By Z.S. Roe
By now we’ve all heard about the runaway smash hit novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. If you’re a woman, then there’s a good chance that you’ve either read the book yourself or know someone who has. By any reckoning, this erotic novel about a virginal literature student who falls headfirst into the kinky, spank-happy world of BDSM has become something of a cultural phenomenon. Hell, it’s even beaten Harry Potter as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.
Fans of the novel claim that it is the best thing to hit the page since, like, forever. Everyone else, on the other hand, just kind of roll their eyes.
But if one thing is for certain it’s that the novel and its two follow ups are geared and marketed toward women. After all, the novels have inspired a new pseudo-sub-genre of erotic literature cutely referred to as “mommy porn.” Daddies, apparently, need not apply.
Nevertheless, despite my not so secret maleness, I decided to give the hit, pop fiction phenomenon a whirl. While I haven’t read a lot of erotic fiction, I do have my favourites, such as Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body and Nicholson Baker’s The Fermata. Plus, I tend to think that I’m an intelligent reader … relatively speaking, anyway. As such, I figured I likely had enough justification to read the thing and then give my opinion of it. So here we go.
First off, no, I wouldn’t recommend the novel, nor would I read the other novels in the trilogy (Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed). As many readers have pointed out, the writing is pretty clunky, and at times even downright irritating. “Oh my!”is not an exclamation that needs to be repeated over and over and over and over and over again, no matter how attractive Anastasia Steele thinks billionaire Christian Grey is. Nor do we need to ever be introduced to Ana’s “inner goddess.” The dialogue is often pretty silly, and while the sex scenes can be arousing, they’re no less ridiculous. I mean, come on: an inexperienced virgin who can give rapturous, deep throat, gag-free blow jobs? Give me a break.
But the novel’s not a complete throw away. At times it is indeed fun, even compelling, and I did enjoy the banter between Ana and Christian, silly though it often was. Most interesting, however, was my initial reaction to the titular character Christian Grey. Let’s see, he’s young, super hot, muscular, super rich, great in the sack … oh and he’s a bad boy who needs a woman’s love to tame his savage heart.
Yeah—pretty run of the mill for the romance genre. Still, this guy seems to be the quintessential female fantasy. I recall seeing a young lady post a comment on Facebook, offering tips on how to treat and romance a woman. Apparently, according to her, us fellas need look only to Christian Grey, the ultimate manly sex god.
While reading the book, I actually started to feel threatened by Christian … or the idea of him, anyway. Really? I thought—is this what women are now expecting of men? Really!?! How the hell can we live up to this? This is totally unrealistic and totally unfair.
But then it suddenly clicked for me. Was this how women felt every time guys went on about such and such a thin, big-boobed starlet being oh so hot? Were these feelings of insecurity that I felt while reading Fifty Shades of Grey what women have been feeling for years and years?
And just like that, I had a taste of how the other half live, of how difficult it can be for the female population, old and young alike. It was an “In Their Shoes” kind of experience, and a valuable one at that.
In the end, I still wouldn’t recommend E.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey. If you’re interested in erotica, then there are better titles to choose from. With that said, however, the novel does offer male readers a decidedly different perspective than what they’re used to seeing in film and on TV. If nothing else, the book can serve as a learning experience, even if it’s a silly and clunky one.
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