Frankly, the mommy in this photo was the only one who WASN'T caught by surprise by the success of 50 Shades of Gray. Image source: Sex and Submission.com.
Came across an old blog post of mine from five years ago, in which I wondered if it was possible for a bondage-centric project like John Norman's Gor novels or the Ginger movies to slip into mainstream culture unnoticed. (This was before I had encountered Second Life Gor, which is hardly a part of mainstream culture, anyway.)
Both films slid easily into the culture in the wild and woolly times of the Swinging Sixties and the Sexy Seventies. Each was well enough tricked out in the habiliments of other genres that they were not obvious porn, and that was enough. The Ginger movies were pure sexploitation, very shallow and lots of fun. The Gor novels had some serious intent behind them, which is why they worked for creating the virtual world of Second Life Gor, but they could also easily "pass" for fantasy adventures.
Now, implicit in my essay was the notion that the only way a bondage-licious book/story/game/movie could slide into mainstream culture, was by "passing" as something else, on some level.
I completely missed the mark there. Because the next big thing to come down the pike in terms of bondage content is what's coming down the pike right now: 50 Shades of Gray. And it's not passing for anything. People were talking about the bondage content of 50 Shades from Day One. it had the form of a romance, but was clearly a piece of bondage erotica, which it was described as in some places.
It never occurred to me back in 2007 that people would openly accept bondage porn, especially the adult women who got 50 Shades of Gray dubbed "mommy porn" by buying it in droves. Completely blindsided me, and everyone else, apparently. I had spent too much time listening to all the "Bondage ... eeeeewww!" talk that was so prevalent in the mainstream media. It had conditioned me to think that bondage erotica would never be accepted in the mainstream.
I should have know better. I had observed on several occasions that the content of many romance novels, especially 'bodice rippers' had strong dominance and submission themes and were very close to being D/s erotica. And that romance novels were developing wilder, sexier lines. But I missed the significance of that.
Here's another thing I missed: that the readership of romance novels had done a "student body left" into online erotica. Everybody missed that. But that's the only way that 50 Shades of Gray could have become a runaway bestseller -- the readers were ALREADY THERE when the book went online, and the Twilight fanfic fans made it a bestseller.
Which is yet another thing I missed ... the fact that fanfic has become the new bedding grounds for writers. As I've already pointed out, mainstream publishing has turned into a winner-take-all lottery, focusing only on bestsellers that they call "tentpole books" and ignoring the midlist books that were once the basis of their sales.
Of course, mainstream publishers are now frantically struggling to "get into" the online erotica market, looking for new tentpole books. And they are bringing their books to the online world at TRADITIONAL prices. Now I created Karg all by my lonesome, as many online erotica writers do. And I get 75 percent of the money when the book sells. If I had the kind of sales that E.L. James had BEFORE she signed with a big mainstream publishers, I'd be rich ... probably a millionaire. And Karg sells for less than $5 US. Like most online erotica publishers, I keep my prices low.
My point is, most online books from traditional publishers cost just as much as the hard copy -- often twenty bucks or so. What is your money paying for? Presumably, the hard copy costs are covered by hard copy sales. I'll tell you what you are paying for: the CEO's house in the Hamptons. The marketing manager's biannual vacations to Europe and the Caribbean. The sales staff's Lexuse and BMW. That's what you are paying for. And these people are useless, really. They are NOT responsible for the success of E.L. James' books.
And the overall point of this article is that it is good to look at your past predictions, even if they are wrong. Because you can learn a lot!
Sigh. Looks like it's back to Media Studies 101. Image source: Sex and Submission.com.