Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

(This one never went live on Blogjob: bondage and dominationDave BarryE.L. Jamespornographic fictionpornography as marital aidromance fiction.)

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey 
(Click on that "copyrighted" photo to buy it from the copyright holder on Amazon.)
Author: E.L. James
Author's (frankly I find it annoying, but it's the sort of thing some very young web designers think is cool and different) web page: https://www.eljamesauthor.com/landing/
Date: 2012
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0345803481
First, read this review, because if you're at all interested in romance you want to know what men think about it. Usually it's hard to find a male reviewer for a romance novel. In this extraordinary case, an excellent, must-read review by a man is available:

Now, if this were not [meant to be] a Blogjob review, I could inform new readers (regular readers know) that I'm a woman, with submissive tendencies, even. Readers would then wonder, "So what did you think of Fifty Shades of Grey?" and I could then say, "Basically the same thing Dave Barry did."
Since it [was meant to be] a Blogjob review, and our sponsors expect 300 words, I need to add a few more words. As a woman I don't have to worry about whether this is what a good husband is supposed to think. I do have to worry, just a little bit, about whether this is a book a good aunt is supposed to admit to having read. Meh. By now half of The Nephews probably have read it and aren't planning to mention having read it to me.
Well, it's pornography. Romance novels sold in supermarkets are just as explicit (in just as annoyingly cute and coy ways) but at least they give the characters something to do in between sex scenes. Once the characters in Fifty Shades of Grey flop into bed, about all they do is have sex again, or think about it. That's the current working definition of porn; not just that characters commit fornication and/or adultery, but that they're not doing much of anything else.
But everything has its place, even porn. If you feel "addicted" to it, you shouldn't read it. If you live with children or with anyone for whom celibacy is still an effort, you shouldn't keep it in the house. If you're middle-aged and married to someone who wants more sex more often than you do, and you're lucky enough to find a piece of pornography that helps you...enjoy it, I say. (And if you can't find one, write and/or draw one.)
In Fifty Shades of Grey, as noted in Dave Barry's review, Christian Grey is "into" a very specific, highly stereotyped, sexual minority subculture made up of people who've conditioned each other to associate certain images and objects with pleasure. Most people, even most people who can identify "dominant" and "submissive" tendencies in ourselves or in some of our relationships, don't belong to that subculture, or want to. Most people may feel more resistance to the idea that Anastasia Steele is also "into" a specific, highly stereotyped sexual subculture, into which she could be described as seducing or perverting Christian at the same time that he's seducing or perverting her. She's been conditioned by "mainstream" commercial romance novels, movies, and TV shows. More women share her kink than share Christian's; that does not make it normal or natural.
Well, whatever. I read the book to see whether it was as bad as Dave Barry says, and it is. That's what somebody out there likes about it.
For me, personally...I like to be asked, yes. I like to be told exactly how to please the one I want to please. If I'm the one making the plans and decisions, doing the asking/telling, it will be more telling than asking, and the relationship will be sex-free (yes, I've had relationships like that, too). I could not imagine any circumstances under which I'd want to please anyone who resembled Christian Grey, noticeably, and the lack of interest would probably be mutual.
So what's the secret of this book's appeal? It may appeal to different people in different ways. My guess is that, whatever women think of the characters, the writing, or the subculture, they appreciate the fact that E.L. James does remember what an adolescent hormone surge feels like. At least I hope that Dave Barry's friend's wife is getting excited by the memory of adolescent hormone surges, rather than the fantasy of a half-grown billionnaire with a troubled mind.
Y'know what? I don't want to sell this one. Aunts may read porn, but aunts do not sell porn. Buy it at a charity sale, or from Amazon.