Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Unwrapping My Thoughts on FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, the Movie & BDSM in Romance Novels

With all of the excitement building over the upcoming release of the movie version of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E.L. James, I got to thinking about the way BDSM (Bondage-Dominance-Submission-Masochism) is portrayed in romance novels today. I am not a fan of the FSofG series and do not expect to see the movie unless I hear some very good things about it – namely that it’s better than the book, but since a movie version of a book is so rarely better than the original, I doubt it will happen.

Have you seen the trailer? Some think it's really sexy, racy, or whatever. I think it's about as exciting as the book. Not.

There are many romance authors today who portray BDSM from mild to extreme so much more erotically, and genuinely that it got me thinking back to some older romance novels which were never labeled as BDSM but actually can be added to the list. One in particular is WARRIOR’S WOMAN by Johanna Lindsay.

Now, before fans of Johanna Lindsay jump on me and proclaim, NO WAY!, if you’ve read this particular book and its series, think about some of the sex portrayed. I loved this trilogy of sci-fi romance created by Johanna and wish she’d revisit this type of romance again.

In the year 2139, fearless Tedra De Arr sets out to rescue her beleaguered planet Kystran from the savage rule of the evil Crad Ce Moerr.

Experienced in combat but not in love, the beautiful, untouched Amazon flies with Martha, her wise-cracking, free-thinking computer, to a world where warriors reigns supreme - and into the arms of the one man she can never hope to vanquish: the bronzed barbarian Challen Ly-San-Ter.

A magnificent creature of raw yet disciplined desires, the muscle-bound primitive succeeds where no puny Kystran male had before - igniting a raging fire within Tedra that must be extinguished before she can even think of saving her enslaved world...

Many erotic romance novels today have a dominant male paired with a confident yet submissive female where mild to extreme BDSM is introduced between the couple but WARRIOR’S WOMAN was first released in 1990 by Avon Romance and for the time, it pushed the envelope further than most romance novels had ever gone before. There was a cultural traditionalism behind the behavior on the part of the hero, Challen, and the heroine, Tedra, was a self-sufficient, tough, warrior who challenged her hero every step of the way. Her refusal to submit to his dominant behavior resulted in a few punishment scenes, one of which even included an explicitly non-painful spanking scene, which left her hero with a very bad taste in his mouth. His punishment amounted to bringing her as close to orgasm as possible without allowing her the satisfaction desired by her. When she told him if he wanted to truly punish her, he should do it properly with a spanking. His means of punishment was never about pain but simply a means to make her understand he was in control of her, and her pleasure. 

Well, as women, we may not agree with that because we all know we are responsible for our own pleasure and it’s our willingness to share it with our men, which enhances it and makes our men feel triumphant. But along the lines of BDSM, Challen believed himself in charge, dominant if you will, but in truth, we know it was Tedra who led his heart and so led his desire to please her and keep her from pain.

So with this in mind, I’m drawn back to FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and its manner of pushing the envelope toward humiliation, Christian’s need to crush Ana, her heart, and make her feel as low as he feels. These are things which turned me off about this series. I’m all for reading erotic romance with BDSM themes, even when they don’t particularly make me comfortable. Voyeurism themes tend to make me uncomfortable but not necessarily because of the theme but it’s the idea of a man who loves his woman and yet still feels it’s okay for other men to watch her pleasure that turns me away. I believe there’s play and then there’s respect. Love needs respect to survive, just as it needs respect to exist in the first place.

True, in any games of BDSM, there is a level of mutual acceptance and the dynamic is supposed to be one of consensual play but again, I don’t feel that in FSofG the way I feel it in other erotic romance with BDSM elements. So my question to you is the same one I would ask a partner in real life, how far is too far when introducing elements of bondage, dominance, submission, and masochism into a romantic relationship?

Also, will you be seeing the movie? 

Feel free to comment, rant, blast me, or agree - I want to know your thoughts. Happy Reading Everyone! 


Shauni S said...

I actually enjoyed the series but from the very beginning I made it clear that it wasn't a true BDSM series. Christian was a lost soul who used BDSM as an escape. A boy who was abused and took on the form of an abuser.

I loved the reference to JL's Warrior's Woman. Loved that book!

Elizabeth H. said...

This is an extremely well thought out post and I completely agree with what you said as well as your point of view. I also agree with Shauni's comment about the labeled BDSM genre on the series.

I've read and re-read the series several times, always skipping the BDSM parts on re-reads because of the meaning behind them. At the end of the third book, The BDSM aspect has become more of a pleasurable aspect than anything else. I probably will go see the movie.

As far as BDSM goes, I am completely surprised at how popular it's become. I don't mind a little spanking or light bondage in books but I don't normally read the emotionally damaged billionaire/BDSM troupes because I feel many of the stories are similar in nature.

I respect other readers' opinions on the subject of why they do or do not read BDSM books, but I prefer my romance without the D/s roles. I do enjoy eroticism in my books but as far as an infliction of pain or the subjugation of one's self to the mercy of another, not my cup of tea.

Awesome post Amy! said...

I was not a fan of the books and really don't plan to see the movie, though I may get dragged along on a ladies' night out. said...

And as far how far is too far, if two people are equally invested in a relationship and 100% willing, not feeling coerced in any way, I feel they can do what they want. I don't mind reading it in a book as long as it furthers the love story. But I'm kinda "over" billionaires being the ones to do it. :)

Amy Valentini said...

Thanks ladies, I'm glad I'm not alone in my lack of enthusiasm for seeing the movie. I just believe there is much better, more talentedly written BDSM-themed romances out there which could've been made into so much better films. It disappoints me that so many think FSofG is representative of modern erotic romance and romance in general.
Oh my, I think I may have to hit up this subject again soon. LOL!

Now...I can't wait for the Inside Out Trilogy! xoxo

Deena Rae said...

I never really got all the ohhhs and ahhhhhs about this series. I couldn't get past the first chapter because of the wretched writing. (And for me to call ya out on your grammar is actually saying something). Johanna Lindsey though is one of my all-time favorite authors. I love how she tells a story and Warrior's Woman was a fantastic book.

Could be just me, but when the producers didn't get a 3 picture deal from the actors in the main roles they screwed up - and I have heard that the male lead has already said he would not be back for movie 2 or 3. (Bad business on the part of the producers to not lock in the main characters for the duration of the series) Aside from that i sense Zero chemistry between the two leads. I don't know if I will ever see it, maybe one night if nothing else is available on HBOGo :)

Awesome post Amy!

Amy Valentini said...

Deena Rae, I totally agree with you. I remember when I got to the end and it read End Part One, I nearly threw my reader against the wall. Not because I was disappointed the book had ended but because I had wasted almost $10 on a piece of trash, and the author wanted me to shell out $20 more to find out what happens. The only reason I finished it was because I paid for it and it's very rare for me to give up on any book.
I agree that if the same actors don't continue throughout the series, it will break it completely. I'm like you, curiosity may some day cause me to turn it on when there's absolutely nothing else on earth to do. LOL!
Glad you enjoyed the post. xoxo

CrystalBee said...

I always find it hysterically funny at how many people think Fifty Shades is risque. What?! Not once in the entire trilogy did the author say any genitalia. It was always "he touched me there." If I'm reading a romance with BDSM and a possessive hero, there had better be graphic language. Yes, it also has BDSM in it, but even that is not very graphic compared to other authors out there. Leah Braemel has a BDSM themed series that is very graphic. Maya Banks and her Sweet series has several scenes of voyeurism and multiple partners. There's Sylvia Day, Beth Kerry... The list goes on and on. And these authors are far more graphic than Fifty Shades was.

...and much better written. I'm just sayin'.

Will I see the movie? Yes. Will I see it in theaters? Only if I have enough balls to do so (Fandango will be my friend). To be completely honest, I'll probably be watching the guy playing Christian because he is friggin' hot.

If anything, the movie will probably be better because we won't have to put up with Ana's stupid "inner goddess."

Amy Valentini said...

OMG! Crystal, I hadn't thought about us being spared the 'inner goddess' remarks. She drove me nuts. I did my best to try to skim over those two words but they kept leaping off the page at me. I totally agree the true romance writers who create truly emotional, and genuine feeling BDSM erotic romance are so much more talented than Ms. James ever hopes to be.
I'm hoping that after the movie releases, all of the unwarranted hoopla over this series will finally die down. I don't even see the trailer as 'racy', yet I've heard many comments on it calling it that.
Thanks for stopping by. xoxo

Tasty Book Tours said...

I have yet to read them...but I just signed up for Kindle Unlimited, so maybe I'll see if they are up there.

On a side note, I agree with Crystal, I can read a MC Romance with dirty words and tons of sex if that's what I need. When I opened FSofG at Stop & Shop...yes...I was browsing, I though the writing was kinda...blah....

I just don't have the time for blah these days!

C.V. Madison said...

As someone who has been involved in the BDSM community since 2003, it vaguely upsets me that this is considered hot. All of the BDSM products released after the advent of 50 Shades vaguely upsets me. The fact that so many people believe that this story is an accurate portrayal of BDSM really peeves me off (and that's putting it as mildly as possible). A coworker even said she was going to employ some of the things in the book to spice up her relationship because the scenes were "so effing hot".

I told her I hadn't read the books and asked what she wanted to employ. She whipped out the book and let me read a passage and I just stood staring blankly at the page. I wasn't really even sure what they were trying to do.

I asked her a few more questions, which made her slightly uncomfortable. I relented and told her how long I'd been part of the community and told her I just wanted to be sure she was safe, sane and consensual.

After some of the things people have told me are in that book, I wonder if anyone has been hurt or subjugated in their relationships as a very close friend of mine told me happened to her over the Gor books.

I have been trying to make myself read the books just so I know what I'm talking about. I've just heard so many bad reviews that I shudder when I think about reading them.

I likely won't see the movie.

Amy Valentini said...

C.V. Madison, thank you for coming by. I appreciate someone who knows the BDSM community agreeing with me that FSofG is an extremely weak representation of the real world experience. I am continually frustrated by the hoopla over such a poorly written series and the unlikely tolerable movie being made from it. I keep thinking about how the movie is never as good as the book. Heaven help us if this is true in this case.
Thanks again and stop by any time.