Fifty Shades of Vanilla

By B.navez (Photo : B.navez) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been sitting on this particular response to hubbub in the erotica community brought about by the wave of new readers, a là Fifty Shades of Grey. First let me welcome the throng of new readers to the erotica genre. We want you. No, we really want you, in every dark, tawdry, juicy, and squirming-in-your-panties way ravagable, which is exactly the point I’m getting at: raw, wild sex, with no apologies.

I’ve read a lot of rebuttal from readers new to erotica, primarily lashing out against harder-edged veterans of the genre–both readers and writers, alike. What I’m seeing is a wave of defense for Fifty Shades from readers who believe the more seasoned audience is attacking it for being too vanilla.

Let’s sit with that nubby little concept for a minute. Rub up against it and pinch where it you feel it most.   Erotica brings with it a wealth of subgenres, offering ranges of heat from sweet to steamy, smoldering to spicy, sweaty hardcore to sweltering fetishistic glory. Really, however you like it, it’s there to be read.  There truly is no lack of fucktastic.

If there’s one thing almost all erotica authors can agree on, it’s that we like to read about sex: who’s doing it, how, where, when.  We like to peer into the minds of fellow authors to bang from their POV, voyeurs angling their toys to find our own right spot.  I can also tell you for a fact, there is no other writing community (and I’ve been in several across genres for the last decade) that is more supportive of  its authors and audience than erotica.  So, it’s without any hesitation that I say,  collective criticism within the genre  on Fifty Shades really doesn’t have anything to do with the sex not being dialed up enough, but the quality of writing dragging the hawt down.

Sure, maybe the ‘goddess within’ doesn’t do it for some. Maybe it’s not the heat level that stokes many of us.  Maybe the play at power dynamics were a let down. In fact, BDSM isn’t about imbalanced power dynamics. It’s about agreement that there is a power dynamic, period, the underlying nod to consent, which Fifty Shades lacked. To Moms and Doms proper, the book was straight-up abuse, and neither the princess or readers seemed to know any difference.

The thing is, we’re informed enough of the genre to know where to look for the degree of discipline or fiendish fondling we desire.  So when the book was touted as the hottest BDSM find in a decade, well…  You test the bowline and see if it slips.  The fact is, in the overall genre, the book didn’t walk the talk, particularly the day-after, sore-and-loving-it, variety.

If it gets you off, who am I to scribble corrections in the margin?  That the series is flying of shelves speaks to its effectiveness in marketing.  I think it says just as much about America’s need for kink expression, which brings me to my next offering.

One thing the genre as a whole has always been criticized for is an overall lower standard of grammatical and stylistic care.  Other genres joke that it’s easy to get published in erotica.  While that’s not entirely true, I can also allay the myth that it’s hard to find well-written, sexually titillating literature.  In fact, if  you want some good recommendations of both great writing and ranges of erotica (where noted), check out my Must-Reads. Among them, Anias Nin, Lucy Felthouse, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Remittance Girl, CJ Roberts, Valeria Alexander, Storm Constantine, Poppy Z. Brite, Ann Mayburn, and dare I say, even my own. They do it right.  The sex isn’t just smoking, the way they deliver it stays with you long after the scene, through all that development and other stuff characters and plot do.

7 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Vanilla

  1. And Lily Harlem? Man, just in a short story she can get you SO hot! Faith Bicknell, in all of her guises and pen names…Like you said, there’s something for everyone! What I fear is that some will read “that book” and think that we all ignore grammar or continuity. We don’t. My editors go through each of my books at least 3 times before they get published. And for those who think it’s easy to write good erotica? Have at it! Let’s see whatcha got!

    1. No kidding on the editing. Poor writing skills I can sort of pass in an author, with the understanding that their wonderful editor not just corrects but improves those skills. It’s a dying role, apparently. I frequently look at an author’s work and feel that not just an editor, but often several along a chain led them to believe sub-par skills were their best effort.
      Thanks for stopping by, Fiona!

  2. You said it better (and nicer) than many other authors who write in the erotica genre. Fortunately, we’ll all still continue to write and educate the new erotica readers on what we’ve known all along – erotica is as varied as the readers who read it. And it can be well-written besides! Who knew!

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