Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fifty Shades of Green

I love the Fifty Shades of Grey series for so many reasons.

As an agent who has toiled in the erotica fields for decades, it shows the world that there is a strong market for erotic fiction written, edited and purchased by women. This is smut for women.

Some of you know that I consider myself a “feminist pornographer,” which always raises a few eyebrows. But I believe this movement of women claiming their own smut is part of the evolution of feminism – proudly owning your sexuality is a big part of equality.

When I was a young feminist, I read The Story of O, and I was offended by it, because I knew that I was not a submissive woman. I’ve wrestled with this my entire life in my personal relationships, and since I was not a submissive, I assumed that the submissive woman fantasy was a male fantasy and part of the patriarchy.

Until I became the editor of erotic literature. And I quickly learned that the submissive woman’s fantasy of complete surrender to an Alpha man is the leading daydream of the majority of American women.

As a young feminist, I looked down on this “romance” troupe. I didn’t think it was possible to be submissive and a feminist, just as old school feminists were appalled that their well-educated daughters wanted to stay home and be mothers, or learn to knit and bake. We’ve been saying for the past two decades that feminism was about having choices, and one of those is to be free in our erotic fantasies.

In a recent review of The Hunger Games movie, a feminist reviewer complained about the need for “romance” in an otherwise action-based dystopian YA. I used to feel that way too, but I secretly went to romantic comedies alone so no one would see me cry. I was ashamed of my romantic side.

You can be a feminist and a romantic. It’s OK. And it’s really OK to want, and believe in, a happy ending, even if you know that in reality 50% of all marriages fail. These movies and books are an escape, and a hope.

Everyone wants to fall in love, and be swept away by its power, even men. But they don’t have the freedom women have. They don’t have the choices we have.

So, Fifty Shades of Grey brings all these issues to the surface and has proven, once and for all, that women love to read smut.

As an erotica agent, this means that there’s a whole new marketplace for these stories. The Story of O is 40 years old and the current edition is a dated translation (I’d love to see this in contemporary language). We need new fantasies, which EL James has given us. I am awed to see the birth of a new erotica classic, which is what Fifty Shades is (it’s the same feeling I had as I watched Harry Potter become a children’s literature classic in my time).

But we also need variety. So I am hoping that these books will usher in a publishing tidal wave of commercially successful erotica featuring M/M (that’s gay male romance often written by women) and erotica featuring dominant women and submissive men, as well as more lesbian fiction. And lots and lots of ménage featuring one woman and at least two men!