FORGET 50 SHADES
Vanilla sex is back on the menu
At the end of July, an invitation hit the desks of journalists everywhere, requesting their RSVP for a very exclusive event. No, it wasn’t a movie premiere or fancy dinner – it was for a trailer. Specifically, the 50 Shades of Grey trailer. But when it finally came out, it was met with, well, yawns. It’s no doubt one helluva sexy preview, but for all intents, purposes, and reaction, it could just be a particularly raunchy fragrance ad.
It’s a big change from two years ago, when bookstore queues everywhere fizzled with intrigue, and readers were schooled in the art of sadomasochism (S&M) by the bestselling erotic novel. In our heads (or otherwise), bed sheets became binding and vanilla was only welcome if it came in the form of ice-cream served on a six-pack, but with the anti-climactic reaction on the 50 Shades screen front, and this year’s Lelo (A Swedish intimate lifestyle product manufacturer) sex survey revealing 80 per cent of women found that their expectations of their fantasies fell short of reality, it can only mean one thing. Perhaps, vanilla sex is back on the menu.
The Drop In Grey’s Fanatomy
Poor vanilla, it hasn’t stood a chance since we all ate around the slab of white in Neapolitan ice-cream tubs as kids. It sat alongside “beige” and “missionary” as code for yawning our way to mediocre orgasms. But the stats from Lelo’s 2014 sex survey paint a sexual picture of snuggles over straps and whips. “I think with
50 Shades Of Grey came a huge pressure to pretend to be interested in all things un-vanilla,” says sexologist Vanessa Thompson (nsw-sexologyservices.com.au). “I think once the fanfare died down, women felt a lot more comfortable expressing their sexuality in a way that feels right for themselves.”
Even for those who didn’t read the book, or one of the many variations that rode its erotic fiction coat-tails, there was an undeniable sniff of sharp-edged stilettos in the air. If not in practice, at least in our fantasies. The act of sex itself took on a rough edge and the half-joking “What would your ‘safe word’ be?” was discussed over dinner with girlfriends as casually as plans for the weekend. Then came the 400 per cent increase in Lelo’s luxury bedroom accessories (read: whips, straps, massage oils, and antibacterial cleaner… hey, kinky is still clean). And for the good chunk of us who spedread through the pages of mind-blowing sex in the book (which should’ve been questioned from Anastasia’s first-ever sexual experience of climaxing, twice!), then the comparing started. “I made comparisons between the book and our sex life,” admits Ally, 29, who has been with her partner for four years and has a child. “Our intimacy level was like that of the characters’, and it made me feel like the actual act itself should be more adventurous. I’m sure at the time my partner felt he was under pressure to perform.” But, as Ally now muses, “We were chatting about the book with a group of friends, and my partner asked me, ‘You do know that it’s fiction, right?’”
Of course, S&M was not invented with the publication of 50 Shades. Many couples, singles and groups have been enjoying this brand of sexual experience for years, and still do. With all parties actively onboard, it’s as healthy a sex scene as any. But, as many exasperated hipsters (before “hipsters” became a thing) will testify, mainstream trends will just garner hype and then be dropped when they’re not hot. And it’s not just the trend lifespan that has us putting away the handcuffs. As with almost all advancements in women’s liberation (sexual or otherwise), once we’re given a new once-restricted avenue to explore, it gives permission for discussions, and, ultimately, choice.