The Warrior Dude

I’ve been reading an interesting book on empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen.

(In case the name sounds very familiar, Simon is the cousin of Sasha Baron-Cohen, from Borat fame.  Who is kind of hot, btw. Tho he seems like he tries his best to hide it–which just makes him MORE hot.)

At any rate, Simon, the scientist cousin, says in his book that some male test subjects are much less empathetic than the general population when it comes to strangers or people they don’t like.  These low-empathy men sound like the “cold, arrogant hero” guy in a romance novels.  You know this guy.  He cares for nothing and nobody until–he meets the right girl.  Suddenly, he actually cares about someone for the first time, ever.  This guy actually exists in real life. I’ve met him–he’s completely selfish and shameless about it.  Except for his beloved & children, he only thinks of himself.  Yet for them he will annihilate the rest of the world to meet their needs.  They are an extension of himself.

Meanwhile, Simon says there’s speculation that some people are born with a gene that can possibly affect their levels of agression.  It’s a so-called “warrior” gene mutation.  I looked it up. It’s complicated, but basically, the idea is this: we all have a certain chemical in our brain that help break down other chemicals.  It’s called MAO.  Think of this MAO chemical as the barkeep who at the end of the night says to all the other brain chemicals in the bar, “Folks, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” This barkeep chemical (MAO stands for monoamine oxidase) then sweeps out the other rowdy brain chemicals (neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.) These chemicals keep you pumped full of energy, focussed, and in a state of arousal.

If the MAO doesn’t sweep out the rest of the chemicals bumping about in the brain, aggression is much more likely to occur in the subject.  So folks with this genetic mutation can be much more aggressive because their genetic mutation causes them to have naturally occurring lower levels of MAO.  This was good back when warriors were fighting huns, not so good if you’re a male living in our modern society.

Now, as someone who just can’t seem to stay angry for a long time, I can see how this might be an extremely useful trait.  After all, I’d be no good in a fighting situation against evil beings.  I’d fight for awhile, but soon I’d be like, “Hey guys, can’t we all just get along?” The bad guys would say, “Sure, let’s all just put down our weapons,” And I’d be like, “Oh, good, ’cause I’m tired of fighting.” Then wham! — that’d be the end of me.  However a person with the warrior gene wouldn’t want to put his weapons down. Someone born with this mutation could just keep fighting, and fighting, and fighting…a very good warrior quality to have.

Yet, as I was reading along, things started sounding strangely familiar.  I was thinking about WRATH from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. (A series with which, as you must realize by now, I’m completely obsessed.)  Wrath cares about nobody.  He stomps people he doesn’t like, and he could give a damn about the rest.  He can fight without rest, and without mercy.  Someone who seems so aggressive and without empathy in general can, according to Simon the cousin, still have empathy towards another.  Thus, when he meets Elizabeth, he’s drawn to her.  Their instant intimacy and super-hot sex bonds them together so that very soon she’s not a stranger anymore.  He feels a huge amount of empathy towards her–an anxiety over any suffering she may experience–but he still could give a rat’s ass about almost anyone else. (Sorta. Things can get sentimental occasionally amongst the brotherhood.)

It seems like science is catching up with what romance authors and paranormal romance authors especially have known for quite awhile now.  Feminists may be clutching their buzz-cut hair at these retrograde alpha-male portrayals, but up until about five minutes ago historically speaking, we needed warriors to prevent rape and pillage by invaders.

We also needed to have babies with these warriors to pass on their genes to our sons so that we could continue to be safe from rape and pillage in future years.   A guy who has no empathy and is all aggression would be a good fighter, but a horrible husband and father.  He wouldn’t pass on as many genes if he was bashing around wife and kids as the guy who can fight the live long day–but still have this one little notch in his brain helping him be Mr. Good Hubby to his beloved and practice restraint around his offspring.

The thing that science hasn’t figured out yet is this: do we women have a corresponding gene in us that’s looking for Mr. Warrior Dude? I bet there is.  I mean, it’s a lot of women out there buying J.R. Ward novels.  Most of us can get quite steamy and curious only thinking or reading about a warrior protecting his heroine and loving only her.  In historicals this is the cold rake who marries the woman who “wasn’t his first lover, but will definitely be his last.”

And I wonder a lot about female aggression too.  Is there a version of this gene in women?

Meanwhile, I wonder if this gene going to disappear from men? Think about cops.  Yes, sometimes they have to be aggressive, but it seems that these days they spend most of their time doing paper work or trying to talk folks down in order to keep the peace.  Meanwhile, think of how technology driven war is these days–and getting more so all the time.  The place for warriors is shrinking down rapidly.

Yet in the world of paranormal romance, there will always be a place for someone who can stomp the bad guy without thinking twice, but who can be tender and empathetic with that one special woman.  A man who can quell evil with one hand tied behind his back.  A man who can last, and last, and last.  If you know what I mean.  And I think you do. (Smirk.)

Let’s Go INTO THE WOODS with Kim Harrison

Squee! So I got this book in the mail:

I think it’s not out yet.  Kim Harrison said something on her blog about “if you’re not going to NY Comicon you can’t get a copy,” — But I got one.

Why?

Because the good people of Virginia love Kim Harrison. And the good people at the VA Festival of the Book (see my Love Fest page) know this–they were drooling to have Kim Harrison come to the Festival again.  So she will be making an appearance in March.   On an Avon paranormal romance panel.  A panel that I’m (ahem) moderating.  That’s right folks, I’ll be hangin’ with Kim Harrison — look for more updates, especially in February. (Hey–as a moderator the big perk is come up with questions to ask panelists.  Are there any questions you’re burning to ask Kim? Maybe if you share them with me, and I end up asking, I’ll share her answer on this blog.)

For now though, I get to read her lovely collection.  I just really like her writing, you know? Of course, I have a huge soft spot in my heart for heroines who kick major ass.  Also, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book before that had such an interesting torque to the girl-girl friendship of Rachel and Ivy.  (Let me take a moment here to savor and shiver.  Mmmmmm)

If you haven’t read the books, I don’t want to give too much away.  It’s just that Ivy is a vampire, and she has desires, yearnings, and issues.  She tries to stuff them down and march away from her instincts.  Yet living with Rachel, who’s a witch, provides some complications.  Possessiveness, boundaries, intimacy, and yes,—clothes-sharing—all these girl topics that we don’t reallllllllly discuss are not talked about openly between the two characters, but Harrison lets them simmer right under the surface.  She makes us aware of these tensions to a subtext as the heroines form a working relationship and eventually live together.

I mean, we’ve had so much bro-mance spoonfed to us for the last half decade or so.  Time for someone to march off into that weird-boundaries territory that happens with women too. Right? — Right! I find myself always wanting more of the Rachel/Ivy mix.  A heroine-who-doesn’t-care-she’s-a-heroine and a heroine-who-worries-she’s-a-villainess make a GREAT mix.  If you haven’t read Harrison’s series, give yourself a treat and grab a copy of DEAD WITCH WALKING.  (Copies are dead cheap on amazon, btw).

xo,

Madeline

Cathy Maxwell Rocked the WRW Meeting on Sat. Sept. 8th.

Madeline here! Cathy Maxwell spoke yesterday at the Washington Romance Writers chapter of RWA in Washington D.C.
She was brilliant, of course.  She’s an amazing speaker–sharp and funny.  I got such useful tips out of her talk, I ended up having a major breakthrough this morning on a story that I’m revising.

So here’s to Cathy! Meanwhile, this is a cover of one of her books — The Scottish Witch.  LOVE IT!

I also wanted to give a shout out to the smart, warm, and engaging women of the WRW chapter.  I felt very welcome at their meeting.  I had a wonderful time hanging out with them, and left the meeting oh-so-inspired.

As you may know, I plan the Virginia Festival of the Book romance panels.  This day of panels–called LOVE FEST–is a great opportunity for writers to meet readers, to hear some rich discussion of romance, and for everyone to hang out with some big names in the romance world.  Based on the conversations that I had yesterday with the WRW women, I think I’m going to start a VA LOVE FEST page on this website–so that people can have instant access to the panels we’re planning as well as information about how to get involved.

Meanwhile, I’m off to clean up my writing desk–it’s frosted with pages and pages of my draft revisions.  Going to roll up my sleeves and git to work! ;>

So Bad They’re Kinda Good: Best Villains Ever!

Hello, Mr. O.   Today I’m chatting about you to all the J.R. Ward fans out there.  Mr. O is the primary villain in Ward’s novel Lover Awakened.  I was into this villain–one of the best villain’s ever. Why? Because he’s not just a villain, he’s a lover.

This is from page 10 of LOVER AWAKENED:  O hesitated before leaving.  God, he wanted to hold her.  The thought of losing his woman, even in the hypothetical made him mental.  That female vampire…she was his reason for living now.  Not the society.  Not the killing.

“I’m going out, wife, so be good.” He waited.  “I’ll come back soon and then we’ll wash you.” When there was no answer, he said, “Wife?”

O swallowed compulsively.

Even though he told himself he should be a man, he couldn’t make himself leave without hearing her voice. “Don’t send me out with no good-bye.”

Silence.

Pain seeped into his heart, making the love he felt for her soar.  He took a deep breath, the delicious weight of despair settling into his chest.  He thought he’d known love before he’d become a lesser.  He’d thought that Jennifer, the woman he’d fucked and fought with for years, had been special.  But he’d been such a naïve fool.  Now he knew what passion really was.  His captive female was a burning pain that made him feel like a man again.  She was the soul that replaced the one he’d given to the Omega.  Through her he lived, though he was undead.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can, wife.”

Creeeeepy!  He’s so passionate, so into her.  He’s just twenty degrees off kilter though.  So even though his love is true, and passionate, and he lives for her (well, sorta lives) to the point where he seems quite similar in feeling to the warrior-heroes of Ward’s books, yet he’s not headed in the same direction.  Like two diverging lines, O and the heroes may seem very close at first.  Especially in this book where messed-up Zsadist deliberately tries to hurt Bella.  Ward’s warriors always cross the boundaries of our modern rules about love.  So does Mr. O–or David, as he insists Bella call him.  But David O’s emotions take him far, far out into creepy-crawlie land, where Ward’s heroes simply do not go.  His love may be all about that jacked-up place of unthinking impulse (like them), and jealousy (like them), but it’s also about mutual, co-dependent destruction (doh).  The heroes in Ward’s books all find transcendence through love.  O’s ideal love is a violent death spiral downward.

The divergence between him and a hero takes the hero to a happy ending, while Mr. O goes plonk right into a big pile of icky perversity.

And if there’s one thing that I truly love, it’s perversity.

I have to confess, I have a thing for amazing villains.  Mr. O is a true villain in that you do want him stopped, you want him dead.  And he doesn’t quite lay down and die.

Meanwhile, there are those villains that you would never want to die. That you kinda feel a little uncomfortable and wiggly about, especially if you were to fantasize about having to be alone with them.  So though Mr. O is right at the top of my favorite villians list, here are three other favorites below. I hope you’ll leave a comment and tell me about some of your favorite villains as well.

Before Allan Rickman played Snape, he stole–just stole–the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie.  Which is ironic because the movie was called Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  Rickman played a very sexy Sheriff of Nottingham.  I’ve never seen a sexy Sheriff of Nottingham before. I mention him first because it was watching him in this movie that I realized a villain could take you places that the hero couldn’t.

He got all the good lines, too.  He finds out what Robin Hood’s been up to and says: “Wait a minute. Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public, and they love him for it? That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.

When he tells Gisborne to cut out Robin Hood’s heart with a spoon, and Gisborne says: “Wait, why a spoon? Why not an axe?”  Rickman’s Sheriff replies, “Because it’s DULL you twit.  It will hurt more.”

He also exudes really awesome sexual chemistry like you wouldn’t believe.  This is mainly because he’s so in-your-face baaaaaaad.  He commands a hottie kitchen wench: You. My room. 10:30 tonight.

Which is like, you know, forced seduction.  She doesn’t have a say.  But then the wench looks so hot at the prospect that her shorter wench companion looks kinda wistful.  It all happens in a flash, but then Rickman’s Sheriff notices the second wench.  Looking her over he says: You. 10:45…And bring a friend. He’s supposed to be a bad guy and mistreating them, but the movie screen almost gets wavy lines from the heated charge coming from him.

This is the point at which all the women watching the movie start to rationalize about this very big bad boy. See, (the woman movie watcher says to herself) he’s not that bad.  He’s smart. He used to be compassionate, letting lepers have kitchen scraps, and the people have Christmas.  And like, he’ll even have sex with the less attractive wench.   I think that Rickman works about 3/4 of his magic with that amazing voice of his and the delivery of his lines. The rest is sheer charisma and confident mojo. (Drool.)

The final two villains that deserve a nomination for Good Bad Villains are Angelus from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Spike, ditto.  Angel when he was bad was sooooooo good!

Angelus: Spike, my boy, you really don’t get it, do you? You tried to kill her, but you couldn’t. Look at you. You’re a wreck! She’s stronger than any Slayer you’ve ever faced. Force won’t get it done. You gotta work from the inside. To kill this girl … you have to love her.

I mean, that line just slays me, no pun intended. Again, there’s a complicated mix of emotion there at the heart of him.  Yum! The best part was the way he’d always turned Buffy’s “we all die alone” tragedy-jane sensibility back on her to outwit her.  He fights with her and when it’s a draw, points out that because she’s gone after him so single-mindedly, that she’s left her friends unprotected.  She sprints away to save them as he calls out, “And again, you always think it’s about you.”

Of course, Spike was simply amazing. He, too, is every bit as much a lover as he is a hater.  He says, “I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.”

Fantastic villains always cut through societal rules.  They don’t posture; they show who they are through action.  Maybe that’s why I love them so.

An excellent villain is smart, honest to the point where it hurts, and he is supremely confident.  He’s exciting because you never know what he’s going to do next.  He may know us better than we know ourselves.  He is that perverse flip-side of the hero.  He could have gone so right, and just didn’t quite make it.

The brilliance with Mr. O is that Ward created such a layered, textured villain whether she meant to or not.  He feels deeply, he hurts, and yet he doesn’t pity himself or live in the past.  He’s really sick–make no mistake–there’s no redeeming him.  But in that part of him that wants passion and wants love and to feel strong emotion there is a kernel of humanity that’s in all of us.  This is what makes him so compelling to read about.

Meanwhile, LOVER’S AWAKENING is really supposed to be about the love story between Zsadist and Bella.  Zsadist (sigh) has a lot of demons from the past to fight inside himself.  Bella–she rocks it out.  She knows she wants to ride the big bad boy, knows it’s perverse, and she really doesn’t care.  So you like watching her do a little bad boy taming.  She’s amazing.   Worthy of a villain like Mr. O.

Lover Eternal: What if Beauty & The Beast and Shakespeare met in one little ole’ kick ass romance?

Lover Eternal is the second book in the Brotherhood of the Black Dagger series.  The series is about the brotherhood of some vampire warriors who get all hyper-alpha when they bond to a female. They also have lots of H’s in their bad-ass names. (And there are lots of reviews that satirize these names.  Don’t get me started.)

In Book one, their leader assumes the throne, and they become a more cohesive lot than they were before.

So it’s all very over the top, (which I love, btw).  Even if you don’t love over-the-top romance in general, you just gotta stand back and admire that J.R. Ward just GOES for it.  Hormone-drenched, urban fantasy, kick-ass romance to the nth degree is her specialty .  Even the sexless villain falls in love (more about that later).

So in this book, our hero is Rhage.  Rhage has a little problem–as you could guess from his name: he was cursed to bear a beast within him.  The thing manifests itself whenever he gets a little too intense – either through fighting, losing his temper, etc.

When this happens (spoiler!) he turns into the beast, eats the bad guys (yuck!) and suffers indigestion afterwards. Oh, and he’s also hot.  Really, super, madly, crazy-hot.  He is beauty & the beast in one complete package.  Not only that, BUT he has to sleep with women – a lot of them, all the time—or the Beast will come out and totally harsh his mellow.  Yet he wonders what it would be like to settle down with a woman of worth, he confides to a fellow warrior.

SO, that’s the sich when he runs into Mary–a woman of worth.  Mary’s done good works in life, but she also suffers from bad luck.  In fact, her health sucks.  Yeah, she’s dying. When she winds up in the Brotherhood compound through a series of coincidences, she runs into Rhage when he’s recently post-beast and he’s basically a total dick to her.

AND THIS IS WHERE J.R. WARD EARNS THE BIG BUCKS.  She does stuff throughout her books that you can look at objectively and know in our normal world that it would be just gross. I mean, in this situation, Rhage is not quite himself.  He’s kinda blind, he’s kinda feeling sick in his tum-tum; what he should really be doing is lying quietly in his bed until he’s himself again.  Only, the bad-ass warriors in this series don’t take sick days. So when he’s staggering his way down the hall (to do what it’s not very clear) he encounters Mary.  Once he hears her voice and smells her, it drives him mad.  Soon he’s all over her like white on rice and he’s basically being Chester the Molester.   But you know, she responds.

With any other author I might have thrown the book down at this point, but J.R. Ward gets me to read onward.  First of all, he’s beyond gorgeous, and she was just wishing the other day for a guy to be totally into her, just once, before she dies.  Second of all, it’s been a long time for her.    But wait: the best part is this—no woman would actually volunteer to date a guy like this after such a first encounter, even despite her unwilling arousal and awareness of his (ahem!) attributes.  Yet Mary doesn’t remember the encounter.  The vampires take away her memories of the night.  So when someone she knows calls and arranges a blind date to meet Rhage (he calls himself Hal) she doesn’t know that he’s already decided to bond with her just after one blind grope.

[Is the name Hal a nod to Henry the V? Like from back when he was Prince Hal in Henry IV part two? We get the sense that Rhage is just the same kind of play-hard playboy now redeemed by maturity and suffering.]

The second time he sees Mary does he grope her again? No, instead he’s the perfect date.  And here’s why we love romance: we love it because this stuff doesn’t happen in real life.  Mary cannot believe that the gorgeous guy is into ordinary, little her.  And she is ordinary, in the best of all possible ways.

Meanwhile, he IS into her.  Really, really into her. Why? Because in J.R. Ward world vampires are hyped-up men on hormone-occtane.  They meet the ‘right’ woman and it just goes hormone-ily sideways.  They have no control over their physical response, and it’s so powerful, so motivating for them, that they usually just give in and go with the flow.  In this situation, Rhage doesn’t question for a second his attraction to Mary.  He was semi-blind when he was sliming himself over her before, so he’s surprised to see she looks nothing like he expected, but that’s okay, he’s going to sit down and get to know her, giving her 100% of his attention.

It’s this good behavior, following the sexed-up bad, that just gets me so hooked.

Meanwhile, poor Mary is simply unable to believe he doesn’t have another agenda.  Suddenly, she’s Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Mary: “Do I have to spell it out for you? I’m an average looking woman with a below average life span.  While you, you’re healthy, strong, beautiful…”

He tells her the ways in which he likes her, but as Helena would say:  Never did mockers waste more idle breath.

See—it’s not a silly romance—it’s Shakespeare!

Mary’s just not sure about him, and can’t quite accept that he likes her–especially when he gets all removed and dispassionate while getting her hot n bothered.

And that’s the big problem with Rhage n Mary: they can’t quite seem to knock boots.  The beastie inside doesn’t want to let Rhage have all the fun, and Rhage is scared to death he might hurt Mary if he can’t control the beast.   The beastie threatens to come out around her, and Rhage doesn’t know how to engage with Mary, keep the beast down, and do the deed all at the same time.

Mary meanwhile, is really, really dying fast.  Which is sad.

Sigh.

They work it out of course, but you’ll just have to read the book to find out how.

NEXT WEEK: I’ll review an even BETTER book, the next one in the series: LOVER AWAKENED.  (Squee…this is the one with the well done villain.)

Spanking the Princess, pt. 1

“Spanking the Princess” refers to female masturbation, according to Urban Dictionary.  I didn’t know that, did you?  Finally some sex slang I like! (No offense to princesses world wide, not to mention other galaxies far, far, away.)

Okay, so what are you going to read while spanking the princess this week?

Short answer: I recommend Cara Bristol’s contemporary spanking story, “Secret Desires”.  At .99 on Amazon — you can’t beat it.

Long answer: check out my Spanking the Princess, pt. 2 blog post about spanking stories at LADY SMUT.  This is where I’ll be posting about erotic romance from now on.   I’m going to continue this blog page, but in the future I’ll be exploring and discussing the world of paranormal & urban-fantasy romances.  Especially the super-steamy ones.

Btw, sorry my post is so late this week.  As you know my computer broke.   (Is my computer broke the blog equivalent of the dog ate my homework?) I did a lot of research in preparing for this post. I’m sure the computer guy got an eyeful when he finally had the computer working again.  Up popped my desktop, packed with spanking stories and erotic romance covers all across it.  No doubt he’s seen worse, but I still couldn’t make eye contact with him when I picked up my laptop from the store. ;>

50 Shades of Language: What do readers like Lady-Bits to be called?

So I have a good friend, Liz Everly, with whom I’m actually starting a new blog called   LADY SMUT.  We were talking about the Fifty Shades of Grey success the other day and she said she thought part of what women liked was not just the erotic but also romantic aspect of the book.  True, I agree I like erotic romance best.  When it’s just sex I get bored at the drop of a hat.  Liz said she also thought that not using the P-word or (for a guy) the C-word was important to a lot of readers.

What do you think? When you read erotic romance does the ‘dirty’ language send you to heaven or make you wince?

I myself realllllllly used to dislike the P-word.  Yet by the time I was through with writing my first erotic romance, I was over it.  The P-word was soft, wasn’t violent sounding…

However, right now, I’m reading LOVER ENSHRINED by J.R. WARD.

(It rocks btw.  I so recommend the The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, starting with DARK LOVER) In this novel, J.R. Ward uses the C-word (again for a guy) but sticks with “her sex” when it comes to women.  Or, should I say, female vampires?  ;>  Yet, man, Ward can go pretty far despite this.  Here’s a quote from page 326 of Lover Enshrined:

“With a growl, he lunged down and put his mouth to her, going right for the heart of her body.

They both cried out.  As her hands speared his hair, he gripped her thighs hard and moved in even further.  She was so warm against his lips, warm and wet, and he made her warmer and wetter as he French-kissed her sex.  While she moaned, instinct overtook them both, paving the way for him to….”

Whew!

What do you think? Should erotic romance authors be dropping P-bombs or not? What about swearing? I saw a quote the other day that just about killed me.  “He’d better stay away, or I’m going to punch him right in his Christmas sweater.”  Loved it! This quote inspired me to think hard about how to use language more creatively and stop being such a potty mouth.

Give a shout out please, — I’m so curious to hear your thoughts.

Meanwhile, if paranormal is not your thing, and if Fifty Shades of Grey is, Liz over on her own blog site is recommending Sylvia Day’s book BARED TO YOU.  Check out what Liz has to say about it here.    And I hope you check both of us out at Lady Smut starting in just a few weeks!

Use a Vibrator & live longer (Yup, you heard me)

I am shocked — SHOCKED — that Organic GARDENING has an article reporting that people who use a vibrator can live longer.  Really??? Of course I read the article immediately. ;>

I’m just still having problems wrapping my brain around good old Organic-This-Is-My-Compost-Heap-Ain’t-It-Purdy-Gardening’s changing image.

Anyway! The article was written by Emily Main and it’s called: 9 WEIRD HEALTH HABITS YOU NEED TO ADOPT.   The #8 ‘weird’ health habit they recommend is having sex more often. (Okay, if I hafta, then I hafta.) and #9 —Here’s a quote from the online article:

Use a vibrator.

So you’re single and have to go solo? That’s healthy, too, according to research from Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, because it apparently makes you more apt to adopt other healthy habits. A survey conducted by the center revealed that both single women and women who incorporated vibrator use into sex with a partner were more likely to visit the gynecologist than non-users. Men who reported using vibrators with a partner were also more likely to give themselves testicular self-exams. Need any more excuses to start using sex toys?

Maybe they should change their name from Organic Gardening to Dirty Gardening?

There’s a link to another Organic Gardening online article about how to have sex in a more earth-friendly way.  Which makes sense, I guess.  I mean, if you’re crunchy granola — what are you to do if you shun man-made threads but most lingerie (forget lingerie, let’s talk bras that can handle a D cup) are polyester and nylon?  And what if that vibrator is made with BPA plastic? Well, the article tells you how to find a green vibrator. (No, I’m not kidding.  And I’m not talking about the color either. ;>)

Quench Your Desire w/ Dark Lover

Desiring a delicious read as we hit the last month of summer? Here’s a favorite of mine.  DARK LOVER by J.R. Ward.

Here’s a link with an excerpt.

What do I love about this book? The hero.  The backstories.  The heroine — strong, sexy, and vulnerable — a rather hard combo to pull off, I think.

This is erotic romance–in that sex comes first, questions later.  Then love.  Yet, I think of it as walking the line between super-duper-steamy romance and erotic romance.  The camera pulls back just a wee bit during the sex scenes, but to me that’s okay.  Why? Because it’s written in a way that’s hot–maybe hotter than some erotic romance I can think of.

Enjoy! The nice part about recommending this book is that it’s part of a vast long series–so the fun doesn’t stop after the first book is over.  I haven’t read the entire series — but I’m gonna.  It’s like hunting for buried treasure.  I’ve heard that on of the books gets into some BDSM, so I’m going to read through them all to keep the tangled soap opera plot lines straight in my head so that I can enjoy the kinky sex when I get to it!

Are You Addicted To Smutty Romance Novels? – A Quiz

Please take this simple quiz to find out if you are addicted to Smutty Romance Novels.

1) Say you’re reading a non-romance novel text.  (For example: a mystery, instruction manual, or tax return.) Do you ALWAYS think:

a) Who’s the love interest here?

b) When’s the first sex scene happening? We’re long overdue.

c)  I never think these things.  If it ain’t romance—I ain’t reading it.

 2) When watching a dispute of some kind on a TV show (For example: a drama, a reality TV show, or news show) do you ALWAYS wind up thinking:

a) Why are they still fighting? Just hug her!

b) Why are they still fighting? Just kiss him now!!

c) When is this all this fighting turning into hot, dirty, make-up sex?

 3) Do you buy 2, 4, 6, or 8 smutty romance novels a week?

a) Do free reads count?

b) I honestly have no idea. My husband and I have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy about how many romance novels I buy.

c) Sigh. Sometimes I feel like Amazon.com is my best friend.

4) Are you overtly aware of every small, meaningless physical gestures made by men?

a) I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that I may incriminate myself.

b) What ‘meaningless’ gestures? There are no meaningless looks, glances, or gestures.  Except for the very direct stare my cat gives me.  And I’m just not going to think about what that means.

c) No, because then I’d be pay attention to my husband, and I don’t want to do that right now.  CAN’T YOU SEE I’M TRYING TO READ MY BOOK?!?

5) Have you read so many smutty romance novels that:

a) a smutty novel written with sex that is m/f/m/m/m/f/m/m/m/m/?/t/*/!  sounds like it could be interesting.  You might just order it.

b) You just did order it.

c) having your period, having sex while on your period, having sex while pregnant, one’s children interrupting sex, STD’s, and, most of all, Just Not Being In The Mood For Sex– are entirely foreign concepts.  Unless we’re talking about real life.  Wait—why are we talking about real life?

6) When you’ve been married for roughly a ba-jillion years, by this point can you truly NOT understand:

a) Why all your brilliant, good-hearted, yet crazy female friends are still single?

b) Why you too can’t write one of these erotic romance novels—you’ve got a ton of great ideas!

c) Why your favorite erotic romance author is slowly edging away from you at a romance conference when you confess—while grabbing handfuls of all the swag she brought—that you’re buying multiple copies of every book she’s written in case someone (your priest, your boss) wants to borrow one from you.

SCORING: Give yourself 1 point for every A answer, 2 points for every B answer, and  3 points for every *C answer.

* Give yourself 10 bonus points if you answered ‘C’ to question number six.

Over 6 Points: You my friend, are obsessed with smutty romances.  But you knew that anyway, didn’t you?

Over 12  Points: Have you read my latest erotic romance?  Let me post my link here.

 Over 20  Points: Three words: Seek Help Now.

You Know Where To Get the Good Stuff, Right?

ImageI have seen so much traffic on my blog from posting about Fifty Shades of Grey and Cosmo’s erotica short story.  It tells me that you wonderful women out there are searching for more erotic romance and erotica reads that will make you tingle and pulse with…imagination.

So, feeling like the older teenage sister whispering to the younger girls — here’s where you can find the good stuff: Ellora’s Cave  & Samhain.  These publishers have gobs of online erotic romance reads, in all kinds of categories.  Let’s zoom around their websites briefly, and see what we can find.

First Ellora’s Cave: you can find many classic erotic romance author’s through the E.C. author’s pages here.

Author’s like Lora LeighJoey Hill, Shiloh Walker, etc. Then there are new big authors such as Laurann Dohner.

(I have to confess, I stare at the covers of her books a lot.)

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Ellora’s Cave is the Harlequin of Erotic Romance.  They have well established categories in the same way Harlequin does–only the categories are a bit…naughtier.  For instance, they have historical erotic romances, like those by Samantha Kane who writes for their Legend category. Legend is erotic romances that take place back in history.  Other categories include: Aeon (futuristic), Xanadu (fantasy), Moderne (contemporary),Taboo (BDSM).

They have categories that cover westerns, horror, gay/lesbian, interracial, and of COURSE Twilight which is paranormal vampires, etc.

There’s something for just about everyone at Ellora’s Cave–even their Blush Category for folks who perhaps just aren’t ready to wade into the more explicit sex just yet.

Samhain is much the same, only they can be a bit more lady like in terms of titles and covers.  With Ellora’s Cave (the BAD girls of romance) what you see is what you get.  Titles can be descriptive of the sex in them, which is helpful if you know what I mean. (And I think you do.)  Covers are hot, or cheesy, often both.  I revel in the kind of over-the-top smexy stuff because somehow it makes me feel very comfortable and safe and seems woman friendly.

I also find Samhain’s website is a little more tricky to navigate for me.  Here’s what I’d advice with searching around on Samhain’s website:  Go to their NEW RELEASES page and skim down the left hand side of the menu bar to the very bottom where it says BROWSE BY THEME.  Pay dirt!  You can skim through the various themes: Vampires, Voluptuous, Comedy (I write funny stuff, so I’m into reading this category) OR you can skip straight to Kink/BDSM and RED HOTS!!!  Samhain has great covers and even if it’s not always quite so clear what you’re getting, you can click on a link to get a blurb and an excerpt–same as Ellora’s Cave.

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So get out there and explore! These publishers are the leaders in erotic romance but there are also other great titles published by Loose Id, as well as more primarily print publishers like Berkley Heat, Brava, Aphrodisia, and Spice. Look them up, try them out, pass them around, and create your own summer time sizzle!

Cosmo (Gasp!) prints erotica short story. When will the 50 Shades of Grey Madness End?

I was in the grocery store when I saw this cover:

SEX

SUN

FUN

Then a slug: new erotica.

What? What’s this? I’m-a checking it out right now.  (Oh! And here’s a link to my blog about another even BETTER story by Charlotte Stein.)

Why’d I ever stop reading fashion/women’s mags in the first place? They were a balm against the limited imagination of high school fashion.  The perfume inserts never bothered me a bit.  They added a whiff of luxury to my life.

What would I have done if I hadn’t been able to live through the fantasy sets and editorial homo-erotic fashion spreads in Vogue?  Okay, but then my life went online around 1999.   No more mags.

So here’s what I dragged home my own personal copy of COSMO for–a little ditty called “51 Shades of Blonde”.  Apparently this is a installment of a story by Jessica Knoll.  Who’s she?  A senior editor at Cosmo.  Maybe.

And here’s what I thought of the story: meh.  The sex scene (which took up half the room of the story) started off a little, um, unromantically, but what can I say? It got the job done.  Will I read the next installment? If you made me, sure.

As a would-be erotic romance author however, I celebrate Cosmo as the PERFECT forum for erotic romance/erotica. Or it used to be. Do you realize how much Cosmo’s changed in the last 10+ years?

It used to be like this: picture a woman on the front of cosmo–the power vamp in a sexy low cut dress eating her boss’s heart on a spoon.  On the inside the features would have some whip-cord maven choking a bare-chested hottie by his knotted tie, while fondling his man titty.  Did you know the word cosmopolitan is derived from the same Greek root of the word for cougar? (I’m kidding of course.)

But now Cosmo’s got articles on boyfriends.  Boyfriends? The Softer Side of Mastering His Penis.  It’s not so fierce as it once was.

Here’s an article slug: Arghhhh! What to Do When He Gives You the Silent Treatment.  Nail biter! Sounds like something from a more girly-insecurity mag.  Cosmo used to be about throwing a guy on the floor, taking your orgasm, and not worrying if you stomp him with your stiletto on your way out the door.  What happened?

I still love the perfume inserts – Guicci guilty, (the fragrance for her). It smells nice.

They also had this SEALED SECTION: The sealed section was a bit confounding – all about penises of course, but then the page AFTER the sealed section had sex Q&A.  This caught my eye: “Lately, I’ve been seeing different kinds of lube like the types that heat up or tingle.  Are they worth trying?”  Not quite sure why basic penis info goes in the sealed section and this doesn’t…..hmmmmm.  These other questions brought home to me again the difference in what Cosmo used to be and what it’s like now.

Funny old Cosmo of yore would’ve been more like this: “He’s giving you the silent treatment? Good.  Tell him you like your men tall, dark, and silent.”

Cosmo was the one who let all of America’s dirty little sex secrets out of the bag.  That 25% of men had some kind of man-on-man sexual experimentation in their past.  That women liked the power of feeling sexy apart from pleasing a man.  She just liked feeling good, is all.  That the notion of being a “lady” was curling up and dying a rapid death, along with the idea that only sluts went out and had sex with multiple partners.  You know Pam from True Blood? She would’ve read Cosmo in the 80’s and 90’s, for sure.

I’m not saying it was bad-ass perfection back then.  No doubt, Cosmo is where women probably first heard about botox and all other sorts of medical whack-ness that brought the nip-tuck revolution to our shores.  At any rate, this new mix suits me.  Meanwhile, when will the 50 Shades influence end?  I HOPE IT NEVER DOES.

James Franco’s Biggest Mistake (NOT!)

There was a Newsweek article (April 23rd & 30th, 2012) called MY FAVORITE MISTAKE: about James Franco.  Was it about the mistake of playing at least three brilliant (and gay) roles in homophobic (yet gay to the core) hollywood? No.

Perversely, the interview by Marlow Stern recounted how Franco says making the film TRISTAN & ISOLDE was a unique learning experience (i.e. a huge mistake).

Wha? James, what are you saying? Your biggest mistake?

Unh-unh.  No it wasn’t.

Can you say your best role ev-ah?

I saw it on DVD, not the big screen, but I loved it.   L-O-V-E-D it.  To say it was a mistake is a crime against humanity.  Here’s why I loved the film:

him, him, him.  

James Franco played the most amazing illicit young lover I think I’ve ever seen.

And that’s saying a lot.  There are other amazing hot young/illicit lover roles that have been done with excellence:

Rubert Evert in DANCE WITH A STRANGER 

Sam Shephard in FOOL FOR LOVE (which he wrote himself–making him even hotter)

the Triple hot threat of Daniel Day Lewis, Wes Studi, and that guy who played Uncas in  LAST OF THE MOHICANS

and more recently, Colin Farrell in MIAMI VICE. (Not showing a pic of Farrell, the ‘stache out of context is just too much.)

Anyway, I’m not saying that TRISTAN & ISOLDE is a great film.  These other films I mentioned–they are great.  The actresses hold their own every bit as much as the actors, if not more.  Though I have to give it to Rufus Sewell in T & I, he did a pretty fine job. 

I’m saying James Franco, poor dude, you’re just so very, very wrong in saying T & I was your great, big mistake.  What was a mistake was that the world didn’t instantly realize you’re amazingly hot as a result of the film.   

Franco recounts the issues of filming in a foreign country with a knee injury from fight scenes that never even made it into the film. (Suck it up, James. This is why they pay you the big bucks.) Then he talks about not going along with the director’s interpretation of the role. Recounting that you didn’t get along with the director is a big no-no in Hollywood, isn’t it, James?  I’m not even sure why you’re confessing it to this national magazine, because it’s not like you’re apologizing.  Just sort of showing that you were ‘trouble’ in the past.  Puzzling career move, James Franco’s agent. (i.e. what are you thinking?)

Yet I was agog over this article because I always wondered WHY Tristan & Isolde didn’t catapult Franco to brad pitt-esque fame.  Obviously in not getting along with director Kevin Reynolds, he must have burned some big bridges.

But first, let’s go back in time.  I  noticed James Franco at the end of Spider Man. (Didn’t own a TV during the FREEKS & GEEKS period, so I never saw him in that. Fans of Franco can sue me.) This is back when he was kinda blonde. (Don’t go back to the blonde thing, James.) Anyway, he was Peter Parker’s friend in SPIDER MAN, but also the son of the bad guy, and you just knew he was in for a hard time.  At the end of the movie he doesn’t get it that his dead dad was the bad guy.  So he is full of grief, and has this big bonding moment with Peter Parker, swearing undying friendship to him.  It was nicely moving, but at the same moment he swears vengance against Spider Man for his father’s death.

Uh-oh. So he’s set up as the next inadvertent villain–a great villain, drawn in by emotions we’ve carefully followed—a very appealing villain.  Something in Franco’s acting at that moment caught my attention.  I was kinda wondering if he’d break out after that.

Then along he comes in Tristan & Isolde.  Which is an amazing opera by Wagner, by the way.  [In the opera, Isolde literally dies of love — or liebestraub (love-sadness). So frickin’ romantic/cool.]

Anyway, in this film version of Tristan & Isolde, Tristan after a bad fight where it appears that he’s died, is sent off on his funeral bier into the ocean from England.  He washes up in Ireland, he isn’t dead, & Isolde drags him from the sea, heals him, & falls in love with him.  Unfortuntely, her dad gets suspicious and comes clomping onto the beach with a lot of soldiers, forcing Tristan to flee.  He comes back later to make peace on behalf of his beloved English King (Rufus) and fight in the king’s name for peace against a bunch of Irish stand-ins for the Irish King (Isolde’s father).  So Tristan wins the mock battle.  Which is great.  But this means Isolde must marry the English King, (Rufus).  Which sucks.  Especially, because the king’s very decent to Isolde, and because Tristan loves him dearly.  (He’s maybe Tristan’s uncle or something like that?)

Then the good part comes.  This is where James Franco gets all hot-eyed and just burns up with jealousy over the King and Isolde being all married and decently content about it.  He burns really well, btw.  This whole fourth act of the film is why you’d watch the film in the first place. 

Now, what’s interesting about the article in Newsweek is that this moment is where the director and Franco butted heads.  Franco says: “[Kevin] had the idea that my character would be more jovial, and I thought he was tragic.”   Score one for Franco.  Um, Kevin, the most TRAGIC opera ever written and you’re thinking Tristan should be more ‘jovial’?  In the film Franco looks like he’s the one who’s going to keel over from liebestraub.  You just want to leap up on the screen and be there to pillow his head when he finally dies of his jealous fever.  Of course, Isolde can’t resist him for too long, and that’s when things get really juicy.

Thank goodness Franco didn’t listen to his director.  I think Isolde did–this is why her performance was lighter perhaps and also almost completely forgettable. Poor James.  Caught between a rock and a hard place.

Yet I have to point out that I had to raise an eyebrow over the disingenuous “career arc” film list at the bottom of the NEWSWEEK article.  It not only excludes Spider Man, but also your (brilliant) gay roles in MILK, HOWL, etc. This movie time line is not really, um, representative.   Anyway, alll I’m saying, James, is don’t hide or disavow your brilliance.  Trust us — we out here in the audience get you.  Poor guy.  We know you just want to be a good actor, but the political gay police in hollywood, and an inadequate director combined to almost derail your career.

Did you let it defeat you? No, instead you took a positive approach to overcome you’re dead-in-the-water-you’ll-never-work-in-this-town-again-as-a-straight-romantic-lead curse.  You made out a bucket list and did everything on it you could while waiting for movie offers.  Including acting in soaps, writing a novel, and appearing on 30 Rock.

You’re an inspiration to us all, James.  But don’t disavow your best romantic straight role ever.

Meanwhile, PLEASE, would someone out there in Hollywood get a clue and put him back in another romantic lead role?  I just want to see him brood.  Hotly.  Just a little bit.  He does it so very well. Sigh.

My New Found Respect for Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum talks about his life as a former stripper here.  I wonder how many famous actresses in Hollywood can say the same? (Drew Barrymore was a stripper for a bit, I know that much.) Why doesn’t male stripping have the same consequences for men as it does for women?

You know, at first I didn’t think much of Mr. Tatum when he appeared upon the scene.  He looks like he could be the lovechild of Ryan O’Neal, and he has the world Tatum in his name –like Tatum O’Neal.  So my brain scrambled a bit over the puzzling fact that he was no relation.

Meanwhile, I assumed he was just a mimbo — a brainless pretty boy, but since he pulled off a great performance in the remake of 21 Jump Street, I’m slowly becoming a fan.

He comes across great in this People interview-about-an-interview.  I would still be skeptical and say well, maybe it’s just that his people are grooming him to not only look good, but sound good as well.  But I know his people aren’t out there acting in the movie for him, so I tip my hat.  Let’s hope that since he mentions being embarrassed about stripping down, that he gets to be more comfortable in the future by showing more of his sense of humor and less of his naked torso.

I’m gritting my teeth as I say that, because his torso is really one of the nicer ones out there, but I know if he was an actress I’d say EXACTLY that, so I stand by my statement.

Girls Shouldn’t Wanna Have Fun Says Roiphe

There has been a mad amount of “controversy” over Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James, with media pundits throwing their hands up in dismay at the shocking fact that women like smut. Folks hep to erotic romance meanwhile, scratch their heads over the hoopla, considering Fifty Shades of Grey a fairly tame sample of the genre.

Why all the fuss? Apparently many people still cannot believe that women–aside from some mysterious process that enables them to bear children–like sex.  Certainly it appears to have jolted everyone to find out that women like reading about it, and even enjoy reading about kinky sex.  My-o-my.

Meanwhile, in the romance biz, people are wondering how a book from a no-name press and no-name author zoomed through a million and more e-reading devices.  Once we see the cross-over appeal for a million soccer moms (a mysterious soft-spoken hero takes quiet control in the bedroom, but at the same time carries a hurt that need mothering) we can all nod and carry on with our business, right?  It doesn’t matter that the media folk don’t get us.  It doesn’t matter when they raise their voices squeaky high at a heroine who is a virgin, but gets off on BDSM-lite. Do they really need to understand us? Do we really need to be understood?

Well, for starters, we could rant and rave at their lack of professionalism.  “Mommy porn”—-hello? Do your research, people.  Media analysts don’t even skim google long enough to figure out that what E L James has written is properly called an ‘erotic romance.’ Puh-lease.  They also don’t recognize that Fifty Shades of Grey is not the first NYTimes best selling romantic smut and won’t be the last. Sigh.  People in the romance biz must by now have rhino hides from this lack of investigative respect.  The media ignoring a woman-based mega-million dollar industry is perhaps nothing new to the romance world.

HOWEVER.  There was an article in Newsweek that pushed all my buttons (the April 23 & 30th issue).  I simply must cry foul.  Someone must call out the author of the cover essay, on her unkosher style of ‘feminism’ but also on her lack of awareness and terrible lack of arguments.

The author Katie Roiphe employs some basic moves in this article:

First she’s snobbish about the whole enterprise of Fifty Shades of Grey, and like the rest of mass media, blithely unaware that this is also the premise of an entire sub-genre of fiction.  Love and kinky sex? Blech! How ‘banal’!  I quote Roiphe: “…the S&M classics of the past made fewer compromises with normal life; they don’t traffic in things as banal or ordinary as love.”

Her snobbish reasons for why emotion should never go hand in hand with kink is never explained.  For some reason, we should never cross the streams of our most secret sexual appetites with our desire for love.  Score one for Roiphe’s prudishness.  Also note the out of date terminology — she doesn’t seem familiar with the world of D/s or BDSM.  She knows of no more subtle sexual palate than the black & white of old school S&M.

Secondly she argues that on one hand, this book is not really that provocative, dangerous, edgy, whathaveyou.  “Why does this particular, watered-down skinny-vanilla-latte version of sadomasochism have such cachet” (page 24) when the heroine “indulges in slightly-out-there” desires? I would agree that the book is a watered-down skinny-vanilla-latte erotic romance.  What’s so wrong with that?  Can’t we have sex the way we want it–skinny latte style and all?

The heroine is a virgin experimenting with BDSM.  In conflating the madonna-whore false paradigms of old, are we not making some progress in feminist sexuality? Meanwhile, Roiphe seems to have no appreciation for, or knowledge of, the ways women have demarcated a new landscape, plunking down erotic romance in the no-man’s land between the purple-prosed sex of the 80’s romance novel and the exploitative, derogatory, flat plotline/flat character arc narratives of porn.

Roiphe herself never points the way towards how anybody “should” be indulging in sexual fantasy.   Her arguments are always against women doing/experiencing/experimenting with–never for. The book “has a semipornographic glamour, a dangerous frisson of boundary crossing, but at the same time is delivering reassuringly safe, old fashioned romantic roles.” Yeeees. That’s just the point, Ms. Roiphe.  And your problem is?

I think the women who created erotic romance are pretty damn clever to have created a woman-friendly sphere where we can enjoy sexual release just the way we want it. E-readers, meanwhile, help keep these child-inappropriate books out of curious little hands.

While Fifty Shades of Grey is vastly too tame according to Roiphe, at the same time she insinuates that it, and sexual submission in general, let women (and this is Roiphe employing her best-est, most favorite tactic) avoid taking responsibility for our sexuality.  In the first instance, she claims that the heroine is not taking responsibility for her oft-melting response to the BDSM tactics of her lover.

I get what she’s saying.  We watch Ana melt inside as she experiences sexual submissiveness, and yet she never really admits to Grey her feelings of desire and satiation (and the dreams) that she has experienced in his hands.  What Roiphe doesn’t seem to understand is that Ana is constantly renegotiating for more power in the relationship–bargaining over and over for what she wants: more love, more feelings.  That’s the point of her contentiousness — she’s not actually being a hypocrite.  The hero literally wants her to sign a contract for a relationship she doesn’t want and that contract (spoiler alert) never gets signed.  (More spoiler) At the end she says that she knows what she wants, and if he can’t give it to her, and she won’t give him what he wants, then she needs to leave.  Then she does leave.  She stands her ground after trying something out and finding that it doesn’t work for her.  Smells like feminism to me. 

Although I may feel a little squeamish about someone who enters into a relationship wanting love when it’s clearly off the table, as well as any “I’ll try what you want to save the relationship” theme, I think we should note that there is a real double standard at work in our society.  While men are good at “negotiating for what they want” women are held to be fruitlessly engaged in “trying to change men”.  Let’s face it, men are much more comfortable than we are about negotiating, and it’s high time we sharpen our tactics in demanding what we need and desire without undue sacrifice.  We can use more models of women negotiating for what they want in fiction and in our world.  The heroine Ana, does not change herself for the hero, and she does not try to change him.  She negotiates, and when he cannot meet her demands, she leaves.  Score one for Ana.

Here’s the problem with Roiphe’s lack of argument: she burples with sinister implications in between her canvasing the latest texts, movies, and trends regarding women’s sexuality. She insinuates what the book’s popularity symbolizes.  That women want to be rid of their “free will”, that they want humiliation, but they are cowardly, because they don’t want to admit it.  That, as usual, (in Roiphe’s mind) they don’t accept responsibility for their sexuality.  “She works crazy hours.  She takes care of the kids.  She earns more money.  She manages her team. At the end of the day, she wants to be…spanked?” If true, Roiphe implies, then reading books like these may give rise to greater female powerlessness in the future or stop our rise to equality.  Roiphe implies that we are actually surrendering our power when we fantasize about sexual surrender, using books like Fifty Shades of Grey.

Ha. First of all, we all know that fantasy and reality are two very different things.  A woman wanting to read about spanking when she comes home from a hard day of work is very different from a woman who actually wants a spanking.  A woman who comes home from a hard day of work probably wants help with getting dinner on the table and then, if she’s lucky, a bath.  She may not have the energy to initiate sex, or even put on something attractive and slinky.  She may find it far easier to read about a hero who wants to take care of everything when it comes to sex while she soaks in the tub, exhausted.

Again, I see a mass of problems with Roiphe’s insinuations.  There is a double standard at play, as well as an ignorance of most American women, and finally, some attempts to deliberately mis-interpret the nature of enjoying BDSM and D/s.

Roiphe is being naive about how power and responsibility work.  A woman who works crazy hours, takes care of the kids, the house, the extended relations, the emotional management of her relationship, and so much other wife work has a vast amount of responsibility.  There is a long understood cliche about how powerful judges and politicians, etc. visit the dominatrix in order to gain sexual release while at the same time letting go of their power and responsibilities for a while.  Why wouldn’t women — who bear so much responsibility in their lives — desire the same thing? Or if not the real life complications of sex-work for cash transactions, than a fantasy of the same release?

Roiphe in the past has been given the critique that “she appears to be unfamiliar, indeed, with anything much beyond the rather rareified atmosphere of American universities.” (The Independent, ’94) I think that quote applies here as well. She doesn’t seem to want to talk about what the issues are with Fifty Shades of Grey until first she re-configurings the audience for the book.  She makes a point of arguing that the demographic of women reading the book is more young (20’s-30’s), more urban, and more liberal than one would expect.  It’s these women that Roiphe likes to demonize for not taking responsibility for their sexuality.

Roiphe indicates that there is something wrong with these women (and taste-less, perhaps, in others who aren’t Roiphe’s demographic.) Something is wrong with women who are drawn to your proto-erotic romance hero: a man who exudes power, who is comfortable with himself, yet wishes to shoulder a woman’s burdens, while at the same time expertly reading her emotions and thoughts with great sensitivity. Roiphe needs to understand that we’re dreaming of a new kind of masculinity.  After all, if women can learn to anticipate the needs and feelings of all those around us that we care for, why can’t men learn to do the same thing? If we have learned an uber-competence in juggling work, home, and the care and feeding of our relationships, why can’t men do the same thing — or at least take care of the part in bed?

Finally, as researchers patiently tried to explain to Roiphe,  “fantasies of submission” can involve “the wish to be beyond will, beyond thought.” They are talking about a kind of zen-ish living-in-the-moment state of mind.  Roiphe, however, deliberately misconstrues what they say to mean that women find their free will a burden and wish to be rid of it.  This seems to be such a willfully perverse mis-understanding of not only what the researchers tried to explain, but also of the reasons behind why women would enjoy dominant/submissive fantasies.

Women are losing their sense of sexual repression, they are not losing their free will. They are breaking free from conservative societal notions of shame about sexual fantasies every time they buy an erotic romance.  Reading erotic romance fantasies is a prime example of free will expressed and repressive chains dropped.

If Roiphe seems blind to aspects of how real women live and think, it’s because it’s not in her best interests to do so.  She’s made a career out of being a one trick pony.  She comments on the latest experiment in feminism from her supposedly progressive, supposedly feminist, liberal view, and deliberately attempts to incite outrage.  Her style in the past has incorporated insensitivity about topics like date-rape.  Denying that women take responsibility for their sexuality, she’s proclaimed in the past, “If you feel bad, it’s probably helpful to think that you’ve been date-raped.” It gained her notoriety then, and it makes her money now.  Like the staff of the National Enquirer, she poses her questions and facts in a deliberately provocative manner because getting a rise out of her readers is the only thing that keeps her in print with national magazines and newspapers.

Meanwhile, we can watch and wait to see how 50 Shades of Grey may have opened the door of erotic romance to new readers who will make their opinions heard through Amazon reviews or the comment sections of author blogs.  I, for one, welcome your comments here.