When Is Sex Too Much Sex?

A friend and I went out for dinner the other night, and she asked what I was working on these days, so I told her about a story I was thinking about writing. I explained the complexity of the characters and the philosophical themes that wove their way through the plot. She listened dutifully, sipping on her wine and occasionally glancing around the restaurant. After several minutes, she started shaking her head. I stopped talking and braced for a critique. What I got was advice.

“No, no, don’t write that. I mean, it’s fine, but what you need to write about is sex. Erotica is hot now.”

She then tossed back her blonde locks, asked for another glass of wine, and began to enthusiastically describe various scenes I should put in my book, complete with a tall Swede who looks just like Eric Northman of True Blood — but maybe with a scar.

When I told her I didn’t want to write an erotica novel, that I don’t even like erotica, and that, to be honest, it infuriates me, she just laughed and said, “It’s just sex, Denise. Women empowering themselves, having fun. It’s what women have always wanted and now we’ve got it.”

I left dinner that night disappointed and a little discouraged because I knew that with the phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey she was right. That point hit home the next day when I read that Canada now has its own E. L. James. The book is called S.E.C.R.E.T. and the author writes under the pseudonym L. Marie Adeline. She hadn’t even written five chapters before her book was scooped up by publishers in 30 countries.

“I’ve been looking to sell out since I’ve started writing, if selling out means I actually make a living as a writer,” she said. “This is a good time to write erotica.”

That comment and news that sales of Fifty Shades of Grey had topped my beloved Harry Potter in the UK pushed me further into a depressed state.

I took a deep breath and asked myself, “Am I missing something? I don’t want to turn back the clock to a time when women’s sexuality was treated with shame and derision, when sex was merely for procreation and not to be enjoyed. But whips and chains? What’s happened to this generation of women?”

It reeks of the sex-positive feminism of the 1980s that declared sexual freedom to be the essence of women’s liberation, of the radical feminism of Naomi Wolf when she said, “Orgasm is the body’s natural call to feminist politics.” It stinks of sexualization, which brings women only harm, low self-esteem, distorted body image, depression, and anxiety. It makes me feel as if I’m living in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World where monogamy is a dirty word, families are extinct, and people are expected to have lots of sex—all the time and with a lot of partners.

But maybe I’m over-thinking all this. Maybe it really is just about freedom; just about women having fun and empowering themselves. Maybe I shouldn’t judge. Christian women are reading erotica and don’t seem to care, so who am I to criticize? I certainly don’t hear men complaining about it. I get the feeling some of them are secretly enjoying it. Maybe I should just lighten up. Let girls be girls.

After all, where would I draw the line on sex in the media anyway? It’s been on television and in the movies for years now. Romance novels abound. Cable is like watching soft porn. What difference does it make that a red room of pain is now involved and that bondage and fear have replaced gentle caresses and shy kisses? Is there a breaking point in society? When is sex too much sex?

  1. dash

    …Raw, powerful, painful, amazing sex. Erotica is hot now.”

    She then tossed back her blonde locks, asked for another glass of wine, and began to enthusiastically describe various sex scenes…

    Must. not. ask. for. an. introduction…

  2. EJHill

    Cable? Broadcast TV is soft porn. I remember walking in on my children watching dominatrix Lady Heather on CSI. Or explaining erectile dysfunction to my son during a NASCAR break for Cialis.

  3. Eeyore

    “Is there a breaking point in society, a line that shouldn’t be crossed?”

    Of course there are breaking points in society, and lines that shouldn’t be crossed. But there is an entire segment of society who see it as their sacred duty to race all across the culture like a huge pack of braying coon hounds, sniffing out any semblance of such a line, calling to each other as they find one, racing across it, trampling it into oblivion and racing off to find the next one – all in hopes of achieving real freedom. Usually from the “dominant paradigm.” Stalwart souls they.

    But you knew that already.

  4. Franco

    When it runs past 500 comments on Ricochet?

  5. D.C. McAllister
    C
    Eeyore

    “Is there a breaking point in society, a line that shouldn’t be crossed?”

    Of course there are breaking points in society, and lines that shouldn’t be crossed. But there is an entire segment of society who see it as their sacred duty to race all across the culture like a huge pack of braying coon hounds, sniffing out any semblance of such a line, calling to each other as they find one, racing across it, trampling it into oblivion and racing off to find the next one – all in hopes of achieving realfreedom. Usually from the “dominant paradigm.” Stalwart souls they.

    But you knew that already. · 0 minutes ago

    Yes, but the crowd following along now is everyday women, moms, grandmothers, churchgoers, teachers, etc. This kind of thing is now generally accepted. The scary thing is, it really is like Brave New World. As sexual freedom increases, political and economic freedom decreases. They’re related.

  6. flownover

    Perhaps society is ducking into the erotica as a head in the sand reaction to their being cutoff from what is going on in life. They have realized that the truth is now almost impossible to access and their former employees in the government have turned into their masters . This would explain the S&M angles that people evidently now find acceptable . 

    What was once The Story of O has gone mainstream. Where only a small segment of the public, the pre-emergent feminists,  thought they needed a whipping, now vast numbers rush into the handcuffs of humiliation and a little pain. Maybe it’s a backlash of feminism that humiliates the entire reading public . 

    Noms de plume are cheap.

  7. D.C. McAllister
    C
    Eeyore

    “Is there a breaking point in society, a line that shouldn’t be crossed?”

     - all in hopes of achieving realfreedom. Usually from the “dominant paradigm.” Stalwart souls they.

    “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator …  will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.” Huxley

  8. Lord Humungus

    Porno chic has come before, it will fade and it will come again. Deep Throat hit the scenes in 1972, some 40 years ago. meh….whatever. Ain’t nuthin’ new under the sun.

    What’s disturbing to me about this 50 shades bluster is the high level of proud interest, particularly among young women/girls, in what is (I’m told) a story about the joy of being enslaved. That doesn’t sound like girl power to me.

    I saw a vanity license plate recently: 50 shades. First thing that came to my mind was: dumb@$$.

  9. D.C. McAllister
    C
    Central Scrutinizer: Porno chic has come before, it will fade and it will come again. Deep Throat hit the scenes in 1972, some 40 years ago. meh….whatever. Ain’t nuthin’ new under the sun.

    What’s disturbing to me about this 50 shades bluster is the high level of proud interest, particularly among young women/girls, in what is (I’m told) a story about the joy of being enslaved. That doesn’t sound like girl power to me.

    I saw a vanity license plate recently: 50 shades. First thing that came to my mind was: dumb@$$. · 0 minutes ago

    It’s women across all age groups, all nationalities, all religions. Rich and poor. Educated, uneducated. The woman I was having dinner with is a 51-year-old Catholic mother of three who is rather wealthy and educated.

  10. dittoheadadt

    I think too many people are too judgmental about others’ sex lives.  If 50 Shades gives pleasure to certain people (women, mostly, I assume) and doesn’t poison their spousal relationships, I’m not sure I see the harm.  I’m also not sure why the same women who enjoy 50 Shades give men grief about strip clubs and SI’s Swimsuit Issue.

    As for “the joy of being enslaved” (comment #7), from what I’ve been told (SPOILER ALERT!), by the end of the story the woman is actually the one wielding the power and the man is subjugated to her.  I don’t know how true that is, however, because I wasn’t really listening as the woman was telling me about it.

    I was reading my SI.

  11. D.C. McAllister
    C
    dittoheadadt: I think too many people are too judgmental about others’ sex lives.  If50 Shades gives pleasure to certain people (women, mostly, I assume) and doesn’t poison their spousal relationships, I’m not sure I see the harm.  I’m also not sure why the same women who enjoy50 Shades give men grief about strip clubs and SI’s Swimsuit Issue.

    As for “the joy of being enslaved” (comment #7), from what I’ve been told (SPOILER ALERT!), by the end of the story the woman is actually the one wielding the power and the man is subjugated to her.  I don’t know how true that is, however, because I wasn’t really listening as the woman was telling me about it.

    I was reading my SI. · 0 minutes ago

    If you’re right, then maybe I need a pseudonym and get to writing. 

  12. Eeyore
    Denise McAllister

    Yes, but the crowd following along now is everyday women, moms, grandmothers, churchgoers, teachers, etc. This kind of thing is now generally accepted. The scary thing is, it really is like Brave New World. As sexual freedom increases, political and economic freedom decreases. They’re related. 

    “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator …  will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.” Huxley 

    I think you’re onto something. The libertine is not, and cannot be, a disciplined person.  I think, perhaps as a species, we need structure and discipline to do our best. It may be internal or external discipline. Wipe out all those societal norms, add an unending supply of endorphins and the dictator can easily say “Hey, I got yer structure right here…” In a haze, the response may well be “Hey, sounds fine to me – just keep me feelin’ good…”

  13. EJHill

    Marlene.jpgOn the other hand, the world has been through these phases before. Androgynous stars? Sure, but Marlene Dietrich did it in the late 20′s and 30′s and did it better.

    Fifty Shades in 2012? How about The Story of O (or Histoire d’O in the original French) in 1954?

    The 1920′s were absolutely scandalous. Mae West had plays called Sex, The Drag (about homosexual cross-dressers), The Wicked Age, Pleasure Man and The Constant Sinner.

  14. D.C. McAllister
    C

    Eeyore. Exactly. This is why I think this issue needs to be dealt with. Not with laws obviously but with the awakening of a sleeping social conscience.

  15. D.C. McAllister
    C

    EJ Hill, they were relatively scandalous but we are witnessing a moral digression that has had ups and down but still digressing. What was scandalous in the 20s is not today. Take what we are today in a very public way and put it in a 1920s context, and they would be shocked. I think a better comparison is us to Rome. That would be a true comparison of societies. And look at what happened to Rome.

  16. Zafar

    When it becomes boring. 

    Denise McAllister:

    When is sex too much sex? · · 1 hour ago

    (Which happened quite some time ago.  The ‘obligatory’ sex scenes/nude shots/gay twist/blahblahblah….all of it, boring!)

  17. Nanda Panjandrum

    Denise, you always get to the heart of the matter…I, and many others, would gladly pay up, crack the cover – or sync up the e-reader and enjoy whatever you’d consider  writing. :-)

  18. dittoheadadt
    Denise McAllister

    dittoheadadt: I think too many people are too judgmental about others’ sex lives.  If 50 Shades gives pleasure to certain people (women, mostly, I assume) and doesn’t poison their spousal relationships, I’m not sure I see the harm.  I’m also not sure why the same women who enjoy 50 Shades give men grief about strip clubs and SI’s Swimsuit Issue.

    If you’re right, then maybe I need a pseudonym and get to writing.

    Ya got the avatar. Now just get a matching pseudonym. And be off to the races!

  19. Schrodinger

    Atheists can laugh, but there is a force behind the debasing of societal morals,  increasingly pornographic entertainment and political corruption.

    12

    For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6

    Libertarians may say “What’s the harm?”

    The answer is: this behavior causes spititual harm both to the individual and the community.

    30

    And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.Matthew 5 

    7 For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

    1 Thessalonians

    26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

    27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

    1 Corinthians

  20. Lord Humungus
    Denise McAllister

    It’s women across all age groups, all nationalities, all religions. Rich and poor. Educated, uneducated. The woman I was having dinner with is a 51-year-old Catholic mother of three who is rather wealthy and educated. · 1 hour ago

    Yeah, that’s what I’m hearing. That doesn’t bother me so much; we survived the swinging 70s (barely). It’s a little jarring to watch the cougars playing at porn star, but, it’s a free country. And it does seem like playacting. It seems a little contrived, a little hey-look-at-me.

    Your friend wants to make a buck off of it, well, whaddayagonna do? Pornographers gotta eat too, I guess.

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