Fifty Shades of Grey: Erotica at its Worst?


Lining the carriages of countless trains during rush hour, Fifty Shades of Grey has been devoured by passengers since its release in paperback last year. Its black and grey cover is hard to miss as it decorates journeys across the country, coupled with the continual gushes of enjoyment across social networking sites on a daily basis. Every Facebook user has no doubt seen a status about it once or twice. I’m sure you have if you’re reading this. If not, where have you been hiding for the past few months?

Starting off as fan fiction for The Twilight Saga, its origins lie in eBook form but its initial success proved it could survive on paper, covering shelf after shelf in bookshops throughout the world. It is the first set of books of an erotic nature to really ingrain itself into the mainstream market, selling millions of copies worldwide and topping best-seller lists on an international scale. Yet when E. L. James took pen to paper to write the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy she could never have envisioned how famous it was to become – outselling renowned writers such as J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown, and even surpassing their previously held record of the fastest selling paperback.

The trilogy traces the sexual relationship of virgin, Anastasia Steele, and business man (and BDSM enthusiast), Christian Grey. Set in Seattle, readers follow Anastasia on her journey from hard-working college student to sex submissive in the space of 300 pages. She enters into an agreement, and a binding contract, with Christian whereby she has to succumb to his dominant sexual acts in a world where pain equals pleasure. It certainly makes for an uncomfortable read as we see her appetite for Christian’s BDSM fetish begin to blossom. The dialogue during these sexually charged moments is particularly hard to bear, as I found myself cringing whilst reading most of their encounters, mostly due to Christian’s hilariously unrealistic comments.

“I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favourite and most cherished part of my body. I’m very attached to this” 

Christian says this whilst he’s grabbing his penis during an intimate moment in the bathtub. This encompasses the general tone of the novels: filled to the brim with cheesy lines that you will wish you had never read and moments that would prove too extreme, and maybe even impossible, for a woman that was a virgin only five minutes ago.

These books have ignited a debate with feminists over whether Anastasia is just expressing herself sexually or simply allowing herself to be manipulated by Christian. On a serious note, I thought readers would have hated this book for its depiction of a sexual relationship that proves destructive to its protagonist. Anastasia relies on Christian wholeheartedly and keeps going back to him, even when he is violent towards her. This is no fairytale and I don’t see how any reader would want a partner like Christian Grey but I’ve seen so many Facebook updates dedicated to people’s love for Mr. Grey. It’s incomprehensible how James could create a character that’s adored by so many women when he’s a complete idiot. He’s a caricature of his own personality and it’s not a pleasant ordeal reading about him.

Potential readers of this fright fest should know it is no Edward Cullen and Bella Swan love story, like the original fan fiction would suggest, so those looking for a vampire-human romance, full of teen angst and fanged fantasy, should look elsewhere. Heck, those looking for a well written book should also look elsewhere. However, this trilogy will perhaps pave the way for authors of a similar kind to write their way into popular culture and onto the bedside table of many a middle aged woman, looking for some afternoon delight after a hard day at work.

Those who don’t usually like this sort of novel should stay far away. Nevertheless, it will be difficult to ignore its emergence into the public’s consciousness, especially now as the rights to the film have been bought by Universal Pictures. Still, as escapism goes it does the trick, and is successful in transporting its reader into a world of sex toys in “The Red Room of Pain”. All I can say is it’s been a waste of my time and the memory on my Kindle.

Here is just a taste of what you can expect:

Read at your own risk. You have been warned.


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