"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

50 Shades of Kink (A Little Review)

Tristan Taormino's Fifty Shades of Kink starts out with an honest explanation of why a book like this may be needed now more than ever:
 "Let's say you read Fifty Shades of Grey or another erotic, kinky novel like Carrie's Story by Molly Weatherfield or The Marketplace by Laura Anoniou.  You Enjoyed these fictional accounts of dominance and submission, power and lust, pleasure and pain, hot sex and incredible orgasms. You enjoyed them a lot."  
Instantly setting the tone and at the same time letting the reader know that this isn't just a book written to jump on what must be the money bandwagon of titling something "50 Shades of..."  Instead, this is a book written for the throngs of people who have been recently introduced to kinky ideas from the explosion of kinky fiction that has been happening for the last few years. Kinky books have been around a lot longer, of course, but I think nobody can contest that their popularity has reached a tipping point. And this book is a great way for folks riding that new wave of kinky books to explore what playing in a kinky world might look like for them.

Why is this sort of book feminist? Or, is it? I know enough kinky feminists of various genders to believe pretty deeply that kink can definitely be one tool in the toolbox for feminists. (See also recent-ish posts about The Feminist Porn Book.  I also understand that this is not a universally held view among feminists (what is?).  The straightforward, gender-neutral style of Taormino's book makes a good implicit argument for the former.  

The first section tackles a bunch of myths that sometimes surround BDSM and kinky culture--she explains that myths about all submissives having low self-esteem, about all BDSM being straight-up abuse, that all dominants are sociopaths and like like are just that: myths. She then dives right into how important consent is, and, more importantly, gives a few examples of how folks can begin to conscientiously navigate consent in a kinky relationship. To me, that's feminist as hell. 

This book is definitely a primer. It's written as a solid intro, in quick, plain-language sections without a lot of special jargon (and explanations when jargon is used):
"Play is a common term used to describe the practice of BDSM, as in, "I want to play with a bondage expert so I can learn more about it." It can also be used as an adjective:  "My play partner caned me really well at Susan's play party.  I'm glad I set up that play date!"
Because I Love Wonder Woman, and Couldn't Resist
Taormino doesn't stop there though--I suspect even seasoned kinky folks could get something out of it (aside from buying it for prospective play partners!):
"Cowhide floggers are versatile, and they can create a soft to medium sensation with a tiny bite.  Elk is thicker than deer, and an elkskin flogger creates a heavy, deep, penetrating thud, so it's better for experienced floggers..." 
Another nice style choice for the book is the fact that, unlike some kinky books I've read, Taormino doesn't default to the men-as-dominants, women-as-submissives (mythical) stereotypes, even leaving much-needed room for genderqueer folks by generally steering clear of gender pronouns throughout. This isn't a book for straight people, or queer people, for men, women or genderqueer folks--it's a book for anybody with a growing interest in kink. All this and an into from another favorite feminist writer, Rachel Kramer Bussel

Highly recommended.

Linky goodness:
Buy directly from Cleis press here
Buy from Amazon here.
Taormino's website is here.
Tristan also has a fantastic podcast that I listen to a lot: Sex Out Loud

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