In case you’re interested in feminism and psychology. I’ve put a bit of stuff together concerning this BDSM novel today. But I don’t have time now to copy it to tumblr. ;)
Fifty Shades Freed- E.L. James (50 shades #3)
When unworldly student Anastasia Steele first encountered the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.
Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.
Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.
So I work at a bookstore. And like most bookstores, we’ve been selling out of 50 Shades of Grey like it’s going out of style.
It’s not a book that’s on my must-read list, but none of those reasons have to do with the fact that it’s unrepentant smut. (I prefer my unrepentant smut to be of the non-hetero variety.) However, I’m getting sick of the fact that much of the criticism of this book and its sudden popularity revolve around the fact that it’s unrepentant smut, and the fact that it’s targeted to and primarily purchased by women. At a regular bookstore! Where it’s stocked not only on the shelves, but on special displays! IN BROAD DAYLIGHT! How dare they.
I’ve sold, at cash, 50 Shades to women in their early twenties and in their sixties. One woman joked how she sent her 35-year-old son to pick it up for her. One woman bought it at the same time as she was purchasing YA novels for her pre-teen daughter. In one case, I had a customer on the phone gush about how much she loved it and that I really should read it, and after placing a hold for her, she let me know that she might not be able to get down for a while because she was in her late seventies and had a bad hip. (It is notable, however, that the overwhelming majority of women I’ve sold 50 Shades to are white and appear to be middle-class.)
So at the end of the day, whatever the quality of the book and whatever its Twilight-fan fic origins, it comes down to this: Women are buying porn, buy the bucketload, with no shame.
I can’t even comprehend how extremely fucking awesome that is. This is porn written by a woman, for women, and from the perspective of a woman, and when you consider that, it’s not surprising that it came out of the fan fic community. If 50 Shades wasn’t the “it” book of the moment, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity of a septuagenarian recommending me porn over the phone while complaining about her hip.
Porn is supposed to be covert, and it’s supposed to be for men. Our (straight) erotica section is tucked away in the Health section. Even though there’s hints of porn everywhere, there’s still a culture of shame around it, and especially around porn for women. And what’s interesting about 50 Shades is that it exists in a variety of public places. Yes, you can covertly order it on Amazon or read it as an e-book, but it’s also telling that our big-box independent bookstore can’t get paperback copies in fast enough. Reading is a solo activity, but the physical presence of a book allows it to be lent out and passed along. And 50 Shades’ cover is suggestive, but not overtly sexual, which makes it appropriate to read in public as well as in private, as well as the fact that text-based porn is less obvious than image-based porn.
But we’ve still got the fact that one of the most commonly-mocked aspects of 50 Shades is the fact that it’s not just sex, it’s kinky sex. And the supposedly biggest shock is that it’s being read by people who have no experience with BDSM or with the kink community. Which leads to what is, in my mind, the most problematic criticism of the book: that these women don’t understand what they’re reading. That this book will teach them that they should subjugate themselves to men in every aspect of their lives. That it’s anti-feminist and regressive, and that the BDSM dynamic is inherently oppressive, rather than something that people consensually engage in because they get off on it.
In all honesty, the particular dynamic in 50 Shades isn’t something that I can imagine myself experiencing, but that’s because I’m a lesbian. So I can’t understand the perspective of 50 Shades’ target audience, or how reading this book might change how I’d relate to a male partner. But I do know that porn for straight girls is a rare creature (as is porn for queer girls and most people who are not cis men), and part of it is because women aren’t supposed to have sexual appetites independent of men. And 50 Shades’ popularity is debunking the hell out of that.
I don’t really understand how trends happen. I don’t get why 50 Shades took off in a way that other smut hasn’t.
50 Shades is mockable, just as anything is mockable. I have no qualms about making fun of it. I don’t think it’s the best quality porn I’ve read, and I’m all for mocking the writing style. A sketch about Gilbert Gottfried reading a 50 Shades audiobook? Absolutely fucking hilarious. There’s a lot about porn that’s really funny, especially when it takes itself too seriously, which 50 Shades does at times. But I’m really, really sick of people criticizing, belittling, and generally being asshats about the fact that women are buying kinky porn.