There’s been varied opinions about this summer’s “hottest” book, Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of my Facebook friends have praised it, while my local BDSM community has… well, let’s just say it’s not been received well at all. I’m not one to accept other’s reviews as concrete – what’s great for one person, isn’t necessarily what is for another. Oddly enough, that’s what this book is about if you dig deep enough. So I read it.
I read this book with the intent of staying unbiased. I tried… really, I did. It was really difficult because I happen to belong to the world of BDSM in which this book is supposedly based. I say “supposedly” because it is my strong opinion that while yes, there are certainly actions, tools and yes… even emotions that do occur within this lifestyle, I believe this book focuses on so much of the ugly and wrong.
I have very strong feelings about this subject and to be honest, I’m having a hard time focusing them into a coherant, structured post. My apologies if this doesn’t turn out well. Understand that my heart and my mind are hurting as I process the book and write this. I imagine this is going to get quite lengthy…
We’re Not Broken People.
The characters of Christian Grey (playing the role of Dominant) and Anstasia Steele (playing the role of submissive) were portrayed as broken people. Christian is seduced at the age of 15 by an older woman, a friend of his mother’s. He spends six years as her submissive. The book is unclear about any sort of abuse and the character suggests otherwise, but let’s be reasonable… he was at the very least, emotionally abused. His character cannot even stand to be touched. He was participating in a very intense relationship at too young an age with a married woman.
Those of us who participate in this lifestyle choice are not broken people. It doesn’t mean we were beaten or abused growing up. We didn’t necessarily have a difficult upbringing. That isn’t to say there aren’t some broken souls… but we’re not broken people. The idea of us being portrayed as such, irritates me. It hurts me.
Dominants aren’t control freaks.
Digging deeper, Christian is portrayed as some creepy, stalker, control freak. Those actual words are used throughout the book. Dominants are none of the above. D/s (Domination / submission) is not about being a control freak. Of course there are a lot of variations in the D/s dynamic, but not one of them includes being creepy or stalkerish. There is a fine line between Dominating a person and controlling them. I will say that the book does a semi-okay job of walking that line, although it slips at times when we see Christian get more than jealous. Domination is more about the well being of the submissive than anything else. There are indeed contracts, rules and oh yes… even punishments for breaking them.
Submission is a Gift.
Like I said, it’s a fine line and I know a lot of people will read the book and assume he’s “just being a controlling asshole” and in a few instances, you may be right. Having been in an abusive, controlling relationship myself, I do in fact know the difference. Dominating is more about handling a person rather than controlling them. In an abusive relationship, the abuser takes control and does things for their own benefit. In a D/s situation, the submissive truly holds the power and gladly gives it to their Dominant, who handles them in a way that benefits them both. The submissive also can say no at any time. Submission is about trust. It’s about putting your life completely into someone else’s hands and trusting them to guide you, mold you, cherish and protect you while expecting them to always do what is in your best interest. It’s a very deep, very personal relationship and bond.
I was 34% through this book (according to my Kindle) at which point Ana makes it very clear that she is not a submissive. That is where the book should have ended. I realize that of course, there wouldn’t have been a book for me to bitch about, but all the same… it should have never gone any further. She was unable to give herself to Christian. She knew early on that she was never going to be what he wanted and yet she kept on, afraid of losing her first boyfriend.
BDSM is NOT about Sex.
Ana is a strong character. She’s bright, just graduated 4 years of college and has a promising career ahead of her. And yet, the author reduced her to some sex-crazed moron. I don’t deny that the type of sexual experiences she gained weren’t intoxicating and addicting, but I hate that the book was portrayed to be so much about sex. Yeah, yeah, yeah… there wouldn’t have been a book for me to bitch about.
Mind you, as much as it bothers me that the book continued, I will go out on a limb and say that I appreciated the growth Ana experienced and it’s what kept me reading. Her growth within the lifestyle as well as the obstacles she faced – the feelings of confusion in particular, are realistic.
I want to share a post written by a friend of mine after reading the book. I want to share it because it explains the relationship dynamic in ways I never could… certainly far better than that book did. When I read her words I cry for her… I cry for myself… I cry for my friends who are all truly wonderful and loving individuals who don’t deserve to be cast in the negative light of this wretched book. Here is that post…
I have been reading 50 Shades of Grey. During this time I have also been under an unusual amount and type of stress, and haven’t been dealing with it well.
This book made me cry. Sob like a child, because it made me feel weak for being who I am. It caught me at the wrong moment, and poorly written and awful as this book may be, it touched a nerve that was already raw. I crumbled beneath the weight of the accusatory tone it uses…it made me question my own sanity and stability, because every kinky person in this book is fucked up some how. I know, I know, its just fantasy, I know its badly written, I know it shouldn’t have had that effect on me. But it did.
I am a submissive woman. I submit because I love, because I need to. I submit because it thrills me to please my man. My Master. My lover, my best friend, my hero, my champion, my sadist, my Puppy (don’t ask :-) ). I submit because it fulfills a basic instinct within me, because I love it, not because he needs me to (though that makes it SO much more fun!!). I submit because it turns me on and turns me up, because through my submission I have felt things I never would have felt otherwise. He has taken me to places I never knew existed, and if I had not submitted willingly and joyfully to his strength and his intelligence I would not have those experiences that I so very, deeply cherish. I do not give him this piece of myself because he needs me to, that would be the opposite of healthy. I give him this, because I need to.
I am a masochist. I guess its how I’m wired; I was never beaten or abused as a child. Pain sets off my nerves in a way that no other touch can..some of the most powerful orgasms I have ever had came from no other sensation but pain. I love it. I grew up in a perfect home with a beautiful family, with parents who were wildly in love, with a backyard full of flowers and a mom who made breakfast every morning and a dad that made $180,000 a year; parents who took us places and who were always involved. There was nothing wanting. I never went hungry, I never, ever, ever got spanked or hit. And yet, even then I was as I am now. I remember as a very small child I would play little mental scenarios through my head when I was waiting to fall asleep, where I was the princess that had been kidnapped by so-and-so, and had been tied to such and such to wait for my hero to come save me…it wasn’t until much, much later, after discovering my sexuality, that I understood these fantasies I had had from such a young age. It is an intrinsic part of who I am. It is not a mental illness, it is not a result of being broken…exactly the opposite.
I am not the product of abuse or a broken home. I am not confused about my sexuality. I am not a simpering twit. I have not been cajoled or forced or seduced into this lifestyle. I am here of my own free will, kneeling at his feet because I feel safe there, not because he forced me, not because I fear I will lose him if I didn’t.
I think that is what bothers me the most…that she submits so she won’t lose him. How DARE they portray the most intimate, precious thing a person like me can give…their sexuality and their submission…as a bargaining tool? A chip to be bartered. Fuck that. Fuck that. FUCK THAT.
I am here because it is natural and healthy and beautiful…so beautiful. My submission is the greatest gift I can give, because when I give my body, I also give my mind and soul…the whole of me is kneeling at his feet, not just my body. When I give him my submission, I give him my WHOLE BEING…and I cannot give more than that.
There is nothing in the world like the catharsis of crying into my Master’s shoulder after a hard scene, his powerful arms around me, his hands in my hair, his body wrapped around mine. Nothing could ever be safer to me than being in his arms, especially after he hurts me. He hurts me because I need him to…and it hurts SO good.
Oh, you thought I was done? Nope.
Sorry to say, I’m not done hating on this book. Now I want to talk about the writing itself. If you’re not aware, this book was originally Twilight fan-fic which was rewritten with the names changed for the sake of publishing and turning a buck. If you’re familiar with Twilight, you can probably match up a lot of the book’s characters with their Twilight counterparts. Sometimes fan fiction should stay fan fiction. I love Twilight – it appeals to the stupid romantic in me who has a love for paranormal romance. That said, it’s not exactly brilliant literature to begin with. Basing a BDSM book on the character dynamics portrayed in Twilight is just… bad.
Someone needs to buy the author, E. L. James a fucking thesaurus. I have NEVER seen so much repetition in a book. I’m by no means a professional writer, but I do know better than to use the same words and phrases over and over. Maybe 2-3 times in acceptable depending on book length, but anything more than that, the reader is going to notice to the point of it becoming annoying. The following phrases and/or words come to mind…
- Oh my
- Holy Cow
- Holy Shit
Vulgarity… or maybe the lack thereof
It boggles my mind that the word “fuck” is used on multiple occasions in this book to describe a sexual act and yet, the author blatantly chooses to go shy when discussing Ana’s vagina. That’s right… I said it. VAGINA. Cha-Cha, Hair Pie, Fish Taco, Pussy, Kooch, Cunny, Twat, Muffin, Cooter, Tee-Tee… V-A-G-I-N-A. On more than one occasion (many, actually) it is described as …there (note the usage of italics) as if to suggest her nether regions are too dirty or too naughty for us to mention. Are you serious? This girl is giving blow jobs, swallowing cum, fucking a man on desks, taking a flogging and yet it’s too much for us to just talk openly about her vagina!? Well E. L. James… I think you’re a pussy. How you like me now?
The Inner Goddess
I’m not sure at what point Ana starts with this “Inner Goddess” bullshit in her head. It sort of comes out of nowhere. It reminds me of Dexter Morgan’s “Dark Passenger”. It’s terribly annoying and really distracts from the story. I got tired of reading about what the voices in her head were saying to her… especially when they had nothing useful to contribute.
I won’t be reading the remaining books of this trilogy. I’m not interested in Ana’s journey… certainly not in Christian’s. I’m thankful that these books are introducing the world of BDSM to the masses, but very unhappy with how it is being portrayed. My roommate said it best when he compared our lifestyle to that of a beautiful hiking trail unknown to many that once advertised to the masses would be used improperly and destroyed over time due to disrespect for the trail. That is what these books will accomplish.
I have no taste for E. L. James’ writing style – if you can even call it a style. I’ve heard that the books “get better” (basically from people who liked the book) but honestly, the subject matter is already written poorly – in more ways than one.
I sincerely hope that this post gives you something to think about – especially those of you who think it’s just a good book… some innocent smut for you to read and giggle about openly. It’s degrading to a very loving group of people and to myself.
The ONLY thing that would save this series for me, is a movie. And that’s only because every time Christian smirks, I see Ian Somerhalder in my head. You are welcome.
This article was originally posted on July 3, 2012 at www.KimiWho.com prior to the decision to no longer post adult content on that blog.