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)