E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey series has sold an astounding 20 million copies in the U.S. alone. We asked Passional Boutique and Sexploratorium’s resident sex educator Andrea Renae, who’s hosting a more realistic workshop on BDSM play titled “50 Shades Safer” this weekend, to help us navigate the hype.
City Paper: Why is this book so popular?
Andrea Renae: This is not the first book of its kind, and won’t be the last, but the media coverage and discussion around this particular series is undeniable. The book is written more like a romance novel than erotic fiction, which is far more accessible to the general population. For those who were intrigued by the 50 Shades series, I recommend Please, Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission by Rachel Kramer Bussel or The Beauty series by Anne Rice.
CP: How realistically is BDSM portrayed in the book?
AR: Like all romance novels, this book is based on fantasy. It is entertaining, but it is not a realistic guide to BDSM. When practicing BDSM, it is imperative that all play be safe, sane and consensual. Certain aspects of 50 Shades definitely go against that creed. Even though [the protagonist] consents to it, asking someone to sign a slave contract before getting properly acquainted is unsafe and negligent. Think of it like dating: You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you before dating them for a little while, right? I was pleased to see how communication was presented. People think the submissive partner doesn’t have a say in what happens to them. Yet, prior to a play session, hard limits are discussed and agreed upon, including a pre-determined safe word. Throughout the book, [the dominant character] promotes [the sub’s] use of safe words and encourages her to verbalize consent — definitely the most realistic part of the book.
CP: What are some tips on introducing BDSM in the bedroom?
AR: Take things slow and communicate. BDSM can range from light and sensual to heavy and extreme. It’s a good rule of thumb to start with something simple and work your way up as you explore different types of play. One idea could be as easy as introducing toys, such as blindfolds, fuzzy handcuffs and gentle teasers. But remember, your partner is not a mind reader. Make sure to constantly communicate your fantasies ... and your limits. BDSM — and sex in general — is always more enjoyable when everyone involved is on the same page.
Sat., Aug. 11, 7 p.m., $20, Sexploratorium, 620 S. Fifth St., 215-923-1398, passion101classes.com.