Thursday, 12 July 2012

Jumping the Bandwagon, My Review of Fifty Shades of Grey

I finally gave in and decided to see what all the fuss is about, mostly because it was £3 in a supermarket rather the full £7.99 listed on the back cover, and so I have bought Fifty Shades of Grey (henceforth FSG). I haven’t watched any of the Twilight series, nor have I read them. At first I was equally sure I didn’t want to either read or watch, but curiosity may win out and if I’m going to hate something the least I could do is be fully informed on my object of loathing. The plot summary of FSG is well described in The Guardian’s digested read and can be found here.
As an erotic novel, whether you like it or not will depend on what you turns you on. The vanilla sex that deflowered Ana is standard run of the mill fare that is a like a more graphic version of Mills & Boon or something out Jackie Collins. So far so bland. However, it might be a useful indicator of what a woman might like to an inexperienced lover, a way for a woman to show her man that an erect penis does not constitute foreplay.
The kinky sex, was not shocking or surprising and I didn’t find it daring or outrageous, but rather dull at times. It feels like a pedestrian’s imagination of kink. However, I could be wrong as this particular flavour of sex is one I’ve never been particularly attracted to, nor do I know much about it. Therefore I’m probably not the best person to comment on it and since there is so much more that appalled me in this book that I would rather focus on that.
So now on to the non-explicit parts of FSG. I found the urge to punch Ana and E L James was frequently overwhelming. I have no issues with a Dom having complete control over their Sub in the bedroom (or wherever else the activities may take place); but when the Dom is basically your lord and master outside the bedroom, then I have a problem. If this book were only sold on shelves labeled erotica or erotic fantasy, I would have little issue with the book, but the fact is that in all the stores I’ve seen it in, it is on the same fiction shelf as non-explicit literature. This fact is something that bothers me greatly. It bothers me because teenage girls are likely to pick this up due to the Twilight connection and will find themselves being told that a man can dominate and dictate your life, that it is perfectly ok for to do just that. It isn’t ok! Women have fought for so long to be free of this kind of domination (sadly many women are still having to fight for freedom from domination,  even oppression by men) that this book to me feels like a slap in the face to the many women of previous generations who fought so hard for me to be able to make my own decisions, to be free of be owned (either literally or metaphorically) by a man. I hate the perpetuation of the myth that loving a man means you should be ok with being treated badly and disrespectfully most of the time because he makes up for it by saying or doing nice things for you now and then. Is this really what we want young women to learn about relationships? I sincerely hope not. Equally I hope that mothers (and fathers) will want to teach their sons to treat women with more respect than Christian (or E L James) shows Ana. The book may have been intended to be a harmless sexual fantasy story but because of where FSG is located in bookshops we cannot afford to dismiss it as such.

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