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The Beyond50 Project: because there’s more to kinky erotica than billionaires and inner goddesses

Beyond50_Black_Background_Wht_Border1People sometimes ask me, out there on the Smut Stand, about Fifty Shades of Grey: mostly "is Sidewalk Smut like it?" and  "what do you think about it?" The answers to those two questions are, respectively, "um, no" and "it's complicated." I try to be nice and a little bit funny/wry about it, but sometimes those short answers are all I have energy and time for.

But if the questioner really seem interested, and I am not otherwise taken up by an onslaught of customers—which, sadly, isn't that frequent of a problem—we'll have a discussion about it. No matter where that discussion goes, just the fact that we are having it illustrates one of the few things that I appreciate about 50 Shades: it is indeed a conversation-starter. It is a bridge for some people, it is a barometer that tells you something about a person's exposure to ideas about kink and BDSM, and if someone asks you about 50 shades of gray, it is one hell of an icebreaker.

That's one thing that I think about it, and tell the person. At least it is giving us a starting point for talking about sex. In public. With strangers. No judgment. This is a good place to start.

No, Fifty Shades of Grey is not a very good example of an empowering, informed kink relationship, but then, accuracy is neither a strong point nor the purpose of mass-produced escapist fiction. Yes, it is also badly written, which actually has never seemed to be a problem in publishing; if it were, half of the Harlequin titles and all of the Sweet Valley High series would have never seen the light of day.

Other people have done marvelously well-thought out critiques of Fifty Shades, from a lot of different angles. I recommend starting with Andrea Zanin, or you can just google "Fifty Shades criticism". You might get a lot of snark, which I don't personally find useful, but whatever. Ultimately, what I tell people is this:

It's a shame that Fifty Shades had to be the first crossover hit from BDSM into mainstream erotica, because there are DEFINITELY better written books out there, by writers who a) know what they're talking about because b) they've been doing it (writing and/or kink) for a long time, therefore c) in a more just universe, they are more deserving of breaking through.

However, it's great that something finally broke through, because now people seem to be feeling totally okay about asking a complete stranger sitting behind a typewriter on the sidewalk for recommendations for other kinky erotica that they could get into. Which, you know, yay? No, definitely YAY! But my enthusiasm has always been slightly tempered by the fact that I didn't ever have recommendations at my fingertips.

Thanks to the Beyond 50 Project, now I will.

"The Beyond50 Project is a loose coalition of writers, artists, editors, publishers and friends who love a little BDSM in their lives, whether it’s only in the flights of fancy found in fiction, in occasional playful erotic games, or as part of a their identity.
What is BDSM? The short answer is “kinky sex.” And everyone knows what that is, right? Well…no. Because “kinky sex” is sort of like ice cream.

It comes in a lot of flavors. And while some people love a classic French Vanilla, and some will try the flavor of the month once in a while, others will never stop searching for the next big frozen treat. Some will have a little every night, while others save it for special occasions. And of course, while a little taste is enough for some of us, others could seriously deplete a gourmet gelato joint and leave wanting more."

Now, as full disclosure, I am still trying to get my Sidewalk Smut books included on the web site, and am waiting to hear back about my submission to the forthcoming Beyond 50 sampler anthology. But even if I don't get my stuff listed with either of these resources, I am very excited that they (will) exist. If the Fifty Shades frenzy tell me anything, it's this: IT'S TIME. People need to know their options for kink, for erotica, for literature. There are many options, certainly way more than 50. And people are ready to know. Hell, they're asking me!

So yeah, I'm looking forward to finally putting together a reading list that I can have on hand at the Smut Stand. Thanks, Beyond50!

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “The Beyond50 Project: because there’s more to kinky erotica than billionaires and inner goddesses”

  1. Sarah L December 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    A friend of mine was dared by his coworkers to read the whole 50 Shades series and make pithy chapter summaries. I was lucky enough to get on the mailing list, and he has since compiled the whole thing on tumblr, here: http://50shadesofregret.com/tagged/grey/chrono

    Now, he focuses more on poking fun at the terrible writing, and mainly skips over detailing the more explicit scenes since it was being distributed at work. But it makes for an entertaining afternoon if you don’t want to slog through all the books.

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