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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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“150 Shades of Play” Is on Kindle for Valentine’s Day!

February 3, 2015

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Our latest book, now available in a discreet Kindle edition

We get it: 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink is not necessarily the book you want to be caught reading on the bus, or during your lunch break, and it’s definitely not the book you want sitting on your nightstand when your nosy mother-in-law (“Oops! You mean this isn’t the guest bathroom?!”) happens to visit the day after February 14th. Yes, we’re looking at you, Olive Kitteridge. So while we’re convinced our most recent book makes an awesomely playful Valentine’s Day gift — for her or him — we understand that the paperback version might not be quite as handy, or quite as welcome. On Kindle, on the other hand, your partner may actually read this thing on their morning commute… and come home with some naughty ideas.

Because we want to help spread the love (and the lust) this Valentine’s Day, 150 Shades of Play on Kindle is on sale now for $4.99 on Amazon — or FREE if you subscribe to Amazon’s KindleUnlimited service. Oh, and if you already happen to own 150 Shades in print, then the Kindle version is a bargain 99 cents.

And here’s why the Kindle version is worth checking out, whether or not you’re already familiar with the book: Every entry is completely linked! Simply click on any bolded word in the text throughout the book that you want to learn more about, and you will be taken directly to that term’s entry in our kinky encyclopedia!

A refresher course on our book: If you — or someone you know — loved the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James and is on countdown for the movie, but wished there had been a little more guidance and information, then 150 Shades is for you! This helpful (and hilarious, if we do say so ourselves) illustrated A-to-Z guide to kink for beginners includes:

  • How to’s on role play, dirty talk, spanking, bondage & more
  • Important safety info missing from the Fifty Shades trilogy
  • A voyeuristic peek at all of Christian Grey’s “hard limits”
  • Tips on shopping for top-of-the-line kinky accoutrements
  • Notes on what the Fifty series got wrong about BDSM
  • Links between all terms for easy navigation of related topics
  • Everything beginners need to know to get their kink on!

So don’t hesitate! Get it for a loved one, or a lusted-after one, this Valentine’s Day.  Not only will you be giving yourself, your partner or your friends a great [pick one: sexy / kinky / funny / outrageous / romantic / informative / entertaining / gag ] gift, you’ll be giving your two favorite friendly neighborhood sex writers a gift, too.

But don’t just take our word for what a great read it is; check out some of the praise the book has already received:

“I consider Em & Lo my adopted sex daughters, and they have made me proud once again with ’150 Shades of Play.’ Their sound advice, smart writing, and sense of humor empower women to give kink a try, safely and realistically.”
— Betty Dodson, sex educator icon & author of “Sex for One”

“For readers looking to tap their erotic potential, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is only the tip of the sexual iceberg. With their signature sense of humor and commitment to educate, Em & Lo take readers on a guided journey into titillating, and often taboo, territories and expertly navigate a diverse landscape of thrilling possibility.”
— Ian Kerner, PhD, GoodInBed.com founder & CNN columnist

“Unlike ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ this was fun to read, informative and didn’t take eight chapters to get to the sex part. Em & Lo have yet again taught me more about sex than all the extensive research I’ve done by watching porn.”
— Joel Stein, TIME magazine columnist & author of “Man Made”

So what are you waiting for? Have yourself a Very Fifty Valentine’s Day!

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The Original “Fifty Shades of Grey”

February 3, 2015

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Earlier covers of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty trilogy

In my senior year of high school, I (Lo) read The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, the first in a three-book series by vampire-genre goddess Anne Rice (who was a fave of mine at the time) writing under the pen name “A. N. Roquelaure.” Except instead of vampires, she was playing around with fairy tale characters in a crazy BDSM
world with bondage, whips, suspension, sticky-itchy honey-glazes on genitals, you name it! Her Beauty trilogy from over 25 years ago was the original Fifty Shades of Grey series, filled with kinky sex on almost every page — except Rice’s was actually well written and, if memory serves me correctly, a lot more hardcore.

Penguin Plume recently reissued the series with new covers and a new preface from Rice, in which she kind of can’t help but point out how she was here first, satisfying the dark fantasies of women long before Christian murmured ”Come for me, baby” and Anastasia did as she was told (and really, who can blame Rice). But my favorite parts of the new preface involve Rice defending the sexuality, sexual fantasies, and sexual agency of women:

As a feminist, I’m very much supportive of equal rights for women in all walks of life. And that includes for me the right of every woman to write out her sexual fantasies and to read books filled with sexual fantasies that she enjoys. Men have always enjoyed all kinds of pornography. How can it be wrong for women to have the same right? We’re sexual beings! And fantasy is where we can do the things we can’t do in ordinary life. A woman has a right to imagine herself carried away by a handsome prince, and to choose for herself as she writes, the color of his hair and eyes, and imagine his silky voice. She has a right to make him as tall as she wants and as strong as he wants. Why not? Men have always allowed themselves such fantasies….

People are much more comfortable today admitting and talking about what they enjoy in fiction and film. Much more. People are “out of the closet” about sexuality, period. The whole world knows women are sensual human beings as well as men. It’s no secret anymore that women want to read sexy fiction just as men do, and there’s a new frankness about the varieties of fantasies one might enjoy. So many clichés have been broken and abandoned. And this is a wonderful thing.

The image below is me (in my Annie Hall hat) posing for my high school yearbook editors photo on the steps of the New York Public Library — the theme of our yearbook that year was the written word, so all of us editors used our favorite books or whatever we were reading at the time as props. The original paperback cover of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty back then was a lot more subtle, despite the naked lady in a blindfold; it gave the impression of matoore litooratoore. Speaking of, I also wrote an English paper my junior year in high school on D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. And I wonder how I ended up a sex writer.

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

January 9, 2015

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photo via the movie website

The film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book in the mega-selling erotic trilogy by E.L. James, is almost here! It arrives in theaters Valentine’s Day weekend (ladies, get your limos ready!). With the casting of Jamie Dornan (The Fall) as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson (The Social Network) as Anastasia Steele, many diehard fans cried foul, saying that the filmmakers got it wrong. 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:

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! 



“150 Shades of Play” Is Now Available on Kindle!

December 11, 2014

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Our latest book, now available in a discreet Kindle edition

We get it: 150 Shades of Play: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink is not necessarily the book you want to be caught reading on the bus, or during your lunch break, and it’s definitely not the book you want sitting on your nightstand when your nosy mother-in-law (“Oops! You mean this isn’t the guest bathroom?!”) comes to visit for the holidays. Yes, we’re looking at you, Olive Kitteridge. Dear readers, you asked, and asked again, and you even said pretty please, and so we’ve finally got around to releasing our most recent book on Kindle. It’s on sale now for $4.99 on Amazon — or FREE if you subscribe to Amazon’s KindleUnlimited service. Oh, and if you already happen to own 150 Shades in print, then the Kindle version is a bargain 99 cents.

And here’s why the Kindle version is worth checking out, whether or not you’re already familiar with the book: Every entry is completely linked! Simply click on any bolded word in the text throughout the book that you want to learn more about, and you will be taken directly to that term’s entry in our kinky encyclopedia!

A refresher course on our book: If you — or someone you know — loved the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James but wished there been a little more guidance and information, then 150 Shades is for you! This helpful (and hilarious, if we do say so ourselves) illustrated A-to-Z guide to kink for beginners includes:

  • How to’s on role play, dirty talk, spanking, bondage & more
  • Important safety info missing from the Fifty Shades trilogy
  • A voyeuristic peek at all of Christian Grey’s “hard limits”
  • Tips on shopping for top-of-the-line kinky accoutrements
  • Notes on what the Fifty series got wrong about BDSM
  • Links between all terms for easy navigation of related topics
  • Everything beginners need to know to get their kink on!

So don’t hesitate! Get it for a loved one, or a lusted-after one, for Xmas (or should we say XXXmas?).  Not only will you be giving yourself, your partner or your friends a great [pick one: sexy / kinky / funny / outrageous / romantic / informative / entertaining / gag ] gift, you’ll be giving your two favorite friendly neighborhood sex writers a gift, too.

But don’t just take our word for what a great read it is; check out some of the praise the book has already received:

“I consider Em & Lo my adopted sex daughters, and they have made me proud once again with ’150 Shades of Play.’ Their sound advice, smart writing, and sense of humor empower women to give kink a try, safely and realistically.”
— Betty Dodson, sex educator icon & author of “Sex for One”

“For readers looking to tap their erotic potential, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is only the tip of the sexual iceberg. With their signature sense of humor and commitment to educate, Em & Lo take readers on a guided journey into titillating, and often taboo, territories and expertly navigate a diverse landscape of thrilling possibility.”
— Ian Kerner, PhD, GoodInBed.com founder & CNN columnist

“Unlike ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ this was fun to read, informative and didn’t take eight chapters to get to the sex part. Em & Lo have yet again taught me more about sex than all the extensive research I’ve done by watching porn.”
— Joel Stein, TIME magazine columnist & author of “Man Made”

So what are you waiting for? Have yourself a Merry Little Kinkmas!



This Week in Great Subliminal Phalluses from History

November 20, 2014

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We just finished Sam Harris’s Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion for our book club last night. It was a spirited debate, which went a little something like this:

- Harris is self-centered, arrogant and off-putting.
- But you just don’t know him like we do.
- He condones drug use.
- And that’s wrong why?
- Religion does good.
- Religion does bad.

Wine was drunk, feelings were hurt, and someone misplaced their Diva Cup (for real). But we all went home agreeing on two points:

  1. We would all try to meditate more (at least more deliberately than zoning out for 20 seconds on the toilet).
  2. There was definitely a hidden penis in one of the illustrations in the book.

In the fourth chapter on meditation, Harris talks about how one British contemplative was inspired to describe “what it’s like to glimpse the nonduality of consciousness” (duh) after seeing a self-portrait by the 19th century Austrian physicist/philosopher, Ernst Mach, “who had the clever idea of drawing himself as he appeared from a first-person point of view.” And here Harris includes the drawing:

Now, maybe it’s a symptom of writing a sex blog for a living. Maybe our subconscious was at work in mysterious ways. Maybe, like the optic blind spot, there’s a phallic symbol blind spot that most people aren’t aware of, but sexually enlightened folks like us can see through. Or maybe we’re just seeing what we want to see. As Harris attests, the brain works in incredible, complicated ways. (We’ve juvenilely highlighted the dick in question with color below.)

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris is available on Amazon.com



10 Quick Lessons from “Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue”

November 5, 2014

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I consider myself a hardcore feminist (I’ve even got the T-shirt), one who’s attuned to all the gender stereotypes bombarding us daily. I work hard to combat them whenever and wherever I can. But I don’t live in a vacuum, and I’ve found myself falling into traps I thought I could avoid: like talking tougher and playing rougher with my son than my daughter. Sometimes “Hey, buddy” just pops out while I’m tickling him with much less mercy than I showed my daughter at his age.

But I didn’t know quite how insidious my own gender biases were until I read Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes by developmental psychologist Christia Spears Brown, Ph.D. (and my new imaginary best friend). I’ve been mentioning it to every parent I know ever since, trying to drop it casually into conversation without sounding like a cult member. But then I remembered I could aim bigger, try to reach a larger audience. So I’m telling you now, reader: Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue should be required reading for all parents and teachers!

As a scientist, Brown doesn’t just use a lone study here and an outlying study there to make her case, as many other writers do when trying to prove how even little boys are from Mars blah blah blah. She’s all about meta-analyses, which analyze the findings of many, often hundreds, of studies on a similar topic. It’s in that kind of data where you find out just how similar kids are — a fact that doesn’t get much play since studies showing differences make much catchier, sexier headlines. (Plus, we as humans like to pack things into neat little boxes, no matter how many exceptions to the boxes’ rules we encounter.)

Sure, there are a few genuine differences (girls’ first words come a little earlier; boys have a little less impulse control), but the areas of similarity far outweigh the areas of genuine difference: “For most traits and abilities, boys differ from other boys and girls differ from other girls more than the two groups differ from each other. Just because we like to ignore the variation within a group of boys or a group of girls doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Spears explains that even when the average boy differs from the average girl, the distributions are often largely overlapping, meaning you can’t predict what a child will be like based on their gender.

It’s only after a lifetime of being squished into their respective gender boxes that women and men’s brains do actually conform and reflect bigger differences than there actually need to be — than there should be. After all, being encouraged to try and allowed to enjoy a variety of different experiences as you grow up, regardless of whether those experiences are deemed “masculine” or “feminine,” creates better brains — not to mention more empathic humans. Gender-blind parenting, writes Spears, “is about enabling your children to maintain as many cognitive, social, and emotional abilities as possible.”

Without ever being overly academic or pedantic, Brown cites study after study that show the incredibly negative impact gender stereotyping has on both boys and girls development, self-esteem and skills. For example:

  • “Parents routinely assume that their sons are more interested in math and science than their daughters [and they] hold these assumptions regardless of how their kids are actually doing in math and science.”
  • “Girls have a more negative body image after playing with Barbie than before.”
  • “Boys are doing academically worse in school than girls, across the school years, largely because the stereotype tells them to be tough, independent, and never ask for help.”
  • “Dads who avoid the ‘mom’ stuff end up less satisfied with parenting than other dads.”
  •  ”Analyses of national AP Calculus tests shows that almost five thousand additional girls a year would have scored high enough to earn AP credit had they indicated their gender at the end of the test instead of the beginning. Simply pushing back those gender thoughts until the test is over can keep performance higher.”

The list goes on and on, with each finding more powerfully eye-opening than the next. The classroom studies she writes about are even more depressing in terms of how pervasive and damaging gender assumptions are — and how daunting trying to affect change can be (beware of schools adopting different teaching styles based on gender). But knowledge is power. Did I mention that if you’re a parent or a teacher you should read this book?

Again, you should read Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue But in the meantime, here’s a quick list of small, everyday changes recommended by Spears (or in some cases inspired by Spears’ suggestions) that you can make to help your own kids turn out to be more fully-formed, multidimensional successes, rather than simply macho dudes or girly girls.

  1. Buy gender-neutral toys for your own and others’ kids and encourage them to play with cross-gender toys from an early age (though keep in mind that, after a certain age, anything labeled for a certain gender will be anathema to the “opposite” gender).
  2. Before puberty, have co-ed birthday parties and playdates.
  3. Don’t refer to children as “boys” or “girls.” Call them “kids/students” — otherwise you’re constantly dividing kids into opposing “other” groups and reinforcing how this one aspect is THE most important factor of their identity.
  4. Avoid making sweeping statements about how all boys are X, Y and Z or how all girls are A, B and C (e.g. the dreaded “Boys will be boys.”).
  5. When your child is exposed to gender-stereotyping by TV, books, and other people, question this stereotyping with your child and give them several examples of exceptions to these “rules.” (When my kids say boys don’t wear pink, I pull up loads of pictures of men rocking pink shirts, pants, shoes, etc.)
  6. Don’t assign chores based on gender: girls can take out the trash, boys can help with the laundry, etc.
  7. Talk to boys as much as girls, especially about their feelings, and encourage caretaking and nurturing in them — they might be parents too, some day (just like William from “Free to Be You and Me”!).
  8. When reading in class, make sure you don’t automatically assume animals/aliens and other “it” characters are male; change any terms like “firemen” and “policemen” and “mailman” to “firefighter” and “police officer” and “mail carrier.”
  9. Don’t compliment girls on their appearance (e.g. a new haircut or outfit)  – compliment all kids on their hard work and effort, and ask about their interests. And make sure you count and talk numbers with girls (since parents statistically do this more with boys).
  10. Monitor — and censor — the media they consume. A lot of shows’ and games’ bread and butter is gender stereotyping, portraying girls as interested in looks and boys, while encouraging boys to be aggressive and violent. Ban commercials (TiVo and Netfilx can help with that).