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!


Louisa Bacio said...

It's always good when a "non-traditional" book stirs up the literary waves and gets people talking!

I've been on the fence with reading this one ... and you've convinced me!

lisekimhorton said...

Brava, Lori! Thank you for championing 50 Shades while so many are sneering and turning up their noses - most often folks who don't seem to know there is an erotic romance genre out there going strong. And I, too, am a child of the feminist era with a membership in NOW as an 18th birthday present, and yet I get it, too. Being able to say this turns me on is what being a feminist means. And understanding the BDSM culture means, too, that I get it is not about women being beaten or beaten down but about a glorious exchange of trust and power for personal fulfillment - be it sexual or emotional. And yes, I've been clapping and cheering as I hear women on buses and subways and in my office chattering excitedly about 50 Shades. Because they are the new readers for all those great authors already being published by Ravenous and all the other erotic publishers. The authors we who know have already been reading hungrily for years!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes erotica is just pure fun and it's not about politics, so-called feminism, and all those other things from the l970's. In fact, people read it to get away from politics. Smut can be an offensive word for those who don't "get" it...and most don't. And sometimes the less political/social talk there is about erotica, the more fun people have reading it and the more books are sold. Simple and entertaining.

Just an objective thought ;)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your strong, honest, and revealing post. There is such strength in freedom without judgment. Women and men should be free to search and work out who they are, as long as they're not hurting others and animals.

Anonymous said...

I was intrigued to read your blog. I am three-quarters of the way through writing a BDSM novel - I started long before I had heard of 50 Shades and I have made a deliberate decision not to read these books until I have finished mine. My book is not BDSM light - the opposite. I have had incredibly good feedback about it on a writer's forum that's based in the UK but operates across the English speaking world. I am a journalist, TV director and feature writer in the real world. My writing is good. If you would like to know more, please email me on : juno.66.2012@gmail.com
I am incredibly excited about my book and think it could be the next big thing. I just need the right agent / publisher to take it forward.
I look forward to hearing from you. Juno

Ravenous Romance said...


Thanks for your comments, but this is not the way to submit. Go to the Lperkinsagency.com website and send a query. And good luck. You can send me a que
ry n the book at Ravenousromance, lori@ravenousromance.com.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to read Fifty Shades and try to avoid media attention brought to it. For a supposedly 'unbiased' market, the media certainly has its opinions, one way or the other. I just know what I like. I agree with RR that as women being submissive can be liberating. In novels what draws me is the fact that women are submissive to the Alpha that knows what he is doing. In real life, not so much(sigh).
It is strictly a taste, like liking a certain food.
I say bravo to anyone who writes and is gutsy enough to put it out there. It is a baring of the soul that takes a certain strength.
EL must be loving the attention. $$$

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