Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting the Fifty Shades Series

Anyone who reads my blog is familiar with my love-to-hate affection for the Fifty Shades of Grey series. After all, I’ve captioned it here, here, here, and I once showed you my homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey game. There are many things wrong with this series, but quite frankly, that’s a topic that’s been exhausted, by individuals willing to take it a lot more seriously than I. In fact, while researching for this blog post, I found this one, which makes a lot of great points and this one, which makes me giggle.

Reba: “Everything makes you giggle, Belle.”

I do have a pretty low threshold.

So, don’t misunderstand my point here. I am not defending the series, as a whole. It’s just that in reading all of the thought-provoking and giggle-inducing critiques, I’ve come across a few criticisms that insult women all on their own. For instance:

Women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are unintelligent.

Zetus lapetus, is this book badly written. The characters are abhorrent, the dialogue is beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief, and it is just so redundant. I don’t care that Anastasia says “double crap.” I just said “zetus lapetus.” I care that she says it 88 fucking times. It’s just… unreadable, but you know what? That’s just me. I read books about pushy special ops alpha males and werewolf love stories and that one about the sexy alien king. One of the most well-read women I’ve ever met has a soft spot for hobbit slash fanfiction. Does that make either of us any less intelligent? If your answer is yes, kiss my ass, because I also devour at least 10 articles a day on everything from current events to the issues facing prison libraries.

If your argument against Fifty Shades of Grey is that intelligent women can’t read poorly written smut, you are one of the reasons reading is not a more popular hobby. Some people don’t watch American Idol or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Some people had to Google “most popular reality show” to make that point. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to turn down their brain to relax. Not everyone considers reading a chore all the time. There are two kinds of librarians: literature snobs and those who hate literature snobs. I am the latter. I am intelligent. Sometimes I read smut.

Ana is only 22.

I’ve seen multiple criticisms of Fifty Shades of Grey fixate on the age of the heroine. For one, they get it wrong. Ana turned 22 in the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, so actually, the character in the movie is supposed to be 21, until otherwise specified. If you’re gonna bitch about something, do it accurately.

fiftydollars

When I was 21 years old, I lost my baby to a nearly second trimester miscarriage. Six months after that, I helped my best friend bury her infant daughter. That year, I accepted over $20,000 in student loans, graduated college, made the decision to enter graduate school, and chose to leave my ex-husband. Perhaps it wasn’t the typical middle-class American 22-year-old experience, but I was unequivocally an adult. By 22 I had bought a car, moved several times, paid my bills, taken out more in student loans than I could possibly earn in a year, and made major decisions about my future career path. That is typical. So, how dare you tell me that I wouldn’t have been of sound mind to enter into a sexual relationship of my choosing? If a woman old enough to vote, marry, drink, be tried as an adult, and sign binding contracts wants to sign a pretend contract before consensual sex, it doesn’t matter how much she giggles or how “mousey” she appears. I was 23 when I learned to apply eyeliner from a YouTube video and actually style my damned hair. That’s not what made me an adult. Being both responsible and accountable for my own choices was. Regardless of where things go in the books, Anastasia Steele was both of these when she met Christian Grey. Her age had absolutely no bearing on the situation and it’s disrespectful to young adult women to imply that they are not capable of making their own choices.

Ana is still a virgin.

This article is not the first one to take issue with the fact that Anastasia Steele has never had a sexual experience until she meets Christian Grey. The writer actually suggests that, because Ana has had no genuine interest in a man and doesn’t masturbate, it’s more likely the character is asexual. For one, the lead character in a romance isn’t asexual. That’s not how the genre works. Two, we learn later that Ana has had encounters with the opposite sex and they just haven’t gone anywhere. In regards to masturbation, I do know women who just aren’t interested. A lot of women have trouble reaching orgasm, both by themselves and with a partner. Their bodies just work a bit differently and without an emotional connection, physical stimulation may lack appeal… and that’s okay.

My biggest problem with focusing on this criticism of the series, however, is the assumption that a woman who is not sexually active is asexual or somehow abnormal. Until one year ago (exactly, oddly enough), I not had sex in six years. Furthermore, I’d only kissed five people, ever, and that includes a stranger who pecked me on the cheek on New Year’s Eve. I am not asexual, far from it. I was just never interested in sharing my body with someone with whom I saw no future. I once let a man in a bar kiss me, with tongue, when I’d just met him that night. It makes me uncomfortable even remembering that, because physicality without an emotional connection just doesn’t do it for me. Different women have different needs and it’s just as offensive to shame a woman for not being sexually active as it is to call another a slut.

Fifty Shades of Grey is only popular, because the hero is rich.

While Christian Grey sure wasn’t my dreamboat, I can tell you that when I was treading water in a dating pool of grown men with flat-billed caps and job titles as specific as “n/a,” it wasn’t so far-fetched to think that, perhaps, it would be easier to repair deep-seated emotional scarring than to motivate a man to get his shit together. While I’ll admit that for an America drowning in debt, financial freedom might be it’s own fantasy, I’m still not convinced that the ability to “buy all the planes” is the sole appeal of the Fifty Shades of Grey target audience. This article suggests a somewhat circular logic for the over 30 bracket, in particular: women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, because women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Finally, a woman with traditional goals (marriage, children, an optional career) can come out and say…

No longer is it only Carrie Bradshaw that gets to talk dirty, but housewives too!

As a librarian, part of my job is analyzing literary trends. This is why I am particularly aware of the rise of the billionaire romance novel. Along with Christian Grey, in the last few years we’ve been introduced to Gideon Cross, Gabriel Emerson, Jesse Ward, and many other laughably wealthy and emotionally damaged heroes. However, long before well-worn copies of Fifty Shades of Grey hit nightstands all over the world, we met the heroes in these series: Rock Chick, KGI, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Psy-Changelings, Immortals After Dark, and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Every title listed stars leading men who are borderline abusive and financially set. That describes most contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance. This shit ain’t new. Not only does the insistence that this book simply broke new ground with an abusive megabajillionaire give the title far too much credit, it also implies that all women who enjoy romance are gold digging whores. That’s just not nice.

Note: I was known, at one time, to declare that I’d let a man string me from the ceiling and whip me if he’d pay off my student loans, but I am hardly the standard by which all women should be measured.

Fifty Shades of Grey is responsible for sex injuries.

This article and many, many more suggest that the rise in bedroom play injuries is the fault of Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe it’s the researcher in me, but…. I call shenanigans. You are an adult. You likely have a smartphone on you at all times, meaning you literally have endless information at your fingertips. If you are stupid enough to purchase a spreader bar and use a trashy novel for a user manual, you are the only one to blame for the spine injurt. Have some faith that the majority of women are intelligent enough to manage a Google search, y’all.

I can say a lot of bad things about Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of writers can. I mean, two twenty-somethings e-mailing each other? What is this, Amish country? Between Ana’s “inner goddess” and Christian’s “laters baby” this librarian actually fell out of love with reading for a few days. I love when women ask me to suggest titles “like Fifty Shades of Grey,” because it gives me the opportunity to introduce them to much better written erotica. Perhaps I can get them started on Kristen Ashley’s special-ops-saves girl books. Maybe I can send them back in time with one of Karen Marie Moning’s sexy highlanders. I can even show them more plot-light erotica, but with with steamier scenes that don’t read like a child reporting her molestation – “Then he touched me… down there!” You know what I won’t do, though? Insult them.

  • I originally posted this on March 5, 2015.
Advertisements

The Top Three Worst and Best Women of Fiction

In the last fifty years or so, we ladies have focused a great deal on female empowerment. I don’t want to call it feminism, because that term seems to mean so many different things to different people. No, the idea to which I refer is something much simpler: women matter and their choices are their own. So, throughout the years, numerous efforts have been made to depict strong women in media. Some of these have been Rant of Rage abhorrent, while others have become the product of my obsessive fangirling: i.e. the only reason Gail could ever tell you who Buffy and Angel were… and Nathan and Haley… and Jamie and Claire…

That girl stuck by my side even after I made her play the Buffy the Vampire Slayer video game… and described in detail my plans for who would be together in my Sims game. There were charts. To be fair, though, she did talk about politics an awful lot for a fifteen-year-old girl. I cannot unhear those National Youth Rights Association tangents.


Pictured: not us

So, not only is it a librarian job requirement to be able to name strong female leads (or pathetic attempts at them), but it’s also a side effect of my media tunnel vision. I present to you, the worst and best women of fiction.

*** Spoiler alert if you’re unfamiliar with any of the titles… duh. ***

THE WORST

Carrie Bradshaw – Sex and the City


She’s horrified that someone doesn’t love her as much as she loves herself.

I graduated in 2006, from a Southern suburban high school. Like any misfit in overalls, a turtleneck, and ribbon-laced combat boots, I found common misfit ground with the three gay guys in my graduating class. At the time, this pretty much required me to have seen every single episode of Sex and the City; therefore, I am fully informed in my loathing of Carrie Bradshaw. Now, don’t misunderstand me, here. I am not anti-Carrie because of her sexual freedoms. In fact, Samantha was probably my favorite of the four characters. No, my issue with Carrie was her absolutely unforgivable selfishness.

Gail and Malik have always defended Carrie in this argument, insisting that her impossible self-absorption was the point. I get it. Real women are flawed. Miranda is a workaholic. Samantha is emotionally unavailable. Charlotte is painfully idealistic. None of these compare, however, with the utterly horrifying extremity of Carrie’s self-absorption. For example, there was the time she…

1. … cheated on her boyfriend, ultimately breaking up with him on her friend’s wedding day.
2. … got angry with her boyfriend for insisting she stop seeing the man with whom she cheated.
3. … threw a tantrum when one of her best friends wouldn’t loan her money after she’d spent years proving she was bad with money.
4. … knowingly slept with a married man, then confronted his now ex-wife for telling people about it, after causing her to fall down the stairs and break a tooth.
5. … became so focused on the materialism and fame of her wedding that she completely ignored the groom’s vocalized discomfort over both.
6. … blamed one of her best friends for her having been left at the alter, despite having ignored the groom’s vocalized discomfort.

These are just the plot points I remember from ten years ago, but they certainly qualify as evidence that Carrie Bradshaw was an absolutely disgusting and offensive portrayal of a woman who chose to forgo the suburban soccer mom path.

Andrea – The Walking Dead


This gif is just so watchable, because she’s tied up and gagged.

One of the best things about the current apocalypse craze is the chance to see some badass heroines. I mean, what woman wouldn’t want her daughter to look up to the brave and selfless Katniss Everdeen? That gal had moxie, y’all. Sadly, however, some of the efforts toward a strong female lead have fallen far short… as with Andrea.

When I first started watching The Walking Dead, I knew little about the fan preferences, such as the fact that the audience violently hated both Lori and Andrea. Just a few episodes in, however, I was confused. Why was everyone so sympathetic to Andrea over her loss? For realz, yo, it’s the zombie apocalypse. Every person in this camp has lost everyone they’ve ever loved in the last thirty days. Rub some sand in your vagina and get on with life.

As the show progressed, it was painfully obvious that the writers wanted Andrea to become the fan favorite she was in the comics… and failed. Instead of holding her own with the men, as guardian of the camp, she accidentally shot a member of her own team, got left behind after the zombie attack, and ended up solely dependent on Michonne for protection, putting her and everyone in their makeshift family in grave danger, because of Andrea’s idiotic decision-making skills. By this point, I can only assume the writers had given up hope on “Team Andrea” t-shirt sales, because they killed her off, despite the fact that her comic book character is currently alive and well. Personally, I don’t think she went painfully enough. I wanted her eaten from the feet up for being such a weak and selfish representation of a woman in crisis.

Robin Scherbatsky – How I Met Your Mother


Stab her. Please stab her now.

Robin, Ted’s obsession in How I Met Your Mother, was originally driven, confident, straight-forward, and disinclined to pursue a traditional family life. She was initially a decent portrayal of a woman who didn’t know exactly what she wanted, but knew exactly what she didn’t want. As the series moved along, however, she quickly became overly brash and masculine, calling to mind the 1990’s ball-busting career woman stereotype, in an ugly gray power suit. You can’t be successful and feminine. You have to burp in public and eat ribs in your sleep.

Despite everything she claimed to want, Robin ended up repeatedly dating Ted, a man who clearly specified that he had completely different goals in life. She met a few men along the way, always ending things for horribly insulting reasons, and eventually ended up dating and even marrying/divorcing one of Ted’s best friends. For realz? You’re breaking up the band, Yoko! In addition to mistreating the people closest to her, we even got to see Robin’s outright abuse of a friend, as she treated her like a hated slave for comic relief.

Ultimately, in a show with only two leading female characters, one of whom was an artistic, sweet, kindergarten teacher, who married her college sweetheart, it was just insulting to women to see the only portrayal of a career-minded single gal as a flighty, self-absorbed, butch, bitch. I won’t even mention the fact that The Mother was just a stand-in for her, making the entire series a complete waste of time, as Ted does eventually end up with her.

THE BEST

Endora – Bewitched


She doesn’t need a man to make her drink.

When I was little, I watched an unhealthy amount of television, particularly during the Nick at Nite Block Party Summer event. I am pretty sure that I was the only eight-year-old who not only watched every single episode of Bewitched, but considered it an absolute favorite. In hindsight, however, I will say that I couldn’t have chosen a better woman to look up to than Endora.

By today’s standards, Endora was independent, diabolical, and unafraid to speak her mind. The fact that her character existed in the 1960’s however, makes her an even more impressive heroine. She was all of the above and she was powerful in a way no other character was, male or female. She was more powerful than Samantha, Aunt Clara, Uncle Arthur, Cousin Serena and even able to go head to head with her own husband. Furthermore, despite the understanding of the time, that a woman essentially becomes her husband’s property, Endora never let go of her insistence that Darren was attempting to quell a natural part of her daughter. She was willing to concede to her daughter’s wishes (mostly), but at no point did she back down and tell Darren that it was acceptable to stifle Samantha. She was relentlessly mischievous and meddlesome, often stealing the show in a time when women weren’t usually able to do so.

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter Series


I’d have totally practiced those spells, in secret.

As a librarian, there are a lot of reasons I despise most of the reading programs implemented in American schools. One of the primary reasons, though, is that I was assigned a 9th-12th grade reading level in the 6th grade and was only allowed to receive credit for books at an 8th grade level and higher. Translation: I could read Harry Potter with the other kids, but I couldn’t get any credit like the other kids. Well, Hermione Granger is absolute proof that there’s more to be had from reading than an improved vocabulary.

I desperately wish I’d read the Harry Potter series in middle school, reading points be damned. Not only was I obsessed with magic, even then, but I’d have benefited a great deal from knowing Hermione Granger. School always came effortlessly to me, pretty much until graduate school and I’ll tell you right now, that doesn’t make you the most popular girl in the 6th grade… especially if you’re willing to announce it to the room in true Hermione Granger style. I have never been willing to deny my intelligence and will, to this day, quote Professor Snape and admit that I am “an insufferable know-it-all.” I mean, it’s pretty much a job requirement now. Not only was Hermione smart, she was also loyal, brave, more than capable of overcoming That Awkward Stage, and she could throw a decent punch. More than anything, though, I needed someone to tell me that it was cool to be smart, as opposed to punishing me for it by not allowing me to read Harry Potter for credit.

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Gaia Moore – Fearless)


If I try this, I will accidentally stab myself and die.

I was actually pretty torn on this one. I wanted to say Gaia Moore, from Francine Pascal’s Fearless series. She was a seventeen-year-old badass with no fear and an inability to relate to her peers and coupling my inability to relate to my peers with no fear would have been the shit. You, my readers, likely have no idea who that is, though. Instead, I’ve chosen a heroine that was both similarly and equally significant to me: Buffy Summers.

At fifteen, I climbed on the Buffy Bandwagon pretty late in the game, just as the series ended. It started with watching a few episodes before school and quickly morphed into saving my pennies to buy all of the seasons on DVD and constantly quoting it to Gail as she read The Communist Manifesto in our Pre-AP English class.

“Does this sweater make me look fat?”
“No. The fact that you’re fat makes you look fat. That sweater just makes you look purple.”

Buffy Summers was the perfect representation of a woman who could be both feminine and strong. She was a babbler who said the wrong thing a lot, hung out with the misfits, and just really wanted to be normal, despite having a pretty rocky home life. At fifteen, I related to that in a huge way. Not only that, but Buffy never pretended to be less than she was. Not once did that gal hand over a pickle jar that she could damned well open herself. Buffy taught girls to be proud of what they bring to the table and to own it, even if the boys quail. She was also an endlessly selfless character, giving up all hope for a normal life to save people. Furthermore, she was just a generally good friend, daughter, and whatever the hell she was to Giles. Sure, she was kind of a shitty girlfriend, but even that was a lesson that sometimes, love doesn’t go the way you want and life goes on… because Joss Whedon is kind of an asshole.

quote-q-so-why-do-you-write-these-strong-female-characters-a-because-you-re-still-asking-me-that-joss-whedon-277715

Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting Fifty Shades of Grey

Provocative title, isn’t it? Anyone who reads my blog is familiar with my love-to-hate affection for the Fifty Shades of Grey series. After all, I’ve captioned it here, here, here, and in my last entry I showed you my homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey game. There are many things wrong with this series, but quite frankly, that’s a topic that’s been exhausted as of late, by individuals willing to take it a lot more seriously than I. In fact, while researching for this blog post, I found this one, which makes a lot of great points and this one, which makes me giggle.

Reba: “Everything makes you giggle, Belle.”


I do have a pretty low threshold.

So, don’t misunderstand my point here. I am not defending the series, as a whole. It’s just that in reading all of the thought-provoking and giggle-inducing critiques, I’ve come across a few criticisms that insult women all on their own. For instance:

Women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are unintelligent.

Zetus lapetus, is this book badly written. The characters are abhorrent, the dialogue is beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief, and it is just so redundant. I don’t care that Anastasia says “double crap.” I just said “zetus lapetus.” I care that she says it 88 fucking times. It’s just… unreadable, but you know what? That’s just me. I read books about pushy special ops alpha males and werewolf love stories and that one about the sexy alien king. One of the most well-read women I know has a soft spot for hobbit slash fanfiction. Does that make either of us any less intelligent? If your answer is yes, kiss my ass, because I’m also reading The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen; and I devour at least 10 articles a day on everything from current events to the issues facing prison libraries.

If your argument against Fifty Shades of Grey is that intelligent women can’t read poorly written smut, you are one of the reasons reading is not a more popular hobby. Some people don’t watch American Idol or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Some people just Googled “most popular reality show” to make that point. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to turn down their brain to relax. Not everyone considers reading a chore all the time. There are two kinds of librarians: literature snobs and those who hate literature snobs. I am the latter. I am intelligent. Sometimes I read smut.

Ana is only 22.

I’ve seen multiple criticisms of Fifty Shades of Grey fixate on the age of the heroine. For one, they get it wrong. Ana turned 22 in the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, so actually, the character in the movie is supposed to be 21, until otherwise specified. If you’re gonna bitch about something, do it accurately.

fiftydollars

When I was 21 years old, I lost my baby to a nearly second trimester miscarriage. Six months after that, I helped my best friend bury her infant daughter. That year, I accepted over $20,000 in student loans, graduated college, made the decision to enter graduate school, and chose to leave my ex-husband. Perhaps it wasn’t the typical middle-class American 22-year-old experience, but I was unequivocally an adult. By 22 I had bought a car, moved several times, paid my bills, taken out more in student loans than I could possibly earn in a year, and made major decisions about my future career path. That is typical. So, how dare you tell me that I wouldn’t have been of sound mind to enter into a sexual relationship of my choosing? If a woman old enough to vote, marry, drink, be tried as an adult, and sign binding contracts wants to sign a pretend contract before consensual sex, it doesn’t matter how much she giggles or how “mousey” she appears. I was 23 when I learned to apply eyeliner from a YouTube video and actually style my damned hair. That’s not what made me an adult. Being both responsible and accountable for my own choices was. Regardless of where things go in the books (spoiler alert: it ain’t good), Anastasia Steele was both of these when she met Christian Grey. Her age had absolutely no bearing on the situation and it’s disrespectful to young adult women to imply that they are not capable of making their own choices.

Ana is still a virgin.

This article is not the first one to take issue with the fact that Anastasia Steele has never had a sexual experience until she meets Christian Grey. The writer actually suggests that, because Ana has had no genuine interest in a man and doesn’t masturbate, it’s more likely the character is asexual. For one, the lead character in a romance isn’t asexual. That’s not how the genre works. Two, we learn later that Ana has had encounters with the opposite sex and they just haven’t gone anywhere. In regards to masturbation, I do know women who just aren’t interested. A lot of women have trouble reaching orgasm, both by themselves and with a partner. Their bodies just work a bit differently and without an emotional connection, physical stimulation may lack appeal… and that’s okay.

My biggest problem with focusing on this criticism of the series, however, is the assumption that a woman who is not sexually active is asexual or somehow abnormal. I am 27 years old and I have not had sex in five years. Furthermore, I’ve only kissed five people, ever. I am not asexual. I’m just not interested in sharing my body with someone with whom I see no future. I once let a man in a bar kiss me, with tongue, when I’d just met him that night. It makes me uncomfortable even remembering that, because physicality without an emotional connection just doesn’t do it for me. Different women have different needs and it’s just as offensive to shame a woman for not being sexually active as it is to call another a slut.

Fifty Shades of Grey is only popular, because the hero is rich.

While Christian Grey sure isn’t my dreamboat, I can tell you that in the current dating pool of grown men with flat-billed caps and job titles as specific as “n/a,” it’s not so far-fetched to think that, perhaps, it would be easier to repair deep-seated emotional scarring than to motivate a man to get his shit together. Regardless, I’m not convinced that the ability to “buy all the planes” is what appeals to the Fifty Shades of Grey target audience, particularly the over 30 bracket. This article actually suggests a somewhat circular logic: women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, because women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Finally, a woman with traditional goals (marriage, children, an optional career) can come out and say…

No longer is it only Carrie Bradshaw that gets to talk dirty, but housewives too!

As a librarian, part of my job is analyzing literary trends. This is why I am particularly aware of the rise of the billionaire romance novel. Along with Christian Grey, in the last few years we’ve been introduced to Gideon Cross, Gabriel Emerson, Jesse Ward, and many other laughably wealthy and emotionally damaged heroes. However, long before well-worn copies of Fifty Shades of Grey hit nightstands all over the world, we met the heroes in these series: Rock Chick, KGI, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Psy-Changelings, Immortals After Dark, and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Every title listed stars leading men who are borderline abusive and financially set. That describes most contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance. This shit ain’t new. Not only does the insistence that this book simply broke new ground with an abusive megabajillionaire give the title far too much credit, it also implies that all women who enjoy romance are gold digging whores. That’s just not nice.

Note: I have been known to declare that I’d let a man string me from the ceiling and whip me if he’d pay off my student loans, but I am hardly the standard by which all women should be measured.

Fifty Shades of Grey is responsible for sex injuries.

This article and many, many more suggest that the rise in bedroom play injuries is the fault of Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe it’s the researcher in me, but…. I call bullshit. You are an adult. You likely have a smartphone on you at all times, meaning you literally have endless information at your fingertips. If you are stupid enough to purchase a spreader bar and use a trashy novel for a user manual, you are the only one to blame for the broken spine. Have some faith that the majority of women are intelligent enough to manage a Google search, y’all.

I can say a lot of bad things about Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of writers can. I mean, two twenty-somethings e-mailing each other? What is this, Amish country? Between Ana’s “inner goddess” and Christian’s “laters baby” this librarian actually fell out of love with reading for a few days. I love when women ask me to suggest titles “like Fifty Shades of Grey,” because it gives me the opportunity to introduce them to much better written erotica. Perhaps I can get them started on Kristen Ashley’s special-ops-saves girl books. Maybe I can send them back in time with one of Karen Marie Moning’s sexy highlanders. I can even show them more plot-light erotica, but with with steamier scenes that don’t read like a child reporting her molestation – “Then he touched me… down there!” You know what I won’t do, though? Insult them.

Fifty Inappropriate Comments on Fifty Shades of Grey… Give or Take

My father and I, we have… weird boundaries. I mean, one of my most popular posts was titled Looking at T*ts with My Dad. It’s not that we don’t also have a traditional, supportive daddy/daughter relationship. It’s just that he’s the man who gave me my flare for inappropriate humor and general conversational finesse.

Grandmotherly coworker: “My lips are so dry, they’re sticking together.”
Me: “That’s what she said!”

So, naturally, this led to the worst conversation anyone has ever had.

Me: “I have to go to Hobby Lobby after this to get supplies for my party this weekend. I’m having a Fifty Shades of Grey Goose party. We’re going to drink every time it’s stupid.”
Dad: “Lena and I actually went and saw that the other night.”
Me: “No. Stop talking.”
Dad: “Well, just to see what the big deal was, you know.”
Me: “Well, yeah. That’s why we’re going to watch it: to mercilessly mock it.”
Dad: “Well, you know, honestly, that movie wasn’t half bad.”
Me: “I can’t… unhear this.”

Dad: “All’s I’m saying is, when you watch it, go into it with an open mind.”
Me: “What?!? NO. I’ve read the books. I know the story and it’s awful. I am not watching Fifty Shades of Grey with an open mind… especially not at my dad’s insistence.”
Dad: “Well, Lena’s read the books and she said they were bad, but everyone’s talking about how those books are [air quotes], abusive and [I shit you not, more air quotes] offensive to women, but when he takes her to his playroom, he tells her ‘I’m fifty shades of fucked up.’…”
Me: “I’m pretty sure my ears are bleeding. This is, literally, the worst thing that has ever happened to me, listening to you quote Christian Grey.”

Dad: “… but she signs his contract anyway. The whole thing is between consensual adults. How is that abusive?”
Me: “Dad, the reason people call it abusive isn’t because of the BDSM – which is a term I should never use with my dad, by the way – but because of the way he treats her. At least in the books, he has to know her every move and he’s extremely…”
Dad: “Controlling?”
Me: “Yes.”
Dad: “Yeah, but she allows it.”
Me: “Dad, you seriously just defended all abuse!” 
Dad: “Well… huh… yeah. I guess you’re right.”

Me: “Thanks for lunch, daddy. Next time, I’ll tell you all about my favorite erotica.”

My daddy/daughter relationship is not the only unconventional one in my life.

Gramma: “What’s a flogger?”
Me: “It’s a handle with beaded strings and people hit each other with them, in bed, because it’s sexy to hurt. I bought some cord, pink glitter beads, and decorative tape. Then I hot glued them to wooden dalrods for party favors.”
Gramma: “But what are you guys gonna do with ’em?”
Me: “I don’t know… get drunk and hit each other with them, probably.”
Gramma: “That seems like a lot of effort.”
Me: “Yeah. They’re a lot more involved than I thought they would be. I actually have to get back to making my sex toys, now. I love you Gramma.”
Gramma: “Okay, hon, I love you. Have fun.” 

As for the party, we were all pretty drunk, but I did have the presence of mind to record some of the better comments, between people who were more or less strangers before that night. It’s amazing what Jello shots will do for one’s inhibitions when it comes to homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey.

Pin the P
Catherine won Charlie Tango… a four dollar helicopter I spray painted.

Gail: “That’s really classy, Belle.”
Me: “Hey. I am Grace Fucking Kelly.”

::Opening Credits::

Catherine: “What the fuck is up with her bangs?”
Me: :showing photo on phone:
cotc

Me: “Wait. Why does he ask if she’s a Girl Scout? She’s cutting rope. Does he just have really low expectations of The Girl Scouts?”

Catherine: “Yeah, cuz there’s totally a dial tone on a fucking cell phone.”

Reba: “Ew, no! That’s Elliot?”
Gail: “He looks like a 90’s drug dealer.”
Me: “He looks like an extra from The Craft.

::Sex toy Camera pan:: six people raise and shake homemade floggers “FLOGGERS!”
Me: “Shit. Is the window still open?”

Gail: “It’s not lovemaking, if there’s a contract.”

Me: “That… that’s literally a scene from Twilight! They’re even in a meadow!”
Gail: “Are they going to play baseball now?”

Reba: “Wait. Is this the scene where she’s just been running and now they’re gonna have sex?”
Me: “Yeah and she’s just been sitting around in her workout clothes making vaginal cheese.”
Reba: “Ewwwww! NO! BELLE!”
Gail: “It’s like FETA!” 

Gail: “Taking leggings off of yourself isn’t exactly the easiest and sexiest activity.”
Me: “‘It makes me so hot when you put wet clothes on me.'”

Carla: “I wonder if he had to learn to braid hair for this role.”
Me: “Maybe he already knew how, because he has a daughter.”

::Every single sex scene:: “MY DAD SAW THIS MOVIE!!!!!! I CAN’T!!! I JUST CAN’T!!!”
Gail: “What do you think they did after they got home from the movie?”
Me: “I don’t love you anymore, Gail!”

Gail: “I still think the most pressing question of the night is, where in the world was this movie shown in Russian for six minutes, the rest in English, with all the text in Spanish?”

The fun didn’t even stop after everyone went home.

carla chat

Remember the news stories about firemen preparing for an increase in calls from people attempting the dangerous things done in Fifty Shades? I confess. I tried one myself.

Facebook status: I tried to take off my shirt the way Christian Grey does. I got lost and confused. It was terrifying. People don’t undress that way.

For realz, y’all, I nearly removed my own scalp.

party

That’s a decorate-your-own-tie cookie. Obviously. Bee tea double ewe, tough to explain the leftover cookies at work.

My Scottish Highlander Time Travel Adventure Romance Satire: Why I Don’t Write Fiction

I think the thing that makes me such a great blogger is my dependability. I never just randomly disappear for weeks on end. Oh, wait…

Chiefly, my reason is that I desperately need a new computer. Every time I start to write a blog, this one spits popups at me and growls. Also, I got really into this book series… hashtag librarian woes, y’all.

Speaking of which… while Gail and I align on many levels, our literary tastes are not one of them.

As you can tell, this doesn’t stop me from making references she wishes she didn’t understand. After all, fair’s fair and if I have to read her NPR transcript, via text message, she’s gonna know the outline of my latest novel. This month, I’m stuck on the Outlander series.

Yeah… that about sums it up.

Kidding. There’s actually a lot more plot to this one than my typical werewolf porn. I mean, they had to have some basis for the Starz series. Essentially, though, it was the first in what became a slightly obscure genre (Amish romance is a thing y’all) of Scottish highlander time travel adventure romance novels. I kid you not. There are many, many knockoffs of this series and they usually focus much more heavily on the romance (sex) than the rest. This one, however, has sparked a great deal of conversation between Gail and I, for two reasons…

1. Deep down, I’m still the 12-year-old who not only knew all of the shippers for Roswellian fandom, but also the rules of chat room role play games. I will talk Gaily’s ear off about a new obsession.
2. Even the fandom I adore gets over-analyzed and mocked by me, because everything in this world is funny.

While neither Gail nor I have grown up in any true luxury, we both came to adulthood in Shetland, a middle income Southern suburb. We graduated high school in 2006, with dial up internet connections, cell phones, and three-minute microwavable pasta. So, in my chatter over my latest series, Gail the Mailman and I, Belle the Librarian, have been discussing just how very poorly we’d do in 18th century Scotland.

11-7-14 1

Naturally, this has led to plans to pen a Scottish highlander time travel adventure romance satire… because we bring the party. It’s actually been great fun trading ideas back and forth.

dancing

 

Braxley Engel’s Unsexy and Disappointing First Person Narrative of a Venture Through Time, by Belle Roquemore and Gail Frederickson. I think a catchy title is key.

Chapter 1: How I almost died of exposure.
For realz yo, it was 65 degrees out today… in mid-November. I feel confident stating that 18th century Scottish winter wear does not have the word “PINK” emblazoned on the butt in rhinestones. 

Chapter 2: Why doesn’t anyone speak English?!?!
There actually is no universally accepted criteria for differentiating between dialects and languages. However, over 30% of Scotland speaks Scots today and no one can quite decide if it’s a language or a dialect.* It’s pretty reasonable to assume that if 2014 Braxley woke up in 1743 Scotland, she would be fucked.

Chapter 3: Wait… what the hell is my backstory?!?!
If the destruction of the personalized keychain industry wasn’t enough to make you reconsider that ridiculous damned baby name with all of its x’s and apostrophes, perhaps this will! All silly first names that aren’t actually names aside, most Americans know very little about their origins. Sure, Braxley knows that Engel is German, but does she know that Germany was Prussia? Furthermore, can she speak the language? Also, that accent doesn’t exist yet.

Chapter 4: Why is my warrior so hideous?!?!
Folks, we dose our water with fluoride for a reason. We also lose a lot fewer limbs these days. Aside from such trivial matters as teeth and arms, though, the average height of a Scottish male in the 18th century was 5’3″.* That’s like, ignore his eHarmony message short. That’s like, stand on my feet while we slow dance, short. That’s like… hope I don’t have any 5’3″ male readers, short. Not to mention, while I lack a Wikipedia article on it, I’m pretty sure 18th century warriors weren’t shy about farting and scratching their asses.

Chapter 5: Where’s the soap?
What’s toothpaste? Who’s Tampon? You guys, you’re out of toilet paper! Where are the razors? Oh my stars, what is that smell?!?! What’s 18th century for “dick cheese”? I need to buy some nail clippers. Oh, look. Pubic lice. 

Chapter 6: Why am I wearing an entire winter wardrobe?!?!
18h-century-dress-Lacma-2
Imagine traveling in the heat… or rain. Also, that tickle in your throat? It’s a rib. 

Chapter 7: Um… I bring nothing to the table.
How dare they treat me this way!?! I have a Master’s in Library and Informat… um… FINE! I also have an in-depth knowledge of 20th century liter… oh.

Chapter 8: Everything is just so… hard.
The other night, I got home from both jobs (where I sit a lot, in air conditioning) and was too tired to cook, so I went to bed without eating. EASY MAC EXISTS, y’all. Poor Braxley and her expectation of only wearing an outfit once before having it clean and dry in about two hours, while she watches TV. 

Chapter 9: I have some nutritional concerns.
Where are the bananas? How do I make bread out of flower, water, and this rock? Why is the water green? Should we really be eating cat? Do maggots count as protein?

Chapter 10: All my pets are food.
Why is the dog on a spit?!?! 

Chapter 11: He won me in a card game?!?!
What dowry? Of course I have no dowry. I don’t need a man to arrange a marriage for me! What do you mean middle-aged?!? I’m only 27!

Chapter 12: Wait… how do I fake virginity?
Fish bladder full of blood. Google it. It was a thing. Just don’t overdo it. The scene from The Shining is going to look awfully suspicious. 

Chapter 13: Marital rape… and punishment.
1993. That’s when it was illegal for a man to rape his wife in all 50 states.* Furthermore, there are still some mighty creepy corners of the internet using the phrase “Domestic Christian Discipline”. I shudder to think what 200 years ago felt like. 

Chapter 14: Woot. Scurvy.
What’s an orange? You know what else sounds fun? Smallpox… and plague.

Chapter 15: At least I won’t live past 40.
It’ll probably be due to the rampant STD’s, but at least Braxley won’t have to look at that scabby, pussing torture device again. Ooh! It could be because the baby tries to come out sideways. That’s always fun. This is all, of course, only if she can keep her mouth shut about time travel and they don’t burn her for a witch. 

Who wouldn’t buy this book?!?!

Psh. Nothing’s too trivial for citations.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scots_language
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_height
https://www.rainn.org/public-policy/sexual-assault-issues/marital-rape
http://www.nber.org/bah/spring06/w11963.html

Shelving the Stereotypes: When I say I’m a librarian…

When Gail and I go to a bar, there’s always this great moment where she says she’s a Mail Carrier and I say I’m a Librarian. We are both fully aware that we sound like we’re making up sexy alter egos and she’s just really bad at it. I’ve had high school acquaintances, dates, and even attendants in high-end shops assume I am joking when I say I’m a librarian. They aren’t being rude. I’m just 26 and they’re visibly waiting for the punchline. 

However, when I say I’m a librarian…

… no, I’m not kidding.

librarian stereotype

Everyone pictures one of two people when they hear “librarian” and the frumpy gal with the bun is generally the first. I’ll get to the second in a minute. In actuality, about 50% of the librarians I know are in their 20’s and early 30’s. We’re also not typically ultra conservative. On the contrary, it is a hugely liberal profession and includes tattoos, pink hair, and piercings, depending on the library. Massachusetts even has its own Tattooed Librarians Calendar. While I have more conservative political beliefs than my coworkers, even in the Midwest, the Librarians for Obama bumper sticker is quite common. My point, though, is that most of us actually look a lot more like this

zooey d new girl
… if Zooey Deschanel had Harry Potter tattoos up and down her arms.


… I’m not wearing nipple clamps.

sexy librarian stereotype
… and we rarely look like this.

This is the second most common image conjured. I’m sure most librarians like sex. In fact, if I could remember what it was, I’d probably like it, too. It is a biological drive. That does not mean that we do strip teases with ladders on rollers. Do you have any idea how many germs are in a library?!?! I think this fantasy actually developed as the result of the aforementioned “ultra conservative librarian” stereotype. We’re so prim and repressed, if properly triggered, we must go absolutely wild. On the contrary, librarians are in public service and just like cops and poison control operators, we have some of the most bizarre encounters. We’re all about free information, therefore, our calling is to give information freely; that means without judgement or surprise, regardless of whether it’s a 10-year-old’s request for Fifty Shades of Grey or a man’s desire for books on rape. We do not get to voice an opinion. If you ask your local librarian for books on sexual positions and STD treatment and she even bats an eye, she’s not doing her job very well. So, hearing the phrase “demure ladies in the streets, but utter freaks in the sheets”, in regards to my profession is neither going to scar my virginal soul, nor is it going to cause me to rip my tweed pantsuit from my swollen breasts. It’s a career path… a wonderful one. It does not, however, come with any sexual requirements. In fact, the beauty of being in such a liberal field means that heterosexuals, homosexuals, transexuals, transgenders, and swingers would really all be welcome. 

… no, Kindle is not putting me out of a job.

It used to really stress my out to hear these kinds of comments, as they were usually accompanied by the implication that I would never get to be a librarian. If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, you know how that usually went.

Today, I find the people who make the above suggestions have not usually been in a library in the last ten years. They aren’t library people, because they don’t know what libraries offer. In addition to programs, classes, access to technology, and on-site IT assistance, we do offer e-media… for free. Go ahead and spend $11.99 on J.K. Rowling’s new book for Kindle. That’s a bit redundant, though, because you probably already bought it with your tax dollars. The state of e-media in libraries is up in the air, right now, as publisher’s decide how it affects their profits, but a few facts remain the same. Someone has to decide how many copies to order in e-book versus hardback. Someone has to choose a vendor. Someone has to teach people to actually use the Kindle/Nook/Nabi/iPad. Furthermore, people freaking love books. I am a traitor librarian, because I prefer my Kindle. I’m sporadic in my reading and I love carrying 40 different titles at a time, but I’m a minority. Most people I talk to prefer to hold the book and feel the pages, without worrying about pdf/Kindle/adobe format compatibility. As there is a place for both radio and television, there will be a place for both hard copy and e-media, because not only does not everyone want to use an e-reader, but not everyone can afford to use an e-reader.

… no, Google is not putting me out of a job, either.

“So… no offense or anything… I’m actually curious… why do you need a master’s degree to be a librarian? What do you actually do?”

I need a master’s degree, because we’re rendering bachelor’s degrees redundant in this country, by sending confused kids to college to major in general studies so that they can graduate and work in food service. That’s another rant, though. Ahem… I need a master’s degree, because I spent 44 graduate level hours studying program development, advocacy, public relations, grant writing, evaluations, books and materials for children, books and materials for young adults, the effect of technology and social networking on society, collection development and maintenance, cataloging, the very concept of free information, the organization of information, and the information seeking habits of individuals. They didn’t teach me that when I was getting my required bachelor’s degree. That’s why I needed a master’s degree.

What do I actually do? I plan community programs that people may actually attend. I figure out which books aren’t being circulated and pack them for the annual book sale so I can make space on the shelf. I find the appraised value of a customer’s neighbor’s house. I find books at a sixth grade reading level that will interest a second grade child. I spend 30 minutes on the phone helping an elderly woman download an e-book. I look for poetry to read during an infant’s funeral. On an average day, I take on the roles of social worker, researcher, saleswoman, IT specialist, teacher, and babysitter. Some days, it’s Realtor, historian, scientist, and job coach. I wear many, many different hats and the most important one is the customer service hat. I do not get to talk down to anyone and I must always have a smile on my face. It’s exhausting… and wonderful. 

zooey d hats

I am an Information Professional. As technology takes root in our society, we have more and more information to sort through and the average person isn’t as well trained to do that as they think. Google, for instance, is a keyword search. There is no accounting for author, date, full text, pdf, peer reviewed, or content. You get to pick one, maybe two, of those parameters and hope for the best. Librarians are trained to use search terms and tax funded databases to narrow the results. For example…

My grandmother died in 1991. In the 50’s or 60’s, there was a newspaper that published an article on her influence as a teacher. I think she taught third grade. I want to find the article and don’t know what newspaper.

Go ahead. Google that.

In addition to the increase in information, for better or worse, this country is becoming more socialist, not less. Libraries are one of the only institutions that serves both the engineer and that man on the street corner that he just loudly suggested should get a job. It takes Internet access to apply for that job. It takes knowledge of technology to use the Internet.

Go ahead. Google that.

… no, I have not read that book.

When I was in the sixth grade, I was assigned a 9-12 grade reading level. I was not allowed to read anything below an 8th grade level for credit. That meant no Harry Potter, no Babysitter’s Club, and no Ramona for credit, no matter how much I read. I made one C in K-12 and it was the year I refused to read on my level.

I was an advanced placement student in high school. I read The Inferno and The Bell Jar for fun, but spent more time looking up Sparksnotes summaries than it would’ve taken to actually read the damned book, when we covered The Great Gatsby. I don’t regret that. Daisy was a horrible heroine… like written by Nicholas Sparks horrible.

My bachelor’s degree is in family and consumer science education… home-ec. I was not required to read any of the classics for that. During my MLIS, I took Books and Materials for Young Adults, Books and Materials for Children, and Children’s Literature. It was in these classes that I did the last of the required novel reading I will ever do. So, when I read a librarian’s blog and she talked about all the varied reading of popular materials we all do, just to keep up with the interests of customers, I thought…

It’s not that I’m a lazy librarian. It’s that there are an assload of books out there. You can’t read them all. You can’t even read just the New York Time’s Bestsellers. I know. I type up the Bestsellers list every week and they’re listed by fiction, nonfiction, children’s picture books, middle grade, and young adult. That’s not even counting the e-books. I cannot read them all, so I read what I like.

“Have you read…?”

Unless the rest of that question is “that one where the hot guy morphs into a dragon to save his mate, only to find out she’s a unicorn?” then the answer is likely no. I primarily read paranormal romance, romantic suspense, memoirs, blogs, and articles on current events and information theory. Every now and then I’ll read something deeper or more popular, because I want to do soMost librarians just read what they like, be that inspirational fiction, Amish romance (it is so a thing), or historical accounts. News articles may increase awareness, but romance novels increase vocabulary, graphic novels increase comprehension, and themes are universal. It all has value, so I’m not reading something just because the New York Times tells me, especially when it’s just as pretend as my werewolf porn. If you want a recommendation, I can recommend within my preferred genres, or I can suggest some awesome resources that cater to your own tastes like LibraryThing or Novelist. I’d rather see the occasional customer leave psyched about the three paranormal romance series I suggested than never please anyone, because I only read the most popular items in their genres, which they have likely already read.

dragon bound
Fo sho.

The Romance Novel vs. Reality

As I’ve been working to finish my Master in Library and Information Studies, crying in a ball underneath my favorite chair about how “I’ll never be a librarian and I don’t want to join the military!!!!!”, I’ve been losing myself in escapist fiction. I have little attention span for television and movies, so the only way I’ve been able to pull myself from my own irrational, hyperventilating internal monologue has been with romance novels. Of course, this has just added to the mantra with “I don’t have time to date and even if I did, I wouldn’t give guys any real chance and I’m going to die alooooooone!” Nothing’s sexier than a girl sucking on an inhaler in an empty bathtub, wearing leggings and an oversized butter-stained Ice Age 3D t-shirt from her fat days, amiright?

panic attack
Chicka chicka yeah…

I’ve not previously been a romance novel gal and I used to mock them mercilessly. My interest started with Nicky Charles’ Law of the Lycans series last summer (because it was free) and moved forward with J.R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I read a lot of paranormal romance, because what’s hotter than a hot naked alpha male? The answer is… a hot naked alpha male with a barbed penis. I had a brief foray into erotica, though there’s just not enough plot there for me. Lately I’ve been engrossed in romantic suspense of the hot-spec-ops-guy-saves-girl-from-Somali-pirates variety. I’m not kidding. I just finished that one yesterday. My MLIS has taught me that all literature has value, so I regret the days I mocked romantic fiction. I feel it’s increased my vocabulary significantly and it’s just fun to escape my brain, which is pretty much like having 533 windows open in a browser at all times. That being said, I have noticed some recurring themes in romance novels and they annoy the crap out of me. I’m not even talking about the traditionally ridiculous names of the male leads, but rather..

… the best friend that I hope dies screaming, while strapped down spread-eagle and disemboweled.

Too graphic? I’m gonna give a shout-out to my Gail here and state that I just have the best best friend in the whole world. She may be a little (lot) paranoid, but for the most part, she respects my life choices. She’s the voice of reason in my head and often just my conscience in general. She’s my Jiminy Fucking Cricket and I’m her Tinker Bell whispering in her ear to shoot Wendy out of the sky with her bow and arrows. We balance each other out and for the most part, we do so without any touchy feely crap. It’s awesome. Maybe that’s why I hate most of the best friend characters in romance novels. They just don’t measure up. Yeah, Gail. You ruined my fiction. Go fuck yourself.

tinkerbell

I only recently noticed this trend when I tried to read the This Man series a couple of months ago. It was recommended to me for the alpha male bit I find so appealing in fiction-only-fiction-ever, but it was just too much for me while somehow still managing to be too little. Oh my gosh. My favorite? The part where he was a bag of dicks and then nothing happened. Ooh! Then there was that part where he more or less ass-raped her and then nothing happened. And sa-woon, the part where… holy shit I cannot actually come up with anything else to say before nothing happened because nothing happened.

Some of the review titles:
This book made me fear for an entire generation.
Just… really bad.
There is only one E.L. James. (Yeah. Thank GOD for that, but seriously, she’s saying this was worse than Fifty Shades?)

This Man may not have suited me in general, but I absolutely hated the best friend. Main Character Ava was pretty awful, but at least I could pity her as the victim of both the male lead and her bestie roommate. There was actually a scene where Best Friend Kate leaves her van parked on a busy one-way street, causing Ava to be manhandled by an angry driver. Kate takes her sweet time, then comes out and does not freaking care. What the crap?!?! Gail would never do that… well period, but she’d be especially contrite if I were harmed because of her actions. I didn’t actually finish this book, because there’s this one part, at about 60%, where nothing happens and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

After This Man, I realized that this is just a thing. Maybe Kristen Ashley just has really pushy and obnoxious friends like all of her supporting female characters. It throws me a little that she writes such unlikeable friends when I find her main characters generally pretty relatable. Maya Banks has the same problem. In Jennifer Armintrout’s analysis of Fifty Shades of Grey, she suggests that E.L. James attempts to villainize the best friend so we’ll be rooting primarily for the main character… to die in Anastasia’s case, but you get the idea. Maybe this is just a bad effort to make readers favor the lead, but it always leaves me thinking THIS IS WHY I DON’T SPEND TIME WITH VAGINAS! A GIRL ONLY NEEDS ONE! The best friend characters of romance novels are supposed to be concerned, but they often come off as disrespecting the lead by refusing to acknowledge that they are adults who’ve been making their own decisions for years. They nag them and repeatedly insist that this relationship is a bad idea, despite the lead making it clear that they’re going to see things through. When Gail dated the most terrifying postal worker ever, I expressed my concerns regarding specific stories and waited it out. She’s a big girl. She’ll decide when she’s had enough and I’ll be there when that time comes. Pissing her off and alienating her isn’t going to make any headway. Other times, the best friend characters are supposed to be supportive, but they often come off as gluttonous alcoholics encouraging their friends to cope poorly or ignore their problems. When I got divorced and drank a vat of Long Island Ice Tea, Gail slept in my car with me because I couldn’t get up the stairs, but she didn’t encourage the behavior in the future. I suppose the real problem is that these characters just aren’t Gail.


7_2502200
The This Man series… only instead of paint, it’s anal blood.

… the size of the men.

I am 5’5.5” tall and weigh 175 pounds. I don’t look like a supermodel or a teapot. I just look pretty average at a size 8/10. I, however, totally understand the appeal of feeling like the dainty little woman and recognize that writing big tough alpha male characters is a reflection of this common desire. It works, too… within reason. My paranormal romance phase involved a number of male characters who were described as being larger than most humans. It made sense, because they were supernatural vampiric warriors and I never gave it much thought. I started with paranormal romance, but as I moved to stories that took place in the real world, I realized that the main characters were still 6’8”. I’m into tall and have said a few times that I won’t date beneath 5’10”, but come on. 6’8” is no longer attractive, but rather something to get past. I’m not saying I wouldn’t date a guy that size, but I consider that abnormally tall. “Abnormal” is never hot, just endearing at best.

In addition to being the tallest men in the world, these guys are always freakishly built as well. In Kristen Ashley’s and Julie Ann Walker’s novels, they’re often described as not having an ounce of fat on them and are compared to professional wrestlers. How is there enough space in the room for our lead heroine when a redwood is standing next to her?!?! Honestly, I don’t really find professional wrestlers attractive. I’d give Alcide Herveux a rim job if I had the opportunity, but he’s hardly got the build of a WWE fighter. I never want to be with someone morbidly obese again, but I want someone I can cuddle. It’s tough to cuddle the Statue of David. The guards tend to chase you off.


Redwood
This is my husband, Rogue.

… the way people smell.

Gail doesn’t typically read romance novels, because Dave Ramsey is never the lead, but she recently had this idea to read the most disturbing erotica we could find on Amazon and discuss. I read
Comfort Food, by Kitty Thomas which was very well-written and also gave me nightmares. Then I got distracted with school and Gail was left to read Tender Mercies, which apparently involved a tailed butt-plug, all alone. Shucks. I missed out. Having read very few romance novels, though, Gail understood exactly what I was talking about when I texted her the following yesterday.

PEOPLE don’t smell like a day at the beach.

Brock always smelled like that time at the lake when I fell asleep in the sun and got lightly burned and then woke up and realized I had a handprint tan line on my chest and then the dog leapt into my lap and scratched my thighs and then I washed the blood off in the lake, so I had to ride back on a towel to protect the interior of his truck.

We’re so oddly in-sync that she immediately responded with:

Lucas always smelled like that time I went shopping for the kind of shoe strings that curl instead of tie and that guy left his dog in the car, but I didn’t call the cops because it wasn’t really all that hot outside, even though it was almost June.

When men describe how women smell, however, it’s always something tangible. For example, she smells like lavender. What 9′ body builder with a concealed carry license knows what lavender smells like?!?! don’t even know what lavender smells like and I’m girly as fuck. If I’m with a man who can pinpoint lavender and honeydew, my 15th anniversary is gonna suck when I find him knee deep in another dude. Seriously, if he tells you you smell astoundingly like nutmeg, buy him an ascot as a parting gift.

fred scooby doo
He thinks you smell like warm cashmere.

 the virgin sex that is the best sex ever.

I’m not gonna lie. The idea that men like inexperienced women is pretty encouraging since I don’t know what a penis is anymore. What bugs me about this is the propensity for women well into their twenties to be inexperienced, while the men make a huge freaking deal out of how awesome it is. She’s a virgin, not a damned unicorn princess.

princess-unicorn
Believe it or not, I write this shit and then find the pictures. Call me Google Master. Do it.

The men in romance novels are always, always, always so experienced that we don’t get a number, while the women have been with either no one or few enough people to keep count on one hand. When Heroine has just not been with a lot of people, she catches on really quickly and shows a lot of enthusiasm and the sex is awesome. That gives me hope and I consider that one reasonably realistic, because while inexperienced, I would not call myself prude. However, if Heroine shares that she’s a virgin, Hero is totally freaking psyched that no one has squeezed this peach before him… even though she’s like 25 and people only wait that long for pretty much one reason: so they can share the experience with someone who means a lot to them. For realz, that’s a bit daunting.

When Hero finally twirls his mustache and steals Heroine’s virtue, it is absolutely the most mind-blowingly not awkward sex anyone has ever had. As a general rule, sex is never awkward in these books. No woman bounces too high, causing him to pop out and bend uncomfortably when she lands. No one’s distracted from their pleasure by the weird snarl the other person just made. No one ever sneezes or does anything else not sexy with their bodies. I get that. We’re reading idealistic sex and that’s the point. I don’t need to read about how Christian Grey has trouble finishing, though that would clearly be because he’s at it for nine hours a day and somehow still maintains his fortune at age eleven, but whatevs. I’m totally comfortable with skipping all fart-in-bed scenes forever. Writing virgin sex as anything but emotionally charged and sweet, though, is just unrealistic. That shit hurts and continues to hurt for a couple of days. Anastasia isn’t waking up and hopping on pop Dr. Seuss style. You may as well write unicorn princess sex. There is not a Google image for that. 

isbn9781846165177-1x2a
I lied.

Women in Fiction, I’d Like A Word With You

I’ve been going through a romance phase for a while now: paranormal, suspense, mystery, the ocassional erotica (a word I just recently had to define for my Gramma). I’d still rather sit through a rectal exam than watch most chick flicks, because the acting is never up to par or I just fucking hate the heroine. Really Ally? Noah should have let you get hit by a car when you were lying in the street. Don’t even get me started on Rose and Jack… again. Maybe I just need to get laid, but I love my romance novels. I can put whatever inflection I want in the dialogue to make it less dramatic and the lead male is never unnattractive… and almost always Alcide Herveaux.

alcide
Sigh. Wouldn’t you just love to bathe him with your tongue like a mama cat?

When the circumstances are right, I love me some alpha males in my fiction and even in reality, I’m a traditional gal. The boy asks, opens doors, pays. That’s what works for me and I don’t mind one bit that it’s not what works for some, like my sisterfriend Rosie the Fucking Riveter. I cannot help that some of her feminazi crap bleeds over, though. On that note, fiction, what the hell is up with:

Putting Necklaces on Your Lady

This seems to be a recurring event in movies and television. From Stefan Salvator to Don Draper, it’s a gallant man who puts on his gal’s necklace. To be fair, I made a post bitching about this on Facebook one day and literally the next day had to ask my Gramma for help putting on a necklace. However, I think that was the one time I’ve had to do so. In all my years of marriage, I never asked my ex-husband to put on a necklace for me. Get a job, don’t kill our pets, quit stealing from me, yes. Help me put on this necklace, no. Wanna know why? Because it’s not held on by a damned Rubix Cube. I know the clasp is behind me, where I can’t see it, but are we women really so uncoordinated and inept that we can’t work a clasp without looking? If we’re going with gender stereotypes, am I not the one with the dainty lady fingers that have the dexterity to embroider pillowcases, sew on buttons, and work diaper pins? Wouldn’t these fingers more likely have nails to catch the lever on said clasp? Bracelets, I understand. I only have one hand free. But I have both hands for this necklace endeavor, unless it’s a really complicated piece of jewlery. Maybe nipple clamps and shackles are involved? I don’t know.

putting on necklace 4  putting on necklace 1

putting on necklace 2putting on necklace 3
Elena is having a particularly difficult time with that necklace.

I get the the appeal of the damsel in distress thing in books and movies. Even Samantha Jones once went on a crying jag about how she just wished a man were there to care for her when she was sick. Lorelei Gilmore once wept because she’d ocassionally like for someone to wait for the cable guy. It’s not even a sexist thing. Everyone likes the idea of having someone take care of them when they need it, or even when they don’t, just to be sweet. I might even place the necklace bit in the last category if it were an action that I ever even think about. But I don’t. Because it’s just a stupid necklace. Asking and waiting for assistance is going to take more time and effort than just doing it myself. If I’m going to ask him to put on my necklace, why not ask him to tie my left shoe, blow on my soup, or squeeze the toothpaste for me? It’s weird that this is even a thing. Wanna do something sweet? I’ve got the necklace. You go change my oil.

necklace
Mkay. I think I’m gonna need some help with this one.

Requiring Tiny Feet

When I was five, I used to sit in the bathtub and turn my feet to just the right angle so they’d look smaller and daintier, because women have tiny feet dammit!!!!

Fine. I was a weird kid. Regardless, go watch Cinderella. When you get to the part where the king’s men try the glass slipper on her step-sisters’ feet, what happens? They’re so gargantuan that the shoe barely covers the ball of her foot. When they try to force it, the slipper is flung across the room and shatters. Think about it. It’s a shoe. What are the odds that no one else in the kingdom had the same shoe size as Cinderella? Sure, they were made of glass and that didn’t leave a whole lot of room for give, but it’s not like they’d have been comfortable anyway. So her feet just had to be freakishly sexily small.

glass slipper step

Meanwhile…

glass slipper

Horseshit. I’m not buying it.

foot binding

That’s what her foot really looks like.

As an adult, I’m less self-conscious of my shoe size. I’m only 5’5″, but wear a 10. No one else does, so the cute boots on sale come in my size. Score. However, lately, I’ve read a ton of books where the women’s feet are quoted at size 5 and size 6 over and over again. Even Anastasia Steele was a 5. The average shoe size of American women, however, is an 8*. You wanna tell me I have big feet compared to a size 8, I’m cool with that. I’m only 2 sizes above normal. You wanna tell me I’m double the normal size? Go fuck yourself, fiction. Go fuck yourself.

Carrying Her Everywhere

Okay, this one is sort of an all-encompassing issue regarding weight and the idea that women are only sexy if they’re tiny and vulnerable looking. Bella Swan was quoted at 110 pounds and 5’4″, which I’d like to mention is just above underweight and really not very healthy, despite having been described as being “soft somehow.” Maybe this is an evolutionary issue where we women want the largest and strongest caveman, so we want to at least feel teeny, but throughout all genres and formats of media, from my paranormal romances to the latest chick flick, women are light as pretty pink feathers. Once again, however, I’m able to defend paranormal romance, because The Black Dagger Brotherhood and Eric Northman had fucking superpowers. That was the whole point. It still doesn’t explain why they carried their gals everywhere. There’s no real rationalization for the other occurrences, either, because I’m pretty sure even sexy women have weight, y’all. Maybe we harbor totally unreasonable expectations of it in this country, such as when Gail’s ex-fella announced “She was huge. She must’ve weighed like 150 pounds or something”, but that doesn’t change the reality of hoisting another human being into your arms. When I go to my Gramma’s and my niece is over there, without fail she screams “AUNT BELLE!” and I pick her up and spin her around. Then I put her down, because she’s fucking heavy… at four.

I remember the first time I noticed this weird trend. I was a teenager and absolutely obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because I was awesome, and everyone just carries Buffy around any time she’s hurt. Sure, Angel and Spike have superpowers and Riley is a soldier, but high school Xander and Giles? The former was portrayed as awkward and gangly and the latter was in his mid-sixties. Ron carries Hermione after she’s tortured, but was the guy really known for his brawn?  Charlie Swan is an aging man carrying around his 18 year old daughter, because she’s sad over a breakup. While Edward Cullen was reasonably able to throw Bella on his back and scamper up a mountain, Robert Pattinson pulled a hamstring doing it, because WOMEN HAVE WEIGHT, Y’ALL.

carry bella 2 carrying bella 1

carrying bella 3 carrying bella 4
Seriously? Can the girl not walk? I thought her spine healed.

Rationalizing Child Molestation

When Desperate Housewives first aired, Jesse Metcalfe was 25. His character, however, was 17. I’m not shaming the women of America for looking at a 25-year-old in a 17-year-old costume and thinking he’s attractive. I’m shaming the writers of this show for assuming that I would relate to Gabrielle Solis when she commits statutory rape, because he was just so yummy that it made it okay. Maybe I find this offensive because I work with teenagers, but when I first watched this show at 24, I looked at Jesse Metcalfe’s character and I saw a child. A 17-year-old boy thinks like a kid and reasons like a kid and processes emotion like a kid, because that’s what he damn well is. Gabrielle Solis committed rape and just because she did so with a vagina, rather than a penis, does not suddenly make it sexy rape, because that’s not a fucking thing. Implying that the women of America are gonna be all “YOU GO GIRL!” over baby rape is just as disgusting and offensive as suggesting that all men are going to be rooting for the sex traffickers in Taken.

sex trafficking
Chicka chicka yeah…

Apocalyptic Menstruation

One of the few chick flicks I truly enjoyed and actually own (bought used) is No Strings Attached. I enjoy it, however, despite one of the most obnoxious scenes in the history of film, in which Natalie Portman and all of her roommates are lying around the apartment groaning in misery. Is it cholera? Ebola? The Zombie apocalypse? No. It’s the horrors of WOMANHOOD! These women are all supposed to be in their medical residency, but none of them can take care of a few cramps and all of them have the time to hole up like wounded animals and whine about it? Let’s not forget the whopping cliché of them acting like bitches and fighting over junk food, because all women love chocolate. I probably eat 10 Reese’s a week and I gave up chocolate for Lent, because it would be a legitimate effort and sacrifice for me… because I like chocolate… not because my vagina does. Also, I don’t know about other women, but when I’m on my period, I… you know… work. For a day or so, I feel miserable and don’t want to eat at all and have the inconvenience of a gunshot wound between my legs, but I still get my ass out of bed, pop some ibuprofen and earn that puppy food. I’m a grown ass woman, no one else is going to take care of the bills, and this happens every month. Honestly, though, the most offensive part of this is the suggestion that a woman gets a free pass on treating people like shit because her body does stuff. Maybe I’m a little more irritable around my period, but other people still exist and have feelings. I don’t get to snap at them and tell them to fuck off because my uterus is leaking. Implying that I can’t control the urge to do so is seriously underestimating a gender famous for unhinging their pelvis to crank out a human being every now and then.

snake eating egg
It’s like that, but backwards.

Bashing Men

When Gail and I get together, much of the conversation does revolve around men, though not nearly as much as modern media might have you think. Sure, we giggle about and mock The Musician and his drug-induced flirting or that guy who bought me a drink and started massaging my shoulders, but neither one of us is in a relationship with these people. When Gail mentions A, she might lovingly joke about the vehicles I’ve nicknamed The General Lee, but it’s nothing he hasn’t already heard. Just like I would expect my beau to speak respectfully of me, I wouldn’t say things to Gail that I wouldn’t want him to hear… unless I were on my eighth LIT at Hudson’s and weeping about my abusive husband, in which case… Happy Thanksgiving! Pretty much every episode of Sex and the City involves the girls sitting around a table complaining about how much their men suck. Newsflash, ladies: you don’t have to be with these guys. Way to portray powerful and self-sufficient women, by having them fret over men all of the time. Samantha could’ve left Richard; Miranda could’ve ditched Steve; and Charlotte could’ve told Trey to fuck off. Carrie was far too in love with herself to notice anyone else in her life, of course. I’m waiting for a Sex and the City/Cloverfield crossover event, where Carrie gets eaten. That’s the third movie.

carrie bradshaw
I loved this guy. Remember when he accidentally hit her? He was the best.

Of course, there’s always the romantic (and in this case comedic) fiction where women are just as horrible to men in person as they are in private, such as in Knocked Up. I love Seth Rogan and adore this movie, don’t get me wrong, but the scene where Katherine Heigl’s sister yells at Paul Rudd for not being able to Wizard away child molesters is a horrible representation of women… along with the one where she’s insulting Rogan for being overweight, rather than expressing any legitimate concerns about his use of illegal drugs or lack of a job… aaaaand the scene where she screams at her husband for playing fantasy football. Pretty much all of the scenes with Heigl’s sister in them imply that women have a right to abuse men. So does the one where Heigl, herself, screams at her baby daddy for disagreeing with her before leaving him on the side of the road. Heigl has pretty much zero incentive to be with Rogan in this movie. He’s funny and… um… that’s kind of it. I wouldn’t have even told the guy I was pregnant. That, however, is not a valid excuse to leave him in the street. It’s a valid reason to break up with him. Paul Rudd was like the dream husband and father, but it was supposed to be funny when his wife treats him like crap? Is that the same way it was funny when Archie Bunker humiliated and belittled Edith? Or is it the same kind of funny as when Sally Fields had to sneak out of Iran with her daughter? Oh, wait… it’s not abuse unless it’s committed by a man. Gotcha.

*http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/10/16/size-8-is-the-new-7-why-our-feet-are-getting-bigger/

Paranormal Vs. Contemporary Romance: Why It’s Only Hot When a Werewolf is Pissed

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of “contemporary romance”. What can I say? I don’t have cable and wouldn’t know what to watch if I did. You’ve had the chance to read my fifty rants on Fifty Shades, of course, but I’ve also read Bared to You, the Up in the Air series, and like 40% of the first book of the This Man series. Erotica really isn’t my thing and I don’t say that because of all of the dirty sinful sexy sex-sex. I say it because all of that often gets in the way of real character and plot development and then I can’t bring myself to give a shit. I read the above titles out of curiosity and actually liked Bared to You and the Up in the Air series enough to be excited for the next installments. This Man was the depiction of a horrible girl being assaulted pursued by a horrible guy, while living with a horrible friend… yet still, nothing happens. Seriously, I was able to go from dozing off to feeling as if I were witnessing anal rape in just paragraphs. I’m pretty sure the author just wrote a prequel to Sleeping With the Enemy. Amazon refunded my money.

The primary reason I read these books, however, was because I ran out of paranormal romance series suggestions. The sex scenes in these genres differ only in frequency and not in detail, just to clarify. The similiarity that has truly interested me, however, is the male romantic leads; more specifically, why I find them attractive in one genre, but not another. Gideon Cross, James Cavendish, and Christian MotherFucking Grey really just don’t do it for me and I think I’ve figured out why.

They’re not werewolves. They’re just really controlling and bossy men.

alcide
Oh, there’s no real point to this picture… just that I’d let Alcide Herveaux stick in my ear if that’s what he were into.

I love the Alpha Male thing, and I cannot state this clearly enough, in my fucking fiction and any man who actually tells me what to do will lose a gee dee nut. But it’s only fun for me to read in a paranormal world and until recently, I was unsure why that was. I’ll take one of my favorite paranormal Alpha Males, whom you don’t have to be familiar with to get my point, and compare him to a Contemporary Romance Alpha Male (CRAM).

Hawke Snow, as seen in Kiss of Snow, by Nalini Singh. (Gail loves these titles, as she’s not a fan and thinks they’re hilarious.)
and….. Christian MotherFucking Grey, as seen in Fifty Shades of Grey and many a mugshot.

  • messed up childhood
  • position of power and authority
  • known to manhandle when he doesn’t get his way
  • violent temper
  • outsources people to keep an eye on his gal, without her knowledge
  • seen as cold and distant to many

In case you weren’t paying attention, they’re the same… the exact fucking same. However, Christian gets the middle name MotherFucking for it and Hawke does not. Why is that?

In a paranormal setting, such as the one referenced above, the Alpha Male grows up in a war-torn universe and/or is fighting for his species’ survival. Of course his childhood was bleak, as his parents were viciously murdered/abandoned him, leaving him in charge of the well-being of  everyone else (power and authority). He’s literally an animal, so he acts like one (manhandling and violent temper) and he’s charged with protecting aforementioned gal, because this is a dangerous universe and he’s kind of the boss. Additionally, a recurring theme in this genre is the idea of some sort of psychological or biological draw/imprinting/destiny between the romantic couple. She’s actually his, so the whole possessive thing is completely allowable. I know this sounds oddly specific, but it’s actually a really common layout for these books.

Christian MotherFucking Grey and company, though… well… they’re all just really mad. They had messed up childhoods, sure, but that doesn’t explain why they’re broken as people. I had a fucked up childhood too and I don’t want to pop the people I love in the mouth and masturbate with their blood.*

*Every now and then my mind goes to disturbing places, but seriously, read This Man and yours will join.

I’ve got to note, that I just don’t get the BDSM thing. I don’t think it’s a product of a fissure right down the center of your psyche or anything (cough: E.L. :cough). I just don’t really get it. I’ve been hit… a lot. It just hurts and makes me cry. Why is this sexy? It’s not for me. But the issue I have with CRAMs isn’t the bedroom adventures. No one likes Fade-to-Black Seventh Heaven sex all the time. Lovemaking gets old, y’all. Some people are into costumes and roleplay (and they don’t giggle), some are into hair pullling and spanking, some like group sex, swings, or being strung up like super sexy deer. Everybody’s got their preferences and that’s cool. Whatev.

sexy deer

Holy shit, ya’ll have no idea how desperately I wanted to use this picture again.

My issue with the CRAM is his tendency to act like a bag of dicks outside of the bedroom. My shapeshifters are usually super sweet and touchy-feely characters. Christian MotherFucking Grey and Co., withhold love when they’re angry… and they have piss poor reason to be. This is a terrible theme for romance. Whereas a shapeshifter passionately growls (hellz yeah, it’s a thing) and tells his lady she’s in grave danger for her disobedience, because Evil Entity will torture and kill her; Christian MotherFucking Grey emotionally withdraws from Ana, because… wait for it… she doesn’t like her steak.

growl of passion
Google Image Search: “growl of passion”… and it is haaaaawt.

My paranormal Alpha Males have legit reasons to boss their gals around, because pretty much everyone’s about to die. But the thing is… that’s kind of the only way it’s ever acceptable to be treated that way, even in my fantasies. I get that people fantasize things they’d never actually do, like lesbian sex and facials*. I really just can’t get on board with even the fantasy of being treated coldly and cruelly over trivial things until that person wants to feel needed and throws me a desparately yearned for scrap of affection. I’ve had that relationship for the majority of me life. I call her “mom”.

*Facials meaning when a guy finishes all over you, not when you go to the spa and they… wait… what do they do during a facial? Why do I know the former and not the latter?!?!

I’m all for the shapeshifting/vampiric/demonic Alpha Male plotline, because Disney gave me bestial Stockholm Sydrome and it’s hot that he wants to save his lady in this world fraught with danger. However, I just can’t get on board with CRAMs, because they exist in my universe where women carry pepper spray, manage their own finances, and have the option to go to the battered wives shelter.