Fifty Shades of Pop (Porn) Culture

So I finally read 50 Shades of Grey a few weeks ago to understand what the hype is all about. I know, I know I’m a sucker when it comes to giving into the mainstream and in all fairness, I need to admit up front that I did read all three books. Guess you could say it was my time to waste. But, wow allow me to applaud…that is some effective hype machine. Apparently, it is enough to sell millions of copies to millions of women and put all 3 books on the New York Times bestsellers list, but I still fail to understand the intrigue and excitement around this novel, if you can even call it that.

A friend of mine gave me a little history on the author, E L James. Apparently, this book or series of books came to fruition because Ms. James wrote what they call fan-fiction for Twilight. The idea behind fan-fiction is that people rewrite chapters or they write entirely new chapters based on characters already developed by another author, i.e. re-writing the story to play out the way someone else wants to see it. These pieces are shared on the Internet for anyone to read and enjoy. Ms. James used to write chapters based on the two characters of Bella and Edward. Enter in Anastasia and Christian Grey. Her work became quite popular and she drew a large following (ah that Twilight crowd…) which ultimately led to publishing these chapters in a book and one book became three. And now Ms. James is wealthier beyond her wildest dreams.

But allow me to share my opinion on the book. First don’t expect much, it’s poorly written. Think back to something you might have written in English 101. There’s no substance to it. Geez, if a book like that can sell, what’s holding me back? But secondly it’s hard-core erotica. Full stop. This is not a romance novel. It’s not a character book. It doesn’t have a truly functioning plot outside of the sex. It’s basically a bit of action and relationship development thrown in between sex, kinky sex, BDSM, and more sex. Amazon calls it a romance. I would suggest it’s erotica with a little romance to give you a break between the sex scenes. A girl can only get off so many times in 10 pages.

Maybe we should stop here and actually define erotica. Here are some definitions I found:
1) Literature which takes an artistic view of sex as content. 50 Shades – check.
2) Literature or art tended to arouse sexual desire. 50 Shades – check.
3) Evoking erotic arousal or depicts scenes of lovemaking includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, music and writing. 50 Shades – check.

Wait, so then what’s porn? I got curious and had to look up that definition as well. Pornography is defined as something of no literary or artistic value whose only point is to stimulate sexual desire. 50 Shades – check. Hmmm??? Seems like a fine line.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with erotica for adults. I am, in fact, a fan of erotica and sex in general. (Ohhh…shock! Horror of all horrors! I am so glad my mother is reading this!) Let’s face it, erotica has been around for a long time. You know those stuffy, prudish morals in the Victorian era had to lead to some type of sexual outburst on the down low – what better way then books. But let’s call a spade a spade. This is not the type of book that is going to appear on the top 100 reading list of all time.

What I actually find fascinating about this book is the role it plays in impacting our cultural beliefs around sex and society’s attitude towards erotica, especially women. In the past, erotica has been treated in a similar vein as porn, in the sense that it is often something to be ashamed of, to secret away and not to talk to others about. Erotica was only minimally available in bookstores, if at all or you had to buy it at specialty sex shops. Covers were often black and brown paper packaging was a must. It’s only in the last decade that erotica has focused efforts towards targeting women. Women enjoy the story behind the sex and the imagination that comes into play when one reads. Whereas, we all know men are the more visual type.

So imagine my surprise when I read this book and realized it was a book of erotica. Here was a book that I bought at Barnes & Noble prominently displayed on one of the front tables, but I’d also seen it at King Soopers, well within eye level and easy reach. For a culture that seems to pride itself on protecting its youth from pornography, sex, bad language and other indiscretions, this book was surprisingly warning free and easily accessible to anyone. As a society, we aim to protect our children by blocking the cover of sex magazines, blurring images of sexual body parts, provide ratings for movies and TV to notify when contents contain nudity, profanity, violence or sexual imagery, and even music is given a rating if the lyrics are deemed inappropriate. And yet as much as we strive to protect our children, the fact is that sex, sexual imagery, and sexual connotations are increasingly around us and our children on a daily basis. It’s not hard to find. Go to the Internet. Watch nighttime TV or cable TV. Listen to the Howard Stern. It seems the more we try to squelch exposure to sex, the more pervasive it becomes.

I am digressing here. My real point was that suddenly it seems as if erotica has become mainstream and acceptable. I don’t hear any conservatives or concerned parents or religious groups talking about banning the book. Maybe those days are long gone. But no one’s talking of putting a warning label on the book or selling it only to those above the age of 18. Instead this book is marketed and sold well within reach of anyone who can read and it’s freely publicized by women all over the US. What better marketing plan is there? Erotica has even become the next big thing in the book business. Publishers are seeking out these writers and knock offs of 50 Shades are already appearing in your local grocery store, with suggestive, romantic titles like Burned.

So maybe the real question is: does the high profile and success of this book suggest that women are missing something? Something about this book has attracted women by the thousands, not only to read the book but also refer it to other women in droves. It’s a clear indication that there is something women want and are not getting in real life. Isn’t that why we all read books or watch movies? For the escapism, entertainment, education or to experience something through someone else that we otherwise never would. Is this a signal that women are living unsatisfied sexual lives and thus appear eager to live vicariously through characters in the book? Is this a way of being more vocal about their possible sexual needs or desires? Or have we really just come to a point where we’ve given up the pretense that erotica is a bad, shameful thing and started to embrace it?

The only real public discussion I’ve heard around the book is the insipid theory that this means women want to be spanked, taken care of and controlled by a man. Come on! Women are sexual beings. We all have our own fantasies and desires. Just because you read something in a book doesn’t mean you want to act upon it the next day. That’s part of what makes it a fantasy. And if some women did want to be spanked, taken care of or controlled is that so bad? Sometimes giving someone else control is a good thing. To each her own. Again, we all have our own desires. What tips your fancy may be difficult for someone else to stomach. Different strokes for different folks. That’s part of what makes us human. As long as you’re not harming anybody else and your participation is consensual, what you do in your bedroom is your own damn business!

So maybe women just want to spice things up? Maybe this is something for the men to actually ponder. Are you satisfying your woman? And if you answered yes, my question is how do you know? Because clearly there are a lot of women out there who are looking for something extra in their sex lives.

So read the book or don’t. (Obviously, despite my critique I got something out of it, since I read all 3 books. Must admit that I did like the email repartee, no matter how unrealistic it seemed with all that instantaneous response.) Enjoy it or not. (I enjoyed it for what it was – erotica.) Be shocked, awed, disappointed or entertained. (For all the hype, the sex was really fairly vanilla. The contract itself was more suggestive than the actual sex.) Criticize or praise. (You’ve heard my thoughts. Feel free to share yours.) Ultimately, I do think it’s a demonstration of a turning point in our culture, for good or for bad.

Laters babe!

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Can’t Go Back Now

For the last month I’ve been writing blogs in my head. Problem with that is I usually forget them a day or two later and they never make it on ‘paper.’ Today I’m in the mountains, enjoying a little exploring and personal reflection. This is my go to song of the day. Lyrics are poignant or could mean nothing at all. Make it what you will. It’s one of those, but it fits my mood .

Yesterday when you were young everything you needed was done for you.
Now you’re on your own but you find you are all alone, what can you do?

You and me. Walk on walk on walk on because you can’t go back now.

You know there will be days that you can’t take another step.
Night will have no stars and you’ll think you will have gone as far as you will ever get.

Well you and me walk on walk on walk on because you can’t go back now.
Yeah. Yeah. Go where you want to go. Yeah. Yeah. Be what you want to be.
If you ever run around, you’ll see me.

I can’t really say why everybody wishes they were somewhere else.
But in the end the only steps that matter are the ones you take all by yourself.

You and me walk on walk on. Yeah you and me walk on walk on walk on because you can’t go back now.
Walk on walk on walk on.you can’t go back now.

That’s Can’t Go Back Now by the Weepies. And I’m walking on….

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Versatile Blogger Award! Who? Me? Yes, you. That’s who.

I am fairly new to the blogging world, but seriously loving it more each day. Writing is such a freeing experience and there are so many interesting things to read out there. So I am overjoyed that a follower of mine thought enough of my blog to give it the  Versatile Blogger Award. The award has rules, as I so aptly learned from my ‘awarder’, and being an A-type personality, I generally love to follow rules, so here goes:

1. Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
2. Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.

So big shout out and thank you to Rachel at Peace, Love & Fabulous Things for this award! Thanks gal! It means a lot to me that you enjoy this blog.

3. Select 15 excellent blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
4. Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award

These are some of the blogs that I am really enjoying at the moment. Please check them out!

1. lifeinthefarcelane – Honest, humorous & fabulous take on dating and life from a forty+ year old woman

2. snapshots of a crazy kind of life – A free-thinking, no longer 20-something gal’s perspective on life

3. strawmanchronicles – Calling out dishonesty in the media

4. The Daily What – a little bit of everything and anything, random, serious and regular

5. MWF seeking BFF – married white female on a search for a best friend forever & wrote a book about it!

6. My Next Date – A male’s perspective on dating

7. Overexposed & Underdeveloped – great photos of a family & life

8. I Have the Perfect Life? – freelancer and family woman living in Minnesota

9. Me! – Twenty-something insights on dating and life. Love the energy.

10. F to the Fourth Power – Another 40+ woman telling it like it is.

11. Ro Does Life – Love the honest insight from a woman trying to be her authentic self and shed 90 lbs

12. Mike_Reverb – aspiring writer talks that talks about things that are sometimes out of my ‘usual,’  but find it entertaining

13. Brook and McKenzie – two twenty-something friends writing about love and dating in this sex-crazed culture with great insight

14. Great Thoughts – interesting thoughts via a journal of life and other occurrences by Andrew

15. Lastly, for me the Word Press Blog has been helpful since I’m new to this and definitely need all the help I can get!

5. Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

So 7 tidbits about myself
1. I lived in East Africa for 11 years, but my favorite country to visit is Greece.
2. I am the oldest of four children.
3.I have 5 nephews and 1 niece. I hope I can add another girl to that group someday soon!
4. I absolutely adore the wide open, blue blue skies of Colorado.
5. I will sheepishly admit to a Twilight addiction earlier this year – books, movies and everything that goes with it. I am definitely Team Edward.

6. Beach or Mountains? Beach will win out every time.
7. Halloween is my favorite holiday!

Thanks again Rachel for the nomination and thanks to everyone follows my blog. I am finding my true voice so I appreciate your ears and opinions!

Ladies, Strut Your Stuff!

I recently joined a gym. It’s one of those fancy, smchmancy, offer everything kind of gyms  that is absolutely huge. This includes the locker rooms which are enormous with formidable size lockers, showers, steam, sauna, hair dryers, towels, etc. But I noticed the oddest thing today. At the end of each row of lockers is a little changing room with a door. At first, I didn’t even know it was there until someone came walking out and my curiosity had me peering into this little niche in the corner.  So it got me thinking. Someone could really do a fascinating study about women and their bodies from the depths of these ‘behind the curtain’ places.

Now, I’ve never been a skinny minny, but I also haven’t been shy about my body. Maybe that’s instilled self-esteem from my parents (high five to the folks!). When you are in a locker room, you change, shower, put on some lotion, apply the make-up, fix the hair, etc. and at times this can mean being naked or walking around naked or showing some nakedness. There is a wide range of approaches to nakedness in a women’s locker room. You have the women who seem to be so shy that they take their full set of clothes to the toilets or these little changing rooms to change. Don’t want to show a lick of skin. (These are also the same women who appear totally clothed – shoes and all – in the steam and sauna rooms. It’s a little shocking.) Or you have the women who try to change completely under a towel. Which honestly, I think is a bit ridiculous when you have these tiny little bath towels. (OK, well maybe not so small for the skinny girls, but I think it looks funny anyway). There are the women who just turn away and face their breasts to the nearest wall as they quickly shift clothing. God forbid, anyone gets a glimpse of the knockers. Then you have the half-naked chicks who will walk around with a towel around their waist; adopting the male technique. Finally, there are the full nudists who will walk to and fro, naked as a jaybird with no concern.

Personally, I don’t mind the nudity. Every woman’s body is different and I think you should take pride in what you have. Granted there is a place and time for nudity in the outside world, but why do women feel it’s necessary to hide their bodies in the confines of a changing area from other women? And what drives this behavior? Yeah, yeah, I know — culture, societal expectations, your family environment, peers, self-esteem, prudishness. But I say to hell with that! No matter your size, in the privacy of a women’s locker room you should not feel the need to run and hide. I watched a young girl about 12-13 years as she was furtively glancing around and seemed a bit shocked by the naked bodies in her immediate vicinity. Then she quickly grabbed her clothes and made a beeline for the toilets. And I thought, what are we teaching her? She clearly feels ashamed to show her body in front of other women or girls. I actually felt sorry for her, as I stood there in my underwear. But what has always really made me chuckle is watching those women who (in my opinion) have great physiques, are well-toned, with no obvious fat as they struggle to hide their bodies while trying to change covertly. I can’t help but think, what are they trying to hide, really? Someone going to stare at the goodies? Your va-jay-jay not up to snuff? Too much flab? If you look like that and can’t be proud…well, it’s time for a serious check up on your self-esteem. Because if I looked like that, I’d be strutting around naked all the time. Honestly! I could show them a roll or two….or three…that are probably better left covered up, but my mantra is what the hell? My body is my body. I certainly don’t love it all the time, but it’s what I’ve got to work with and I’m not going to be ashamed of it while changing in a locker room. Feel free to check me out sister!

I don’t think this something you grow into. I really think a lot of it comes down to how you were raised and the beliefs you were taught about yourself and your body, by your family. Don’t get me wrong – I have plenty of body issues that I could go on about for days, but I do think my parents were a bit free on the ‘being nude’ issue. Not that we ever walked around naked or anything, but there was never criticism about being naked, I saw them naked as a kid, and it wasn’t something that I was taught was a no-no or taboo. I hope I can do the same with my kids one day because I think it’s sad to be ashamed of your body. Be proud and strut your stuff! It’s all good.

Are you 40 and feeling it? Welcome to my world.

I recently made some big changes in my life. First and foremost, I moved back to the US after 11 years overseas in East Africa. It was a personal decision and one that was not easy to make. You see, I’m a typical type-A personality, so to quit a well-paying job and financial security, in exchange for the unknown is a rather dramatic, knee-shaking step. But deep down, I knew I needed a new approach to my life. In the last few years, my life has been etched with stress, long hours, toxic people, little enjoyment and a lack of fun or passion for life, all culminating in rather dismal personal returns. And to think it only took me three years to act upon this! Ah..better late than never. So now, I find myself back in the US, single, unemployed, ‘temporarily’ living with my parents and trying to figure out my next move. In a way, it’s rather exciting – an endless pit of possibilities. In another sense, it’s absolutely terrifying and at times, paralyzing. Figuring out what I want to do next and achieving that goal, trying not to feel guilty over sleeping in, working to avoid long hours of TV in my bathrobe and coming to grips with a new reality can be daunting. Don’t get me wrong, I am fortunate to be able to leave a job and not immediately move into something else, and I am actually enjoying this time off with the relief of a no stress environment. In a way, I feel more like my old self than ever before. But it’s also opened up the opportunity for some serious exploration. I have discovered that my creative side is screaming to be heard and pushing me to initiate things I’ve always said I wanted to do. I’ve also felt this urge or demand to be more self-expressive. I realized how trapped I had become – saying things to please others or not disrupt the status quo or because I knew that’s what they wanted to hear. I want to have my own voice, say what I want and not fear what others think. I want the freedom to create and live the life I have always dreamed of.   Ultimately, this means digging deep and exploring what has held me back, why I don’t love myself enough and looking at ‘who am I now?’ versus ‘who do I want to become?’ And so, here I am (quaking just a bit).

As I thought about starting this blog, I began to to think about all the things I would want to say. There are so many things about being a single, 40 year old woman to discuss! And I know there must be others out there that feel the same as I do. And so begins the blog of 40 and feeling it! This is not only an opportunity to share my thoughts, but I’m also so eager to hear from other people. The magazines, the talk shows, the media, and the self-help gurus all seem to suggest the answers are there and easy to achieve. I don’t think it’s so easy, but in the long run, I think I’ll gain more from putting an honest face on what it takes and being honest with myself. My plan is to be more open and forthcoming than ever before and approach things with the attitude of NO FEAR, no matter the topic. I plan to enjoy the journey!

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