50 Shades of… what, exactly? Seduction, Mummy-porn, and How to Avoid Becoming a Clichéd Freakshow.

by Harmony's Riddle

This entry deals with why the phrase “appeal to a woman’s fantasies” doesn’t mean “act like a character from a romance novel”.

Question: should you read romance novels and “reverse engineer” them to become the man of every woman’s dreams?

In theory, I suppose this might sound like a smart idea. Books like “50 Shades of Grey” sold a mind-boggling number of copies. It indulged the purported “dark side of sensuality” with plotlines that entailed something resembling S&M (actually, it’s “SM” — as in “sadomasochism” — but never mind).

So the same way that Mystery reverse-engineered male-female social dynamics, Neil Strauss reverse-engineered Mystery, and Tyler ripped off Mystery, Neil Strauss, Seth Godin and David DeAngelo (not to mention Eckhart Tolle and Tony Robbins) to give birth to RSD, it probably sounds like a perfectly clever move to ape the main character of a romance novel in order to “bang more 10s”.

There’s only one flaw in that logic.

The flaw is this: there actually is a difference between fantasy and reality.

Many women read romance novels precisely for this reason — the same reason that anyone would read a novel. The escapist pleasure of something taboo (as, for many people, the idea of SM tends to be for whatever reason) compels her to seek it.

Offering her a hint of the “taboo” in yourself is fine.

Becoming a fake sadist by reading a watered-down version of that relational dynamic and acting like a complete freakshow in front of women is probably not such a smart idea.

Why not? Three reasons:

1. 50 Shades of Grey Isn’t Even A Real Example of S&M.

The writer’s account of S&M is a perfect example of what’s called “mummy porn”, and as the author said in an interview, “Well, yes, they are my fantasies lived out and ­ ­explored.” If you want a woman like the author, great. “After all, she said, ‘I wrote it for me.'”

Her intended demographic, in case you’re wondering, is an easily-embarrassed “48-year-old mum of two”.

2. After Reading 50 Shades, You Still Won’t Know What Women Really Want.

The problem with blindly following what it _seems_ like women want is this: phenomena such as “50 Shades of Grey” are often “viral” in nature — many women buy such titles because other women are talking about them. The sales numbers make it a popular topic of conversation rather than a real indication of what women actually want.

It’s somewhat like becoming an expert in manufacturing cronuts and serving them for dinner because a woman gushes on about how much she loves them with her coffee or tea. Eventually she’ll get tired of the cronut-overload. She may even start to wonder why you’re using such a weirdly obvious and one-dimensional tactic to lure her into your house week after week.

3. “Reverse-Engineering” A Romance Novel Character Like You’ll Find in ’50 Shades’ Is A Time-Wasting Exercise In Generic Clichés.

Two telling passages about erotic fiction elucidate the point.

From the first quote:

Despite the ‘Mommy Porn’ hype, FSOG contains little that’s genuinely scandalous. It’s a straightforward tale of Girl-with-low-self-esteem meets ridiculously handsome Boy, gets Boy, has lots of sex, angsts.

You might as well put in a set of fake fangs and pretend to be a character from the Twilight novel or movie franchise. Or actually, you might want to take your fangs out first, considering that 50 Shades began life as a piece of amateur Twilight fan fiction.

In other words, “reverse-engineering” a romance novel character like you’ll find in ’50 Shades’ is a time-wasting exercise in generic clichés. At the very least, trade your “50 Shades” for a copy of anything written by Anne Rice. Say, for example, the Sleeping Beauty trilogy.

An Alternative: Don’t Be Scared — Actually Study A Little Real S&M.

From the article cited above, it’s easy to see that the faux-SM antics in 50 Shades of Grey really aren’t worthy of the frantic emulation that many “plain vanilla” people are showering it with. The second quote from the article above reads thusly:

The activities depicted in James’ books represent only a narrow sliver of that spectrum. There are many in the community who object to the BDSM label slapped on FSOG by the mainstream media.

When you compare FSOG to other texts labeled BDSM, it’s easy to see the gap between James’ sparkly slap-and-tickle and the real deal.

One of the great aspects about studying the source material (meaning sexual sadomasochism, not “Twilight”) is that you learn truly useful things along the way. Imagine being able to teach your lover a few things about alternative forms of sexual pleasure. Consider the benefits of learning how to apply “erotic power exchange” to your love life, the real way — that is, in the context of a trusting, consensual relationship that she will love (and love you more for bringing such knowledge into her life).

If she wants to be the sub to your dom, give her what she wants. The fake ‘vanilla’ mummy-porn version of sadomasochism is very much a waste of your — and her — precious time, energy, desire and as one writer puts it, “devotion”.

Plan F: Become An Unrepentant Fake Alpha Male Freakshow

If you want to pretend that you’re a fantastically fake, unapologetically hypermasculine Alpha Male romance-novel character, go ahead. Recognize, though, that the difference between 50 Shades of Grey’s sales numbers and the reality of what women actually want might render your newly-constructed persona to be the kind of clichéd freakshow that women will gladly write to their friends about.

Who knows, you might be the “star” of the next poorly-written (by her own admission, even) schlocky New York Times chart-topper. My guess is that the story would be a highly parodic romantic comedy, intentional or otherwise.

Or, you could try the real “alternative” and learn something useful. Read some authentic literature about S&M. Maybe even be really “edgy” and join your local scene. You might just a find the genuinely sensual woman of your own fantasies along the way. At the very least, you won’t be conning yourself with fanciful delusions from the endless list of mommy-porn bestsellers.

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