Fifty Shades of Grey: Did a New Wave of Feminism Hit Overnight and Did I Miss It?

July 19, 2012 3:52 pm

Until now, I’m not sure my Facebook news feed has ever exploded over a book. I love to read –L O V E to read. And so, when I first saw everyone chattering about Fifty Shades of Grey, I immediately ordered it off Amazon without doing any research at all – that’s how keen I am to broaden my literary horizons.

I couldn’t just stop at one.

Or so I thought.

After already buying it, I decided I should probably check the description and what do I see? To my horror (and I’ll admit, curiosity); ‘erotica’. Good God. A little more research showed me that the people of my news feed were getting their knickers in a twist because this book is sex, sex, sex with very little in the way of storyline. In fact, I’d love to take all the sex scenes out and see how many pages were left. However, I was curious to know how she made a trilogy out of pure sex and so I ordered the next one. And the next. I have done this before: read a book I didn’t like but read the whole series anyway just because I have to know what happens.

Anyway, further research (before reading it) told me that this book had made its start in life as Twilight fan-fiction. At this point I mentally facepalmed. How on earth is a fan-fiction hitting bestseller lists? I have no idea. The truth is, it works better as a fan-fiction; it’s a perfectly adequate fan-fiction –I might even stretch to say it’s decent fan-fiction. The characters are all the same as Twilight. I groaned aloud (in despair) when I got to the bit in Fifty Shades where Christian stops Ana getting hit by a bike and instead of smooching her or straightening her up, out of nowhere says he’s bad for her and she should run a mile. I mean, what?! Why is this guy capable of reading her mind? All the time?!

I can’t decide if I want to write about the book or the uproar that’s surrounding it. Maybe I’ll do both.

Here are some of my main issues with the books:

  1. As above, the mind-reading. She thinks something, he answers her unanswered question. All the time. Sometimes she wonders how he does that. I was especially wondering too. Because he wouldn’t. Because it’s not a thing.

    Let me start by saying: WHAT?

  2. Question: How many ways can you describe ‘an earth shattering orgasm’? Answer: Not enough. I wanted to punch a whole through the book after the fifth time.
  3. All these orgasms. Who has one when someone plays with their boobs for the first time in their life? Or ever, in fact? Half the boob stuff described doesn’t even sound comfortable. In fact some of the complicated bra stuff (him shoving it to the side etc) didn’t make sense so I tried it out on myself and it’s not comfortable…Or sexy.
  4. He just rips through her underwear all the time. Even the expensive pairs. He wants to feed the world but he’s quite happy to tear apart perfectly good pairs of knickers. The wasteful cad.
  5. The three narrators: Ana, her ‘subconscious’ and her God-forsaken ‘inner goddess’. Do not get me started: I wanted to tear my hair out. Why is her subconscious wearing glasses? Why is her inner goddess salsa dancing? Why does she even have an inner goddess? She spends more time getting opinions from these two figments of the imagination than she does talking to Christian.
  6. She orgasms as soon as he tells her to. I don’t believe this is possible. Being told to would distract me, if anything.

Oh, I have so many more questions. But here’s the big one: Misogyny or feminism? Women seem to be feeling empowered by this porno-book. They’re shaking off some kind of taboo and openly reading smut. Good. You go girls! You wanna rub one out over Edward and Bella but in the real world? Go nuts. Turned on by badly written scenes about anal plugs? You absolutely have the right. But what really bothers me is how many women are declaring their love for Christian Grey –who, by the way– openly admits to being a sadist. I don’t care if his therapist dismisses the term. The fact is, this man says loud and clear that he enjoys hurting people. Women. No two ways about it. Yes they’re consenting but it doesn’t matter, I can’t shake the feeling that these books are one step forward and five back for the modern woman. Hooray, we can talk about the fact we’re reading sex books! Boo, we’re turned on by a man who goes after women who look like his mother and likes to tie them up and hurt them. If that’s what you’re into, cool. But be honest, how many of us are? I hate being hit. In any way. If my boyfriend suggested spanking me with a belt — well you know what? He never would. Because he knows that I can barely take a certain amount of play-fighting. Sorry ladies, but I’m not into violence. Doesn’t turn me on.

This man is not to be trusted.

Let’s be honest, Christian Grey really has two basic good qualities:

1. He’s mega-bucks rich. Like, $100,000 an hour rich.

2. He’s sexy. Apparently his trousers hang ‘in that way’. Now I don’t know which way that is, because E L James never explains but it seems to get our dear Ana wetter than an otter’s pocket so there we go.

Fair enough, he’s into some weird shit. Or ‘kinky fuckery’, as James puts it. Which, by the way, turns my stomach. C-r-i-n-g-e. But until Ana, he’s never been interested in a woman for anything other than an obedient sex slave who isn’t even allowed to look at him unless he says so. He’s a control freak beyond anything I’ve ever even heard of; he’s a stalker, he’s mental.

I get that he’s had an awful childhood and everything, and that’s sad, but I don’t think it means some of his behaviour is excusable. He cares for Ana and changes for her…I get it…but I didn’t buy it.

I’ll admit, there were bits of the books I liked. But what killed me is that there was so much room for dramatic action that was left unexplored – there was a seriously tense section in the final book for example but as soon as it came to a climax, it was over in a second. James shied away from going into it leaving me majorly disappointed. And it was all so predictable.

I think you have to take the books with a pinch of salt and for what they are – chick lit, an easy read. A page-turner but not exactly the next Romeo and Juliet. And it still felt super-Twilight.

I’m still on the fence with how I feel about all the mania around the books. I’m really glad that people are reading. I can’t help but notice this new found empowerment – women openly admitting to being aroused, Girl Power, yeah! – but at the same time I wish we were celebrating independence and strength and pride in something other than sex: we’re so much more challenging than that.

Some of the sex sounds… uncomfortable. Just saying.

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