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.
~E.L. James, Fifty Shades of
Terrible Writing Grey
Yes, I actually paid for and mostly read Fifty Shades of Grey. Feel free to judge me. Heck, I judge me.
But I admit, when any book gets that much traction, it piques my interest and I will read it. Or at least try to read it. The writing in this is just plain terrible and I eventually had to say good-bye to Ana and Christian. If I had to read about one more cocked head or lips pressed into a hard line or inner goddess, I was going to start beating someone, and not in a sexy way.
So why on earth is this book completely dominating the best-seller list? Why are grown-up, adult women consenting to read absolute garbage writing?
I’m sure there are numerous reasons. Curiosity. Dissatisfaction. Boredom.
But I think a big reason why women are reading this trilogy is because we’re tired of the narrative. You know the one.
It’s the story of the virtuous woman who gives in to sex because she’s been worn down by her insatiable boyfriend.
It’s the story of the microwave and the crock-pot.
It’s the story of the man who only wants sex and the woman who only wants intimacy.
Honestly, it just gets old. And regardless of your opinion about Fifty Shades, it certainly does not follow the same narrative that we’ve been told.
Instead, we have a woman who straight up wants sex. Ana’s relationship with Christian isn’t based on love, it’s based on desire. There are moments of emotional intimacy, but what draws them together is much more carnal.
In short, it’s a book about fucking.
The first book that I remember reading about sex was Just Like Ice Cream. It was about a 16-year-old girl who gets pressured into having sex with her older boyfriend. It was very frank in its description of sex, but in a way that slightly frightened me. The main character Julie eventually learned to tolerate sex, but she never wanted it and certainly didn’t enjoy it. In my formative years, my best hope for sex was that it would be tolerable. Not fun, not exciting, not thrilling, not mind-blowing. Just…tolerable.
And as much as I’d like to say this is strictly a religious thing, it’s not. Popular culture tells the same story of the woman who gives in to her husband’s nagging for sex. Or worse, if a woman does desire sex, she is just a slut.
I think this is why Fifty Shades, despite its ridiculous plot, redundant phrasing, and complete lack of editorial input, is a huge best seller. Because women want something else. We’ve grown weary of the story that has us as mere observers of our sexuality, we want to be full participants. We want to know that it’s okay to want to orgasm every time (or, you know, more). We want to know that it’s okay to have physical desires that aren’t just about intimacy or romance. We want to know that we have power over our own sexuality. We want to know that it’s okay to want to fuck.
If we can allow that to be integrated into the lone story that many women encounter, we can go beyond mere grey into something more beautiful and colorful than any best-seller could contain.
I think it’s time to get besieging this story.