I’ve given into society’s questionable choice in books before, even though it usually takes some time. I resisted the Twilight series for years up until I saw a picture of one of the werewolves with no shirt on in a trashy magazine. I avoided the Girl with the… series by Stieg Larrson for years as well, up until the point where every single person was claiming them to be masterpieces and I had no choice but to read them so I could develop an argument of total disagreement.
So when a variety of my friends came up and announced to me I was just going to love the Fifty Shades… series, I was both skeptical and intrigued. The real thing that was causing me to raise an eyebrow in interest was the fact that people were telling me this because of the apparent shoddy sex scenes that the book seemed to be based on, “dude, it’s so kinky and sexual. You’re totes gonna love it!” (Note to self: people relate you to kinky and sexual. Okay, continue.) Regardless, I went and bought the book and the clerk smiled at me and said “these books have just been flying off the shelves!”
Well, duh. Of course they have…
Our society has one of the biggest double standards regarding sex in the world. On the one hand, it’s everywhere. Sex sells us our clothes, our shampoos, our shoes, our booze, our Doritos, animal rights, our music, our movies, our cars, our workout equipment, books, our TV shows, our celebrity gossip, our magazines, our prescription drugs, our well, just about anything. It is everywhere. This society eats it right up. On the flip side of that same hand though, we’re not supposed to talk about it. It is considered inappropriate as dinner conversation, ‘meeting the parents’ conversation, political conversation; generally any conversation that takes place anywhere but behind the enclosed walls of your living room and it best only be with your closest friends. More or less, sex is shoved in our faces daily, but we’re supposed to keep hush about it and fidget and blush if it is brought up.
So now we have a book on the shelves that dives right into some underground world of whipping, flogging, mind-blowing orgasms, and butt sex, and house wives and young women (who consider changing positions mid-coitus “crazy” and won’t let a dude put it in their bum) all over are eating it right up. Hiding in the comfort of their bedroom, simultaneously eating Ben & Jerry’s, and every once in a while squealing in utter pleasure/disgust, they’re jumping head first into this book and probably even getting some ideas. (You know, better than the ones in Cosmo.) How is this surprising? Women are told to be sex objects but shut up about it but like it but remember, do not talk about it.
In that sense, I applaud E.L. James for writing these books. The fact that she sat down and said to herself “self, you know what I want to write about? Kinky, dirty, hot, steamy sex, and so I shall.” And she did, and it worked, because although women have written erotic romances before, this is one of the first (since I’ve been alive) that hit the mainstream and hit it with gusto. Clearly, there was some courage demonstrated on her part. Lord knows, that she knew that she was bound to get flack for it. So I commend her ability to side-step that and carry on anyway.
However, if you consider yourself a lover of words, this is not the book for you. The writing is a step above what I wrote in fourth grade. (My first short story at the tender age of nine was about being hog-tied and beat with a belt, of course.) She used the same words repeatedly, sometimes in the same sentence when it is not needed, which is a big pet peeve of mine.
“We are besieged by do-it-yourselfers wanting to spruce up their homes. Mr. and Mrs. Clayton and John and Patrick- the two other part-timers- and I are besieged by customers (pg. 24).”
Those lines are literally back-to-back. How are they both necessary? We got it the first time, James. And that is just one of many offenses throughout the book. She uses the word medulla oblongata a whopping amount of times, in reference to like her brain passing on information throughout her body (yes, seriously), which made me giggle, because who the hell uses that word save biologists and Adam Sandler (who used it one time, mind you)? Every time she describes one of the supporting characters Kate, she uses the word tenacious, which, I’m not going to lie, has ensured that I will probably never use that word again myself. Basically, E.L. James really needs to invest in a thesaurus.
All in all though, I didn’t pick up this book because I thought I was going to be blown away by a literary masterpiece. I’m pretty sure most people haven’t. At least, I hope not, so really for me to sit here and go on and on about the terrible writing is tedious and unneeded. I hated the main character, who I think we’re supposed to like and relate to. I hated the writing. And to be honest, the porn I watch has a better plot, dialogue, and characters that have some, um, depth to them. Because of this, I won’t be reading passed the first book.
But, like I said, three cheers for James doing what she set to do and not backing down. And hey, the book sold more copies worldwide than any of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Which really goes to show…
Sex will always sell, so we should probably just get over it and talk about it.