Dear 50 Shades of Grey

27 Apr

Have you guys heard of this book 50 Shades of Grey? It’s a novel– a softcore BDSM novel. Apparently it’s remarkable because it was the #1 bestselling e-book on the NYT list and #3 on Amazon’s best-seller list in March.

This means that someone actually noticed that women buy and read a) romance novels and b) smut. Maybe it means that someone noticed that women have sex? I doubt it, though. That seems farfetched.

For whatever reason, this particular one has caught on and women aren’t “ashamed” to pass it on to their friends. As the Jezebel article says, “Another anonymous woman said that her friends were obsessed with the erotic novel, which was the first of its kind that they felt comfortable discussing openly. ‘Women just feel like it’s O.K. to read it,’ she said. ‘It’s taboo for women to admit that they watch pornography, but for some reason it’s O.K. to admit that they’re reading this book.’

I keep picturing moms in the grocery aisle opening their raincoats or reaching a hand between their torso and their front-carrying baby backpacks to pass the e-code to the book off. They slide by each other saying, “Oreo’s? Oh, no, honey, those aren’t good for you.” 

Look, this is what we’ve known since the kindle arrived: that electronic reading would make smut more widespread– or at least, more often read in public. 

But still, I’m unclear on why women who weren’t “passing” their smutty books around before this one suddenly feel compelled to share Shades of Grey. Do they feel like it’s “ok” for some reason in this case? Do they feel like it’s so good it would be selfish to keep it to themselves? Shades of Grey, despite what these women may think, is not the first of its kind.

Yes, women don’t often discuss their favored arousal media. It’s still pretty taboo. Is it because unlike porn, which we all assume men are watching, we don’t assume our BFF has a stash of smut? So trading favorites requires first a confession (and an unpredictable reaction) before getting down to brass tacks? But how often do men sit in the boardroom or watch their kids on the soccer field being like, “You catch Jessica Rubber’s latest stretch act in Cumby?”

WAIT! Before you leave due to the awfulness of my made-up porn pun:

1. Did I mention IT DOESN’T SOUND SEXY? Or like a healthy expression of sexuality?

The smut in this novel– which is supposed to be an exploration of BDSM, remember– doesn’t even sound that risque. One of the women who writes at Forever Young Adult (who, yes, spends her time reading and reviewing young adult literature, so it should’ve been pretty easy to push her literary sex boundaries, since one can imagine she mostly reads awkward make-out scenes) says, “Y’all. Y’ALL. Look, I knew this book was not going to be good, OBVIOUSLY, but I thought AT LEAST the sex scenes would be good! Or at least so shocking that I was a little bit prudishly appalled by them. BUT NO…Ugh, I actually turned to my boyfriend this weekend (why was I reading this while with my boyfriend? I don’t know) and told him that the sex in this book was turning me off sex entirely. (His response?  ‘Let’s find you something else to read.’)”

And obviously all of the sex takes place in a monogamous, heterosexual, committed relationship that is based on love. That is the only way women like their sex. 

Did I mention that she’s a virgin when they meet? She hesitates to commit to his demands because, while she loves him, she doesn’t know if this is what she wants/likes. He makes her agree before she ever has sex for the first time. Healthy! 

2. Did I mention that IT’S FAN FICTION?

Christian and Anastasia are based on….drumroll….

EDWARD AND BELLA. The author even cops to this, saying that the book “reimagined the Bella and Edward love affair set in contemporary Seattle, Washington with Bella as the young college graduate virgin and Edward as the masterful billionaire with secret sexual predilections” (from the Jezebel article). WHOOOOOOO. This is in case Stephenie Meyer’s G-rated prose isn’t to your liking. (Which– remember– Meyer’s Mormon. This is why Bella and Edward only kiss until they get married. But after they get married…Edward breaks the headboard and leaves Bella covered in bruises. Sure, Meyer skips writing the play-by-play of actual sexing, but.) So 50 Shades of Grey steps in like a superhero!

Just like all that Harry Potter fanfic: that sexual tension between Harry and Snape can’t just go unresolved, guys! Just like how we really, really need to see Elizabeth give Darcy a good old-fashioned BJ because we can’t imagine it in our heads if that’s what we want to see.

(I’d like to point out here that this is actually a subgenre of fan fiction called slash fiction whose primary purpose is to make the character’s bang their nasty bits together. Fan fiction, as a greater category, is anything that adopts someone else’s characters and continues their story with the new author’s vision.) 


All of which leads me to this: women may not be ashamed about passing this book around but they should be. Not because it has anything to do with sex. Not because it’s softcore porn. Not because it’s BDSM. Not because they’re getting their jollies from an e-book. Because it sounds poorly-written and not sexy. 

Now the publishing industry is going to think this is what we want. Now they’re going to make it into a movie. It contributes to this whole social regression to a time of sexual oppression (rhyming!). Don’t know what I’m talking about? The media is calling it the “war on women.” (If we rebrand it as a “war on sex” do you think more people will get outraged?) Come on! We’re disappointing Hugh Hefner!

Don’t disappoint Hugh Hefner. Read better smut than 50 Shades of Grey. Find a sex blog you like and share it today.



One Response to “Dear 50 Shades of Grey”

  1. Anonymous 10 May 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    I agree! I got sucked into it and it sucks! Really boring, poorly written, redundant and scary in that it calls violence sexy.

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