the following blog post comes from www.menarewomentoo.ca. it sums up my ‘problem’ with the best seller fifty shades of grey. had i been able to clearly and succintly articulate my disdain for the book (which, by the way, had nothing to do with erotica; that’s why i bought it. i thought it was fifty short stories of erotica for women) paragraph 5 of the following post could have been uttered by me.
fifty shades of grey, three shades of anti-feminism, and eighteen shades of embarrassingly bad writing
I heard about Fifty Shades of Grey from a recent date who was an editor of erotica, among other writings. He said it was so popular as an e-book that it was made into a bonafide paper book. Forgetting that Twilight proves a book need not be good for billions of women to love it, and having no information about its content, I excitedly cracked open Fifty Shades of Grey after my friend included it in a birthday care package.
Sadly, I’ve read grocery lists with more panache. The characters are undeveloped. The lead character Anastasia’s subconscious becomes anthropomorphised to the point of hiding behind a couch. Her “inner goddess” will make you more embarrassed at your choice of reading material than the mention of butt plugs (if that sort of thing embarrasses you). Possibly worst of all, Anastasia immediately repeats back to us word-for-word, things that the characters say, right after they say them. Just in case you missed it the first time, dummy. Ruth Marcus quotes an Amazon reviewer:
Characters roll their eyes 41 times, Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian’s lips ‘quirk up’ 16 times, Christian ‘cocks his head to one side’ 17 times, characters ‘purse’ their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. … If I wrote like that, I’d use a pseudonym too.
Besides being artless, adolescent writing, it is also arguably anti-feminist. (Saving BDSM conversation for another day.)
(my favourite paragraph) The story features a gorgeous, supposedly brilliant 24-year-old virgin literature major who says very little that’s particularly brilliant or literary, and who has never masturbated. No men have ever held her attention enough for her to even flick the bean. Until Christian Grey. All Anastasia needed was a gorgeous billionaire man who owns and flies his own jet and helicopter, broken from a tragic childhood, who cannot properly love her or let her love him, and who wants to spank her silly in his Red Room of Pain—for starters. What a potent, rare combo! No wonder she could come lickety-split her first time with someone she didn’t know or love!
(a close second favourite) So, we have the virgin archetype, the mother archetype, and the whore archetype. All one-dimensional women whom Western women are asked by media and society to be, and all at the same time. Anastasia will save this man, will love him into good mental health, will love the flogger right out of his hand—and of course, by the end of the story, she does.
Why does female writer E.L. James think this cliché virgin-whore male fantasy will appeal to women? What sort of woman finds this appealing? What does it say about internalised oppression when a woman’s erotica written for women includes worn male fantasy? Do women really want to be asexual until age 24? Or do some men want women to be asexual until they can conquer them? Why do men fantasise about inexperienced virgins? What would cause a man need only a hot virgin to bend over and be pliable in order to have great sex? And why do women fantasise about men taking control and knowing what to do? Why don’t women know what to do?
I did not identify with the character as a woman who does not know her own body, who does not know what she wants or likes, who depends upon a man to give her a sexuality, who indulges in one-sided BDSM, who lets a man call all the shots until she can manipulate and lure him into change.
Erotica has a low bar for publication—it need only light your fire. Unfortunately, similar to how my sex desire can disappear when I imagine my imaginary partner farting in my bed and pulling the covers over my head, this book’s inept writing and tired, immature gender roles annoyed me too much to arouse me even once.