The MUSE

By WALLACE BAINE

You can call “Carrie’s Story” a lot of things – stylish, kinky, mesmerizing, horrifying, a huge turn-on, a huge turn-off – but you cannot call it a knock-off of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Though the two novels cover much of the same thematic ground – young women willingly submitting to bondage/dominance fantasies with mysterious men – “Carrie’s Story” by San Francisco novelist Molly 9781573449083_p0_v3_s260x420Weatherfield predates “Fifty Shades” by more than a decade and a half.
But thanks to the megaton popularity of “Fifty,” “Carrie,” which Playboy once branded as an “American twist on ‘The Story of O,’” is finding new audiences, intrigued by the psycho-sexual adventures of characters unafraid to live out their fantasies.
“Carrie’s Story” is out with a new edition, featuring a new foreword by feminist columnist and sex activist Tristan Taormino, as well as what Weatherfield calls a new “public transportation-friendly” front cover. Earlier editions featured an image of a woman’s bare buttocks; the new cover features only a riding crop.
Though “Fifty Shades” was roundly criticized in some circles for its clichés and hackneyed writing, Weatherfield – who appears at Capitola Book Café on Feb. 21 – has nothing but good things to say about the huge bestseller.
“It’s definitely a positive thing,” said Weatherfield, which is the pen name of writer Pam Rosenthal. “I don’t think, in the long run,

Novelist Molly Weatherfield: 'You reveal your sexual fantasies and there’s always this terror that someone is going to go, ‘Ooooh, gross'

Novelist Molly Weatherfield: ‘You reveal your sexual fantasies and there’s always this terror that someone is going to go, ‘Ooooh, gross’

it will change how my book is read. But it could bring my book to more readers who might think, ‘Oh, this is really more of what I was looking for.’”
Weatherfield’s novel is the story of Carrie, a San Francisco bike messenger who strikes up a conversation with a handsome stranger named Jonathan at a party. Soon, he asks her to become his sexual slave. Despite her misgivings, she agrees and is launched on an adventure that eventually finds her at a “ponygirl” farm – where women are outfitted and made to perform as if they were horses – and up for sale at a BDSM slave auction.
The story has obvious parallels to “The Story of O,” the undisputed classic of the genre, first published in 1954. That book became a popular title with cult audiences during the sexual revolution in the 1960s, which is when Weatherfield discovered it as a young woman.
“I remember coming across ‘Justine’ by the Marquis de Sade when I was in high school,” she said. “And I remember quaking in my Keds just reading it, but it entered my fantasy life without me thinking too much about it. Then came ‘The Story of O,’ which was incredibly meaningful to me. It was a strong part of my fantasy life.”
The themes of sado-masochism, and especially of female submission, became a problematic topic of debate in feminism in the 1970s and ’80s, and Weatherfield found herself in the middle of that debate. When she began working at Modern Times bookstore in San Francisco’s Mission District, “The Story of O” was on the shelf with other feminist titles. But there was a strong strain of feminism that condemned such fantasies as degrading and damaging to women.
“It was the ’80s and ’90s when there was a real split on these issues,” said Weatherfield. “And I really had to confront this contradiction. Am I really going to betray what has been a strong part of my imagination? As far as I know, it did not make me a monstrous person, and it did not interfere with my having a backbone. I had to really think about that.”
And it was while pondering how values of strong and independent female empowerment could co-exist with fantasies of becoming a sex slave that Weatherfield came upon the idea to write down these fantasies in a book.
“I decided to write it all down and see if it came out as evil,” she said. “It didn’t. It came out as funny. Carrie is ultimately funny, curious and intellectually brave. And that’s really what I wanted to write. Because, frankly, being honest with my own fantasies was the most intellectually brave thing I’ve ever done.”
Weatherfield said that most of her readers aren’t conflicted about the meanings of the BDSM fantasies in “Carrie’s Story,” originally published in 1995, and she herself hasn’t quite figured out to what to make of them.
“You reveal your sexual fantasies and there’s always this terror that someone is going to go, ‘Ooooh, gross,’” she said. “The mystery is bottomless, and I hope it continues to be. I don’t want to totally get to the bottom of it. That’s too much like curing it, and I don’t believe it needs to be cured.”

2 thoughts on “In the post ‘Fifty Shades’ world, Molly Weatherfield’s 1990s BDSM erotic classic ‘Carrie’s Story’ gets a new look

  1. Pingback: How I Came to write Carrie’s Story: the condensed version | Passions and Provocations

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