Tag Archives: 50 Shades of Grey

Why We Need Taboos

In almost every news story about sex, someone declares that we’ve “broken down the taboo of” a sexual practice or sexual device. Breaking down a taboo is always assumed to be a social good. The implication is that once we break down all the taboos we’ll live in peace and harmony in a mesmerizing sexual utopia. However, not all taboos should be destroyed. Some taboos are needed for our imagined sexual utopia. The problem with our discussion of taboo is our failure to distinguish between types of taboos. We conflate social taboos with sexual taboos. The former needs to be destroyed; the latter needs to be savored.

A social taboo involves shunning those people whose consensual sexual or relationship practices differ from the norm (whatever that happens to be at the time). Social taboos affect groups as wide-ranging as gays and lesbians, the BDSM community, plushophiles, and the happily non-married. This type of taboo can and should be destroyed. Historically, non-procreative sex has always raised suspicion, but we should be enlightened enough in the 21st century not to ostracize people for engaging in sexual acts that make us uncomfortable. What people do with their genitals should be irrelevant to their social status. We’re making a lot of progress on this front. That nine states have legalized gay marriage is a start, but we need to stop thinking in terms of having gays and lesbians conform to heterosexual ideals and actually allow them to make their own space.

In contrast to the social taboo, the sexual taboo should always remain. The sexual taboo is the I’m-doing-something-wrong-and-it-turns-me-on taboo that leads to the eroticism of such practices as anal sex, double penetration, and rim jobs. Because it heightens sexual pleasure, the sexual taboo should never be destroyed. There’s something erotic about violating rules. Sex is dangerous, and there’s no reason we should pretend that it isn’t.  The possible complications of sex are serious, from the physical—unwanted pregnancies and STDs—to the emotional—soul-crushing blows to self-esteem and unshakeable heartbreak.  Of course the possible benefits outweigh the risks: sex can bring you the most acute pleasure that the human body is capable of. And, there’s a particular euphoria between two people that can only come from a sexual relationship. The taboo that says that sex is dirty needs to stay. It is this taboo that brings us love and happiness. Continue reading

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It’s Now OK to Whip Your Husband: 50 Shades of Grey and the Sex Toy Revolution

50 Shades of Grey E.L. James

The erotic best-seller that’s spurring sex toy sales throughout the land.

The recent popularity of 50 Shades of Grey has led nearly every literate woman (and a few illiterate ones) to traipse down to the local sex toy emporium to start her own dungeon or to fantasize about doing so. For those not familiar with the book, 50 Shades of Grey is an erotic trilogy by E.L James that began its life as Twilight fan fiction. It  is steeped in age-old erotic tropes, telling a story of an innocent virgin corrupted by a sexy, domineering older man who trains her in a life of ever-more-depraved sexual acts that she learns to enjoy and begins to crave. It’s full of bondage and whipping and spanking. Although I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t debauched enough for me, but that’s because the first erotic books I read as a teenager were Story of the Eye, a novel by Georges Bataille that includes priest sex, necrophilia and bull testicles used as sex toys, and 120 Days of Sodom, which contains a ton of violent gay sex,as well the classic line:” “Fart, fart: as hard as you can, as loud as you like.”

However, 50 Shades of Grey is great fun, and it is full of scenes starring sex toys, which has led to a boom in sex-toy sales across the nation. According to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, “sales of bondage gear jumped 375 percent in April” at famed women’s-owned sex-toy boutique Babeland. That an erotic book is at the top of The New York Times best seller list renews my belief in the wisdom of the American people, a belief that was tested during the recent failed recall of Scott Walker, a man who, incidentally, needs a good flogging.

But this blog post isn’t going to devolve into a paean about the recent acceptance of sex-toys  in America culture. What’s more interesting to me is the media coverage about 50 Shades of Grey and its connection to an increase in sex-toy sales. The phrase that’s been bandied about is that 50 Shades of Grey has “given women permission” to indulge their wild, sadomasochistic side. The gist of the coverage is that every woman has been secretly wanting to transform their basement into a hardcore S&M dungeon, but they have hesitated because of social stigma. Once they read the E.L. James trilogy and discussed how sexy it was with their friends, that stigma begin to dissolve. Overnight, the nation’s women became BDSM aficionados. I would love to believe that every woman has been fantasizing about tying her husband up in luxurious metal chains, sticking a rubber ball gag in his mouth, and fellating him while Asian incest game show porn plays in the background. And maybe they have. Continue reading

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Why Women Should Give Porn a Chance

Pornography Protest

A pornography protest organized by the North Carolina-based Praise Assembly Worship Center.

I’m tired of women becoming insecure after they stumble upon their boyfriends jacking off to Japanese teen bukkake porn. What men masturbate to is not a reflection on their girlfriends’ looks or sexual abilities in bed.

So why does porn upset women so much? (Full Disclosure: I know that not all women feel this way. I’m a woman who watches porn, and I have a lot of female friends who love it too). I’m not even referring to the  hard-core feminists here; I’m talking about the young professionals and stay-at-home moms who are threatened by their husband’s stash of vintage transgender magazines. How can a woman who professes to be enlightened chafe at her partner’s interest in pornography?

Men don’t get threatened by romantic movies, which present ridiculously unrealistic images of what a heterosexual love relationship should be like. Romantic movies never show farting in bed, pooping on the couch, or other things that happen all the time in committed relationships when one or both of the partners has norovirus. They aren’t angered by romance novels or 50 Shades of Grey. I believe that men are less threatened because most of women’s sexual fantasies live in the imagination or on the page; they are not acted out by beautiful acrobatic porn stars.  Of course, romantic movies do realize some of women’s fantasies, but they show the conventional fantasy of a committed relationship based upon undying love, which most people don’t consider grotesque. Even 50 Shades of Grey places a sadomasochistic relationship in the comforting confines of monogamy. In any case, women’s insane wedding fantasies are more disturbing to me than a triple-penetration rodeo-clown porn. So why can’t women learn from men and leave their boyfriends’ fantasies alone? Continue reading

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