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Friday, April 20, 2012

50 Shades of Gray Is A Game Changer


"All right! All right! I'll sign the friggin' contract!" Image source: Hogtied.com.

From where I sit, the 50 Shades of Gray phenomenon looks less and less a wave and more and more like a tsunami. I have instructed my flying monkeys to bring stories based on a number of key phrases: bondage, sexual bondage, kink, kinky, etc. etc.

The 50 Shades monkeys keep bringing in more stories than all the other monkeys put together. In fact, the OTHER monkeys bring in lots of 50 Shades stories as well, as the tsunami swamps other categories. And that's even counting the "bad hits" you get with many other keywords. For example, the keyword "bondage" always brings in references to "debt bondage" which is just NOT sexy, and religious tracts, where references to "bondage to the Israelites" and "Roman bondage" are common ways of referencing incidences of slavery.

And let's not talk about all the bad hits you get from the term "slavery." Hell "damsel in distress" is nothing BUT bad hits since Whit Stillman's movie Damsels in Distress came out. (There is no bondage or anything like it in the movie.) But that's the ONLY keyword that picks up that movie. 50 Shades leaks into EVERY fricking keyword, with the possible exception of Sword and Sorcery.

And even counting all those bad hits, 50 Shades still swamps everything else.

And it's not just the QUANTITY of stories, either. 50 Shades is making more appearances in much larger mainstream venues than other keywords. TV shows like "The View," and "Today," magazines like Entertainment Weekly (it was the cover story) and Time, and, well, most websites and blogs that could develops some kind of rationale for covering, like Slate, The Huffington Post, Salon and so forth. Most other keyword stories show up on the Web, often on relatively obscure websites, there's been nothing even remotely like 50 Shades' profile in the mainstream.

It makes me wonder what it would be like to watch the media when the movie Story of O rolled in back in the 1970s. My suspicion is that Story of O would have had a huge impact on the media relative to other topics related to bondage (likely including "bondage" itself) but that's not saying much because at the time there was no Web with all its bondage-related sites, in fact, the porn industry had just started up. It was nothing like it is now. So there would not have been a hell of a lot to be swamped. It would have LOOKED like a tsunami, but it would be a tsunami in a small lake, compared to an actual tsunami.

But THAT'S not even the biggest thing, or the most important thing, relating to the 50 Shades media splash. The biggest thing has to do with HOW the stories are reported. As I said in an earlier post on 50 Shades, up until quite recently, which is to say NOW, any story dealing with bondage, ESPECIALLY maledom/femsub bondage is bracketed with a long, loud "EEEEEEEWWWWW!!" as the author distanced him or herself from the topic and also expressed their disgust with it. The prevailing tone was, "What is this alien bondage thing these FREAKS are doing and how can IT and THEY be prevented or at least given the medical treatment they so desperately need?" generally lumping consensual bondage practitioners with serial killers who included bondage in their murders, or at least making them seem to be close kin.

There have been exceptions to this rule, increasing slowly over time, but still, these few exceptions REALLY STOOD OUT against the overwhelming background of "EEEEEWWWWWW!!!!"

With "50 Shades," while there have been a FEW stories full of "EEEEEEEEWWWW!!!" and the usual predictable old-wave feminist disapproval, the fast majority of stories have been positive, in a "that's kinda sexy and hot" way, or sometimes neutral. It's AMAZING to see the difference. Clearly, SOMETHING has happened in the media or in the culture to change the way bondage stories get reported on.

Here's my take on it, and it's a theory, I don't have any facts to back it up: the change has occurred because 50 Shades is perceived as, as it has so often has been described as "Mommy porn." That is, everybody thinks of the popularity of 50 Shades as a result of a lot of women in their 20s and 30s liking it entirely on their own accord. Because it is perceived as a grass-roots movement by women rather than some artificial astroturfed movement created by a publisher or movie producer, it gets respect. And the only reason it gets that perception and that respect is because the book's success undeniably WAS a grass-roots thing, it was selling hundreds ouf thousands of copies online LONG before any big publishers came near it.

In fact, the only reason a big publisher DID come near it was that it was ALREADY a phenomenal success.

And it probably doesn't hurt that it was written by a woman, a mother like the readers of the book.

Hopefully, this presages big, important changes for bondage erotica and online erotica. I won't say it's certain, but something important certainly HAS happened. If this means maledom/femsub bondage has finally become acceptable as a fun, sexy game ... everybody wins.

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