When did “vanilla” become a bad word?

I think everyone in the world, including my aunt, has read “The Book” by now. I haven’t and have no intention to. It just doesn’t grab me.

Being an erotic romance author, I have met quite a few folks who admit to living the BDSM lifestyle. I will be honest and admit I don’t. Not for any reason. I just don’t. Not that hubby and I don’t like getting a little playful sometimes…I would hope we all indulge in that.

But it strikes me as odd, that since The Book launched and became a huge hit, everyone and their grandmother seems to be partaking in the BDSM lifestyle. And I suppose I’m feeling a little left out. I’m a little nervous to call up my nonna and ask how she’s doing. I’m worried she’ll say she’s set up a swing in her bedroom. A girl can’t help but feel inferior when granny is getting kinkier than she is!

It seems these days that “vanilla” has become a bad word. I hate that. I happen to love vanilla. Vanilla ice cream, vanilla extract, vanilla in my coffee…you get the picture. There was a time when adding vanilla to something meant you were adding flavor. Now it seems to mean a lack of flavor. It’s become synonymous with boring. All of a sudden, the missionary position has become reviled. Why? If it brings pleasure, doesn’t it have worth?

Now please don’t think I am condemning anyone who lives the BDSM way of life. Whatever consensual adults get up to in the bedroom, or on the kitchen counter, is their decision. Go crazy. But I do wonder if too many folks are jumping on the bandwagon. When sex is kicked up such a notch, does it change our standards? Do our orgasmic expectations change? And do we feel pressure to perform at stellar, god-likeΒ levels every time? Because I don’t think I can handle that kind of pressure.

Sometimes I just want a nice, close cuddle. Sometimes we’re tired and just want to squeeze in a quickie. But with everyone in the world talking about tie-me-up, spank-me-til-I’m-pink sex, is there a chance we can grow resentful when sex is “vanilla?” I sometimes worry that we might all go looking for the next sexual high, and be disappointed when we don’t find it. Now I’m certain that true aficionados of BDSM find many opportunities for intimacy and for softer expressions of love. It’s the other folks I’m worried about, the bandwagon folks.

So I ask you, have you become ashamed of your “vanilla” moments? Do you think those experiences are boring? Are you looking for ever-increasing methods of titillation? And have we forsaken true connection for novelty?

I don’t know, but there’s a vanilla ice cream cone here with my name on it.

34 thoughts on “When did “vanilla” become a bad word?

  1. I agree completely!! I like vanilla! And while I enjoy some spice in my romance, here lately most of the ones offered seem to have used the whole jar. I was on a popular site for romance books and out of the 100 or so “top” books offered for sale only about 6 did not have BDSM or bondage, spanking, etc listed as story components. Needless to say, I did not purchase any. I understand trends and fads so I will be glad when the current fad of love=pain dies out. I will just re-read what I have til then.

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    • Thanks Gen! I like reading a bit of BDSM, but it seems to be everywhere right now, and sometimes I just want something different. I know for followers of the lifestyle, it’s not a fad. But has it become a fad for so many others? Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Nothing wrong with vanilla, nothing wrong with kink. And BDSM doesn’t always mean love=pain. There is a wide spectrum out there in books and IRL.

    The thing to remember in books is that it tends to be exaggerated. No one wants to read about the numerous vanilla moments a D/S couple have IRL. With the exception of those living the lifestyle 24/7 in a Master/slave setting, most folks would probably not even realize there is kink going on behind closed doors. And even those in 24/7 relationship will have a different protocol for vanilla settings.
    Just the way it works πŸ™‚

    As for those just jumping on the band wagon, you can usually tell them a mile off, and besides that book is not an accurate depiction of BDSM.

    Nuff said πŸ™‚

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    • I think that’s it, Doris. I guess I’m a little saddened that we don’t want to read about some of those vanilla moments. I love kink like the next guy. I guess I just want to read more than that in my books. Thanks for commenting!

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      • I hear you, and there are books that do. I recently read Cherise Sinclair’s latest. Her hero is a Sadist, but by jove could that man cuddle. Loved those bits in the book and the way she portrayed his softer side. And I certainly try and show the softer side of my own heroes in my BDSM stories.
        To quote Shrek, people are onions, after all πŸ˜‰

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  3. I haven’t read “the book” either. I read the sample on Amazon and it didn’t hook me. No harm, no foul.

    I like kinky stories and non-kinky stories. Mostly, I want to read about characters who fascinate me, and for me that has to be about more than what’s happening in the bedroom. Sure, kink can be fascinating, but more fascinating to me is the exchange of trust and vulnerability that happens when two people fall in love–and that happens in vanilla love stories also.

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    • I agree, Vanessa. For me, it’s about that “a-ha” moment, the submission to each other moment, rather than just submitting. I think there’s a lot of excitement to be had in vanilla! πŸ˜‰

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  4. I have a story coming out in an anthology soon (this year, but I can’t recall when). My story is actually called “Vanilla”, and it’s essentially about this very thing! Both literally and metaphorically, the way that vanilla somehow became synonymous with “boring”, and how inaccurate that is. Vanilla – the spice AND the sex – has its own intensity that should never be held as synonymous with “boring”.

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    • Sounds awesome, Willsin! I’d be very interested in reading that one! LOL I think in sex, as in all things, it’s what you put into it. Vanilla does not have to be boring. Thanks for visiting today!

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  5. *applauds Rosanna* Very good post πŸ™‚ I have read the book (all three), mostly because curiosity won out and I had to see what all the fuss was about. They lived up to my non-expectations, but that’s a different issue. For the record I’ll just note that they do have missionary position sex (or what’s more or less missionary) several times througout, many times as part of or after the ‘kinky fuckery’, and they end up being more vanilla than otherwise, but that’s sort of besides the point here.

    I agree that the fad for BDSM elements in erotica/erotic romance has been taken a bit to extremes and has gone on too long. While I do like reading stuff with BDSM in it, I find I often get disappointed because I’ll pick something up because it claims to have BDSM elements, or just kinky stuff, but when I read it I find nothing more than maybe he loops a bit of ribbon around her hands at one point. Or swats her bum once or something. In other words, so many seem to have only a very token representation of it to try to ride the bandwagon but are really just posers as some would say. It’s frustrating if you really are looking for some ‘kinky fuckery’ stuff.

    As someone who’s only ever done vanilla, I wholeheartedly agree that vanilla needs to lose the stigma it seems to have gained. Let’s get rid of all the pretenders and have people go back to what they’re really interested in doing, whatever that might be, instead of trying to be “hip” or part of the in-crowd or whatever.

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    • Thanks Michelle. My book sex has been described as “vanilla” by well-meaning reviewers, and I find I’m often delighted as much as I am peeved. If it’s a happy thing, why is it vanilla? Some of my characters spank and tie each other up as well, but I would never dream of labelling my books BDSM because that’s an affront to true writers of BDSM. There is a vanilla stigma and I dislike it. I am just about ready to start a vanilla bandwagon! Thanks for your thoughts!

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      • Very well said Rosanna and like NDay I have read “the Books” to to see what the fuss was about. I am stull wondering what the fuss is about really, I did not join in on the fan club for them to put it that way.

        I am proud to be vanilla, like you I love everything vanilla and usually put in a bit extra vanilla in stuff when I bake. Makes it taste so much better, so I think it makes other stuff better too. I do not under any circumstances consider myself to be boring. I am fun and like some adventure in my life, preferably with lots of vanilla in it. πŸ˜‰

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  6. Nicely written perspective. I personally enjoy BDSM … but what does it really mean? It’s really an exploration of the senses in an intense way is how I picture it and experience it. In today’s fiction, I dislike the fact that so many stories are in BDSM clubs. It seems if there’s no club then you can’t have a BDSM story. And that’s too bad … I think the eroticism comes from focusing on the details and sensations … slowly … deliberately. You’re right, vanilla should not be a bad word. πŸ™‚

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    • I love this, DD. You are correct, and I love an exploration of slow sensuality. I enjoy some BDSM too, but dislike when it’s done badly or gratuitously. Thanks for being here today!

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  7. Rosanna,
    I have read “the book,” and thought “eh, I’ve read better, steamier stuff that’s SUPPOSED to be ‘vanilla’.” Aside from the fact that “the book,” is NOT an accurate, or responsible depiction of D/s or BSDM, it’s too long and just not that well written. There. I said it.

    Vanilla, to me, implies that SOMEONE is getting SOMETHING. Vanilla smells delicious, tastes great and is a fantastic “base” to start from. Vanilla is just plain FUN! It can be as simple as flip flops, or as fancy as stilettos. it can stand alone or accompany practically anything. It’s versatility is endless.

    So, I say let your vanilla freak flag fly, people! Yummy!
    ~Michelle

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  8. I’m not sure I have anything to add that hasn’t already been said. I love vanilla everything! I’ll admit to being fascinated by people who partake in BDSM, and I think the recent popularity of reading material puts something in the spotlight that’s been there all along. I’ve read some good books and some (really) not so good ones. My characters may play around some (Garrett and Jessa trying something new), but I wouldn’t call it even close to anything other than erotic foreplay. There’s nothing wrong with being adventurous, but there is something about being with your partner in the soft, sensual scent that is vanilla.

    Rock on sister! Great post!

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  9. I love vanilla ice cream, lol. But seriously it just seems to me that most people are jumping on the band-wagon without truly looking/ following the lifestyle itself. Which seems kinda sad to me.

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  10. Well done, Rosanna.

    I love romance novels — period. And good romances have good sex appropriate to the characters in the relationship/story — period.

    Thus, one sex act does not fit all. I re-read books by Jayne Ann Krentz where the door to the bedroom never opened and still sigh because the romance in that book touched my heart. I’ve read well-written BDSM books and get hot because the sex and romance reached my loins. I like the fact that I can buy books at both extremes — and hope it continues. I love romance novels — all kinds, all levels of heat – but mostly because they are all about the romance.

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  11. Wow… Umm I guess I’m either boring or… boring.

    I like Vanilla. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I love vanilla. It doesn’t matter which way as long as the emotion is there. The connection.

    BDSM doesn’t cut my carrots for me. But that’s me. I opened “the book” got to page 3 and threw it to the wall. It read poorly to my mind. Plus having friends who have lived in the “lifestyle” it’s been interesting seeing their thoughts on it. Candidly though, the relationship portrayed is demeaning. It’s negative on so many fronts. Love isn’t about treating someone like that. And from what I understand, with my limited exposure, neither is true BDSM/Lifestyle.

    My own daughters come home from school with “such and such in grade 10 is reading ‘the book'”… Whattttttt? See and this is the point that possibly scares me the most. Our girls are being gradually introduced to the concept of Vanilla, in the mid/late teens, but now, they are almost an oddity. Why, you ask? If our younger girls are reading this, thinking this is how “love” should be then hell… Not only will they likely totally bypass vanilla (which if the emotion is there, is never boring), they’ll have screwed up their tastebuds before they formed. They won’t understand the complexities and layers of vanilla.

    Sigh. Vanilla is good. We just need to make sure the new generation understand that.

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  12. I like vanilla myself, Ros. I don’t write BDSM other than very, very light play and then only a handful of times. I’m a “sweeter” erotic writer, so I don’t get all naughty most times. I’ve been pushing the envelope lately, but sweet is just where my “sweet spot” is. Pardon the repeated words!

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  13. Well, I just tried to post but lost it: I’ve been writing plain vanilla for over thirty years. I support my sister writers who create BDSM. Since there’s a consumer market–go for it. But–BDSM does have a dark side and that is seldom addressed. I browsed the “Book”. Some of the scenes made me think: Proctologist. I cringed. However, the woman wrote the books, sold ’em and banked millions of dollars. Hats off! Frankly, if my guy had to indulge in BDSM to get it up or on, I’d do a Lorena Bobbitt on him. That’s my final word.

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