By Caitlin Thornton
Should you not yet have had the glorious opportunity to gorge on the way-popular erotic trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey—that your sister, mom, girlfriend, that one nice lady with the crispy ‘80s bangs at the bank, and most likely your grandma has read—get ready for a spoiler alert:
In the second book, virginal protagonist Ana convinces the eerie stalker, er, perfect-faced millionaire with a hoard of repressed childhood issues, Christian Grey, to chill out on his BDSM-ways to engage in some “vanilla sex.” (He hits her a bunch on the butt with a belt at the end of the first book and she forgets to use the safe word or something and it scares her so much she breaks up with him. And he’s just SO INTO HER, and wants to get back together, he’s willing to try something “different.”) The scene comes to a climax when—wait for it—Christian ties Ana to a bed, smears a bunch of vanilla ice cream all over her, and then screws her until she orgasms her face off.*
After plenty of non-pleasure-induced eye rolls, I bookmarked my paperback and thought, What the (expletive) (expletive)? The sex I’m having is BORING compared to this “vanilla sex” that literally involved vanilla ice cream. (Expletive) this book! And now I’m reading a fact-heavy, historical, New York Times best seller. And I kind of hate myself.
I once scoffed when friends recounted stories of girlfriends who only had “dead fish” or “starfish” sex (why both descriptions implicate sea creatures is beyond me): The woman lies there, motionless, prompting the guy to check in, to ask if everything is OK. Or people who only had sex in the missionary position. Or who were scared of doggie style (don’t you know you have practically no cellulite when you’re bent over like that?). But recently, every time I read more erogenous stories, my self-worth as a fun, kinky sex partner continues to get chiseled away. There’s so much weird, exciting sex out there that I’m not having!
Did you know adult babies were a… thing? (Google it.) They’re people who go home from work, put on their nappies and footie pajamas, suck on pacifiers, color in coloring books, and wait or wah-wah in cribs until their partner—who’s like totally into adult babies—changes their diaper or feeds them or f-cks them. Seriously.
I tied a guy to my bed once, after dating him for a year, and I’m pretty sure I only did it because I was drunk and angry with him. Every time I see a sensory deprivation mask, I envision the gimp from Pulp Fiction. One night, this guy tried to spit in my mouth, and I almost vomited. It felt like a loogie was lodged in the back of my throat for the next three days.
I haven’t even worn high heels in bed—the only time I had on shoes during sex, they were dirty, white Chuck Taylors. (Though, according to my German friend, dirty Chuck Taylor fetishes are also… a thing.) My boyfriend tells me these hook-up stories of these girls in Brooklyn who are like, “Choke me!” or “Hit me!” during sex, and it kind of just makes me want to cry and give them all hugs.
It’s not like I think I’ll get rejected if I ask my boyfriend to spank my ass, hard, or gag me or whatever. I trust him, and I’m sure he’d be into anything that would get me off. But I think, relative to all the eccentric sex that’s been depicted in the docuseries Strange Sex on TLC or that’s getting moms and your grandma wet in Fifty Shades (sorry for that imagery), or that makes people want to spend money on sex clubs or dominatrices, vanilla sex, which I realize is a delicious-sounding way of saying normal and boring sex, is enough for me.
Of course, though, no one wants to be considered boring in bed. Is it enough to recognize that sex can still be extremely exciting, fun, and well, uh, sexy, when no props or safe words are needed? And sometimes, getting it on—minus the sticky desserts or flogging, with maybe just a little hair pulling, because that’s all the pain we can endure—is still super (expletive) hot?
*Insert adverbs like “hungrily” and “desperately” in there, as well Ana referring to her vagina as her “sex” and biting her lip and making Christian angry and/or again, hungry, in a sexual way, and you basically have the jist of Fifty Shades.