Let me begin by stating: I have read the book Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James in its entirety. I have seen far too many “reviews” or opinion pieces from bloggers who refused to “touch that filth, much less read it” and still proceeded to discuss it. I decided to be responsible and read it for myself before I condemned or supported a viewpoint, and especially before I made one of my own. My opinion – if you don’t read it, you have no authority and no business reviewing it. In other words, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the “Red Room of Pain”!
Fifty Shades of Grey, the #1 New York Times Bestseller and raging (no pun intended) phenomenon, has managed to reignite the fervor of Americans’ gossip with the release (alright, ALL my puns are intended!) of the highly anticipated movie trailer. I won’t keep you in suspense, so here it is if you have somehow managed to escape the frenzy thus far:
People are in a hullabaloo over this trailer from one side of the spectrum to the other. Some are over the moon and cannot wait until their fantasy plays out on the big screen. Some are upset over the choice in casting. Others are distressed because they viewed this book as disastrous, threatening pornography for women, and the movie will be no less menacing to female society.
Well let me tell you, I am in a hullabaloo myself! I have two major issues with Fifty Shades of Grey and don’t know if they can be resolved in the film adaptation. Surprisingly, neither of them has to do with the overt sexual content. It always surprises me that sex is handled with two extremes. It is either bad, evil, should be hidden. Or it is beyond great, euphoric, should be everywhere. One of the best explanations I’ve found of this phenomenon comes from the interesting indie flick Daydream Nation:
“You’ve been brainwashed by puritanical a**holes who think sex is a sin. But then again, your little gerbil-sized brain has been reprogrammed by the media to believe that sex is the be-all, end-all. So now you’re stuck, right? ‘Cause on the one hand you love to f**k, but afterwards you feel overwhelmed by guilt & you’re not sure why. Maybe it’s because sex is neither as good or as evil as you’ve built it up to be.” (emphasis added)
Sex is neither as good or as evil as we have built it up to be. Nearly all of us have sex. Hopefully, nearly all of us enjoy sex. Some of us have sex frequently, some of us not so frequently. It is a thing we do. It feels good. Then we move on in our lives and cook and clean and work and raise children or write blogs.
Writing about sex is not new. As an English major, I would like to say my research for this article was more steamy than I’m used to, but sex permeates literature of all time periods. Even the Bible is full of sexual imagery and encounters (Hello, Sexy Song of Solomon!). I have no problem with those who write about or read about sex. Sex is a part of our lives, so it makes sense that sex is a part of our art forms. Therefore, when I see conservative bloggers throw out Bible verses about how we should protect ourselves from being “like the world, and not like Christ,” I must wonder if they don’t have sex. Why must this one common facet of human life be left out of art or literature? I watch movies and read books containing drug use and don’t scurry over to the nearest street corner to buy crack. I watch movies and read books that contain theft, yet I don’t steal. Just because I read a book that has alternative sexual behaviors, does not mean I must engage in bondage with a rich, powerful CEO named Christian Grey.
So if it’s not sex, what then is my Fifty Shades of Frenzied Blogging really about, you ask. I’ll tell you.
1. Is this actually a book? A book people read?
Anybody else who has read the book now knows that my poor eyes have viewed the phrases “yes, sir,” “holy crap,” “holy cow,” “my inner goddess,” and “stop biting your lip” approximately 52,384 times. Or was it 52,385 times? I don’t know. It was hard to keep track. Yes, you’ve heard it from me. The author of this wild hit managed to create all this fuss and STILL regurgitate the same five or six phrases throughout twenty-six chapters. It is stunning, truly, just how often “holy cow” can be used in and outside of the bedroom.
I am saddened that a poorly written, poorly constructed book with immature character development and little to no description (beyond the size of Christian Grey’s…bank account) has stayed on top of charts for so long. By no means am I a girl all about hoity-toity literature. I love young adult novels, literary fiction, modern short stories, etc. However, this book is nothing more than a glorified erotic story fit for an amateur forum board on a porn site. It’s trash. And I don’t mean hot “trashy.” I mean the writing and storyline are subpar at best.
Read better art, please. Read better fiction. Sex is beautiful and it can be written about beautifully. This is not beautiful, it’s inadequate.
2. I personally cannot and will not accept man’s domination of women.
The fair Miss Anastasia Steele and I have much in common: we are English majors, we love the American Northwest, and we are quite skeptical of domination. Sorrowfully, we must separate over the mere fact that a man ordering my meal and demanding that I eat all of it is a deal breaker for me. As is stalking. As is flogging. Girlfriend can order her own dinner, and girlfriend can be entertained in the bedroom sans flogging – and please don’t have me followed! Christian Grey’s domination over Anastasia Steele OUTSIDE of the bedroom, or “The Red Room of Pain,” leaves my stomach in knots:
Christian is still nowhere to be seen, and Mrs. Jones is checking the contents of the pantry.
“Tea now, Miss Steele?” she asks.
“Please.” I smile at her. I feel slightly more confident now that I’m dressed.
“Would you like something to eat?”
“No, thank you.”
“Of course you’ll have something to eat,” Christian snaps, glowering. “She likes pancakes, bacon, and eggs, Mrs. Jones.”
“Yes, Mr. Grey. What would you like, sir?”
“Omelet, please, and some fruit.” He doesn’t take his eyes off me, his expression unfathomable. “Sit,” he orders, pointing to one of the barstools. (1)
I will be the first to admit that I know little about the culture of sadomasochism. I always try to be very open minded to different people, tastes, and lifestyles. However, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept of a man telling a woman that she cannot look him in the eye, that she must go to sleep, that she cannot touch him, that she must finish food she does not want to consume, that she cannot masturbate and that she cannot roll her eyes – ESPECIALLY when he does not have to abide by the same rules. Women (and men!) have fought for centuries to give women equality and the right not to be dominated or treated like scum. Still, writing like this is a sensation:
“How did you feel while I was hitting you and after?”
“I didn’t like it. I’d rather you didn’t do it again.”
“You weren’t meant to like it.”
“Why do you like it?” I stare up at him.
My question surprises him.
“You really want to know?”
“Oh, trust me, I’m fascinated.” And I can’t quite keep the sarcasm out of my voice.
He narrows his eyes again.
“Careful,” he warns.
I blanch. “Are you going to hit me again?”
“No, not tonight.”
Phew … my subconscious and I both breathe a silent sigh of relief.
“So,” I prompt.
“I like the control it gives me, Anastasia. I want you to behave in a particular way, and if you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn to behave the way I desire. I enjoy punishing you. I’ve wanted to spank you since you asked me if I was gay.” (2)
(Sidenote: Hopefully this passage kills two birds with one stone and proves the woeful state of writing quality)
Call me old-fashioned (if you did, you’d make my family and friends laugh hysterically!), but this dialogue does not turn me on, it makes me angry. I’m not talking about a spank on the butt during a rowdy sex session or fuzzy handcuffs. I’m talking about Mr. Grey’s loves: flogging, caning, painful beating. Men still punish women all over this globe. Pictures of battered women still flood the news. Men rape women and then lock away or kill them. And the whole “Wounded Bird,” damaged man storyline is a sad attempt to turn Christian Grey into a hero, and Anastasia Steele into his dutiful caretaker who nurses him back to his humanity. This is not a novel concept, it is a common one, especially in abusive/codependent relationships.
Now, I do realize this is a fictional book. Just as I mentioned before, I don’t need to become a crack addict after reading a book about crack. Likewise, if women enjoy this book, I know fully it does not mean they want to be abused or support abuse of any kind. Simply, it is a story,
a poorly written story, but a story nonetheless. If somebody finds it interesting or entertaining, have at it! Equality has allowed women sexual freedom as well. I could almost go as far as saying that part of me is happy the economy is being boosted by the sale of sexual product marketed toward women for a change. But I can’t quite say that. Why? Because an impressionable, young, pretty virgin is seduced by a powerful, sadistic man who likes to use her inside and outside of the bedroom for his pleasure. Sounds to me like a typical fantasy geared toward men.
Fifty Shades of Grey did not do it for me. It was not sexually stimulating, and it was certainly not mentally stimulating. It was a waste of $4.99 for the Kindle edition. With an overflowing abundance of literature at my fingertips, I would rather spend my time reading something else. Something well-written and creative. Some story in which beautiful love and even wild sex is mutually respectful and beneficial. Some story in which a woman is strong, interesting, sexual and not swayed by the obsessive desires of man, because I’ve heard that story too many times. I’ve seen that story in the lives of too many women. It’s old news.
What are your thoughts on Fifty Shades? Please leave a comment below.
(1)James, E L (2011-05-25). Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy (p. 375). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
(2) James, E L (2011-05-25). Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy (p. 287). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.