50 Shades of Grey Hair

If you’ve been awake on this planet, you’ve heard of the success of Fifty Shades of GreyIt’s the Number 1 best seller on Amazon, where it sports 3,639 reader reviews at this moment.*

The big deal about this book is that it’s erotica, BDSM erotica at that, and it’s being read by a mainstream female audience — everyone from teens through their moms and, yes, grandmoms of our age, too. Many start reading it because everyone else seems to reading it, and we like to be shocked.

I didn’t read the whole book, but I did read quite a bit during a very long airport wait at JFK, where I found a mile-high display of all three Shades of Grey books. How did the author, E L James, come out with three books so fast? From the quality of the writing, I’d say she wrote them quickly, didn’t rewrite, and didn’t have an editor. Otherwise, how could she repeat herself all these ways, as an Amazon reviewer points out:

Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian’s lips “quirk up” 16 times, Christian “cocks his head to one side” 17 times, characters “purse” their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. Add to that 80 references to Ana’s anthropomorphic “subconscious” (which also rolls its eyes and purses its lips, by the way), 58 references to Ana’s “inner goddess,” and 92 repetitions of Ana saying some form of “oh crap” (which, depending on the severity of the circumstances, can be intensified to “holy crap,” “double crap,” or the ultimate “triple crap”)…Characters “murmur” 199 times and “whisper” 195 times (doesn’t anyone just talk?), “clamber” on/in/out of things 21 times, and “smirk” 34 times. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 “grins” and 124 “frowns”… which, by the way, seems an awful lot of frowning for a woman who experiences “intense,” “body-shattering,” “delicious,” “violent,” “all-consuming,” “turbulent,” “agonizing” and “exhausting” orgasms on just about every page.

Readers recognize the bad writing — more than 1,000 reader reviews are only 1-star — but what the heck, it is sexy (of course “sexy” is in the eyes of the beholder). Anastasia gets lots of orgasms, and isn’t it a fantasy of women at any age to have an extraordinarily handsome, insanely rich lover who gives us endless orgasms — and, by the way, has inner turmoil that we’re convinced only we can fix by offering him our special brand of devotion?

Our age group is reading this book, too, and not just women. I enjoyed the reader review from “a male senior citizen, a semi-retired gynecologist,” whose “arthritis flared up just reading about Ana’s sexual gymnastics.” He had to take Viagra to stiffen his resolve to keep reading.

If you’re interested in BDSM erotica, there are plenty of well-written books you can read, with the sex you’re looking for plus skillful, non-repetetive writing and unpredictable characters and plots. For example, try the Sleeping Beauty Novels, a trilogy by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure, or check out the many BDSM erotica anthologies from Cleis Press. If it isn’t specifically BDSM but simply well-written erotica you’re looking for, both Cleis and Seal Press do a great job. Starting with an anthology can introduce you to writers whom you particularly enjoy, and from there you can explore what else these writers have written.

What would Fifty Shades of Grey look like if it featured a woman our age, instead of a college student? We could title it Fifty Shades of Grey Hair, and our heroine would be a woman of, say, 68, who has left a long, boring marriage and goes to San Francisco or New York City to discover her hitherto hidden sexual kinks. She hooks up with a dom who is maybe 72 and in the best of health and vigor, who uses plenty of lube while he introduces her to his special brands of toys, fingers, tongue, and penis, to bring her to the ultimate heights every few pages. I say “every few pages” instead of “every page,” because we need longer foreplay these days.

Or maybe she doesn’t find a dom — maybe she’s the domme, exploring her personal power in ways she has only fantasized.

You see how much fun this could be? Fifty Shades of Grey Hair wouldn’t suffer in any way by being about senior sex. In fact, by featuring savvy, sexy seniors, we wouldn’t need any of the lip chewing and we could be more inventive with our reactions than “oh, crap.” What do you think?

(If you love the idea of senior erotica, I’m editing a senior sex erotica anthology right now with Seal Press. I’ll let you know when it’s published!) Update: Ageless Erotica is available for your reading pleasure!

*I can’t help comparing: my Naked at Our Age has  20 Amazon reviews–all raves except for one that found it offensive because too much of it is “about how to give yourself an orgasm.” Here I thought that would be a useful part of a senior sex self-help sex guide….

The Ultimate Guide to Kink: book review

I was, at first, conflicted when Cleis Press invited me to review The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge, ed. Tristan Taormino. I’m so unkinky personally. I like gentle sex, and although I had a “try anything twice” motto a few decades ago, by now, I feel pretty secure in knowing what works for me, and it’s decidedly, deliciously, vanilla.

However! I’m open-minded and curious about all things sexual, and I have a duty to my readers with more varied proclivities and experimental attitudes to learn everything I can and guide you to the best resources.  Whether you’ve been a long-time kinkster or you’re wanting to try something new, this book can be your guide.

I’ll admit it, I’ve never understood what could be pleasurable about pain. I’ve been in two devastating automobile accidents with residual and lifelong pain, I shattered my shoulder in ten places two years ago,  I have arthritis in my neck — I know pain. I couldn’t imagine bringing pain intentionally into my sex life. Imagine my surprise reading this in Tristan Taormino’s introduction:

Tristan Taormino

When people experience pain, adrenaline, endorphins, and natural painkillers flood their nervous system. People get off on this chemical rush, which many describe as feeling energized, high, or transcendent… In the context of a sexually charged scene, some people, when they are aroused (and their pain tolerance is much higher), process a face slap in a different way: it feels good.

Oh! Now I get it. (Are true kinksters laughing at my innocence?)

I approached The Ultimate Guide to Kink knowing I’d learn something new. I had no idea how well-written it would be, how many new things I’d learn, and in what detail! The book is comprised of 20 essays on different aspects of kink, written by 15 well-known leaders in their particular brand of kink. And yes, several are our age!  Among them:

  • Patrick Califia, who writes “Butthole Bliss: The Ins and Outs of Anal Fisting” (“one of the most extreme sexual acts that one person can allow another to do to his or her body”) and “Enhancing Masochism: How to Expand Limits and Increase Desire.” He defines masochism as “the desire and the ability to become aroused and perhaps even climax while experiencing sensations that other people avoid.” 
  • Hardy Haberman, who writes “A Little Cock and Ball Play,” including household items you can use as sensation implements: toothbrush, paintbrush, nylon scouring pad, mushroom brush…. 
  • Jack Rinella, who writes “The Dark Side.” As the Dark Lord, he advertised for men who desired to be “subjugated, degraded, dominated, humiliated, and violated” — about 120 men responded. 
  • Lolita Wolf, who writes “Making an Impact: Spanking, Caning, and Flogging,” including choosing an implement, techniques, and why the bottom and the top enjoy it. 
  • Barbara Carrellas, who writes “Kinky Twisted Tantra,” including “The Tao of Pain.”
You might be surprised at the number of folks with gray hair who have been practicing BDSM for all or most of their sexual lives, as well as the number who decided (or will decide) past midlife to enact fantasies that they kept tamped down. You’ll find some of them in Naked at Our Age. This is one more hush-hush aspect of senior sex — that some of us like our sex kinky.

Patrick Califia challenges those who brand BDSM players as “mentally ill”:

The assumption that variant sexualities are mental illnesses has more to do with conservative religious values than it does with objective observation. If a mental state or human behavior is unhealthy, we ought to be able to demonstrate that it makes that person unhappy, interferes with their ability to give and receive love, prevents them from setting goals that give them a sense of fulfillment, and injures their health.

This book  is a how-to guide that answers every question you might have and many you wouldn’t think to ask, from bondage techniques (illustrated by Katie Diamond) to safe fisting to training a sex slave. I recommend it whether you’re already into kink, think you might be, or — like me — you’re just fascinated by and nonjudgmental about consenting adults doing whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody who doesn’t want to be hurt. Take a look!