Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fifty Shades of Red






My post title?  Nah, I’m not blushing but I am reading the New York Times bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James – a book touted as porn for women.  The immense and unexpected popularity of this book is quite the phenomenon in the publishing world.  Erotica is not new in women’s romance fiction but these sales figures are.  Of course, I am reading it for research purposes only – as one who writes for the romance genre.  Although I don’t do erotica.  In my writing, that is.  ;)


With its descriptive passages of “vanilla sex” and S&M, this is not my usual cup of tea.  I think the last time I read anything porn-like was around the age of eleven – wide-eyed at the revelations in Forever Amber.  (Was that the title?  Perhaps I read two…)

I first read about Fifty Shades of Grey in The Globe and Mail’s Book Review Section – Whips, Handcuffs and the Rise of Mommy Porn.”  Wouldn’t that title have caught your eye, too?  As a joke, I ordered it from Amazon and had it delivered to a friend.  (Yes, women joke, talk and laugh about sex.)  When she’d finished it, she promptly gave it to me to read.  I’m guessing so we have more to laugh about…

This is the kind of book I can read in two or three sittings – and not because of the racy passages.  It’s light reading and not particularly thought-provoking - although it is provoking these sort of thoughts/questions:  What does the book’s popularity say about women?  That their sex lives are dull?  That S&M is a common fantasy?  (Note, I said, fantasy…)  What if men were to read the book?  Would there be a revolution in the bedrooms of the world?  I know, I know, sex is not confined to the bedroom…

These questions intrigue me – far more than the story itself.  In fact, I find some parts of the book not only boring but unrealistic (no, not those “bits”).  Is Fifty Shades of Grey simply a sexed-up version of the happily-ever-after romance scenario – or does the S&M take it to a more disturbing level?  Pain, control, domination, submissiveness – interesting themes when it comes to a love story. 

And while pondering these questions, one of the headlines on the front page of yesterday’s Globe was - “Teaching Boys To Think Outside The Boxers: With Porn and Raunch Everywhere, How Can Young Guys Ever Learn Healthier Attitudes Toward Sex?”  I’ve often wondered and worried about the effect early and easy access to porn via the Internet has/will have on male expectations regarding sex.  Or for that matter, female expectations. 

Fifty Shades of Grey + Internet Porn = Worlds About to Collide?  Or mesh?  Or have they already? Brave new world or a kinkier, unsettling one?  And, yes, I am aware erotica and S&M have been around for centuries – they’ve just never been “the norm.”  And, OKAY, I also know there is no “normal” between consenting adults but still…my concern is for the young.

Really, I’m out of my depth here.  I’m no porn expert – more like a babe in the woods.  So, excuse me while I take my leave to finish the last two chapters of this most enlightening novel.  And in case you didn’t check the link, Fifty Shades of Grey is Book One in a Trilogy.  I will have to cleanse myself with Lionel Shriver’s The New Republic before – AND IF – I decide to continue my education with the next two books.

“Laters, baby.”  (an oft-repeated line from the book)

13 comments:

nursemyra said...

I read the review you linked to, the book doesn't sound particularly interesting to me. But the reviewer did mention Secretary - a favourite film of mine. Have you seen it Beth?

Sherry said...

What does it say about me that I have no interest in reading this? I did read "Forever Amber" and wasn't there one called "Fanny" or something like that? I was much younger and curious. At this particular age I've lost that particular curiosity.

What I like about this post is the questions you posed about pornography -- on the printed page, on the internet and the fusing of the 2. It's all out there and I'm thinking that the woman who wrote this particular e-book is looking to cash in. Perhaps I'm being harsh and she feels she is filling a need for women to have their own take on porn.

At the end of the day it is simply voyeurism and cheap thrills. But if it works and people want to enjoy it -- live and let live.

Jaya J said...

i've some erotica but found them boring. same thing over. so i wouldnt bother much.
still i suppose sex sells, and people would always be curious.
:)

laughingwolf said...

apparently it sold so well as an ebook, they made it into old fashioned printed page type, too...

Beth said...

nursemyra:
Haven’t seen it but did the Google thing – lots of awards, including a Sundance one. I like the comedy aspect of it. I’ll check it out.

Sherry:
Fanny Hill – that’s the title! Thanks.
As for S&M, porn, etc. – to each his/her own, whatever turns your crank, floats your boat… ;)

Jaya J:
Yup, repetitive and boring…

Gorilla Bananas said...

A porn trilogy? That's only going to work if each subsequent book raises the bar in the sex scenes. Probably the only creative thinking required of the author.

Beth said...

LW:
The growing strength of e-books… Print industry - beware!

GB:
Re: bars & all other paraphernalia – based on what I’ve read (and I finished it) I suspect there will be a decline…
HEA? Farewell S&M?

Cipriano said...

I've seen this book so much at my frequent visits to Chapters, but never knew much about it, nor that it was of the erotica-porn-romance genre. I only know that it is selling well -- which is not always a good indication of books that overall interest me. I probably will not ever read this one as it sounds, according to you, to be a bit lacking [maybe] in the literary department of things.
That article in the Globe you mention - that is actually extremely relevant of an issue, I think. The availability, the access, the ubiquitous nature of pornography, as compared to... whatever.... several decades ago? It has to have profound effects on the current and future generations. Of men and women.

Zhu said...

I'm not sure what to think but now I want to read it too! I wonder if I will be "shocked"... nah, I'm too French for that ;-)

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

Hm, I'm a bit pink faced merely reading about a book that includes S&M. Or maybe I just got too much sun today. Sex sells, and this I understand. But I don't understand how inflicting pain could be a sexual turn-on. This, I find disturbing.

xoRobyn

Beth said...

Cip:
Re: that article - it’s somewhat reassuring to see that the existing and potential problem/situation is recognized and being dealt with – in some places.

Zhu:
I don’t think you’ll be shocked – more like amused, bored and disturbed…

Robyn:
I’m unable to comprehend any pleasure derived from either inflicting OR receiving pain. I live with enough pain as it is. But obviously, S&M is a turn-on for many.

Cid said...

Have heard from a few friends about the books but the stack beside my bed and downloaded on my Kobo should come first. I also read the Globe article about boys and their easy access to on line porn and frankly it terrifies me. But then I also object to the IKEA radio ad that's running right now which alludes to "romance and more romance" of the "oh no I don't have any money, however can I pay the pizza delivery boy." Really? On afternoon radio. It's tough being a girl these days but just as tough being a boy.

Beth said...

Cid:
It’s a strange, scary new world for the next generation – so many mixed messages.

Definitely concentrate on your TBR piles!