No Judgments. No Limits. No Shame.
It’s probably pretty apparent these days that erotica – female erotica in any case – is becoming more and more mainstream. A few years ago, these books would have remained regulated to the back of the bookstore, a narrow bookshelf next to the “Romances” without even their own label, nestled in between the Harlequins and the Historicals. But then something strange happened – a story, better yet – A story first conceived of as fan fiction and put on the internet under “fair use” doctrine of American IP law (Fair Dealing, if you’re Canadian like me)generated enough user interest that a book deal was offered. And after a flurry of editing (that did not, apparently include grammar) to adapt it from “fan fiction” to just “fiction” (tell me if you want to hear more on that, I can do a post about it) – the 50 Shades franchise was born.
And yes, there was criticism. Female sexuality is such a scary thing that there are plenty of people who would continuously try and restrict it as much as possible. There are various theories about that, and I won’t go into them here, but suffice it to say that women were having none of it – and we bought 50 shades, we read about BDSM and fetishes and realized we actually liked the sexuality therein. So we demanded more.
And suddenly Sylvia Day, Sylvain Reynard and titles like 50 Shades of Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre Laid Bare were at the front of Indigo and Borders – sitting brazenly atop a pile of other erotic books with the commonality that they were all bestsellers.
This is all to say that, if not for all this, then S.E.C.R.E.T. would never have caught on the way it has, coming out just as the wave of erotic women’s literature has crested.
I bought it as an early birthday present, read it in about three days, and I actually enjoyed it. It is part erotica and part traditional romance – we have an older woman who is living in New Orleans, a city she settled in with her abusive ex husband who then died on her before the ink was dry on divorce papers. Since his death she has led a mostly sexually repressed life working for her crush at his diner, as a waitress. So, it starts off quite contentedly as a traditional romance novel. We have our heroine, and we can guess at who our hero will be, now we just have to wait for circumstances to throw them together in throes of passion and sexual fulfillment …
But this is not so traditional as it turns out.
The catch of S.E.C.R.E.T. is the organization that finds its way to our heroine, Cassie, just at the point where she’s about to give up in generally. This organization – run by women, for women – seeks to make women happier and more confident through the expression of their sexual desires – whatever they may be. Cue threesomes, blindfolded, celebrity and rescue scenario sex games.
The point is to take care of yourself – to stop putting the norms of society and the pleasures of men ahead of your own pleasures. Or at least, that is how I took it. I actually quite enjoyed Cassie’s progression, and though I felt the end was rushed (an obvious – and successful – attempt to garner a sequel, because honestly, you cannot end like that …) the whole of the novel struck me as particularly well thought out and pretty damn good.
And funnily enough, what struck me most was not the sex or the eroticism. Rather it was this passage, when Cassie is contemplating going with the organization:
What is it about going out alone, seeing a movie alone , or enjoying dinner alone, that is so difficult? I could never bring myself to do it, preferring instead rent a movie at home rather than sit alone in a darkened theater. But the alone part wasn’t what I was afraid of. The alone part was easy; I’d felt alone my whole life, even when I was married. No, I was afraid that everyone else, all these people, coupled and cozy, would see me as one of the Great Unpicked, the Sadly Unselected, the Sexually Forgotten. I imagined that they would point and whisper. I imagined that they would pity me.
– S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline, pg. 87
This discussion of why women are driven into unhappy circumstances – be it shacking up with the wrong person just to stave off being alone, or cloistering yourself in your apartment so no one can see you there, being alone – and the parameters of this self examination under society’s eyes – it’s breathtaking in a way, because I have so seldom read about it – instead hearing it through drunken admissions from me or my girlfriends – and sometimes my guyfriends.
What a remarkable statement. To address loneliness in erotica.
The Walrus, my favourite Canadian magazine, addressed this book in an article recently. While I do not agree with the conclusions reached by the articles – the cartoon and the discussion is enough that I recommend everyone interested on this topic to go ahead and read it. It’s about as fair as mainstream magazines will be towards erotica …
I recommend S.E.C.R.E.T. – it’s a good story with a bit of a rushed ending, and I think the heroine, Cassie, has a lot of potential that will continue to flower in the next installment!
I will end off with this tidbit – L Marie may be writing about a waitress from Michigan who lives in New Orleans, but she is CANADIAN! Alright, I’m done 🙂
Cheers to all!
Next Review: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan