Move over, I’m hopping on the band wagon

Because, really, the world needs another post about 50 Shades of Grey. Okay so it doesn’t but it is getting one. There will also be links at the end if you want to read more from other people who have written about this book. Whatever the quality of the writing this series has made a splash. Apparently the author is making $200K per day.

So yes, it is Twighlight fanfic and the first book at least at first closely follows the general plot of the Twilight books. I have only read the first book. I am seriously considering whether I am going to bother about the next two. I probably will, once I can get them for sub $10*. There are grammatical errors, things that crop up all the time that annoy the bejesus out of you (me) or make you wonder if the characters are going to need the services of a good physio with all the head cocking that they do and you wonder how the main character can have a bottom lip left the way she keeps biting it. Also, how does an upwardly mobile Lit student graduate from University in this day and age without a computer?

But anyway, all that aside what is it that keeps people reading this book which is generally acknowledged to be a bit of fluff? I can’t answer that, but whatever it is it works. You get sucked in, despite yourself and the annoying aforementioned reoccuring things that irritate like itching powder on your skin. I heard from a friend that a friend of hers ended up skipping the sex bits because they were boring and she wanted to know what happened at the end. Which encapsulates 50 Shades of Grey for me really well. The sex scenes are really pretty ordinary, IMHO and a tad unrealistic although there may well be women who can go from virgin to multiple orgasms through PIV sex alone in one easy step and if there are then good luck to them. The major character Anastasia is a bit naive, as you would expect in a latter day virgin I guess, which is all part of the appeal but I would have thought that if you googled f*sting and decided it wasn’t for you wouldn’t you also google a*al and decide to put some boundaries around that as well, at least until you knew what it was all about. It’s not like there isn’t lots of information on that on the internet. Not that it ever happens in the first book. Bit of a teaser there. Not wanting to scare the punters perhaps?

I think what really made me *headdesk* at the end was when Anastasia finally decided to let Christian have his BDSM way with her, by using a leather strap on her bottom, she was shocked that it hurt. Really? Someone is going to thwack you with a great big leather strap and you are surprised when it hurts. I know this is so the plot fits into the ‘running away from Edward’ thing in Twilight, but it seemed to be labouring the point a bit.

I can’t find the review I read recently which described how the reviewer felt like he was trapped in a bedroom with Anastasia and Christian and that they were just too into each other for it to be sexy. That resonated too. I have tried tracking it down on twitter but I’m sorry I can’t wade through that many bad jokes, outright hatred and awfulness anymore. Apparently the fact that E L James is an older woman should turn off everyone who is enjoying the books. How lovely.

I think a lot of the criticism about this book may have come from people who have read better erotica, I know I certainly have. In terms of erotica I was more bemused and at times bewildered by this book than anything else. But if you’ve never read any before then I’m sure it would be quite interesting. Perhaps this will spark an interest in a whole new batch of people who will go onto find enjoyment in the vast range of titles out there. Or help someone realise that what they thought was just them is an interest shared by many. Or just have a rich fantasy life in their head which they never intend to act upon. Whatever works for them.

So shorter me: I won’t judge you for reading and enjoying this book, but I will hope that perhaps you might find your way to, what I think is, better trashy fiction or well written erotica. That said if you are looking for something easy to read, occassionally funny even if unintentionally, with sparks of brilliance – the emails really are the best bit – then you will probably be able to pick up a copy in charity shops fairly soon. It will be interesting to see how many make it to Lifeline bookfairs and the like around the place.

The links below do not necessarily represent my opinion. I just thought they were interesting.
On defending people who have enjoyed the book:

On the realism of the portrayal of the BDSM community:

On why this isn’t masturbation material:

*I picked up all three Hunger Games books for $30 and they were awesome.

Categories: fun & hobbies


18 replies

  1. I read an article wondering why anti-porn activists weren’t up in arms about this book, musing that it is because this book is written for women.
    So I was wondering, do you think it is written for women – and how can you tell, anyway? It’s a book, not a vagina… Would it be for men if it included advice on construction or hunting?
    And do you think a double standard is in place over the idea that this is porn for women, not men, and thusly not objectionable to anti-porn activists?

  2. @TimT – that is just brilliant. Thank you.
    @Arcadia – bloody good question. Perhaps because it is written in the first person so everything is seen through Anastasia’s eyes and also because she is the submissive in the book. Which then leads to a complete can of worms. I hadn’t noticed that the anti-porn activists had largely ignored it. Interesting.

  3. @Arcadia – sorry, that was sort of a mind blurt. I wonder if the anti-porn activists haven’t been worried about it because Anastasia is the submissive in the relationship and what that says about the views of anti-porn activists and women. Hence the can of worms. But I don’t think, on reflection, that it is that simple.
    Perhaps also because it is so obviously fan fiction and fantasy? Also, the sex is fairly tame and there are a lot of books out there that go much further descriptively. A lot of things are hinted at but never actually happen. So really there probably isn’t that much porn in it. I was surprised that so many people wanted to read it for the ‘porn’ I guess being an avid lifelong reader I just assumed that lots of people read lots of different books, but if you only read one now and again it would be easy to miss the really juicy ones – this is not one of the really juicy ones.
    The one thing I did like was that everything was consensual. Christian was an overbearing arse at times but he didn’t do anything without Anastasia’s permission.

  4. Did anyone see Pamela Stephenson Connolly’s article in The Age and The Guardian about this? I thought her perspective that Grey is a really poor depiction of a BDSM practitioner was very interesting.

  5. Which is interesting because one of the links above says that he is exactly like some Doms the author has come across in the BDSM scene. I guess like anything else there are a range of different personalities doing this stuff and some people are going to nod and say yep he’s just like X and others will say ‘I don’t know anyone like that’.

  6. Have anti-porn activists ever been particularly fussed about text porn?

    • I don’t think so, Lauredhel – the only books in my lifetime I remember people even talking about as worrisome, and even then it was in the past tense as a bunch of wowsers, were Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Portnoy’s Complaint and Lolita.
      Has Fred Nile ever mounted a campaign against a book simply for porn content?

  7. By the way, in a email deal of the day today I was offered the first book for $17 of the whole trilogy for $44. As that is NZ prices, which are high by international standards it is equivalent to your $30!

  8. sorry, Mindy, tigtog and lauredhel, I meant to be more specific. Not anti-porn like Fred Nile, but feminists like Gail Dines and Melinda Tankard Reist. And since many reviews I’ve read call Christian controlling and a stalker, I’m a bit surprised too.

  9. Mindy – perhaps he’s a good example of a really poor BDSM practitioner! 🙂

  10. Well, I guess I did find a post tying the issue of feminism to 50 Shades of Grey. What tripe.

  11. I haven’t done the google fu to get behind the paywall to read the article, but I’m guessing from what I have heard that it is along the lines of Bettina’s ‘women just need a jolly good rogering’ idea. If that is true, I think that the question is then – why aren’t they getting it from their partners then? (assuming hetero reln). Maybe that is what Bettina should be asking – is the fantasy being swept away by a troubled multi-millionaire or having multiple orgasms?

  12. It’s a Janet Albrechtsen opinion piece. If you google her name with 50 shades of grey, you’ll find it in full. To sum up: modern feminists are ball breakers, and have broken the balls of real men. An absence of real men has left women sexually unfulfilled, thus a simple reversal of feminism will sort women’s sexual desires out. That the S&M theme is really a longing to return to women being under men in all aspects, not just in the bedroom.
    Also that feminists are paternalistic and can’t stand that other women like these books, especially that it’s made porn mainstream. Because the S&M theme is tricking them into thinking that feminism’s bad, they really want to be dominated by men.
    I’m a feminist. And I don’t want to read this book. Everything I’ve read says that the plot and writing are rubbish. And I just don’t understand S&M. Don’t get it. If it weren’t about sex, it would just be abuse, and I don’t see how making it about sex makes it less abusive. I know from what I’ve read that S&M practitioners disagree, and that’s fine, they can do together whatever they agree to do, but I’ve no desire to read about it.
    And the concept of porn becoming even more mainstream than it already is, is terrifying. I’m no puritan, but porn doesn’t treat women well, and it’s hijacking people’s sexual imaginations and leading people who haven’t had much sex to have some pretty unrealistic expectations about how they and their partners should behave and look.

  13. I don’t know enough about how BDSM communities work to really say much on this issue, but I would think that ‘abuse’ is in the eye of the beholder. That said, it isn’t something that I want to see badly written about.

  14. well said, Shirley conran! I think the success of the book has lots more to do with women and the Cinderella fantasy than women secretly desiring a firm spanking.

  15. I don’t judge other people’s sexuality, although this fetish makes me a bit uncomfortable, like Arcadia. I don’t even particularly care about the content of the books.
    No, it’s the ending that bothers the hell out of me. The irony of calling the final book “Fifty Shades Freed” is painful. (Spoilers.) She fixes him. She changes him. He’s a serial abuser (and I’m not talking about BDSM – I’m talking about Grey’s jealous, controlling, sometimes terrorizing behavior), and she marries him because he’s all better now.
    I’m never going to be okay with that being an idea that’s being popularized and romanticized.
    I’ve seen the literal excuses that fans of this series make for the fictional character of Christian Grey. He’s sad, misunderstood, has a history. They sound eerily familiar. They sound exactly like the comments victims (stereotypically) make when making excuses for their own abusers.
    Some may think me judgmental. Human beings must make judgment calls. What is right, what is wrong, who they want to know. I make my judgments carefully.
    I will speak out against this series, for one reason and one reason only: It paints abusers as sympathetic people who can be fixed by their victims.
    Fantasy, of course, demands the suspension of disbelief. This is one disbelief I would rather never see suspended.
    PS: I loved the Shirley Conran piece. That’s obviously not the most glaring issue to me, but it’s good to think about the psychology behind the popularity from another perspective.

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