“He begins to shame, really shame….”

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey (Photo credit: ellebnere)

Last week the news broke that several public library copies of Fifty Shades of Grey were tested positive for trace amounts of herpes and cocaine. There isn’t even enough of the virus present in the books for anyone to contract it from touching them; just enough present for it to test positive.

This has inspired a large wave of ew, gross, herpes, and I guess it really IS a dirty book lol from not only the people reporting this news but, well, everyone else. So far most, if not all, of the reactions I’ve seen have had hefty doses of shaming thrown in.

I’ll admit, when I first heard it, I raised an eyebrow and thought I think I don’t want to know how those books got herpes.

But I dismissed that thought pretty quickly. The fact is, you don’t have to hump a book to give it herpes. Herpes simplex isn’t just an STI; it’s the same virus that gives you cold sores. Viral shedding can occur at any time, and in more areas than just the genitals. It may be asymptomatic. Fifty Shades of Grey getting herpes likely has little to do with the book’s content and more to do with how common herpes is and how popular the books are.

I am not an expert on herpes. I’m just someone who knows people who have it. I’m also someone who was researching STIs about 7 years before I was having sex. (Insert I’m sort of Ravenclaw even though I’m Slytherin joke here.)

The shaming reactions to this news have saddened me.

Having herpes or any other STI doesn’t make you a monster, or diseased, or dirty or unclean. It just means you contracted something. That something may have no cure as of yet (herpes, AIDS), or it may just need a trip to the doctor and a prescription to get it cleared up (syphilis). It may be easy to live with, or it may be hard. STIs are a part of life. Even, sometimes, for people who aren’t having sex. Contracting an  STI does not mean you are undeserving of love or basic human decency.

I hate Fifty Shades of Grey with an all-consuming passion, but I don’t condone the way people have been talking about this. Fifty Shades of Grey testing positive for herpes does not make it a terrible book (the fact that it’s a terrible book makes it a terrible book), and when you say it does you are indirectly saying that people who have herpes are terrible people.

Criticize Fifty Shades for its shoddy writing, for its depiction of an abusive relationship as romance, for its utter lack of plot or meaningful characterization, for its rape apologism, for its plagiarism, for its absolute lack of truthfulness in depicting BDSM and promoting of dangerous BDSM practices, for its message of “EWWWWW, POOR PEOPLE”. Those are all fair criticisms.

Criticizing the book because library copies happened to test positive for herpes is not fair, and has nothing to do with the book itself. Herpes was also found on Tango by Pieter Aspe, and yet you don’t hear people making shaming comments about that. Somehow, because Fifty Shades is about a subject many people find taboo, it’s fair game?

No. It’s not. Stop shaming folks who read erotica, period, and stop with the sex-negative, STI-shaming surrounding this news story. It’s boring. As boring as the sex scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey.

[Friday reads | fiction] The Girlfriend, by Abigail Barnette

The Girlfriend, by Abigail Barnette (ie, Jenny Trout, my idol), is the sequel to the much-loved The Boss. I was lucky enough to win a copy in the giveaway she held in August. I read the first five chapters before Pirates and Faeries, and now I’m trying to ration myself on the rest of them. When I finished The Boss, I ended up scrolling to the left so hard it excited the ebook-reading app. Then I screamed JENNNNYYYYYYYYYYYYY as if I were Kirk and she Khan.

Want to know a bit more about The Boss? Well, it’s free through Saturday on Kindle, so she’s done a post about it at her site. Here’s a pretty good assessment:

It’s an erotic romance with a kinky Dom billionaire and a twenty-something sub, written specifically to counter all the abusive, non-con stuff in 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve heard it described as The Devil Wears Prada meets The Secretary. I think that’s apt.

It’s erotica, and it’s definitely on my list of favourite sexytimes books. The Girlfriend is just as good, so far, and really really hot. UNF. Also sweet! And funny. Several times while reading it I’ve laughed out loud and the Ogre has been all “What’s so funny?” and I’ll tell him and he’ll just shake his head like he doesn’t understand me and I’m like THAT’S RIGHT YOU DON’T.

Jenny understands me though. And so does Sophie Scaife.

Here’s the official synopsis of The Girlfriend:

Unemployed, blacklisted, and pregnant, Sophie Scaife’s life is totally upside down. Her relationship with publishing magnate Neil Elwood is on the rocks. Her best friend’s career is igniting. And Sophie is afraid she’ll make one of the toughest decisions of her life alone…

When a devastating diagnosis forces Neil to return to London, Sophie throws caution to the wind to follow her heart across the Atlantic. Keeping a scorching D/s affair as red-hot in sickness as it was in health is a challenge, even for two lovers as inventive as Sophie and Neil. But Sophie is more than willing to try anything her Sir commands, and their fantasies of control become a welcome refuge from the daily stress of illness.

While Neil’s wealth and privilege make adjusting to her new situation easier, Sophie finds herself rebuilding her life around an uncertain future. And while both of them face the changes between them head-on, they’re all too aware that their happiness could be fleeting—and Sophie could lose Neil forever.

So I guess you kind of have to read The Boss now, huh?

If you’re looking to pick up some new BDSM erotica to wash the horrible taste of Fifty Shades’ popularity out of your brain, I highly recommend Abigail Barnette’s feminist response to it. (Yes, a BDSM erotic romance where the heroine is a feminist AND a sub. That right there should convince you to pick it up. I mean, if you like erotic romance.)

-Kat

It’s Not the BDSM

[content warning: description of: domestic violence, abuse, using BDSM as an excuse for abuse, rape]

Some of you may be aware that I have a deep and abiding loathing for the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy.

At first, I was just pissed off that it existed — it was plagiarized from another book series (that is badly written and glorifies abusive relationships, with a fanbase that largely seems, well, pretty offbase most of the time) and yet this seemed ample reason to reward IceQueenSnowDragonFairyFartPrincess — sorry, EL James — with a publishing contract. Oh, and scores and scores of cash.

Then I was pissed off at how badly written it was. I mean, dear gods, if people are going to make an author rich for a plagiarized piece of work could it at least be well-written? Apparently that’s too much to ask. The series is terrible. It is worse than the source material, Twilight, and that really is saying something.

Then, I got pissed off at the combo-deal of crap: not only is the BDSM in the books completely wrong and downright dangerous, the relationship is actually incredibly abusive. And often, Christian uses his “domness” or whatever as an excuse to abuse Ana.

For a while, folks have been calling out the series for its blatant glorification of abuse. And for a long while, there was no response from EL James. Perhaps she was clueless, we thought. Perhaps she just doesn’t know, and once she hears about it, she’ll think about it. Apologize. Say that the books are just a fantasy, and that they shouldn’t be taken as a manual on How to Do Relationships.

Then she said this:

“Nothing freaks me out more than people who say this is about domestic abuse. […] Bringing up my book in this context trivializes the issues, doing women who actually go through it a huge disservice. It also demonizes loads of women who enjoy this lifestyle, and ignores the many, many women who tell me they’ve found the books sexually empowering.”

Quote source. (Be warned, the page plays two mis-timed video ads that are incredibly annoying.)

There went that theory.

Jenny Trout has already done an amazing takedown on her blog, but I feel I must add my voice to the conversation.

Especially as, since we took to Twitter and started asking EL James about her statement, she blocked anyone who said anything about 50 Shades being abuse, and called us all trolls and witches.

Mature.

So, here’s my response to you, EL James. Please note how civil I’m being, even though I hate you with every fibre of my being and hope that Artemis turns you into a stag.

(After the cut, I go into detail about abuse and rape. I put in a read more tag so that you can skip this if you want.)

Continue reading

30 in 30: Day 03 (in which I review PORN — I mean, part of the Kushiel series)

The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months

This one is harder to answer because I’ve read fewer books in the past year than I usually have. (Yes, you read that right.) Most of the books I’ve read have been non-fiction, which usually means that I haven’t actually finished them yet. And I have trouble picking a non-fiction book as the “best” that I’ve read, because that’s not how I measure their worth — I measure their worth in how USEFUL they are to me (also what KIND of useful — Silver RavenWolf’s books are good as doorstops or toilet paper, so are a lesser kind of useful than ones I’d actually get good knowledge out of…also SRW’s books could probably be classified as fiction, so I guess it’s sort of a moot point).

So. I haven’t read that many fiction books in the past year. That I can remember. I actually don’t really remember much from week to week.

Which means I’m choosing a book I just finished, because it’s fresh in my mind and it’s by one of my favorite authors. Kushiel’s Justice, by Jacqueline Carey.

Continue reading