Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Anti-Fifty Shades of Grey

Staking His Claim
Note!  For Those Interested in Fifty Shades of Grey, see my post here:

Navigating The Finite, April 17, 2012: Fifty Shades of Grey--Metaphor or a Lot Bang For The Buck?

Staking His Claim by J.M. Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I ran into this author in some of the commentary for Fifty Shades of Grey over at Goodreads.  I liked her comments and decided to give her book a try.

To me this book is the Anti-Fifty Shades of Grey...there are no rich guys, no helicopters, no naive virgins,  no BDSM, no humiliation, no pain, and no ass beatings.  It is a nice, realistic story with some nice ordinary pleasurable albeit hot sex.

It is a romance, and romance is not my normal cup of tea, but I think after reading Fifty Shades I needed to read about some normal people engaging in a normal relationship with normal sexual desires.  Stewart has a simple plot that she develops nicely, some mystery, and she does an excellent job with character development.  Her love scenes are that, loves scenes.  The same kind of thing, we ordinary folks do in bed.  No whips or red rooms of pain.  Her scenes wonderfully describe what is going on, there is no doubt in your mind, yet she does so avoiding usage of obscenity or vulgarisms found in erotica, but also avoids the gauzy vagueness so often found in novels where the author seems to be embarrassed by sex.  Her scenes are vanilla sex but hot, I did not find myself bored like I was with yet another raunchy sex scene that was in Fifty Shades.  Yes it is a romance and there is some "molten heat flowing through their veins", yet it is not excessive or so God awful syrupy that it wants to make you gag with the phony saccharine so often found in the genre.  Extra points for no Holy Craps! or clenching belly muscles. Big plus that she told her story in one volume.  There are no second and third books that you must read in order to understand the first.  Nice down to earth story with some nice romantic love making.  I am looking forward to her next novel.

View all my reviews, Staking His Claim-ebook

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey--Metaphor or a Lot Bang For The Buck?

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1)Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book because I was curious what all the hullabaloo was about.  Why is there a run on grey neckties in New York City department stores?  Why are women claiming that this book has put some pizzaz back in the bedroom?  Mommy porn?  I am still curious, but not so curious that I am going to read the remaining books in the series.

Personally I like how the first book ended. The only thing I would change is that it would have ended this way soon after chapter 1. Ana would have run away after the first peek into the playroom or that ridiculous contract. At this juncture, I am delighted with the ending of the first book, so why read books 2 and 3 and get angry again?  

“Oh this is not my normal read, I am just curious.”  Oh bullshit!  I have nothing against a good hot sex scene with details, and crude language doesn’t bother me...if it did I would be speechless.  Romance is not my genre, but I like a little romance in a normal read.   So let’s dispel the idea that I am some nice old man who fell into this book by accident.  I will say however that I did read this out of curiosity--what is it that has all the ladies at our book club chirping about the naughtiness?

So what is with this book?  Well it is a Cinderella story with a lot of good hot sex, then again it is perhaps Beauty and the Beast with a lot of good hot sex.  I am not sure.  There are plenty of books out there that turn an archetype fable into a modern romance with good hot sex.  So why is this one causing a shortage of grey neckties?  Why in a world of a zillion erotic romances does this one go viral?

My guess is that it is not just because it has good hot sex, but because it dips one’s toes into the taboo of BDSM without wallowing in it.

Prince Charming is very charming indeed, a billionaire, cultivated, handsome, young, educated, refined, sexy and for the most part he allows Ana to introduce him to normal vanilla sex. So most of the sex scenes are not employing spiked black leather collars and leg shackles in a sweaty dungeon with whips and chains. No, the BDSM occurs in a relatively civilized “playroom.” There are only three trips into the playroom and as far as BDSM goes, I imagine that it is fairly tame. Most of the sex is just the good old fun kind, free of pain, with a slightly veiled authoritarian threat in the background. On the other hand Prince Charming is a damaged beast. He becomes sexually aroused by humiliating and hurting women. So no matter how gorgeous and refined he may be, and no matter how many cars, clothes, and computers that he may shower on Ana, the fact remains that he gets off by causing Ana to suffer pain. He becomes highly excited and aroused by hitting and hurting women.

I don’t believe that this book is about BDSM, if it was I doubt that it would attain mainstream popularity. I think the book uses the taboo of BDSM as a metaphor. In trying to understand what the big whoop is about,  I have read several articles that compares Fifty Shades of Grey to the Twilight phenomenon.  I was a bit befuddled by popularity of Twilight also.  I read someplace that the drop dead gorgeous Edward’s potential bite in Twilight was an exaggerated metaphor for the old time tension of desire for sexual union off set by the fear and the cultural taboo of losing one’s virginity.  In our cool worldly modern times, the loss of one’s virginity is no big deal.  All the cool beautiful kids shed it with glee and talk about it on Facebook.  Yet somehow I suspect that to many young people, the not so cool kids like you and I, who still lead examined lives, and who question the role of love and sex and their place in it, the gift of one's virginity remains a very big deal, especially for girls for whom sex remains risky business.  Yet in the popular imagination, the loss of one's virginity has become commonplace--no big deal.   Hence the strange appeal of being bit by a vampire to teenage girls, and to be bit by one that looks like Robert Pattinson, oh my!  Alright, that makes sense in a pop psych sort of way.  

But what exactly is the metaphor that the BDSM represents in Fifty Shades of Grey?  Why does it appeal to mature and sexually experienced women?  Is it also simply an exaggerated metaphor for the loss of one's virginity?  Or is there a bigger issue?  Is the BDSM a kinky exaggerated metaphor for a fear of the subjugation of marriage and perhaps the angst of the marriage bed?

For 10,000 years women have been trapped in often loveless marriages, where they were nothing but chattel whom had no legal rights, had to obey their husbands, and were often raped, savagely beaten, and disciplined.  In the past two centuries, women’s rights within marriages have gradually improved.  In the past 50 years women’s rights both within marriage and within society have drastically improved.  Yet at this time, women still often get the poopey end of the stick in both marriage and the wider social milieu.  So is the metaphor of the BDSM in Fifty Shades of Grey for the fear of a damaged marriage and sexual boredom?  Is Ana going to become a heroine by curing Christian of his sadism through a woman's strength, wisdom, tenderness, and love?  Will they ride off into the sunset, making love, and convert the playroom into a nursery?

To be quite honest, I have no idea what exactly the appeal of this book is.  While the BDSM is tame compared to how it could be, I still found the episodes of where Christian physically assaulted Ana to be revolting.

Book 1 ends with Ana leaving the sadistic bastard. Good. The book ended the way I wanted it to. Ana leaves him. There is no need for any additional books. Ana go find a nice man who loves you without hitting you and live happily ever after. Somehow I doubt that occurs in books 2 or 3.

When considering social effects, there is one way in which Twilight differs significantly from Fifty Shades of Grey.  After reading Twilight, no one has to worry about getting bit by a vampire.  But at the risk of being overly melodramatic, is there not a reasonable concern about the possible aftermath of a book that somewhat romanticizes and moves BDSM to the mainstream?  Being loosely tied up with a grey necktie and getting a playful slap on the butt may be deliciously kinky, may put some zing back in the bedroom, and is harmless.  However, as thrilling as that tender moment with the riding crop in the playroom may have been, in the hands of an inexperienced, too exuberant, or somewhat inebriated lover, a riding crop could wreak some real devastation, not to mention what some over excited dominant feeling his macho oats could do.  Some how I think BDSM is best left to a knowledgeable and skilled subculture.   I just hope that there is no run on the emergency rooms like there was on those grey neckties.

Aside from the BDSM, which I thoroughly despised, the book was fairly well written.  However, I was disappointed in Ana’s character.  She was a very intelligent and capable young woman whom I liked and could easily regard as a daughter. Yet she maintained an internal mental litany of a 13 year old.  “Holy crap! Her muscles clenched in her belly with desire, but her scalp prickled with apprehension, while her inner goddess did somersaults for joy” at the mere sight of Christian...over and over.  As a another reviewer mentioned I wanted  to punch her stupid internal goddess in the face.  A spanking in the stars for you Ms. James for displeasing me.

View all my reviews


Here are some interesting commentaries, I especially liked the 98 year old grand ma piece.

Open Salon, 50 shades of grandma: A 98-year-old’s take on ‘Grey’

Open Salon, Mommy Porn: Fifty Shades of Bad Writing

Open Salon, Fifty Shades of Say Wha?!

EDIT 4-19-2012:

Aha!  The last link Fifty Shades of Say Wha?! may have solved the riddle:

"Now, to its credit, there are moments when the book is kind of hot. It’s pretty hard to read a book with so much sex and not get turned on. I lost count but I think there’s at least 15 sex scenes, compared to 3 in other romance novels I’ve read. The downside is that it’s so completely unbelievable you're thrown right out of the story. How they hope to make a movie out of this, I don’t know.  Then again, people liked Twilight. "

Emphasis mine.  Me and my metaphors!  This is what happens when you read a review by a guy that lives under a rock regarding pop culture.  I have over analyzed this thing.  This is not great literature, there are no metaphors. The reason this is popular? Its a good buy, an erotic bodice ripper with a lots of erotic and not a whole lot of bodice.   It is a fairy tale with a lot of bang for the buck and just enough kinky to give it some pizazz without grossing one out.  The bad boy is a perhaps a bit farfetched...but billionaires and sadists exist...vampires, no matter how dashing, don't.  Indeed it is beauty and the beast in the buff and the beast brandishing a riding crop instead of fangs.  Don't look for metaphors, just suspend your normal sense of belief, and read how the beautiful young maiden turns  a frog into handsome prince with a lot of hot vanilla sex.  

EDIT 4-20-2012

Newsweek has an article this week on this whole phenomena:

Newsweek/2012/04/15/Spanking Goes Mainstream

The article implies that women are now in control of so much, their careers, their homes, the finances, the family, the children that they are using sexual submission fantasy as an escape mechanism. Apparently submissive fantasies are nothing new, they just seem to come to light every now and again in the popular culture.   Feminists are alarmed....don't fantasize that. But fantasies seem to have life of their own and defy logic or rules. I very much agree with the feminists. We men have a poor track record when it comes to battering women and we are not equipped with a numbered setting dial. When you start walking down the path of female submission, you are also walking up the path of male dominance and male aggression. Sorry but I do not trust that path. There is no on/off switch and when one is tied up to a four poster it makes one extremely vulnerable. I don't find that sexy, I find it frightening.

EDIT 2-16-2015

With the release of the movie, The Atlantic has an interesting article regarding the Fifty Shades phenomenom:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Best Friend's Sister

This started out as a reply to a post in another blog.  

Books, Adventure, and Life, April 11, 2012: Friends For Life

It grew into a monster with a life of its own. 
When I was growing up I regarded my best friend’s sister as a little snot.  She was four years younger than me and, well, existed in a different world from cool world of young lads.  She was something of a fixture at my friend's house that was constantly there, but rarely noticed.  When you are 16 and she is 12, well...there is not much commonality--she was just a little snot to be ignored and stepped around.   
Then one day I turned 25 and came home from the Air Force with about as much going for me as the day I graduated from high school, except I now no longer had to worry about a non-existent draft.  All my friends were married, owned homes, and had established careers.  They were adults and I was some kid that had emerged in a strange world where all the rules had changed.  The economy was bad, my father had a debilitating stroke, and my plans to make a life in California had went up in smoke.  I start drinking a lot.  
One day I ran into this little snot of a sister, but she was now 21 and looked damned good.  It is amazing how little girls grow up to be lovely women when you been gone for four years. 
We had a polite chat, and in my mind cold calculations were being conducted.  Damn she is fine, but what in the hell would she see in a loser like me, I make enough money to pay rent and keep myself in beer.  I ran into her again.  Wow, she seemed happy to see me.  How about lunch?  I take her to McDonalds.  We chat.  I liked how her eyes lit up when she laughed.  She looked me in the eye and smiled a lot when she talked to me.  She patted my hand and arm.  She had a sexy way of eating french fries. 
I asked her out to dinner fully expecting a polite decline.  She accepted!  We went on a few more dates but I fully expected this to go south at any moment because I was a loser working in a gas station and had a weakness for beer.  But she saw something in me, something that I could not see in myself.  I quit drinking and start looking for a decent job.  
We kept seeing each other and we became something of an item.  She still lived at home and her parents were religious, as was she, and they were rightfully a bit concerned.  They didn't like my drinking and the fact that my father was an alcoholic did not help, and I still did not have a decent job.  The economy was in the pits from the expense and decline of the war in Vietnam, the early oil crises, and the beginnings of stagflation.  
We were falling in love with each other.  One Saturday afternoon we were going to go for a "long drive in the country, have dinner, and drive back."  Um huh!  We went to my apartment instead.  At 25 my virginity was long gone, never the less, she made a man out of me that afternoon.  I had never made love to a woman before...I only had experienced somewhat drunken mindless sex with perhaps an inkling of romance but certainly not love, and in any case I was not exactly a Don Juan with numerous notches in my bed post.  
In our minds, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony took place in our bed on that afternoon. She could tell you the date that my bed became our bed.   The modest affair that took place in a church two years later was simply notification to the rest of the world and quite frankly was almost meaningless in comparison.  The Union of our Souls had taken place two years prior and had been reaffirmed quite frequently in the interim.  The Union  that occurred in our bed was heaven on earth, and was attended only by people who loved us--her and I.  The affair the in the church?  Well there were some people attending who were less than enamored with our marriage.  Tough shit folks, get used to the idea.         
We have been together since.  Like all married couples, we have had our ups and downs, our triumphs and tragedies.  We sometimes argue, but have never gone to bed mad at each other.  Being a man I sometime hurt her through neglect and pig headedness.  Being a woman, she always forgives me and still loves me in spite of myself.  We are still very much in love.  
We still manage to fly each other off to Oz in our bed...not as often or with the pile driving intensity of yesteryear. Arthritis will tend to dampen the gyrations but time, age, and companionship increases the love. Instead of the anxiety filled NASA launches of years ago where all systems must be go for a perfect flight to Oz, now it is two old friends on a beat to hell mattress strolling down the yellow brick road holding hands in a relaxed, comfortable, gentle, love filled embrace.  Oz is Oz despite how one may get there  Hot passion has been replaced with comfortable love and it is very sweet.  We are woman and man, husband and wife, best friends forever, and old comfortable lovers.  
Things change when you start sleeping with your best friend's sister.  For a while, I think we were regarded as not good enough for each other.  I was some guy that could drink too much and would probably start again, and I ended up working in a factory.  I was a blue collar potential drunk.  On the other hand, she was his dippy sister, and he never liked his sisters paying attention to his friends.  My wife and I frequently felt a bit like black sheep in our early days neither of us were quite good enough. 
Things change while you keep on sleeping with your best friend’s sister. I have not been drunk since 1974 and I could probably count on fingers and toes how many beers I have had since.  I will have an occasional glass of wine, but to be honest it gives me a headache, and I would just as soon drink a diet coke.  My blue collar job turned slightly white, I worked as a non-professional engineer and enjoyed the best of both worlds, a professional like job with union protection and pay.  Yeah, I got to do all the dumb engineering jobs that nobody else wanted, and the ones that involved a lot of travel, but I got paid time and half and double time for anything over 40 hours a week.   My brother in law and I are closer now even though I am still sleeping with his sister--but he is no longer my best friend.  Its been 35 years since the church wedding and 37 years ago since the real wedding...that day when the little snot made a decent human being out of me in one afternoon of heaven on earth.  To me it was the afternoon that my Soulmate and I were wedded.  I loved her then, and love her yet to the core of my being.   My best friend while growing up is now my best friend's brother--I really love sleeping with his sister.        

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jerry Sandusky and The Statute of Limitations

Jerry Sandusky is to appear in court today.  His lawyers are seeking to have all 52 counts of child sexual abuse dropped.  The charges are for 10 different victims going back to 1994.

CBS News, April 5, 2012, Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky due in court for pretrial arguments 

"The 95-page motion Sandusky's lawyers filed on March 22 also says that in regard to some of the alleged victims, prosecutors cannot establish sufficient proof.  In some, the statue of limitations has run out."  (emphasis mine)

Interesting.  Should there be a statute of limitations for child sexual abuse or rape?

Did these victims one day wake up and think, "Gee, I feel so much better today.  Oh!  Of course, the statute of limitations has expired."