I have a confession. I have not read 50 Shades of Grey. Could I be the only woman of a certain age in the Western world who has not…?
The reason? One of the things I have learned over the last few years is that fantasy is very often not a patch on reality.
I have been asked to review a whole raft of books that contain short stories of sexual fantasy… and in most cases, the collections came up wanting.
There would be one or two entries that tickled my fancy and got my own imagination working but, mostly, they all fell short.
So, I was quite excited when I heard that my friend, Suzanne Portnoy, was re-releasing her own memoire ‘The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker’.
I have to admit that I first read her book prior to making her acquaintance. It was in those days when I was still an unhappily married mother who did not know what to do with the emotions that were being raised by all the hormones raging inside her. I felt subsumed by the pressures of my life as a wife and mother. I had lost the real me somewhere and she was fighting to get out. Scrambling to find some joy. Searching for something crucial that was missing inside, which could only be reclaimed by climbing the peak to the next orgasm. A place that emotional disconnection meant my husband now singularly failed to help me reach.
It was a time of vibrators and aural sex – listening to the fantasies of my internet lover. And that’s the difference. His fantasies were all about me! His stories were fantasies that we hoped to make reality. Those in the books that I was later to read would never come to pass in my own world. They were far too far fetched.
The Butcher, The Baker was the memoire of a woman rather like me in circumstance. But one who had the courage to go out and make her fantasies real. Some of her adventures left me open mouthed at her audaciousness and sometimes terrified at her lack of concern for her own safety.
My own sexual exploration had allowed me to venture into a secret world of pain and pleasure but Suzanne took those themes onto a whole new level. I wanted to cover my eyes or hide behind the sofa as if I were still a child watching Doctor Who – but I still could not put the book down. This was sex for grown ups. And I wanted to learn all about it. From my provincial suburban bedroom, I was taken to a glittering London and its seamier underbelly. Outward respectability with less than salubrious sexual secrets hidden just beneath the surface – if you knew where to look.
Back in 2008, I wrote my own post about Narrow Minded Spouses based on an interview that Suzanne had done with another famous female blogger of the time – Ms R – sadly now no longer existant.
Reading the post again, I am reminded of how the interview made me get her books and the influence that her writing had upon my own attitudes, activities and experimentation. She made me realise that it’s ok to try things – whether that’s in the comfort and safety of a loving relationship or with a complete stranger. But that it’s also ok to say that you didn’t like something and don’t want to do it again or just don’t want to try something full stop.
And, even more importantly, that it’s vital to be true to the woman that you are and not be restricted by the limitations of a partner or the sphere in which you live.
I also enjoyed her follow up book, The Not So Invisible Woman – which is quite a timely reminder as I ponder upon the future with my own Mr Right.
If you have not read The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker and you are in that dark place where the woman inside is quashed by the mundanities of the family around her, I would exhort you to buy this and plan your own escape.