Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wherein I Defend "50 Shades of Grey" as One More Harmless Erotic Romance

I have seen a ton of spiteful, mean and hateful crap on FB about 50 Shades of Grey. The vitriol, criticism... outright HATE. It is past rational. I guess a lot of people have very strong feelings, but to me they are going way too far out for me to agree even on the middle ground. In fact, while it's not my cuppa, and I have only read a few chapters of the second novel in the middle, I still believe it does not warrant such extremism. Nothing does, except maybe war and terrorists and politicians. Heh. I don't think the writing is THAT BAD. It's not great (if it means anything to you, I have a degree in Lit/Writing from one of the top schools in the U.S., UCSD,) but that does not mean unreadable. It is fiction and fantasy. It is not a real statement on how things "should be" between a man and a woman or a so-called 'proper' BDSM relationship or anything of the sort. It is not making any statement that I can see that "this is right." In fact, the chapters I read were all about Grey's damaged persona and past and how Ana feels she is strong enough (not weak, mind you!) to take him on and try to help him. (This scene would not be in the movie because this is the second book and you'll have to wait for the second movie to see this play out.) Whether or not that is right or wrong, that is the STORY. A story is going to have horrible things happen because a story has imperfect characters who need to figure things out to make the end of the story worth reaching and hopefully with a somewhat happy ending. The characters have hurdles to conquer, life-shit, love-shit, and personality shit. That includes all the abuse people are saying happen in the book. I don't want to read a book about perfect people with no issues and a story about love in which there aren't personal problems to be overcome. Abuse? If it is there, it is part of the "story." It is not a statement that abuse is okay.

I'm sick and tired of people thinking women need to be protected from their own fantasies, too. We are made to feel ashamed again and again for things men have had access to forever such as all kinds of porn from rape porn to BDSM to "Lolitas" to rough, sweet, and inbetween. Now women want it all and are people saying we are too weak to decide for ourselves that a fantasy can stay a fantasy and we might like it but not in real life? This is all the old criticism coming back and hitting me about writing adult fanfic and reading fanfic... that it was kinky, pervy and wrong and women should be good girls and not do it or otherwise we're somehow sick or twisted.

I don’t think it’s right for anyone, man or woman, to tell another what they should or should not do behind closed doors between consenting adults as if there is only one set of rules for an erotic relationship. But I think it’s even more insidious if one person dictates to another how their private, personal fantasies should be. Fantasy can involve things people don’t want in real life, but in fiction all constraints are off. That’s why it’s so wonderful. You can have a darker fantasy without the repercussions. It’s why we have such popular genres such as horror, murder mystery, even crazy action adventure that breaks all laws of physics and leaves a body count after much extreme violence. We can’t or don’t want it in real life, but it’s entertaining as a story which we can walk away from having enjoyed but not having had to live it. I feel erotica is one of those genres where self-expression is allowed to freely roam uninhibited and that’s a good thing because then we don’t have to have it all bottled up and combined with guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are what twist people, not stories, not fiction, not fantasy and not entertainment. All the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” of this world when involving personal thoughts and feelings that harm none only serve to screw people up.

We are passionate, fiery, frail, strong, incomplete, loving, fierce and flawed as humans, all of us, both male and female. Good stories are about (to quote Harlan Ellison) “the human heart in conflict with itself.” Good characters arise out of that. Whether 50 Shades is good or bad is not the point. The point is that the characters have made an impact and people want to read/know about them even if you do not. Something here has reached millions. It started out as “word of mouth.” Why, if it wasn’t somehow intriguing on some level to a large group, did that word of mouth work so well until it was picked up by CNN and others as an "of interest" human story leading the book to sell millions?

I defend the book’s right to be and I passionately defend the rights of women to like it if they choose without shame and repercussion and hate and being accused of being anti-feminist or sick and "into" abuse. Does everyone who likes horror want to be a serial killer or the victim of a serial killer? I seriously think not!

Oh, and take all the characteristics that people say they hate about this movie version and tell me they don't exist in every single nominated Oscar movie this year!

That said, it’s no secret to those who know me I write erotica myself… and romance. I have two horror erotica stories in a couple of old Hot Blood anthologies (still in print.) I have written tons of vampire stories, many erotic in nature, many now unavailable in out-of-print antholgies. (I'm working on getting a collection of my vampire erotica together and on Amazon for this year.) And aside from my erotic male/male romance trilogy (The Foundling Trilogy) I also have a book of erotica short stories that covers all aspects of fantasy from sweet to rape, het, bi, gay, underage, group called My House is Full of Whispers.
It is very un-politically-correct. However, it is pure poetic fantasy and that’s all. Go take a peek. It’s actually quite tame in comparison to the constant violence in TV and movies, not to mention the constant Hollywood subjugation of women (I can’t count the hundreds of obligatory strip club scenes I have seen in 90 percent of movies and TV… all for the pleasure of men.) Turn-about is fair play. Whatever fantasy we want, men and women, we should be able to have… in fiction.

I completely defend the right of 50 Shades to exist without deciding it harms people, I am envious of E.L. James for being, on some level I must be unable to see, so fucking brilliant, and I hope this opens the door for more authors and readers, and better-written, more brilliant erotica to come.

Happy Valentine’s Day.