feminist men are notoriously "insufficiently manly", I think she's out of luck.  

UPDATE: Turns out my fan-fiction and Twilight comparisons were not off the mark.  Fifty Shades of Grey started out as a Twilight fan fic called Masters of the Universe, a title she couldn't use for publishing, I assume, because it is the He-Man tagline.  (My head hurts now.  Sometimes, I even geek myself out.)

UPDATE 2: There is much more to write about consent, the tension feminists have put the word under between Fifty Shades and rape law reform.  That's the kind of post that will have to wait until I'm not running an infirmary for sick children on Spring Break.  [UPDATE: That post is coming soon at PJLifestyle.]  


Megs said...

About 10 years ago, I was perusing a sex survey in some rag that said that 48% of the women surveyed would like their sex rougher. Seems like erotica is the place for that to start.

BTW, I was pretty shocked by that percentage - seemed pretty high.

The problem in general about all these things is this bottom line - sex is communication - personal communication. Previous experiences do not necessarily translate and it's a false security to think that they do. Communicating openly leads to greater satisfaction instead of women anonymously complaining to a survey. (And probably many men would choose to do the same instead of being fearless with their partner.)

Anonymous said...

Love the new look.
I didn't know about this book until I saw the Instapundit link. I suspect moms I know never read much of anything, although they have heard of Paglia, I'm sure.
I suppose it's a feminist version of bodice ripper -- he just needs to ask for permission... which is kind of lame. A book is a fantasy, and why is permission a part of one's fantasy?

AHLondon said...

From my friend Kinsey, a comment that found the Blogger limit (nice to know it's not just me). I've excerpted here, she's posting with links at her place this afternoon, Kinsey W. Holly on the right "Egnima" blogroll:
AH asked me to comment on this because I'm an author of sexually graphic (thought not BDSM) romance and I hang out with romance writers and readers, including those who write and read the really durty stuff. She asked me what the buzz among my online posse was. I responded that many of us are mightily annoyed at the buzz this derivative, insulting and poorly written piece of crap has generated. (There is no professional jealousy underlying my contempt. No, seriously. None at all. Nope).

We hates the book, yes we do, and for many reasons, namely but not limited to the fact that it began life as Twilight fanfac (and how is that not copyright violation? Oh well, St. Martin's has just contracted for a series of books based on the Brady Bunch, only set in the Regency (swear. to. God.)); and it is so stupid, so flat, it makes the Twilight books look mature and nuanced by comparison; and it paints an utterly unrealistic, irresponsible, libelous picture of BDSM which, contra Dr. Drew, has NOTHING to do with child abuse or domestic violence. It treats the hero's sexual needs and preferences as a sickness, a symptom of brokenness, which they are not--but then, the hero is a jerk who takes unconscionable advantage of an inexperienced young woman's total ignorance of BDSM and the mental and emotional issues involved. Also, the heroine is dumb as a rock or, as we say in Romancelandia, TSTL (Too Stupid To Live.)

Look, just read this; it explains perfectly why so many of us hate this book so passionately. (Disclosure: I haven't read the book. That's right - I loathe a book I have not read and have no intention of reading. I can do this because I am a Professional.)

If you're thinking 50 Shades sounds intriguing and you're kinda interested but you don't know much about erotic romance, or romance in general, Jane's primer might be handy.
Look, here's the thing. The romance genre gets a bad rap from mainstream readers and almost all the media, even though it accounts for by far the largest chunk of the fiction market, and as such it is absolutely essential to the fortunes of both traditional publishing and e-publishing. It gets even less respect than science fiction/fantasy. The people who write it are derided as purple prose pushing hacks, the people who read it are pitied, condescended to, lectured on the differences between fantasy and reality, assumed to have no taste, caricatured as fat bored housewives....look, if you think conservatives have to put up with a lot of BS from the media, you should just see what's written and said about romance (and then ask yourself if you've written or said it yourself. Ahem. Anyway....)

It does no good to talk about how romance readers come from all ethnic and racial groups, all socioeconomic classes, all cultures and all faiths (and no faiths); how many romance authors hold JDs and almost as many hold literature degrees; how no one raises an eyebrow at university symposia on Buffy the Vampire Slayer but God forbid a doctoral or master's candidate wants to do a review of romance literature.

Then along comes 50 Shades -- poorly written, unoriginal, irresponsible in its depictions of BDSM, etc. etc. etc. -- and suddenly everyone in the country is giving it Serious Attention because all those skinny, dried up Park Slope bitches are reading it and declaring themselves happy in their pants. What??? You mean some women like to read romance novels for sexual thrills? Why, this must be Something New! What Does it All Mean?

We’re annoyed.

Megs said...

Now I'm really curious about what Kinsey (as a professional) says about The Sleeping Beauty trilogy....

Kinsey Holley said...

Many years ago I picked up the first Sleeping Beauty book (my boyfriend, now my husband had it) and read the first couple of chapters. IIRC, it was porn, not romance -- NTTAWWT, but I don't like porn. I like stories with characters, and plot, and emotions and all that. An easy, not always accurate way to distinguis porn from romance is in the sex-to-story ratio; AH's husband Yasha was surprised when I told him my first book, a novella, was (again, IRRC) 18% sex, 82% story. My full length novel was about 9% sex, 91% story - I worked it out by picking an arbitrary sport right before the sex scenes begin, and then a spot right after the scenes end, and then adding up the word count. I did it kind of tongue in cheek, but I was seriously attempting to show him that I had written an actual story, not just a bunch of sex scenes.

Porn is a bunch of sex scenes strung together by minimal plot; romance is a story with (maybe, depending on the book) some sex scenes. Even erotic romance (which is difficult to define) is more concerned with the story, the characters, than the mechanics of the sex.

I don't think there was any attempt at character development or real plot in the SB books.

That's something else romance readers and writers complain about (we tend to gripe a lot)--the frequent (and frequently intentional) confusion of porn w/romance.

There's an online bookstore called All Romance that I like -- they carry my books and they provide copies of e books for those of us attending the Romantic Times Booklover's Convention every year -- but I had to quit following their Twitter account b/c it was making me very ranty. They carry a lot of titles that I'm sure are just porn, and when they tweet about new titles like "Holes holes holes - tales of a naughty schoolgirl" or "getting it on with the stepdad" or stuff like that, I'm like "THAT'S NOT ROMANCE! THAT'S PORN! STOP CALLING IT ROMANCE!"

Yes, I made those titles up b/c I don't want to visit the site while I'm at work but believe me, their real titles are just that bad.

Heather said...

When I discovered that 50 Shades of Grey is all about S&M, well., and I always knew it was a fan fic originating in Twilight sites. Well.
If you want to get it on with a porn S&M book, then pick up "The Story of O". Not much character development, but definitely exciting for women.

Other than that, there are plenty of good romances with great female friendly sex scenes, eg, Elizabeth Chadwick's historical novels; Charlaine Harris' works.

What is it that makes a best seller anyway? Really, that is a serious question.

AHLondon said...

There was a course at The Great Courses that looked at some of the biggest bestsellers in American history. I'll see if I can find my notes on some of those books. (I've switched computers since then.)

edgeofthesandbox said...

I too am a fan of Paglia, although (how should I put it?) she is very uneven. When she's good, she's good.
True S&M types mystified me in the 90s, when it seemed like half of San Francisco was into it. Now that I'm a mom, and I learned about childhood development, it's pretty clear that they have sensory possessing issues. What's nothing short of bizarre is that so many seemingly neurotypical adults find it alluring.

AHLondon said...

Not so bizarre. And what are sensory possessing issues? As for Paglia's unevenness, it is hard to pull it out of the mass of material that she covers, but I suspect that you see, mostly, a right analysis, wrong conclusion dynamic. I just put up a PJLifestyle piece about why the right likes her and it is mostly because she accepts the dark Nature of Man. Unlike most of the left, she accepts that life isn't perfectible. She'd deal with that darkness differently than most on the right, but she confronts it. She starts out Sexual Personae talking about how the left sees society as the corruptor of good man while she—and most of the right—see society as the defense against corrupt man. This is why she makes sense to us and infuriates them.

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