TIME sexuality

Fifty Shades of Grey Gets Women Into Porn, Research Says

After reading the best-selling book, some women begin using pornography for the first time

E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is introducing more women to porn — at least according to a narrow study conducted at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

Researcher Diana Parry interviewed 28 women in their 20s to 50s about their pornography habits. She discovered that women in the group increased their consumption of sexually explicit content after reading the book.

“So many of the women [we interviewed] were hopping in for the first time to pornography or sexually explicit material that was written by women for women,” Parry told Salon in an interview.

“I find it’s motivating women. It is exposing them to a genre of material that they either didn’t know existed or they didn’t know that they liked,” the professor said.

Parry employed a broad definition of porn, using a catchall label of “sexually explicit material” to reduce stigma surrounding erotica, porn websites and other sexual entertainment.

“But I think we need a cautionary note around it, because while they open up opportunities and provide women with unprecedented access to new genres or ways of thinking about their sexuality, at the same time, many of the scripts that are reproduced are really patriarchal scripts around women’s sexuality.”

[Salon]

MONEY Holidays

These Miserable Guys Say Valentine’s Day Is a Ploy By ‘Oppressive Chocolate Capitalists’

Vday chocolates on shelf
Denis Beaumont—AP

Imagine if the Grinch hated Valentine's Day instead of Christmas. A group of dudes with this kind of mentality are planning a march in protest of the "blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine's Day" on Saturday.

A reasonable case can be made that Valentine’s Day is too forced and commercial. It’s the ultimate Hallmark holiday, the argument goes, in which many people spend purely out of a sense of obligation, based on traditions cooked up ages ago by entrepreneurs pushing chocolates, greeting cards, jewelry, and roses. This week, for instance, the Miami Herald reported that over the course of half a century, Colombia has spent a fortune developing and marketing flowers to export to the U.S., and the result is that today three out of four flower orders delivered on Valentine’s Day originate in the country.

The point is that no matter how much Valentine’s Day has to do with genuine displays of love and affection, it’s also about marketing and making money. Big whoop, you might think. Every holiday, from Thanksgiving to Halloween and beyond, is exploited by somebody trying to make a buck.

Apparently, however, one angry group of men in Japan feel that they can’t stay quiet or simply ignore the holiday they view as offensive and oppressive. They are planning a “Smash Valentine’s Day” protest march in Tokyo on Saturday to get their voices heard.

As you might imagine, these haters and their movement aren’t big hits with the ladies. In fact, they admit as much. The group’s name is Kakuhido, which translates roughly as “Revolutionary Alliance of Men That Women Find Unattractive” or just “Revolutionary Unattractive Male Alliance.”

A call to arms on has been issued on group’s website, the (UK) Telegraph reported. “The blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine’s Day, driven by the oppressive chocolate capitalists, has arrived once again,” reads the announcement about Saturday’s planned demonstration. “In order to create a brighter future, we call for solidarity among our unloved comrades so that we may demonstrate in resolute opposition to Valentine’s Day and the romantic industrial complex.”

On the one hand, Katsuhiro Furusawa, who founded the “Revolutionary” group in 2006 after (surprise) being dumped by his girlfriend before Christmas, is sometimes known to express a sensible point of view. “The love the mass media is talking about is actually commercial love,” he explained of Valentine’s Day to one magazine. “They are using love to turn people into consumers.”

Yet Tokyo Reporter noted that, by and large, “Kakuhido’s beliefs are misogynistic.” They’re anti-woman, anti-marriage, and also just plain angry and sad. And it’s not just Valentine’s Day they hate. The group hosted an anti-Christmas demonstration last December, reportedly because they were “tired of feeling lonely and depressed by the lack of female companionship during the holiday season.”

Sad. Let’s hope that come Saturday, a Grinch-like miracle happens and the hearts of Kakuhido members grow three sizes on Valentine’s Day.

TIME Sex

Fifty Shades of Grey and How One Sex Act Went Mainstream

A cultural evolution, from 'Fanny Hill' to 'Fifty Shades'

In 1976, a survey was distributed to American women through magazines like Cosmopolitan. The questions it asked were personal — very personal — and the answers, compiled in The Hite Report, were a landmark insight into female sexuality. Women were asked to describe their experiences, desires and disappointments. In a 1987 story, TIME praised the report’s author, Shere Hite as “the doyenne of sex polls” and “liberator of the female libido.”

(Read more from TIME’s archive on Shere Hite and her research on sex in America.)

In their anonymous responses, women vented and raved about both sexual practices and social attitudes. One of the findings that might shock audiences today, however, was actually one of the least “free love” of all. Buried in the section about receiving oral sex (and not even listed in the index), was a question about fellatio. One woman’s comment (expressed in blunter language than can be used here): “I would consider [it] with a loaded gun at my head. No other way.”

Reading that line, I wondered where that woman is now. Perhaps she’ll be one of the millions of people off to see Fifty Shades of Grey this week: the story of a young woman’s sexual awakening in which said act accounts for some of the tale’s least provocative moments. Advice about it is now a staple of Cosmopolitan today; indeed, today’s readers are told that it’s basically “the kickoff…for sex.”

How did attitudes change, and so quickly? As recently as the 1970s, this was certainly not something that a gentleman would expect. Today, the act is something more like bread before dinner: noteworthy only if it’s absent.

But there’s more to the history behind that change than a simple move toward permissiveness — and, it turns out, the ubiquity and “standardness” of fellatio is perhaps not as widespread as one might believe.

***

Fellatio has been happening for as long as humans have been around, and there are references to it from ancient Peru and classical Rome. Cultures and religions, however, have not all taken—and still do not take—the same attitude towards it.

I went to the Kama Sutra, thinking that would be an obvious starting place for historical ideas about the topic, but its discussion of fellatio is fairly brief, associating it with dirty and loose women. (Interestingly, the Kama Sutra spends much longer on the erotic quality of using one’s fingernails to impress dents in a lover’s skin.)

That classic of the dirty book canon, 1748’s Fanny Hill, makes no reference at all to fellatio, which suggests it wasn’t something commonly offered in London brothels at the time (or else that it wasn’t something that the clammy-handed readers of smut novels were expected to want). In American legal texts of the early 1900s, fellatio was clearly for fellas. The statutes referring to it, originally falling under the vaguely defined idea of “unnatural acts,” were about catching gay men. Hetero oral sex tended to get passing references in pre-World War II sex manuals, the kind that talk about the need for a man to “instruct” his presumably virgin bride. Apparently some healthy couples indulged in this kind of thing, the message ran, but it’s not part of most people’s repertoire. In 1919’s Sexual Truth Versus Sexual Lies, Misconceptions, and Exaggerations, the author wrote that cunnilingus and fellatio “are very common in the less worthy marriages.”

In his 2000 study, The Social Organization of Sexuality, sexual behaviorist E. O. Laumann theorized that oral sex became more popular in the 1920s. Laumann’s surveys, which describe the sexual histories of various age cohorts, show a big jump in oral sex right about the time when the baby boomers started hooking up. The sexual revolution brought fellatio into the public consciousness, via its most famous practitioner, Linda Lovelace.

Despite the counter-cultural frisson of the subversive act going mainstream, there’s indication that not everyone was on board with it at this point. Women started to write about fellatio, but as something they merely did, much more rarely as something they enjoyed. The narrator of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying (1974) references it, unpleasantly. Indeed, as Samantha, the most liberated of the group on Sex and the City, consoled a friend, “there’s a reason it’s called a job.”

The act is barely depicted or mentioned in mainstream films at all before the 1990s, when the act itself became a well-known activity in the Oval Office. Bill Clinton made famous the notion that fellatio is “not sex”, and 60% of teenagers today agree with him. (The idea that it is “not sex” could go part of the way to explaining why people tend not to use protection for it.) At the time of the Starr Report, Newsweek warned readers that some of the activities described would make readers “want to throw up”, which does suggest that their readers in the 1990s (or at least the editors at Newsweek) were still not of the view that the President’s predilections were “standard.”

***

Even today, the “everyone’s doing it” attitude that prevails in sex writing is not entirely accurate.

Perhaps the reason we’ve come to believe that everyone is into oral sex is because it’s most common among white people, and it’s white sex writers who are saying that it’s universal. Yes, 75% of white college women reported in 2001 having done it at least once, according to a 2001 study called “Race, gender, and class in sexual scripts,” but only 56% of Latina and 34% of African American college women say they have. (Of these groups, only 55, 46, and 25%, respectively, describe performing fellatio as appealing).

Other research over the last twenty years bears out these ethnic differences. Among college students in the ’90s in Canada, whites were more likely than Asians to participate in oral sex. In the U.S., a national survey in 2002-2003 of women ages 15 to 44, showed that 84.3% of white women had engaged in fellatio at least once, while only 60% of Hispanic women, and 57.4% of black women had. (That’s “ever in your life,” not “regularly.”) That study’s authors found that whiteness correlated highly with practicing oral sex: “White race, age of 20-44 years, being married and having higher numbers of life time ex-partners were related to having ever given oral sex.”

In addition, though the act is much more common than it once was in mainstream films and TV, not every pop-cultural depiction has caught up with the idea that it’s standard. In some cases, it’s still used as shorthand to suggest that the man receiving it is a jerk. He’s an adulterer, a corrupt cop, or from Wall Street. The message to viewers is disregard for these scumbags mixed with (depending on the film) some level of reluctant admiration for this jerk who manages to be on the receiving end. The message is generally less mixed for the woman involved. For her, the transaction is degrading. Even Tony Soprano thought that it was only for a certain type of woman: when asked why he had a mistress, he explained that his wife “kisses my kids with that mouth.”

In the 2013 film Don Jon, which is hilariously honest about casual sex, the main character describes his girlfriend (played by Scarlett Johansson) as too hot to need to give oral sex—as though that were something only unattractive women have to do, to compensate for their other failings.

Indeed, fellatio is often seen in pop culture as the act of a desperate supplicant begging for favor (see: every single joke ever about a woman earning a promotion on her knees), a source of homophobic innuendo or simply as some kind of punishment.

So how can something that almost “everyone” is doing also be something bad? After a century of rapid evolution in attitudes toward fellatio, we’ve arrived at the warped mindset that something that is seen as degrading and awful is also often seen as obligatory for straight women — and perhaps made even more disturbing by the fact that we ignore the people who prove it’s not obligatory at all.

These cultural differences and paradoxes are ignored in the “this item is standard” mindset. I spoke to several friends while writing this piece, and one told me of having the offer of fellatio declined: the man is from a culture where that just isn’t done. By normalizing a predominantly white practice—and not even one that all white people do—the message is “your culture is having sex incorrectly.”

It’s hard to reconcile a sex-positive attitude that was supposed to allow women freedom to express their needs with the mindset that says oral sex is compulsory. In fifty years, fellatio has gone from a niche (and in many places illegal) sexual activity—which at least would have offered the frisson of an illicit thrill—to something not only normal, but also presented by mainstream culture as obligatory.

And as attitudes toward the one act have changed, that progression has perhaps created space for other acts to move from niche to mainstream (see porn, Internet). And other formerly-rare practices among heterosexuals seem to be heading towards that tipping point. Just look at Fifty Shades of Grey. If you’re looking for a hint that bondage and sadomasochism have breached the mainstream, how about an R-rated movie that breaks ticket presale records? Though Anastasia Steele’s oral-sex choices might have once scandalized audiences, today they’re just filler before the real action begins.

TIME relationships

This Is the Exact Number of Dates You Need to Go On Before Sex Is Acceptable

To two decimal places, no less

A global survey of the dating preferences of 11,000 people in 24 cities has come up with an answer to a frequent problem of modern etiquette: How many dates do you go on before it becomes reasonable to expect to sleep with someone?

The average answer, according to the Global Dating Survey 2015 by Time Out, is 3.53 dates — or “mid-fourth date, after the mains have been cleared and just before the crème brûlée arrives.”

Only 1 in 10 people feels that it’s O.K. to expect sex at the end of the first date.

Read the rest of the findings here.

MONEY gifts

6 Totally Unromantic Truths About Valentine’s Day Spending

Greeting cards to send to your loved ones for Valentine's Day
Richard Levine—Alamy

Sure, people celebrate Valentine's Day to show how much they love that very special someone in their lives. But that's not the only reason people spend big bucks for Valentine's Day.

You’ve probably seen the headlines about how Americans will spend $18.9 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, which would be an all-time high. Before you buy the idea that Americans are simply gaga over the big lovey-dovey holiday and eager to splurge to demonstrate their feelings, let’s take a closer look at how people are spending their Valentine’s dollars, how spending changes over time—and why we celebrate this day the way we do in the first place.

Here’s some research to consider regarding Valentine’s Day spending:

One-quarter of men spend because they feel obligated or are just trying to get lucky. According to an Offers.com poll, roughly half of men say they celebrate Valentine’s Day in order to “spend quality time with my partner.” However, nearly one-quarter of men admit that they mark Valentine’s Day out of a sense of obligation or “because they’re hoping to get lucky.” Meanwhile, 13% of women say they celebrate just “because everyone else does.”

The longer the relationship, and the older you get, the less you spend. Love may or may not fade over time, but the likelihood of going all out on Valentine’s gifts sure seems to die the longer couples are together. One poll shows that men spend an average of $154 on fiancés, versus $136 for wives, while another survey indicates those in the prime spouse-seeking and newlywed 25- to 34-year-old demographic outspend all other age groups. Unsurprisingly, couples with longer-lasting relationships are less likely to make Valentine’s Day plans far in advance. Roughly half of couples who have been together for less than five years say they prepare at least a month ahead for Valentine’s, compared with only one-third of people who have been a significant other for more than five years.

Americans will spend more than $700 million on Valentine’s gifts … for pets. That’s according to the National Retail Federation. And that’s roughly double what we spend on Halloween costumes for pets, which is probably good—surely your dog prefers a Valentine’s snack to being dressed up in a ludicrous Madonna outfit.

1 in 5 women buy Valentine’s gifts … for themselves. Data cited by the Society of American Florists indicates that while men are more likely to buy Valentine’s gifts for their spouses—63% of men versus 30% of women—the ladies are more inclined to buy for their moms (30% versus 11% of men), friends (19% versus 7%) and themselves (19% versus 1%).

Rose prices spike just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s not just your imagination. Roses really do get more expensive around February 14. While wholesale prices vary depending on location, florists say they typically pay twice as much for roses in early February than they do at most other times of year. Increased transportation costs and extra labor are among the reasons often given for why rose prices are inflated around now, but overall it boils down to supply and demand: Roses cost more for Valentine’s Day because people are willing to pay more.

The two people most responsible for modern-day Valentine’s Day were entrepreneurs trying to make a buck. For centuries, Valentine’s Day was a mashup of a wild Roman pagan festival known as Lupercalia and the celebration of two Catholic saints (both named Valentine) who were executed on February 14. By the Middle Ages, it had become somewhat of a tradition to offer a handmade card or flowers to one’s beloved. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s, however, that it became popular to give mass-produced chocolates and Valentine’s messages, and we have two business-minded visionaries to thank for this.

First, there’s Richard Cadbury, a member of the famous chocolate-making family that been perfecting the bite-sized delectable then known as “eating chocolate.” Cadbury had the brilliant idea of packaging and selling these chocolates in heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day, and the rest is history.

MORE 17 Memorable Kisses Throughout History

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a Massachusetts woman named Esther Howland was building her reputation as the “Mother of the American Valentine” for designing and popularizing high-quality lace-paper Valentine cards featuring messages of love and devotion. It was unusual at the time for a woman to run a business, yet Howland set up an all-female assembly line and kept the New England Valentine Company thriving for decades. First and foremost, one museum curator said of Howland to NPR, “She’s a businesswoman … I mean it is lacy, beautiful, feminine material that she’s producing, but she’s producing it successfully and making money.”

TIME Sex/Relationships

Your IUD and Implant Last Much Longer Than They Claim, Study Says

IUD birthcontrol
Photo Illustration by Mia Tramz for TIME; Corbis

These long-acting contraceptives might last even longer than you think

Two highly effective contraceptives—the intrauterine device (IUD) and the implant—actually last much longer than they are currently recommended, according to new research.

In a new study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers discovered that the hormonal IUD and the implant are highly effective a year after they are currently approved for use.

MORE: The IUD Answer: Why The Best Form of Birth Control is the One No One Uses

The researchers followed 237 women who were using an implant like Implanon and Nexplanon and 263 women using the Mirena hormonal IUD. The implants are currently approved for three years, and the hormonal IUD used in the study is approved for five. (There is also a non-hormonal IUD that is approved for 12 years, but it was not included in the current study.)

All the women were between the ages of 18 and 45 and their contraceptives were within six months of expiring before they enrolled in the study. The women were informed of the pregnancy risk associated with using their device longer than recommended, and the researchers called them for followup every 6 months for 36 months or until the women had their device removed.

By the end of the trial period, none of the women using the implant were pregnant and there was one pregnancy among the women using the IUD. Still, the failure rate was similar to the failure rate of the IUD when used during the five-year period (which is under 1%). The study is still ongoing, and the researchers plan to recruit up to 800 women and ultimately test whether the IUDs and implants were effective for up to three years after their current FDA-approved duration.

The benefit of being able to use the implant and IUD for a longer period of time is that it could reduce costs for individuals and insurance. The longer use also makes the IUD and implant more convenient for women, since maintenance is reduced.

Though the data is preliminary, the researchers say they believe that the hormonal IUD and the implant can both be used for an additional year longer than the FDA recommends. That doesn’t mean you should extend your own use of the contraceptives without talking to your doctor. The study is still continuing, and it could be quite a long time before any changes to clinical recommendations are considered.

TIME movies

Movie Theater Chain Bans Whips for 50 Shades of Grey Premiere

Universal Pictures

Leave your gear at home

Sorry, moviegoers: If you’re going to see 50 Shades of Grey on opening night next Friday in costume, you’ll have to leave your ties and whips at home.

At least one theater chain is banning props and other accoutrement in their theaters. “We do not permit weapons, real or fake, or items that would make other guests feel uncomfortable or detract from the movie-going experience,” said AMC spokesman Ryan Noonan. “If someone tries to bring in a bow and arrow for the next Hunger Games, we’ll ask them to leave it in the car. If someone shows up in a Bane mask, we’ll ask them to remove it. If someone starts tossing around a whip or pulls out handcuffs, we’ll ask them to put it away. We think common sense will prevail.”

Noon stressed that this policy was not specifically in response to 50 Shades of Grey, but would apply to any movie screened at an AMC theater. AMC has more than 300 theaters and 4,000 screens across the country.

So remember: popcorn is allowed, handcuffs are not.

 

TIME apps

Potheads Finally Have Their Dating App

File - In this May 5, 2011, an unidentified man is seen smoking medical marijuana during karaoke night at the Cannabis Café, in Portland, Ore
Rick Bowmer—AP A man is seen smoking medical marijuana during karaoke night at the Cannabis Café, in Portland, Ore. in 2011.

'Juana go on a date next Friday?

Attention love-seeking stoners. A Denver company has come up with a dating app that you need in your life.

It’s called High There! and designed like Tinder: users create profiles and swipe through the photos of potential dates, except this version is clearly aimed at fans of ganja.

“I hated dating on other sites and apps because as soon as the idea of my cannabis consumption came up—date over. I actually walked out of a date (after paying of course) and said to myself, that’s it,” CEO Todd Mitchem told the Fast Company blog Co.Exist.

The app takes the Tinder model one step further by actually optimizing possible matches according to consumption preferences. Are you a lazy stoner? Do you prefer to use a vaporizer? These preferences will be taken into consideration to find an ideal fit.

Right now, High There! is only available in states that have fully legalized cannabis or have medicinal marijuana laws.

TIME movies

Malaysia Bans Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Gray
Chuck Zlotnick—Universal Pictures Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan star in Fifty Shades of Grey

The head of the censorship board called the film “more pornography than a movie”

Malaysia will not allow the release of Fifty Shades of Grey after the country’s censorship board expressed concerns over its explicit sexual content.

The Malaysian Film Censorship Board denied a certificate to the much anticipated adaptation of the steamy novel, which is set for wide release in the U.S. on Feb. 13, Variety reports.

“The board made a decision in view of the film containing scenes that are not of natural sexual content,” said Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, head of the Malaysian Film Censorship Board, according to Variety. The film “is more pornography than a movie,” he said.

The film, based on the erotic romantic best-seller by E.L. James, has already spawned boycott campaigns in the U.S. over its lengthy sex scenes.

[Variety]

TIME movies

There’s Already a Campaign to Boycott Fifty Shades of Grey

Universal Pictures

Some say the movie glorifies violence against women

Not everyone is eagerly anticipating the release of Fifty Shades of Grey.

While some fans of E.L. James’ steamy novels are looking forward to seeing the graphic S&M scenes on the big screen, others are pre-emptively objecting to the glamorization of violence, especially violent sex. They’re trying to start a social-media movement to boycott the much anticipated movie, encouraging would-be moviegoers to donate money to domestic-violence victims instead.

MORE Here’s How The Shot the Sex Scenes in 50 Shades of Grey

Using the hashtags #50DollarsNot50Shades and #50ShadesIsAbuse, some protesters are calling for viewers to boycott the movie and donate the 50 bucks they would spend at the movie theater (on tickets, babysitter, drinks and popcorn, etc.) to help domestic-violence victims instead. Run by www.stoppornculture.org, the campaign’s Facebook page suggests making donations to domestic-violence shelters instead of going to see the movie, because “Hollywood doesn’t need your money; abused women do.”

“We realize it’s a movie, and we also realize it’s supported by many women,” says Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“The thing that concerns us about Fifty Shades of Grey is that anytime people are operating in that lifestyle, it should be a choice,” she says.

MORE These Were the Hardest Scenes to Shoot for the Stars of 50 Shades of Grey

Is this the beginning of the backlash to the movie? The book had its own well-documented backlash when it came out in 2012, but that was before all the headlines about domestic violence and sexual assault that have come to the forefront since then, as has the debate over the definition of “consent” when it comes to sexual behavior.

Boycotts not withstanding, the film is expected to be a hit. So for those who do see it, Glenn has this advice: “Violence against women is one thing, choosing to operate in an alternative lifestyle where there are parameters and choice is another. For any young person who is seeing this movie, I hope someone is having a discussion with them about choice vs. coercion.”

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