FOR­GET 50 SHADES

Vanilla sex is back on the menu

CLEO (Malaysia) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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