Black, White and the Gray

Has anyone else noticed the erosion of the middle ground?

While thinking about what I wanted to say today, my thoughts were initially on sex (I know, shocker, right?) and how there are moments when I feel like I’ve stepped back into the Victorian era. But the more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me. It’s not that we’ve gone back completely to the days where chastity belts were used (and not for kink) and sex was not done in polite society for any purpose but procreation. No. I have too many friends who know how to let their freak flag fly for that to be the case. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of middle ground anymore. Maybe E.L. James’ title, 50 Shades Of Grey, was more apropos than she realized…or maybe she’s a lot more savvy than we give her credit for.

A little while back a friend and I got to talking about how sex questions seem to find a way into my lap. Some of you may even remember that I did a blog post detailing a few of the questions that have floated my way over the years. Somehow we jumped from that to my penchant for pleasure parties. I casually mentioned that it had been a while since I’d hosted such an event and that it might be fun to revisit. Those parties tended to be a blast and the antics that often followed made for some hilarious storytelling amongst friends! Her reaction surprised me.

Me: It has been a while since I’ve hosted a toy party. Maybe I should do it again once I have some free time.
Her: Uh… If you have one of those parties, don’t bother inviting me, ok? Trust me, my feelings won’t be hurt.
Me: Huh?
Her: (Scrunches her nose) That’s not my kind of thing.
Me: Pleasure parties? They’re a ton of fun, but okay. No big deal. Have you ever been to one?
Her: No. I don’t need that kind of thing.
Me: What kind of thing?
Her: Sex toys. My man is all I need, right hon? (Rubbing his forearm)
Me: (blinking) Okay. Does that mean you’ve never used a sex toy?
Her: No. I don’t need to. They just seem unnatural.
Me: (biting tongue) Everybody’s different.

Yes, that was a big eye blink moment for me. It never occurred to me that I might have a friend who was completely closed minded about the topic of pleasure enhancers.

My friend is a sweetheart. She really is. It really surprised me that she bought into the misconceptions about sex toys. I dropped the conversation so she wouldn’t get uncomfortable, but I couldn’t help but notice her man’s face. He was kind of digging the idea of her going to a party and maybe bringing something home for them to play with. In fact, you could tell he thought it was a very cool concept (not that I would ever point that out to her–it’s just not my place).

Before you misunderstand, I’m not judging my friend. There’s no right or wrong. Her choices are her own. What did take me aback was that there is still the perception out there that adult toys were somehow designed to replace the need for a real, live partner. Considering how unhappy she’d been in her first marriage and our talks about her dissatisfaction with the physical aspect, it never occurred to me that she hadn’t forayed into the world of assisted self pleasure. It also never occurred to me that she’d be so adamantly opposed to the idea as to be mildly judgmental as to why their used. Thankfully, I’m past the point where I feel the need to defend my every choice or explain their purposes in my own bedroom. Our choices, our lives, our consequences.

So you may be thinking to yourself…those are sex toys. That’s not exactly a mild topic. Okay….let’s go a little more tame. How about erotic romance books? As many of you know, erotic romances are near and dear to my heart for obvious reasons… It’s the genre that holds my passion for writing. In fact, it wasn’t very long ago that Bring Back Desire asked me to write a post about why I enjoy erotic romance from a writer’s perspective and how I believe it can enhance a woman’s life.

It was while I prepared this piece that I remembered a chat I’d been involved in regarding love and marriage. The topic of erotic romances was introduced with the following question: “Do you feel that 50 Shades Of Grey and other erotic romances have changed the way women approach sex? If so, how?” It was a fair question. Personally, as many of you know, the book wasn’t my cup of tea, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s been very popular and has opened the doors for many very talented authors to finally get the attention they deserve. Most women said that such books have given them the courage to ask for what they want from their partners in the bedroom. Others said that it’s opened the doors to their imagination to exploration in areas they’ve never considered before. Still more mentioned opened their eyes to more than just “missionary” sex. All those things are great pluses for maintaining strong, healthy relationships.

What did surprise me? The responses of a few women. Some felt it necessary to criticize those who read such “garbage”. Others turned their noses down at the books and said things like “I don’t know how people can read books like that without laughing hilariously. That stuff isn’t real.” or “Those books are unrealistic and a waste of people’s hard earned money.” Okay, let’s be honest for a second. There are definitely some bad writers out there. That could be the cause of such condescending remarks, right? Were they just talking about the overall storyline? Because I can tell you from practical knowledge, most of those “dirty parts” are quite doable and usually pretty dead on. Was it wrong of me to wonder what their sex lives must be like?

The funny thing for those of us who’ve loved the genre for years (both as readers and writers)…we’ve heard it all…and have probably referred to our beloved books by those same nicknames. You know, trashy romance novels, smut books, that sort of thing. It doesn’t really offend us because we love it!

I also realize that reading erotic romances isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. But to criticize other people because they derive pleasure from it? Come on.

So why did I mention “gray area” in the beginning? Maybe partially because I can be a person of intense emotions. I’ve been told that there isn’t much of a middle ground within my personal spectrum. But it’s more than that. When dealing with sex, it seems that somehow our society has created two sides. Those that are very open to exploration, new concepts, “alternative lifestyles”. They often have a “wild” side (even if it’s hidden way back in their closet, only to be taken out with their trusted partner). Or those that are practically puritanical in their beliefs. They believe that sex isn’t something that should be discussed openly and definitely not in mixed company…and you get the rest.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m way off base. What do you guys think? Are there other places where you’ve noticed the lack of gray area? Because I’ll be honest with you…I don’t think the lack of gray is limited to just sex…. I won’t even touch politics because that just gets downright nasty!

So, like Salt ‘n’ Pepa said… Let’s Talk About Sex. You know I love it when you share what you’re thinking!

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46 thoughts on “Black, White and the Gray

  1. John W. Howell says:

    I think life has become a matter of doing the necessary and holding the optional till later. When you get involved in work, family, social network etc. Time consuming stuff like sex falls into the optional. Not sure. but I think people are doing less of the optional and don’t really care.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thanks for weighing in, John. Gosh, I hope you’re not right about life becoming a matter of doing the necessary. I don’t know how you feel on the matter, but personally speaking, if we limit ourselves simply to the necessary, we miss out on the joys and purpose of life. :-/ As for sex…it doesn’t always have to be time consuming. 😉 Quickies are named what they are for a reason. Hehehe! But seriously, for me sex is a form of expression and physical intimacy. I’d hate to throw that away for convenience sake.

      I’d never considered it from the want v. need perspective before! Thanks.

  2. Jessi Gage says:

    I love this post, Kitt. Erotic romance is my favorite genre to read. It makes`me happy. It turns me on. I’m a conservative gal in some respects, but when I hit the kindle store, I’m a total freak! I love buying erotic romance and supporting some of the wicked talented authors that write in it.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thanks, Jessi. As for being a freak in the Kindle store…Good on ya! Everyone should have a little bit of a freaky side. Plus, honestly, I’ve found that allowing yourself to be open-minded about sex translates into a special intimacy with your partner….not to mention that it opens up the doors of communication.

  3. Katie says:

    Well, personally I think I’m somewhere in between. I consider myself a pretty private person, so when my boyfriend jokes about condoms or stuff like that in public, part of me wants to die right on the spot, which I know is a little ridiculous. That said, I wonder if your perhaps your friend is one of the more easily embarrassed types who might be uncomfortable admitting she’d be interested in something like that, not that she’s wrong if that isn’t the case. I have no problem trying new things… I just don’t like to broadcast it, and that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with people being more open about it, it’s just something I like to guard a little more closely. You never know who’s listening! 😉

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Or getting your catalogs in the mail, right? It’s strange. There was a time when I cared what people heard or found out about me. I think working in hospitals and retail kind of cured me of most of it… Although, when I was a manager, I chose nearby towns to cut loose and let my hair down rather than the town I was from. My face was too well known in the community and tied to my business.

      As for the embarrassment factor, I know it applies to many people… Trust me when I say that definitely does not apply to her.

  4. ramblingsfromamum says:

    I do enoy a good wham bam…. I mean erotic novel. This is so individual – those that are absolute fiends in the bedroom but quiet, unassuming to the ‘real world’. Those who are fully out there with their beliefs, who are pretty much show ponies and are dead in the budoir department. Let me just say (good grief) that I was ‘active’ quite young (well back then it wasn’t considered young). I had quite a few partners along the way, I have never been afraid of sex or toys for that matter. I guess I don’t go advertising what I do (or don’t) during someone’s wheat-bix conversation. As you get older and yes my lovely your time will come, as John has mentioned ‘the act’ is not as frequent, quickies are that and probably there are more of those because we are too bloody tired for a ‘longy’ (I know that sounded awkward) . One can still have the intimacy without necessarily bonking like a bunny..I am as usual digging a hole here so I shall scurry off….ciao!!! U – Turn – good post pet xx

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      A longie…love it! “The act” doesn’t have to be frequent to be potent. I guess my surprise comes at the prudishness and judgmental behavior should such topics come up. Personally, I don’t care what happens in the bedroom as long as people are happy…it just seems that lately the people I meet are either VERY open minded & accepting or very closed minded. There’s not been a whole lot of middle ground…

  5. Jenny Hansen says:

    I’m reading one of Roni Loren’s erotic romances right now…and can I just say, my man LOVES it when I do that!! LOL.

    I think the old adage that sex is 10% of the relationship is true UNLESS IT’S BROKEN. Then it becomes 90% of the relationship because it’s not about the sex, its type or its frequency: it’s about communication. Couples who communicate well are going to be happy in their bedroom.

    Or they can do what my guy and I did, which was keep our premarital counselor. Once a month we put all topics on the table, whether we knew we needed to or not. 🙂

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Roni is awesome. Her stuff definitely has a significant heat factor. 🙂 I totally get why your hubs enjoys when you read her books.

      I’d never heard about the adage of 10%. I do think that when it’s broke folks tend to either compensate with lots of it (so they aren’t required to communicate) or none at all (so there is no intimacy, emotional or otherwise).

      And I think your guy is very forward thinking. Go you, two! (Is it strange that Mr & Mrs Smith popped into my head when you mentioned counseling?)

  6. Phil Lanoue says:

    It’s funny I was just reading recently how there is a lot less overt sex in mainstream movies these days. There is so much they would never even consider including in scenes in current film making that were thought of as no big deal back in the 70s and 80s for instance.
    At a first quick thought you may assume it would be the opposite but guess not.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Isn’t it strange? We went from “free love” to sexual regression in some cases. I don’t know if it’s bad or good, just one of those things that gets you scratching your head and wondering.

  7. Emma says:

    I think Sex and the City helped at lot of women to start talking freely about sex with their friends and their man. And we still do. 🙂

  8. Elia Winters (@EliaWinters) says:

    I’m always surprised when my friends express an aversion to sex toys. I’ve probably thrown away more sex toys than most people have ever owned, and I’m in the middle of a multi-part blog on the various types of toys available. I’m also an avid reader of erotic romance, and of course it’s my favorite thing to write!

    We still live in a society where slut-shaming is rampant. If a woman is open and confident about her sexuality, she’s often shamed and insulted – and other women are often the first to do so! I hope we can become more sex-positive as a culture.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      I like you!!!

      Sadly, I agree about the slut-shaming attitude. Worse, I’ve noticed that behavior rarely comes from men these days. I can’t figure out why we choose to be so cruel to each other.

      Sex toys, huh? Love it! My most popular post is actually the one I did on common household items that can double as sex toys.

  9. Tameri Etherton says:

    My book club read 50 Shades back in January and our meeting that month was a sex toy party. So much fun! I have a Pinterest board with all the cool decorations the hostess made for the party. It was phenomenal.

    Funniest thing about the party? I discovered someone I thought was a lot like your friend is actually a super freak in the bedroom! It was hilarious and great to connect with my gal pals on a whole different level. I love reading erotica and writing it, too. I have no problem talking about sex, but have to remember there are those who do, so I tone it down if someone is uncomfortable around me. I can be a bit over the top at times. Shocker, I know!

    Something I did as a mom to my daughter and son is, I’ve talked openly with them about sex since they had sex education at school. I want them to know it’s okay to know their bodies and to ask for what they want in the bedroom. I don’t want them to ever go through the motions because they’re too shy to say anything. Sex is fabulous, not shameful!

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      It’s hilarious that the friend you expected to be like mine was not…and I expected my friend wasn’t…but she was! LOL! Just goes to show, you never know.

      I think it’s great that you opened those lines of communication with your kids. Oddly enough, I think my mom had the general reproductive system talk with me when I was 3 or 4 because she’d heard somewhere that parents needed to do it early because if they didn’t, kids would find out all the wrong things from places you’d rather they didn’t learn.

      Of course for her, this discussion consisted of actual health books, anatomy books and encyclopedias… As I got older the conversation was more “sex is bad/a sin until you’re married”. She had fears of me getting knocked up early. I surprised her and everyone else by being quite the tease, but holding on to my virginity till I was 20 (not that I EVER shared that with her). Heck, I didn’t even tell her when I got my first period…she was so disappointed that she didn’t get to have the “You’re a woman now” talk…but I knew what to do with a pad, so I felt compelled to skip what would’ve been a great convo for her and a mortifying one for me. LOL!

  10. filbio says:

    I find that my friends and I here in NYC are very open about discussing sex and our likes and fetishes. I do think they way people think about sex is also reflective of where they live or were brought up in this country. There are definitely some regions where it’s very puritanical as compared to the bigger cities where I feel it’s more open about sex.

  11. Professor Taboo says:

    Kitt, I totally understand your ‘passive’ position with your sweetheart friend — pick your battles — however, keep 2 things in mind: 1) she divulged HER position openly & firmly (she didn’t have to) so within the etiquette of dialog, she opened it up for discussion intentionally or not; but of course there is no need to fuel any flames if it gets out-of-hand & disrespectful. And 2) you and I (in all likelihood) would agree along with medical & neurological science that frequent, creative, intense, healthy, non-monotonous sex has OOGLES of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits! “Sweetheart friend” is actually not as healthy as she could be; though it is indeed her choice, she can/should be reminded that medically & neurologically her anxiety and/or stress levels may be higher (or get higher) than they need to be.

    However, the human mind is a superb indirect manipulator of avoiding our own fears; in that case, egos need CONSTANT maintenance especially when something would be extremely good for it. 😉

    Great post!

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      You’re right about the benefits…we are in complete agreement. I actually considered pushing her a little more by discussing the medical benefits, then chose to step away. Turns out it was a right call to make. She’s also a bit judgmental when it comes to sex with multiple partners or anything else that would fall under the “non-traditional hetero” umbrella.

      Strangely enough, I think the universe is trying to open her to new experiences. Her older sister who’d been estranged from her family since she was a kid has reconnected now that her parents are gone. Except her sister is now her brother.

        • Kitt Crescendo says:

          Not a chance, but that would be interesting. Her husband is definitely much more open minded about that sort of thing than she is. (Probably why my guy and hers tease her about going to the strip club every time the go golfing.)

          Strangely enough, when I used to work the traditional job, hubby used to have to go to dinner with them alone because I was working. They had a fave waitress who was about 20 & cute. She would sit next to him as they’d all joke around. My friend took a picture of them together & threatened to “tell on him about his new, younger girlfriend”. Hubby laughed and told her to go ahead. One night when I was finally able to come, he introduced me. When the waitress left the table he turned and asked “what do you think?” I said she was cute and that we could “do” her if he wanted, but to remember next choice was mine. Our friend’s jaw practically hit the floor. Of course, it was all in jest, but it’s good to broaden her horizons.

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