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An Open Marriage Can’t Fix Something That’s Already Broken

March 26, 2015

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A new memoir called The Wild Oats Project: One Woman’s Midlife Question for Passion At Any Cost is giving a lot of committed monogamists the chance to say “I told you so!” about open marriage.

Here’s the book in a nutshell: San Francisco-based magazine editor Robin Rinaldi felt like her marriage was in a rut, and convinced her husband to open their marriage for a year in an effort to save it. He said okay, and she went on to sleep with eight men and two women in a year, while he had a lengthy affair with just one woman. Then, soon after she returned to him, they decided to divorce. It turned out she’d fallen in love with one of those eight men, and she’s now married to him. It’s like a morality tale for the Nerve.com generation!

Except that what Robin and her husband were going through was a little more intense than a rut. Here’s Rinaldi writing in the New York Post:

Stuck in a rut — our once-a-week sex life was loving, but lacked spontaneity and passion — I was craving seduction and sexual abandon. I was having a midlife crisis and chasing this profound, deeply rooted experience of being female.

Before then, starting a family had felt like one route to this elusive state of feminine fulfillment. But Scott had made it absolutely clear he never wanted a baby, and even had a vasectomy.

I broke the news to Scott that I wanted an open marriage in early 2008, a few months after his vasectomy. “I won’t go to my grave with no children and four lovers,” I told him repeatedly. “I refuse.” [She'd had only three partners before marrying at 26.]

In other words, “once-a-week sex [that] was loving, but lacked spontaneity and passion” wasn’t even close to being the whole story. The inspiration for opening their marriage sprung more from a kind of deeply emotional and fraught tit-for-tat: If you won’t give me children, then you have to give me more sexual freedom. We’re not saying that this is a bad reason to want to open your marriage, — her reasoning actually makes complete sense to us — but the fact that Robin Rinaldi’s experiment failed to save her troubled marriage shouldn’t be considered a failure of open marriages in general.

Open marriages may very well be able to get you out of a rut — if that’s all you’re experiencing. Of course, as The Wild Oats Project demonstrates all too clearly, the risk you take when opening your marriage is that one of you will fall in love with one of the pinch hitters. (Rinaldi limited herself to three dates per partner, to keep things light and casual, but who hasn’t fallen in love within three dates before?!)

But what open marriage can’t fix is a marriage that is broken because one partner wanted children and the other didn’t. It’s the reason that most people discuss this subject before getting married, after all. Here’s Rinaldi talking about her experiment on British TV:

I got into my early 40s and my husband got a vasectomy and I knew the discussion of having a baby was over, which kick-started this experience. I looked forward to my death bed and thought, What will I have? I won’t have children and grandchildren. Will I at least have lived fully? If I couldn’t have one I wanted the other. Like a lot of women at that age I was hitting my confidence and sexual peak and suddenly realized very dramatically that I wasn’t going to have children. It was the perfect storm.

So, sure, maybe Rinaldi’s marriage wouldn’t have ended if she hadn’t opened her marriage — but then she would have been trapped in a marriage that had a lot more wrong with it than lackluster sex once a week. And you can’t blame the swingers for that!

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Top 10 Reasons Why “Secretary” Is Better Than “Fifty Shades”

February 18, 2015

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Okay, so yes, the Fifty Shades movie was better than the Fifty Shades book. But, like we said, the bar wasn’t exactly set high for that. And yes, the movie may help to make BDSM even more mainstream, just as the book did. (Now everyone and their grandmother knows what a safe word is!) It will also likely increase sex toy sales, and hopefully improve the sex lives of at least a handful of long-married couples who could use a little more kink in their lives. And lovers all over the world may now find themselves associating the smell of buttered popcorn with handcuffs and paddles. On the other hand, the movie may also create tension in relationships… a woman finds herself suddenly annoyed that her man doesn’t own his own helicopter… or a man is suddenly annoyed that his woman doesn’t bite her lip and say “sir.”

But none of this means that the Fifty Shades movie is even close to the best cinematic depiction of a BDSM relationship out there. In fact, the 2002 indie film Secretary, a Sundance favorite, blows Fifty out of the water, if you ask us.  Here’s why:

10.
Grey was here first. E. Edward Grey is the name of the dominant boss played by James Spader in Secretary. Almost ten years later, E.L. James names her dominant lover Christian Grey — and three years after that, Jamie Dornan gets the worst haircut ever to play Christian Grey on screen. Perhaps it was an homage.

9.
It’s actually goodThe Fifty Shades books may be a record breaker (it’s the fastest-selling paperback of all time) and a crazy money maker (E.L. James’s net worth is apparently a cool $80 mil), but they’re never going to win any literary awards — and, likewise, while the movie broke all sorts of records for advance ticket sales and drunken women renting limos for screenings, we don’t see any Oscars in its future. Secretary was nominated for a Golden Globe (best actress in a musical or comedy) and three Chlotrudis Awards (best actor, actress and adapted screenplay), among others; and it won an Independent Spirit Award (best first screenplay) and a Gotham Award (breakthrough performance, Maggie Gyllenhaal), among others. Sorry, Jamie and Dakota, don’t start working on any awards speeches… unless it’s for the Razzies.

8.
More likable protagonist. Yes, Dakota Johnson is about a hundred times more likable than Ana-Steele-on-paper, with all her Oh my!s and the countless Holy shit!s and that irritating inner goddess. But Dakota Johnson’s Ana is nevertheless a bit of a lip-biting blank space who submits a little too easily to the whims of her controlling stalker boyfriend. (She doesn’t even ask him how he managed to break into her apartment!) The flaws of Secretary‘s Lee Holloway, on the other hand, are not only believable, but relatable (to a certain extent), and make her a sympathetic, grownup character.

7.
More believable love interest. A 27-year-old gazillionaire with impossible abs and a million obsequious employees who has time to get a pilot’s license and shop for his own hardware supplies? Who deflowers a virgin and wins her over with extravagant gifts like rare books, a new computer, and a new car? (Who does he think he is, Oprah?!) Yeah right. Much more realistic is the socially awkward, emotionally sensitive Lee and her creepy-seeming and ultimately conflicted love interest — both of whom are pretty normal looking. Plus, this Grey actually does sit-ups. And he has way better hair than Jamie Dornan in the movie.

6.
We actually see Grey working in Secretary. Over the course of the entire film, you see Christian Grey take a single “urgent” business phone call, and when he talks into his phone he sounds like a little kid impersonating his working father. Or like a trust fund baby who is allowed to pretend that he runs a business, while the real grownups actually get the work done. (Sure, we see Ana working in the hardware store, but it’s just a setting for her to blush and stammer.) Admittedly, it’s been a while since we saw SECRETARY, but we’re pretty sure some actual work takes place there, along with all the kinky dictation.

5.
More honorable origins. Secretary was based on a short story by literary power house Mary Gaitskill. Fifty Shades, on the other hand, was based on the cliche-ridden book of the same name, which in turn was originally online fan fiction, based on the Y.A. Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers.  Yup.

4.
A sense of humorErotica and romance, almost by definition, have to take themselves extremely seriously. The sex is earnest to keep up the fantasy, and the Fifty Shades books are as earnest and unfunny as it gets. As an indie film, Secretary didn’t have those restraints, and therefore could wade into the waters of black comedy. Can you imagine a scene in Fifty Shades where Jamie Dornan covers his desk in hay and has Dakota Johnson kneel upon it on all fours with a carrot in her mouth and saddle on her back? Didn’t think so. But that’s the kind of scene that made Secretary awesome — and funny. There are a smattering of funny moments in the Fifty Shades movie, but most of the humor is unintentional.  Sadly, we have a feeling that director Sam Taylor-Johnson would have included a lot more humor, if it wasn’t for the heavy hand of “consultant” and earnest erotica peddler E.L. James.

3.
Better writing. Actually, there is something kind of funny about the Fifty Shades books — the writing! The repetition of phrases, the cultural anachronisms, the offensive overuse of adverbs, the misuse of the word “subconscious.” If you didn’t laugh you’d cry, because you’d be so sad about the fact that you couldn’t put down something so poorly written. And while, happily, most of those adverbs didn’t make it into the Fifty Shades screenplay, a lot of the bad dialogue did. You can almost see Jamie Dornan cringe when he has to utter the line, “I’m fifty shades of fucked up.” Secretary, on the other hand? It won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.

2.
BDSM is freeing, not the other way around. In Fifty Shades of Grey, both the book and the movie, Grey beats the shit out of women because he had a literal “crack whore” for a mom who didn’t love him enough — it’s an obsession that haunts him and that he feels great shame about (okay, so in the movie he calls her a “crack addict”… but still). In Secretary, Lee is a troubled self-cutter, but it’s the BDSM relationship that frees her. Production designer Amy Danger said of the story: “With this S&M material, we could go into a dark place… Steve [Shainberg, the director] and I wanted the total opposite: that the nature of this relationship freed [the characters] to be their natural selves.”

1.
Secretary didn’t need wealth to make the kink acceptable. One of the reasons, in our opinion, that so many millions of readers and, now, viewers find the Fifty Shades kink acceptable is that Christian Grey is a billionaire. It’s the same with luxury high-end sex toys encrusted with diamonds: for some people, the more they spend on a sex toy, the less dirty it feels. Sure, it’s okay for Christian to spank Ana and ask her to do unspeakable things, so long as he also takes her out in a glider and buys her a new car. Secretary, on the other hand, manages to make the BDSM totally relatable — romantic, even! — without a single helipad in sight.

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How the “Fifty Shades” Movie Is Better Than the Book

February 16, 2015

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Yes, the movie was better than the book. Of course, if you’ve read the book, then you know that’s not saying much. The bar was pretty low to begin with. And one would hope that with a 40 mil production budget and a feminist director, that bar would inevitably be raised pretty high. Of course, as it’s been widely reported, the author E.L. James did everything she could to keep that bar right where it was, for the sake of her die-hard fans. So the movie was an improvement, but not a miracle.his

Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 26%. Ouch. We guess that’s understandable if you’re judging it as a stand-alone movie. But we would argue that you can’t take it out of its context as Twilight fan-fiction turned historically successful — and historically acceptable — “mommy porn.” If you judge the movie by comparing it to its literary (and we use that term loosely) origin, then it’s smarter, funnier, and more believable. It’s also shot beautifully and delivers in the sexy department (though the book will still surely be better wank material for most women).

Before the movie came out, we had a list of ten ways we hoped the movie would improve upon the book. Let’s see how it faired below. Then we’ll cover our pleasant surprises and less expected disappointments.

1. No cable ties: FAIL

In the first book, when Christian visits Ana at the hardware store and picks up some DIY bondage supplies, it’s implied — intentionally or not — that he’s hoping to use cable ties as wrist restraints on his next guest in his Red Room of Pain. Big mistake. HUGE! If used in such a way, cable ties could cause cuts, poor circulation, and a little thing called nerve damage. The only thing they should be used for in BDSM play is organizing all the cords of your various plug-in vibrators. The movie doubles down on the idea of cable ties by having Christian actually explain they are items, in addition to rope and cuffs, that he could use to restrain her. Bush league!

2.  No explosive orgasms from Ben Wa balls: SUCCESS

In the book, Christian pops them in, spanks away and then it’s Orgasm City. Very unrealistic, at least for the majority of women. They don’t even make a cameo in the movie, which we’re sure disappointed fans (there was no tampon removal either — damn, MPAA!). But at least by omitting the balls, the movie did away with another ridiculous sexual expectation most women can’t meet.

3. Give Ana some sexual experience: FAIL

Just a smidge? Nope, not in the book or the movie. We’re supposed to believe an adult woman who’s not a member of the FLDS can graduate college with absolutely no sexual interest, no experience with men, and no attempts at masturbation ever? It perpetuates the myth that women aren’t sexual creatures until the right man comes along. Please. She’s the virgin and he’s the stud, and they save each other — gross. And even if we were to believe that such a mythical woman could actually exist, it would be totally irresponsible — reprehensible even — to dunk her over her head into the world of BDSM (even with a single introductory vanilla cherry popping’ sesh). At least in the movie, Christian seems as surprised to hear about her sexual status as we were.

4. Full disclosure on the slave contracts: SEMI-FAIL

Christian doesn’t ever clearly articulate to Ana that slave contracts are not actually legally binding — you know, thanks to Abraham Lincoln and that whole abolitionist movement. Here’s a kid, for all intents and purposes, who is not what you would call worldly or business savvy or lawyered up. Not cool for a romantic interest who’s supposedly falling in love. But we will say this: if this is one of those suspension-of-disbelief things Hollywood requires for the fantasy, then at least they didn’t push it too hard in the movie. And major points scored for making the contract negotiation scene a meeting of the minds, in a boardroom, head to head, with witty repartee and humor and Ana ultimately holding all the control (rather than Christian wining and dining and pressuring her to just sign the damn thing, as it goes down in the book).

5. Easy on the controlling, abusive, stalker-ish behavior: SEMI-SUCCESS

In the book, Christian spies on her and tries to control who she can see, where she works, what she eats, how she works out — and she is not down with it. She’s afraid he’s going to hurt her; he causes her physical and emotional pain she doesn’t want — that’s not a D/s relationship, that’s abuse. And where’s the aftercare? The movie does make him less of a criminal. It eases way off on him obsessing over her food intake and workout routine, which helps make him much less creepy.  Meanwhile, Ana seems to have a much stronger sense of herself, a greater ability to assert her desires, and a better sense of humor. She basically tells him to cut the shit and open the door when he’s hesitating outside his playroom. However, he still breaks into her apartment and she never says, “How the fuck did you get in here?!?”

6. More well-adjusted kinky characters: N/A

We thought it would be nice if the movie could add a character or two who’s into kink who isn’t royally fucked up. In the book, it’s Christian the controlling abusive boyfriend, his crazy gun-wielding ex sub, and his statutory rapist from when he was a kid. Not exactly the best advertisement for the kink community, the majority of whom are uber-responsible, law-abiding, stable citizens. The first movie in the series focuses solely on Christian, with his ex-dom, “Mrs. Robinson,” just a mysterious off-screen character.

7. Drop Ana’s issues with eating:  SUCCESS

With Ana forgetting to eat all the time, not being hungry and being forced to eat by Christian, it’s like she’s got an eating disorder. Maybe EL James was just playing around with a woman’s ultimate fantasy of never being hungry, but it’s a distracting issue — let the girl have a healthy appetite. Fortunately, in the movie, she enjoys making — and actually eats — food.

8. Have Ana enjoy the kink more: SEMI-SUCCESS

She can be conflicted about it, sure, but she should ultimately love it, embrace it and not be so afraid of it. In the movie, we’re spared Ana’s original wishy-washiness: visually, she seems to be thoroughly enjoying every kinky sexual experience, at least up until the walloping climax. A truly novel ending would have had Ana, through tears of pain, grinning in ecstasy, in spite of herself.

9. Make the sole minority character less date rape-y:  SUCCESS

Jose, basically the one minority in the book, is on a clear path to sexual assault as he tries to take advantage of Ana when she’s super drunk outside the bar. In the book, he tries to kiss her even though she keeps saying no and trying to push him away. He continues to hold her in a bear hug and is about to commit a crime before Grey breaks it up. Criminal tendencies aren’t a great quality in a “really good friend.” Fortunately, in the movie, they softened this scene by making it clear Jose and Ana are both drunk and by having Jose basically go in for a single kiss that’s more “I’ve been in love with you for a long time and am so pathetic I can only admit it when we’re both wasted” rather than “I’ve wanted to fuck you for a long time and now I’m going to take advantage of your inebriation to get what I want.”

10. No Ana narration: SUCCESS

Thank the Inner Goddess, the movie dispenses with Ana’s insipid internal dialogue. There are no voiceovers about the “ghost of a smile” on Christian’s face or her rather communicative Subconscious. There’s just a single, quiet, understated “Holy cow” uttered after she leaves his office — it’s manageable, just barely.

 

THE PLEASANT SURPRISES

1. Ana has pubic hair! 

We were pleasantly surprised to see some real bush (or even just merkin) in the movie — in ANY movie. In an interview, the director Sam Taylor-Johnson says Ana’s pubic hair goes on a journey with Ana throughout the movie; if that means Ana doesn’t have any pubes by the end — implying Grey’s insistence in the book on down-there-hairlessness — we didn’t notice.

2. No “crackwhore.”

Fortunately Christian doesn’t call his mother a crackwhore — instead, he refers to her as a crack addict and a prostitute. A small but still significant victory.

3. More funny jokes.  

There were some nice, unexpected moments when the movie had the audience laughing intentionally.

4. Dakota Johnson wasn’t half bad.

We were braced for a cringe-inducing performance (akin to that of Drew Barrymore in “Mad Love”), but Johnson (aided by Taylor-Johnson’s attempt at giving Ana more control and agency) actually made Ana bearable, likable even.

 

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS

1. Too many terrible lines from the book. 

With all the control given to the author over the movie, we knew a lot of the worst writing would have to be included, but we still hoped for heavier editing. There were quite a few times when the cheesiest lines from the book elicited loud laughs from the movie-going audience.  And when Dornan has to say “I’m fifty shades of fucked up,” he turns away from the camera and lowers his head — we have a feeling the shame he was emoting was NOT acting.

2. Wet-noodle flogging scene. 

The scene with the rope and the flogger in the Red Room of Pain was pretty mild, and didn’t do much to convey how pleasure and pain can mix erotically.

3. Jamie Dornan was pretty flat. 

After his great performance in the BBC series “The Fall,” in which he plays a serial killer, we had high hopes for what he could do with Christian. But sadly, he’s more charismatic, sexier, more soulful even as a soulless murderer.

4. Not enough male nudity. 

Hello? Women are the ones going to this movie. We want to admire Christian Grey’s body! While we appreciate the realism and subtlety with which Dakota Johnson’s nude form was shot, we really would have appreciated a heavier female gaze when it came to Dornan’s bod. We’re not even asking for full frontal. How about a quick side shot? Hey, if Ben Affleck can do it…

5. That hairpie! 

Oh, how can you make Jamie Dornan not hot? Somehow, the stylists managed to give him a hairdo that conveyed more “dork” than “dreamboat.” And the occasional mussiness resulting from t-shirt removal was not enough to fix it.

 

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Top 10 Things We Hope the “Fifty Shades” Movie Does Better Than the Book

February 12, 2015

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OMG IT’S TONIGHT OMG IT’S TONIGHT OMG IT’S TONIGHT! The film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book in the mega-selling erotic trilogy by E.L. James, finally opens tonight! Well, officially it opens tomorrow, but a bunch of theaters are holding screenings tonight. Ladies, we hope your limos are booked (ours is… seriously). With the casting of Jamie Dornan (The Fall) as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson (The Social Network) as Anastasia Steele, many diehard fans have been crying foul, saying that the filmmakers got it wrong. They certainly get Jamie Dornan’s hairstyle wrong in the movie, of that much we’re sure. Then again, we’re not sure any casting would have been universally warmly received (short of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart), but we do think the film has a chance to definitely get some other things right. Behold, our top 10 improvements on the book we hope to see in the movie tonight:

1. No cable ties: In the first book, when Christian visits Ana at the hardware store and picks up some DIY bondage supplies, it’s implied — intentionally or not — that he’s hoping to use cable ties as wrist restraints on his next guest in his Red Room of Pain. Big mistake. HUGE! If used in such a way, cable ties could cause cuts, poor circulation, and a little thing called nerve damage. The only thing they should be used for in BDSM play is organizing all the cords of your various plug-in vibrators.

2.  No explosive orgasms from Ben Wa balls. It’s just not realistic, at least not for the majority of women. Giving them the same power as, say, a vibrator just sets women up for yet another sexual expectation most can’t meet. Balls (like LELO’s Luna Beads) are better suited for working out your pelvic floor muscles and thus improving pelvic health, which can lead to better sexual sensations. But as little balls full of cosmic orgasm potential? Uh uh.

3. Give Ana some sexual experience. Just a smidge. We’re supposed to believe an adult woman who’s not a member of the FLDS can graduate college with absolutely no sexual interest, no experience with men, and no attempts at masturbation ever? It perpetuates the myth that women aren’t sexual creatures until the right man comes along. Please. She’s the virgin and he’s the stud, and they save each other — gross. And even if we were to believe that such a mythical woman could actually exist, it would be totally irresponsible — reprehensible even — to dunk her over her head into the world of BDSM.

4. Full disclosure on the slave contracts. Christian doesn’t ever clearly articulate to Ana that slave contracts are not actually legally binding — you know, thanks to Abraham Lincoln and that whole abolitionist movement. Here’s a kid, for all intents and purposes, who is not what you would call worldly or business savvy or lawyered up. Not cool for a romantic interest who’s supposedly falling in love.

5. Easy on the controlling, abusive, stalker-ish behavior. Christian spies on her and tries to control who she can see, where she works, what she eats — and she is not down with it. She’s afraid he’s going to hurt her; he causes her physical and emotional pain she doesn’t want — that’s not a D/s relationship, that’s abuse. And where’s the aftercare? Christian is a terrible top. The movie should make him a better one.

6. More well-adjusted kinky characters. It would be nice if the movie could add a character or two who’s into kink who isn’t royally fucked up. In the book, it’s Christian the controlling abusive boyfriend, his crazy gun-wielding ex sub, and his statutory rapist from when he was a kid. Not exactly the best advertisement for the kink community, the majority of whom are uber-responsible, law-abiding, stable citizens.

7. Drop Ana’s issues with eating.  With Ana forgetting to eat all the time, not being hungry and being forced to eat by Christian, it’s like she’s got an eating disorder. Maybe EL James was just playing around with a woman’s ultimate fantasy of never being hungry, but it’s a distracting issue — let the girl have a healthy appetite.

8. Have Ana enjoy the kink more. She can be conflicted about it, sure, but she should ultimately love it, embrace it and not be so afraid of it.

9. Make the sole minority character less date rape-y. Jose, basically the one minority in the book, is on a clear path to sexual assault as he tries to take advantage of Ana when she’s super drunk outside the bar. He tries to kiss her even though she keeps saying no and trying to push him away. He continues to hold her in a bear hug and is about to commit a crime before Grey breaks it up. Criminal tendencies aren’t a great quality in a “really good friend.”

10. No Ana narration. We hope and pray the movie dispenses with Ana’s insipid internal dialogue. Please no voiceovers about the “ghost of a smile” on Christian’s face or her cartwheeling Inner Goddess.

For an awesome book about kink that should be made into a documentary movie, check out our award-winning “150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink” – now available as a Kindle E-book! 

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The Best Last Minute Valentine’s Day Present This Year!

February 9, 2015

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Here are the top 10 reasons why our book 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink — now also available in a discreet Kindle edition! – makes the best Valentine’s Day present this year:

  1. It gives you the great excuse to try something new in the bedroom — perfect for longterm couples on Valentine’s Day.
  2. It also has staying power. The perspectives it can give you on kinky sex can inspire your sex lives for years to come. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
  3. It’s timely and relevant. We’re pretty sure even Kurdish fighters know that the Fifty Shades movie is opening this weekend. Our book helps put such a huge cultural phenomenon into perspective, in a way that’s fun and flirty (and actually well written).
  4. It helps round out a nice gift basket of treats for Valentine’s Day: chocolates for your sweetie’s sweet tooth, tickets to the Fifty Shades movie for some eye candy, roses for romance, and 150 Shades of Play for playtime! (Way better than some ill-fitting lingerie they’ll never wear.)
  5. Even if your partner doesn’t love it, you can pass it off as a gag gift that makes a great bathroom book. Just turn to the entry on  pony-play!
  6. The lighthearted tone of 150 Shades of Play takes some of the pressure off of you two to perform (unlike the gift of, say, a strap-on dildo).
  7. It’s a great way to give your partner hints about what you’d like to try…just happen to leave a bookmark or post-it next to a section that catches your interest, then leave the book on their pillow/night-stand. Or just get the book for yourself, read up on some tips and techniques before Valentine’s Day, and then wow your luvva with your amazing new moves!
  8. Not only can it improve your sex life, it can improve your social life! You can enliven future cocktail parties with some of the trivia you’ll learn from 150 Shades of PlayDid you know that we get the term “masochist” from Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, the author of the 1870 novel Venus in Furs? Both he and his main character got off on being degraded by dominant women wearing fur. And that’s one to grow on!
  9. It’s affordable!  Especially on Kindle! You get so much — 230 pages of well-researched history, fascinating cultural information, good sexual advice, precise technical instruction, cool illustrations, and side-splitting humor (basically everything that wasn’t in Fifty Shades) — for so little: dollars less, in fact, than what 8 measly pieces of Godiva chocolates costs! Less even than a single movie ticket in most of this country!
  10. Not only will you be giving your partner/friend/friend-with-benefits a great gift, you’ll be giving us a gift too: By buying our book, you will literally help keep this site up and running. So won’t you please be our Valentine?

150 Shades of Play is available on Amazon.com, in either a gorgeous glossy paperback or a discreet Kindle edition. Visit 150ShadesOfPlay.com for more information about our book, including excerpts and praise from actual celebrities.

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Watch the Entire “Fifty Shades” Movie Online Right Now!

February 6, 2015

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Okay, it’s not exactly the entire movie. But from these five sneak-peak clips that ran on the Today Show this past week, you basically get a complete picture (lots of awkward pauses, dubious chemistry, lame Christian Grey hair). Are we still gonna see it? Hells yes! But now, you don’t have to. Here they are, in what we’re guessing is chronological movie-scene order:

“We offer an excellent internship program.”

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 
“Ok… rope, tape, cable ties. You’re the complete serial killer.”

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 
“You’re energetic this morning.”
“I’m making pancakes!”

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 
“I don’t do romance.”

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 
“This is my playroom.”
“Like your Xbox and stuff?”

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

Catch up on all our “Fifty Shades” posts in this Special Issue:



The Top 5 Writing Lessons of “Fifty Shades of Grey”

February 6, 2015

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According to Wikipedia, the Fifty Shades of Grey series “has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages, and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.” Not only has it introduced many people to the world of kink, it’s given them a lesson in how not to write. And if a lack of literary merit didn’t slow down sales, well, at least people can learn about the elements of style while being turned on by the elements of sadomasochism.

1. Avoid repetition of words and phrases. 

When Ana first meets Christian Grey, she thinks she spots a “ghost of a smile” in his expression. That’s a nice, descriptive way of putting it — it’s easy for the reader to imagine. The problem is, James uses the same exact phrasing only a few pages later, for the same character. And that’s not the last we hear the term “ghost of a smile,” either — it pops up a few more times in the first book. Using something so specific again and again just comes across as lazy.

 

2. Use adverbs sparingly. 

Anastasia Steele never met an adverb she didn’t like, especially when it’s modifying the way she or another character speaks: “I mumble almost inarticulately”; “I murmur apologetically”; “he murmurs softly.” (For painfully excessive use of the word “murmur” throughout Fifty, see rule #1).

 

3. Don’t use substitutes for the verb “said.”

The Fifty Shades characters rarely just “say” something, they whisper it, they breathe it, they moan it, they mumble it, they murmur it, ad nauseum (see rule  #2, and then rule #1). One of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules on Writing is this: 

Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled,” “gasped,” “cautioned,” “lied.” I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

What he said.

4. Be accurate. 

There is such a thing as creative license, but E.L. James’s should be revoked. Like driving, creative license is not a right, but a privilege, and should be used responsibly and with the utmost care. For example, the author creatively personifies Ana’s internal struggles over various situations as two polar-opposite people living in her head: a sex-loving, open-minded, free-spirited, back-flipping “Inner Goddess” and a careful, cautious, judgmental worrier called her “Subconscious.” Cute, but what Alanis Morissette did to the word “ironic,” E.L. does to the word “subconscious.” To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” If it were truly Ana’s subconscious guiding her, Ana would not be aware of her — that’s what the whole “sub” part of that word means: not conscious! Similarly, there are a ton of British anachronisms in a story about American characters living in American cities with nary a funny Mancunian sidekick to rub off on them. James even includes an apology at the end of the third book for including a scene so preposterous that it defies all logic and law — that’s when you know you’ve abused your creative license.

 

5. Don’t worry about the rules of writing.

E.L. James didn’t, and look where that got her: laughing all the way to the bank! The most important thing is just sitting down and actually writing. As long as you do that — ideally with passion and conviction — then there’s a chance (albeit small) that you can ignore rules 1 through 4 above and still be a success.

If you liked Fifty Shades (despite the writing), you’ll love 150 Shades of Play, our how-to companion piece to the popular trilogy! 

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The 17 Most Annoying Aspects of the “Fifty Shades” Story

February 5, 2015

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By Lindsey Kupfer for YourTango.com

Here’s a refresher course on how messed up Fifty Shades really is.

The Fifty Shades Of Grey movie hype is growing as the movie’s release date (February 13) gets closer, which means a barrage of media attention is once more on the mommy porn flick. And that means I get to hear endless apologies and explanations for how what may be the most sexist, poorly written piece of literature since Tucker Max thought he was relevant.

Listen, if Fifty Shades Of Grey turns you on, that is your business. You do you. I’m not here to judge anyone for their bedroom behaviors, be it vanilla sex or BDSM. As long as you’re all consenting adults, have at it. But there are parts of Fifty Shades Of Greyand its sequels (Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed) that are much more painful than being spanked with a riding crop, and I’m not talking about the painfully, secondhand embarrassingly bad dialogue (which is bad enough).

It’s the relationship between Ana Steele and Christian Grey that’s really disturbing, and at times flat-out abusive. Also unsettling? The relationship between Ana Steele and herself. And between Ana Steele’s brain and, I’m guessing, huffing glue. Here are the creepiest, most disturbing moments in Fifty Shades Of Grey (and its sequels). Keep these in mind when deciding whether or not to order advance tickets to the movie, okay?
 

1. Ana Steele doesn’t have an email address.

Listen, I can forgive and understand someone not having a computer (you can use labs at school) or a Smartphone (they’re not for everyone). But 21-year-old Ana Steele not having a f*cking email address? Seriously? No one graduates or even enters college without an email address. Your college will give you one if you don’t have one already. And if you don’t have one already, you’re either Amish, elderly, or don’t exist.
 

2. Ana Steele has no self-esteem.

To be fair, Ana Steele goes beyond basic and into “remedial” territory, but she should still have a modicum of respect for herself if only for being a living, breathing human being. Instead, she spends her time wondering if she’s good enough for a man who compares her to his “crackwhore” mom and controls her every move. How empowering.
 

3. Ana Steele has never had an orgasm.

Let’s be clear: This has nothing to do with being a virgin. You don’t need a partner to have an orgasm.
 

4. Christian Grey wanted to take advantage of a drunk Ana Steele.

When Ana Steele drunk dials Christian Grey, he shows up at the bar, is a dick to her pal, and scolds her for acting like any young 20-something. Then he tells her that he wants to have sex with her. While she’s too wasted to give consent. Yeah, nothing sketchy about that (if you’re Bill Cosby).

5. Christian Grey is basically a stalker.

In only the second chapter of Fifty Shades Of Grey (EL James wastes notime), Christian Grey shows up at Ana Steele’s job even though there are plenty of hardware stores in the world that he can access at any time. He continues popping up and refusing to leave her alone throughout the story, despite her insistence. That’s not romantic. That’s psychotic.
 

6. Ana Steele doesn’t have a lawyer look over the BDSM contract.

Considering Ana Steele didn’t have a second set of eyes reading her BDSM contract with Christian Grey, she basically went in blind and a with a real handicap. Also, to reiterate, she’s a college graduate without an email address. I’m willing to bet she didn’t quite understand all of the stipulations and risks involved with this.
 

7. Ana Steele loves Christian Grey’s super-creepy gifts.

Sure, there’s nothing inherently creepy about a Blackberry or a laptop, but there’s a lot wrong with someone giving you a Blackberry and a laptop for the sole purposes of controlling, tracking and manipulating you (and showing up at your house if you don’t text him back fast enough). Also, that book, Tess Of The D’Urbervilles? It’s basically about a woman being raped repeatedly. How romantic! You know, if you’re Ted Bundy.
 

8. Christian Grey tries controlling Ana Steele’s diet.

Remember when Christian Grey tells Ana Steele she needs to eat three meals a day? Because there was no other way for her to know nor find that information other than from his mouth? Or when they’re at the restaurant and he makes her order steak? First of all, he shouldn’t have to force her into eating steak. Steak is f*cking wonderful. But he also shouldn’t, you know, force her into anything. What if she were vegan? (Just kidding, she wouldn’t be vegan or have any other sort of distinction in her diet nor her character, because she doesn’t have a personality.)
 

9. Christian Grey is attracted to his mother.

Okay, technically to women who look like his mother. The same mother to whom he affectionately refers as a “crackwhore.” That’s about as flattering as being told, “You look fat today,” only about a million times worse.
 

10. Christian Grey’s own mom thought he was gay.

Dude, come on. If that isn’t a red (or rainbow) flag, I don’t know what is. Also, while we’re at it, remember when Ana Steele’s buddy Kate Kavanaugh is shocked that Steele is “fascinated by a man?” Why wasn’t anyone asking if Ana was the gay one here?
 

11. Christian Grey buys the company where Ana Steele works.

It’s remarkable that someone as basic and useless as Ana Steele was able to find and keep a job at a publishing house, and it was a good sign of her growing independence and confidence. So Christian Grey takes that away from her and essentially becomes her boss in yet another arena without her knowledge. Hot.
 

12. Christian Grey arrives uninvited at Ana Steele’s mom’s place.

No normal man wants to spend extra time with his mother-in-law. Not even yours. Not matter how great your mom is. Know that.
 

13. Ana Steele gets pregnant by accident.

When taken correctly, birth control pills work. Ana Steele had a Blackberry. Why couldn’t she set an alarm? I’ve seen Maury. I don’t buy it.
 

14. No one says “jeez” that much.

Seriously. No one. Ever. Toddlers have a more sophisticated vocabulary than this.

 

15. Ana Steele’s “inner goddess” is about 11 years old.

Oh, need proof? Here, direct quotes: ”My inner goddess jumps up and down with cheer-leading pom-poms shouting yes at me.” Also, “My inner goddess looks like someone snatched her ice cream.” Basically, Christian Grey may be an accidental pedophile if we’re going by mental age.

16. Ana Steele’s brain literally doesn’t function properly.

Early in the book when Christian Grey first visits Ana Steele at Clayton’s, she muses, “And from a very tiny, under-used part of my brain— probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata where my subconscious dwells—comes the thought: He’s here to see you.” That is not what your medulla oblongata does. Your medulla oblongata handles boring stuff like breathing, body temperature regulation and your heartbeat. Your “subconscious” doesn’t “dwell” there, and if it does, well, it explains why you think this is quality writing.
 

17. Ana Steele is taken aback by really mundane things.

From the multiple uses of baby oil to not realizing coffee shops also serve tea, Ana Steele’s epiphanies prove natural selection is a load of bullshit, because she’s almost too stupid to live.



Erotic Deathmatch: Fifty Shades of Grey vs. 150 Shades of Play

February 5, 2015

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This is the face the other Jamie makes when judging our book better than the one his movie is based on

Jamie Maclean is the founder and editor of the Erotic Review Magazine, an intelligent and artsy London-based website dedicated to sex (and NOT the US-based Yelp for escorts of a similar name). So how could we all not get on?! And then he called us “New York’s coolest sex therapists” and said that our book, 150 Shades of Play, “makes Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain look like a stationery cupboard, and Ana’s Inner Goddess like a virginal mouse.” Our inner goddesses are doing cartwheels!

We chatted with Jamie for an Erotic Review podcast, which you can listen to here – we talk about, amongst other things, why Fifty Shades is so successful, and whether or not we feel guilty for jumping on E.L. James’ bandwagon while simultaneously poking fun at her writing (plot spoiler: we don’t!). Here are two brief excerpts:

Jamie Maclean: Fifty Shades of Grey has had such an unprecedented sales record that it’s hard to believe that its success stems merely from an introduction to (and a subsequent fascination with) BDSM. But if this wasn’t the only reason for its triumph, what other — or others — do you attribute it to? 

Em: Well, for starters there’s the fact that Fifty Shades begin its life as Twilight fan-fiction — and if there was ever a story that was beginning for raunchy fan fiction, it was Twilight! So E.L. James didn’t exactly come out of nowhere — she had a pretty big fanbase in that world.

We also think that all the money-related escapism in Fifty Shades helps readers feel more comfortable with BDSM in particular and sex and raunch in general. You see the same thing in the world of sex toys — buying a five-pound dildo in a sleazy sex shop frequented by men in raincoats feels dirty, but paying 400 pounds for a platinum-plated one in a fancy boutiue is just being naughty.

Lo: This also explains why BDSM is increasingly mainstream — it’s increasingly expensive, well-designed, and nicely packaged! (Judith Krantz and Danielle Steele figured this out a long time ago, by the way, as did many many romance novelists).

The Shades of Grey heroine, Ana, is more than a little seduced by Christian’s obscene wealth – a while ago she might have been the heroine of what was then called a ‘shopping  & fucking’ novel. And perhaps part of that book’s appeal hard-worked housewives is the altogether delightful fantasy of a young woman’s untrammelled consumerism. And now there’s a scramble to accessorise Shades of Grey sex. Is your book just another part of the – unofficial – Shades of Grey franchise? 

Em: Ha ha we hope so! We’d love to get stinking rich off this.

Seriously, though, we take a sunnier view of all this consumerism: If it’s making women more comfortable and open about reading erotica, buying sex toys, and getting kinky in the bedroom, can it be such a bad thing?

Lo: Personally, we love the idea that so-called porn for moms has taking the publishing industry by storm. Bring it on!

You can listen to the entire podcast here at the Erotic Review website. And you can get your own copy of our book, 150 Shades of Play, here.

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Fifty Shades Parody Tells of Dungeons… and Dragons

February 4, 2015

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Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is on sale at Amazon

If you’re planning on seeing the Fifty Shades movie only so you can get your snark on, then we have a reading assignment for you. Of course, the web is littered with Fifty Shades of Grey parodies, but “Fanny Merkin” (a.k.a. Andrew Shaffer, author of Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love) wrote one of the funniest — and it’s a book-length parody. Yes, he wrote an entire novel that’s pretty much a line-by-line parody of Fifty Shades — it digs fun at the sex scenes, at the brand-name dropping, at the writing, at the murmuring, at the meandering inner monologues, and most especially at Anastasia’s various inner voices. It’s called Fifty Shames of Earl Grey and yes, there’s a grey tie on the cover. Earl Grey’s awesome deep dark secret is that he’s not nearly as kinky as he thinks he is. He wants to spank Anna Steal and she’s kind of like, ” That’s it?” Other dark secrets include: he rocks out to Nickelback albums, he has a man-crush on Tom Cruise, and he thinks that Italian food doesn’t get any better than the Olive Garden. Oh yeah, and the kind of role-playing games he likes involve wizard hoods and sorcery, and the only dungeons he’s familiar with are the kind that come with dragons. We weren’t sure we’d find a novel like this particularly funny — after all, the original Fifty Shades parodies itself pretty well. And it’s almost too easy to make fun of, so why bother? But once we started flipping through Fifty Shames of Early Grey, we couldn’t stop. Here are a few of our favorite bits…

    • When Anna Steal first shows up to interview Early Grey, the receptionist hands her a security badge that reads VIRGIN. And when Anna approaches the elevators, she says, “We don’t have elevators in Portland. This will be my first elevator ride. How do they work, exactly?”
    • Anna has an “inner guidette” who speaks with a thick Jersey accent. “I can tell it’s her,” Anna muses, “because when she talks inside my head there’s this weird echoey sound.”
    • HOLY MOTHER EFFING SPARKLY VAMPIRES IS HE HOT.
    • She feels a jolt of electricity when they shake hands… because he’s a prankster with a joy-buzzer in his hand.
    • She writes an essay for her ethics class (via quill pen and candlelight!) on the legalities of fan fiction.
    • Mr. Grey wears velour sweatpants.
    • He buys her Snooki’s book.
    • He runs “his finger over my most sensitive spot like it’s a MacBook trackpad.”
    • He pulls a white dove out of her “sex.” Seriously. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to the dove when it hits the ceiling fan. It could be a metaphor, Anna realizes.

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