Shocking Allegation: Women Had Sex Before Fifty Shades of Grey Came Out

Magic Mike and romance porn did not liberate women.

I am so very glad that ABC News has decided that women enjoy porn and that we are no longer ashamed about it. I mean, all this time that I have been slinking around meeting my girlfriends to watch porn on the sly—it just feels so good to know we’re not alone and that ABC News knows exactly what I want and why I want it. ABC News always has a window straight into my soul.

Apparently, a “new” genre of porn has been developed and its name is … wait for it … ”romance porn.” I am so psyched. Now that it’s 2013, women can like sex (the kind of sex men want to think of us liking) and we can like porn (the kind of porn that men think of us liking).

Can you guess what inspired this sea change in women’s attitudes toward porn? Why we are no longer ashamed? Say it with me: Fifty Shades of Grey.

I could get all kinds of hysterical over this, in all senses of the word. No one I know liked Fifty Shades of Grey. I tried to form a book club to MOCK IT. We thought it would make us giggle. One of our group started in and couldn’t get through it. She ended up begging us to not spend the money or time. Many of my students at Drexel reported the same experience: They began reading it because it seemed such a cultural phenomenon, and then couldn’t force themselves to read it. (And these are English and communications majors mind you—people who are used to reading a lot of stuff they are not actually enjoying but feel they should read.)

Of course, just as Fifty Shades of Grey is somehow getting the credit for “allowing” women to acknowledge that they are sexual beings, I have seen the book marketed and even, dare I say it, exploited in more than 50 ways (forgive me), including a three-box set complete with handcuffs and blindfold, and many customizable texts where you fill out a questionnaire and a Shades-of-Grey-like book is made with you and your partner as the main characters. Seems like there’s a category of porn that hasn’t been labeled yet. I suggest “Ninny Porn.”

I’m just wondering if anyone has ever heard of Lady Chatterly’s Lover? Or, more maybe Erica Jong? The list of authors who handle sex in a sexy way in literary novels is simply too long to insert here. My point is—nothing here is new.

Let’s see if you can guess the other major influence of why women are so suddenly attracted to porn? I’ll give you a hint: You don’t even have to know how to read to have your shameful, shameful sexuality influenced by this. Have you guessed it? Movie … two words … yes! Magic Mike. The popularity of the movie is cited as another reason women are less afraid of their sexuality. Sure, Channing Tatum does it better than we’ve ever seen it done (images flash before my eyes). And yes, the movie grossed $39 million on its opening weekend, but, a male stripper performance has been a part of young women’s rites of passage for more than 40 years now. Forty years. (And yes, we only go once or twice, but we’re women, so that’s all we need.)

I keep referencing ABC News, because their audacity at naming a new genre of porn is essentially making something up. Female-centric porn, or soft porn, has been around almost as long as porn. And even though I am ambivalent about both porn and romance novels, I’m insulted that the two are being conflated. I’m also insulted that these broad generalizations of what women are thinking/feeling/ are being thrown around. I had no idea that I was supposed to be ashamed of my sexuality until now. I had no idea sexual predilections were so homogenous.

Maybe ABC was just looking for a fresh take on the topic, since they’re two weeks behind CNBC, who “first” called this “phenomenon” two weeks ago—“Porn’s New Market: Women.” Besides also crediting Fifty Shades for increasing “foot traffic” of women into porn and erotic toy stores, the article is filled with contradictions. My favorite is the reference to an erotic site targeted to women. The site is “best described as an adult online version of Cosmopolitan magazine.” But, if that were true, it wouldn’t be called “sssh.” Cosmo has promoted its articles on how to pleasure your man and how to easily reach your own orgasm on its cover, for decades.

Of course, I had to go to—anything for research. What images are in the rotating banner? Depictions of Fifty Shades of Grey scenes and still frames of Magic Mike, of course.