Even those who aren’t big readers have heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic novel by E. L. James, ie “Mummy Porn” as it’s been dubbed. For the unenlightened, the novel is causing all sorts of controversy because of it’s explicit content. Men all over the world have either been getting lucky due to the recently obtained amorous nature of their partners, or getting up in arms, asking their wives why porn isn’t acceptable for them when this novel is just as graphic (clearly they haven’t been benefiting). All of the controversy led me to wonder: what is all the fuss?
So, I read the book. For research of course.
The writing itself was fairly average. By the end of it, I was sure that if I saw “Oh my!” written on a piece of paper again, I’d have a meltdown. However, let’s be honest. It’s not the writing that we’re reading it for. It’s the sex.
Perhaps it was the over the top media hype, but I’m afraid that I really didn’t think Fifty Shades of Grey was as sexually innovative as it’s been made out to be. Certainly, it’s sexually explicit, but in the first half of the book, there is a whole lot of talking about sex, but not a lot of doing. Certainly no more than the average Harlequin or Mills and Boon novel. The second half packs all the sex in, explicit descriptions, sexual devices and a “Red Room of Pain”. If you haven’t read the book, I’m sure you can use your imagination. While the sex isn’t “vanilla” (that’s normal sex for the rest of us), it wasn’t so outrageous that I’d never heard of the, er, techniques. What it does do however is create an uncomfortable feeling that something so private is being described in such detail (try listening to the audio version – now that’s uncomfortable to listen to!).
Regardless, the sex wasn’t the shocking part of the book. What was shocking was it’s apparent advocating of an abusive, controlling, relationship. Christian Grey is handsome, wealthy, and emotionally manipulative. He takes an innocent girl with no prior relationship experience, and uses her naivety to bend her will to his. He flatters her, lavishes unwanted wealth on her, making her feel like a whore, but controls the situation so that she is left wanting more of him. When he begins physically controlling her with violence and sex, my only relief was that Anastasia Steel, the novel’s protagonist, has the guts to stand up to him, several times. She is no meek and mild girl – no matter how much Christian might want her to be. Unfortunately, I felt that all through the book, Christian is slowly breaking Anastasia, and moulding her into who he wants her too be. A novel’s character should show growth, but Anastasia does the opposite – her personality and spark shrinks and shrivels. I understand that there are two more books after this one. What could possibly be left of Anastasia after these? Certainly not enough to make me want to read them.
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