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C Is for Cuffs

May 14, 2013

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Lelo’s Etherea Silk Cuffs (a black version is part of their Dare Me Pleasure Set)

The following is from our very own naughty, award-winning dictionary, 150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. Bolded words signify individual entries that appear elsewhere in the A-to-Z section of the book. Anything with a tie icon indicates an activity or prop mentioned in the Fifty Shades series (symbolic of the famous woven tie Christian Grey uses to restrain Anastasia Steele). The idea being: look up something you’re interested in and, from there, make it a choose-your-own-adventure book by following any bolded words that pique your interest to their own dedicated entry. Or just start at A and don’t stop ‘til you get to Z—or ‘til you’re compelled to try something out with your partner, whichever comes first!:

C

 cuffs, ankle and wrist

If restraining someone by their wrists and ankles is the meat-and-potatoes of bondage, then made-for-play cuffs (sold at any sex toy store) are bondage’s Hungry-Man frozen dinners: quick, easy, and surprisingly satisfying. Bondage cuffs are way safer than handcuffs and provide instant gratification—unlike rope, with its pain-in-the-ass learning curve. Most cuffs are made of either leather or nylon (for kinky vegans, e.g. Super Cuffs) and are often lined with faux fur, etc. (for comfort even during marathon seshes). And before you complain that faux fur is “not me” or “so last season,” just try writhing around in a pair of police-issue handcuffs first. For real-world restraints that aren’t a pain in the wrist, check out the surprisingly attractive institutional cuffs at MedicalToys.com. And for something a little more in line with the high-end Fifty Shades aesthetic, check out LELO’s Etherea Silk Cuffs and Sutra Chainlink Cuffs.

Bondage cuffs feature either buckles or Velcro (the former gives a stronger hold, the latter a quicker release and a sexy sound) and are fairly wide (at least two to three inches) to ward off the nerve damage that is a risk of traditional handcuffs. Speaking of risks: As with any form of bondage, the bottom should speak up as soon as he or she notices any numbness or tingling, and the top should allow for at least one finger’s width between cuff and skin. And regular bondage cuffs should never be used for any kind of suspension — you need special equipment for that sort of advanced play (although you should never suspend someone from the wrists, no matter the gear). Bondage cuffs typically feature D-rings so that they can be tethered to each other, to bed posts, to chair legs, etc. And if you’re still sleeping on your college futon? Most sex toy shops sell “Under the Bed” tethers that serve as makeshift bedposts. Another option is to attach the ankle or wrist cuffs to a spreader bar. For more self-contained bondage, just attach wrist to wrist and ankle to ankle. You can even attach bound wrists to bound ankles (either in front or back) for an instant hogtie! See also bondage safety, collars, cuffs (grip), cuffs (rope), door jamb cuffs, and handcuffs.

For more on restraints and other kinky endeavors, pick up a copy 150 SHADES OF PLAY, on sale now at Amazon!



Our “150 Shades of Play” Won an IPPY!!!

May 7, 2013

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Woohoo!!!!

Our most recent book, “150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink” has won a 2013 IPPY Award!

The Independent Publishers Book Awards is the world’s largest book awards contest and the longest-running unaffiliated independent publishing awards contest (since 1996). It’s designed to bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers.

“150 SHADES OF PLAY” was our seventh book, but our first foray into independent publishing with our new two-woman imprint, Better Half Books. We were so proud of our little kinky baby, we entered the contest.  This year there were over 5000 entries — and less than 400 winners! In our category –  Sexuality/Relationships — we were up against 48 other entrants!

So “150 SHADES OF PLAY” won the silver medal. We were robbed by Great Sex Made Simple: Tantric Tips to Deepen Intimacy & Heighten Pleasure which took the gold (damn you, Tantra!), and beat out Rewire Your Brain for Love: Vibrant Relationships Using the Science of Mindfulnesswhich received the bronze medal.

So if you haven’t already gotten your copy of “150 SHADES OF PLAY”, you now have 151 reasons to do so today! It’s an award winner, baby!



New Book: The End of Sex

April 25, 2013

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The End of Sex by Donna Frietas is getting a lot of action lately, with reviews calling it “important, wise, and brave” (The Atlantic), “illuminating” (WSJ), “straight-forward, well-researched, and eye-opening” (Publishers Weekly), and with Frietas herself penning an editorial for the Washington Post and nabbing a coveted spot on The Today Show. Subtitled “How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Sexual Intimacy,” the book analyzes 2,500 surveys from 11 colleges and finds that casual sex is perceived by students as the only romantic option on campus these days — and that actually bums a majority of them out. Here’s an excerpt:

The Second Shift of College

Amid the seemingly endless partying on America’s college campuses lies a thick layer of melancholy, insecurity, and isolation that no one can seem to shake. College students have perfected an air of bravado about hookup culture, though a great many of them privately wish for a world of romance and dating. And yet they soldier on. By all appearances, graduating college with sex on one’s social resumé is as important as it is to have a range of activities, internship experiences, and a solid GPA on the professional one. In today’s college culture, sex is something students fit into their schedules, like studying and going to the gym.

College students learn from the media, their friends, and even their parents that it’s not sensible to have long-term relationships in college. College is a special time in life—they will never get the chance to learn so much, meet so many people, or have as much fun again. Relationships restrict freedom—they require more care, upkeep, and time than anyone can afford to give during this exciting period between adolescence and adulthood. They add pressure to the already heavily pressured, over scheduled lives of today’s students, who, ac- cording to this ethos, should be focusing on their classes, their job prospects, and the opportunity to party as wildly as they can manage. Hookups allow students to get sex onto the college CV without adding any additional burdens, ensuring that they don’t miss out on the all-American, crazy college experience they feel they must have. They can always settle down later.

Students play their parts—the sex-crazed frat boy, the promiscuous, lusty coed—and they play them well. But all too often they enact these highly gendered roles for one another because they have been taught to believe that hookup culture is normal, that everyone is enjoying it, and that there is something wrong with them if they don’t enjoy it, too. What could be better than sex without strings? Yet, in fact, many of them—both men and women—are not enjoying it at all.

Hookup sex is fast, uncaring, unthinking, and perfunctory. Hookup culture promotes bad sex, boring sex, drunken sex you don’t remember, sex you could care less about, sex where desire is absent, sex that you have “just because everyone else is, too,” or that “just happens.” It’s the new, second shift of college: the housework, the domestic labor that everyone needs to pitch in and get through because it simply has to get done. The more students talk about hooking up, the clearer it becomes that it has less to do with excitement or even attraction than with checking a box off a long list of tasks, like homework or laundry. And while hookup sex is supposed to come with no strings attached, it nonetheless creates an enormous amount of stress and drama among participants.

Today’s younger generation learns quickly and learns well that the norm is to be casual about sex—even though so many of them don’t fit this “norm.” Parents and educational institutions unwittingly promote this idea. Because we worry about the perils of casual sex among teens—unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and, for some constituencies, sin and God’s disapproval—the very people who should be mentoring young men and women about the pleasures and joys of good sex instead focus on its dangers. Sex education in high schools, in both its comprehensive and abstinence-only forms, tends to favor the how-to’s or the why-not-to’s of sex. This limited approach is often reiterated in first-year college orientations, which tend to concentrate on birth control, STIs, and sexual assault. Rather than empowering teens and young adults to make informed decisions about sex, these sex-educational methods often reinforce the idea that hookup culture is the norm, that everyone is doing it, and that all students can do is protect themselves against its worst excesses.

The average college student, like the average adult, wants to have a meaningful sex life, even a soulful one, even if that requires having less sex or, for a time, no sex. But the path toward this goal is dimly lit. This leaves students fumbling all the way up to their senior year, sensing that something is missing from their lives, yet with no idea how to find fulfillment or who can help them in their search for it. Universities may be doing a good enough job facilitating safe sex for those who genuinely enjoy hooking up. But many students today are graduating college either unhappy or ambivalent about their sex lives, and unable to imagine a more fulfilling alternative. At the center of their unease is the four years they’ve lived within hookup culture.

Author Donna Freitas

Hookups have existed throughout human history, of course, but what is now happening on American campuses is something different. College has gone from being a place where hookups happened to a place where hookup culture dominates student attitudes about all forms of intimacy. The hookup has become normative, and hookup culture a monolithic culture from which students find little chance of escape. It is the defining aspect of social life on many campuses; to reject it is to relegate oneself to the sidelines of college experience.

In my personal experience as a university student in the early to mid-1990s, the hookup was one of many available forms of relating. Hookup culture was like a town everyone knew about and knew how to find. We also knew who lived there permanently and partied there exclusively. Most of us would visit hookup culture and its accompanying parties a number of times during college, if only to see what it was like. But we weren’t immersed in it throughout our four years—or, at least, we didn’t have to be if we didn’t want to. The landscape for navigating one’s romantic and sexual life was much broader and more diverse and included traditional dates and long-term romantic relationships as well as hooking up. (There was also the possibility of opting out of all of it.) But even in the mid-1990s, hooking up could still mean making out at a party and exchanging phone numbers, with the thought of turning the make-out session into an opportunity for a relationship. It didn’t necessarily ride on the notion of unattached intimacy both during and afterward, and it wasn’t an end in itself.

Between 1997 and 2003, I lived on campus as a professional in student affairs departments at two major universities, one Catholic and one private-secular. More than anything else, student alcohol abuse was the major issue. My colleagues and I dealt with it on a regular basis with the students in our residence halls. Hookup culture existed then, too, but it didn’t dominate the social lives of students the way it does now. I witnessed couples heading out on dates, knew of long-term relationships that were kindled early on in a student’s first year of college, and listened as students chatted about their various social exploits and romantic aspirations. It wasn’t until my last few years living in the halls that student behavior became more extreme, and the drunken hookups more obvious because they began in the hallways, stairwells, and elevators in my building. But still, among the students with whom I came into contact for all sorts of student-affairs department reasons, conversation about hooking up was fairly minimal. You might hear the term once in a while, but it was not the thing that everyone was talking about constantly. Today, it’s almost the only thing.

One can only speculate as to the reasons that hookup culture has come to dominate college campuses in the early part of the twenty-first century. During the 1980s and 1990s, the threat of AIDS loomed over all sexual encounters. Today’s generation has a difficult time understanding the threat of AIDS, given advances in research and medication. The widespread availability and social acceptance of pornography is yet another factor that may contribute to the rise of hookup culture over the past decade. The ubiquitousness of pornography is changing the attitudes of young adults about sex, their expectations for their partners, and their understanding of desire, gender identity, and how one enters into various types of sexual intimacy.

Moreover, the campus culture—along with the wider culture—has become more superficial with the advance of technology. A frenetic go-go-go and do-do-do pace, increasing in the midst of an economic recession, has put young adults under ever more pressure. They are competing with each other for fewer and fewer jobs, but burdened with greater and greater expectations of success. Such pressure can breed stress, anxiety, and even selfishness, all of which are aided and abetted by technologies that allow us to text rather than call, and to interact superficially and efficiently, with broad swaths of “friends” and followers, through Facebook and Twitter, rather than engage in meaningful interactions face to face with other human beings. This pace and pressure coincide with the attitudes toward others fostered by hookup culture. Rather than looking at the people right in front of us, we look at our phones, preferring to touch a screen rather than the hand of a partner. Instead of engaging in conversation with those sitting next to us, we text, email, and chat with people nowhere near our bodies. We have become more excited about interacting with the various technological devices at our disposal than about developing relationships with real people, even our own children. This prioritizing of technology over in-person interactions does not teach us how to value the life and body of another human being, or what it means to treat others with dignity and respect. Instead, it promotes the idea that in-person relationships are cumbersome and time consuming—better to be dealt with on- line, or, even better, not at all.

Excerpted with permission from The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, by Donna Freitas.  Available from Basic Books, a member of The Perseus Books Group.  Copyright © 2013.

 



A Sexy Poem to Celebrate National Poetry Month

April 19, 2013

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photo via flickr

April is National Poetry Month, so we thought we’d celebrate by sharing with you one of our favorite erotic poems. This poem by Christina Rossetti is a little more, er subtle than Fifty Shades of Grey — it’s not exactly wank material. But we were in the mood for a classic. And as our old pal Jack Murnighan of Nerve’s Naughty Bits fame will tell you, the classics can be dirtier than E.L. James after three martinis.

Read this narrative poem on a gorgeous spring day when everyone — women and men alike — are wearing a little less and eating something fresh and juicy outside, and we guarantee your mood will take a turn for the salacious. In the absence of an English professor, Wikipedia can help you parse the poem — if you’re having trouble sorting the juicy double entendres from the feminist allusions.

(We were torn between this poem and “because i love you)last night” by e.e. cummings, but quoting e.e. cummings always makes us feel a little cheesy.)

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”

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G Is for Gimp

March 29, 2013

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The following is from our very own naughty dictionary, 150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. Bolded words signify individual entries that appear elsewhere in the A-to-Z section of the book. Anything with a tie icon  indicates an activity or prop mentioned in the Fifty Shades series (symbolic of the famous woven tie Christian Grey uses to restrain Anastasia Steele…and oh how we wished there’d been a gimp suit in Fifty!). The idea being: look up something you’re interested in and, from there, make it a choose-your-own-adventure book by following any bolded words that pique your interest to their own dedicated entry. Or just start at A and don’t stop ‘til you get to Z—or ‘til you’re compelled to try something out with your partner, whichever comes first!:

G

gimp suit

Kinky onesies made out of leather, pleather,rubberPVC, etc., and typically worn by a (male) submissive. Some have attached hoods, while others are combined with a bondagehood or mask. Made famous by the 1994 Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction; made (almost) sexy by FX’s 2011 TV show, “American Horror Story.” Please note: Saying “Bring out the gimp” at a kink club will not go over as well as you might imagine.

For more on doms, BDSM, and other kinky endeavors, pick up a copy 150 SHADES OF PLAY, on sale now at Amazon!



What We’re Reading: “Her” by Christa Parravani

March 26, 2013

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Even if Christa Parravani wasn’t a friend of ours, we would be insisting that you check out her brand new memoir Her. It’s the heartbreaking, beautiful, compelling, and ultimately uplifting story of what happens when someone loses their identical twin.

After Christa’s sister Cara was brutally raped at age 24 and a few years later died of a drug overdose, Christa had to figure out how and why to live — how to become her sister, and then how not to become her. She read that the chances of someone dying within a year of their twin’s death are 50-50. Those were her chances, and this is the story of how she figured that out, even though every time she looked in the mirror, she saw her sister. Her sister who was so entwined in her life that she invited herself along on Christa’s honeymoon — because marrying a twin meant marrying both of them, and because twinhood was a bond stronger than marriage or parenthood or death.

She writes in Her:

During the closest years of our lives, Cara liked to fasten bobby pins into my hair and admire the updos she invented. We administered weekly sisterly beautification, little animals that we were. We applied honey face masks, avocado hair glazes, and salt scrubs. We performed on each other the tedious process of individual split end removal with a pair of haircutting shears. She called me her “raven sister with the sexy beehive.” I called her “my messy, unmatching flower goddess.” Of course, there were other names, the cruel and loving ones we give our siblings. Cara took her nicknames for me with her when she died: pumpkinseed, digger, shave, and newt.

I am the sole historian left to record our lives. It’s difficult to know if my memories are true without her. We mixed our memories up. Our lives were a jumble. I can remember being where I never was, in places I never saw: my sister’s marital chamber on her wedding night, the filthy hotel rooms of her drug buys, sitting at her writing desk as she tapped away at her keyboard.

We could say so much more about this gorgeous book, but really we just want you to read it for yourself.

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A Is for “Anastasia Steele”

March 1, 2013

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The following is from our very own naughty dictionary, 150 SHADES OF PLAY: A Beginner’s Guide to Kink. Bolded words signify individual entries that appear elsewhere in the A-to-Z section of the book. Anything with a tie icon  indicates an activity or prop mentioned in the Fifty Shades series (symbolic of the famous woven tie Christian Grey uses to restrain Anastasia Steele). The idea being: look up something you’re interested in and, from there, make it a choose-your-own-adventure book by following any bolded words that pique your interest to their own dedicated entry. Or just start at A and don’t stop ‘til you get to Z—or ‘til you’re compelled to try something out with your partner, whichever comes first!:

Anastasia Steele 

The heroine/reluctant sub/damsel in distress (D.i.D.) of the Fifty Shades of Greytrilogy, who falls hard (literally) for romantic, bad-boy, billionaire domChristian Grey. She has two imaginary friends: her snarky, cartwheel-twirling Inner Goddess and her finger-drumming Subconscious (yes, yes, if this character were trulysubconscious, then Ana wouldn’t be aware of her, but let’s not let literary accuracy get in the way of a good time, shall we?). All three appear to be virgins at the start of the series—and none of them ever met an adverb she didn’t like. By the end (spoiler alert!), they’re all on board for a little BDSM play in a custom-designed Red Room of Painwith now hubby/baby-daddy Christian.

For more on doms, BDSM, and other kinky endeavors, pick up a copy 150 SHADES OF PLAY, on sale now at Amazon!



Talking Shit (& Other Kinky Stuff) with Sex Educator Jamye Waxman

February 12, 2013

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We and Jamye Waxman go way back. We all got into the sex writing biz long before every college paper had its own sex column. Which is ancient in Internet years. And yet we’re all still so fresh-faced! Jamye is our kind of colleague: frank, feminist, and funny. So we were thrilled when she wanted to talk to us about kink and our new book 150 Shades of Play for her podcast, Hot Sox. We discuss our thoughts on human furniture (kinda fucked up), the perils of writing about sex while parenting (don’t leave your new illustrated kink book lying around for your 5 year old to pick up), the power of Fifty Shades (winning a flogger, some vaginal beads and a vibrator at a book party held in a small town library is now just good, clean fun), and lots, lots more! Download the podcast for free on iTunes and listen to it the next time you’re at the gym, grocery shopping, or polishing your secret butt plug collection!

BUY “150 SHADES OF PLAY” ON AMAZON.COM! 



LAST CHANCE to Win a Valentine’s Day Dinner & a Movie from Fandango!

February 1, 2013

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****THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED****

Our friends over at FANDANGO want to make your Valentine’s Movie Date Night a hit! And we want you to help us get the word out about our new book, 150 Shades of Play. Fandango wins, we win, and hopefully YOU win too! Here’s how to play:

Between now and Sunday February 10th, include the title 150 Shades of Play along with this link — http://say.ly/pEj4J7E –  in a Tweet or a Facebook Post, let us know you’ve done so, and you’ll be automatically entered to win Fandango’s awesome Date-Night prize:

  • a $100 Visa Gift Card
  • a $30 Fandango Gift Card

Post that link as many times as you like, because the more you post, the more chances you’ll have to win! (Mentioning the book as an excellent Valentine’s Day gift may not help you win the contest, but it will endear you to us for always and ever!) Let us know whenever you Tweet or FB post by immediately emailing a screenshot of the post to us here, including your name and US mailing address (no PO Boxes), which we promise to keep private;  on a Mac, Command+Shiftshift+4 lets you drag and capture an area of the screen; click here for instructions on taking screenshots on either a PC or a Mac. <Don’t skip this part or your post won’t count! The deadline for entry is EOD EST on Sunday, February 10th, 2013. One lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced on our site the next day, with the prize arriving before Valentine’s Day.

While you’re waiting to win the Fandango Movie Date Night prize, check out their VALENTINE’S DAY MOVIE GUIDE for tips on the perfect movie to see together. Supplement your prize (or have a backup if you don’t win) with a cute VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT CARD FROM FANDANGO for your sweetie (see below). And don’t forget to order a copy of 150 SHADES OF PLAY for after the movie!



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

January 31, 2013

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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 new 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 recently 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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