I have finally finished reading the Fifty Shades trilogy. And Wow! Just Wow... but so not in a good way. Firstly however,I will make the caveat that if it floats your boat, then absolutely Fair Play to you. It just sank mine to the depths. I think that this probably is my biggest issue with the series. I have no issue, if you find these books sexy. What I do have a massive issue with, is the assumption that all women should find this sexy. These books have been touted to be ’the user’s guide for women’. While this may have been said with a certain amount of humour, I don’t find this funny. To be told that this is what all women want is both highly irritating and nauseating.
The media explosion surrounding these books fills me with disgust. Along with the Twilight fervour, the open acceptance of the constant manipulation and denigration of women is unreal. I mention Twilight because it is well known that the characters Edward and Bella were the inspiration for EL James’ stories. Both sets of novels present damaged and dangerous ’ideals’ of relationships. Downtrodden and despondent teenager Bella and her manipulative, but rich and beautiful Edward with his barely contained violence. Naive Ana, twenty one years old, but almost idiotically (and unrealistically) innocent and the rich, handsome, but damaged Christian with his barely contained violence. I can’t imagine that barely contained violence is s turn on for most women. Books like this make it seem that it is the case.
I know girls as young as nine who have read the Twilight saga. Learning that it is okay for an one hundred and eleven year old man to ask you to lie to your friends and family, to sit in your bedroom and watch you sleep. That it is okay for him to dictate all the boundaries within your illicit relationship. To tell you he wants to kill you. That all this is fine, as long as he is beautiful and tells you that he loves you.
Ana and Christian’s relationship is no less dysfunctional. His irrational need to control Ana’s every move. His constant bullying that’s for her own good since she is unable to care for herself properly. His statements that he really would like to hurt her. Again, this is portrayed as acceptable. Christian constantly warns Ana that he is no good for her, he isn't what she wants or needs, but at the same time manipulating her into wanting to save the sad little boy he truly is inside. Both girls are made out to be at fault for wanting what they shouldn't have.
This once again perpetuates the idea that woman are somehow at fault for succumbing to such manipulations. It is always her fault if she believed the ’I Love Yous’ after the nasty comments and vicious blows.
These novels set a dangerous precedent that if he is gorgeous and loves you despite all of your faults (that he has pointed out to you), then none of his behaviour is unforgivable. And anyway, if it is, then your love can change him, no matter what. Both Bella and Ana behave in ways that shocked me as a reader, both in their naivity and passivity. Although they are the lead character in the books, they just didn't make me have any emotional rapport with them. They are all cardboard cutouts of human beings, no real emotions, just superficiality and sparkle.
The BDSM within the books didn't shock me in any way. As Christian describes sex with no toys or added extras as “vanilla”, the “kinky fuckery” is probably raspberry ripple at most. What did annoy me a lot though, was the impression given that those with BDSM tendencies have them due to some kind of damage that has been done to them in the past.
Christian is into BDSM because when his birthmother was a “crack-whore” who neglected him while her pimps abused him. He was adopted at four, but then was sexually assaulted and abused for years by an older woman (a family friend). Not only do all Christian’s issues stem from abuse from women, there is a disturbing implication that BDSM is caused by some kind of sexual abuse. BDSM is a lifestyle choice, probably not understood by the majority of people outside of the culture, but it isn’t something evil and nasty. Although characters within the books state there is nothing wrong with it, there is very much the underlying message that there is.
Plot aside, it just isn't particularly well written. Especially when it is meant to be erotica. Coyness is all well and good, and yes, I understand that the author is meant to be portraying a young, innocent, and naive woman, but personally I found it to be annoying and rather vacuous to constantly read “he kissed me ’there’” instead of her vulva, vagina, cunt, pussy or other more descriptive words. I understand that these words may be too medical or too vulgar, but seriously there are a more poetic ways to describe your genitals if you actually think about it and use your imagination. “There” isn't very concise language. The whole point of “there” is it could be anywhere. Her elbow? Armpit? Left nostril? Surely a writer can use their imagination to find a more fitting description without upsetting anyone's sensibilities.
Ana’s character is just too unrealistic for me. Virginity aside, to have had no sexual attraction or sensation until she mets her Mr Grey is frankly too unbelievable. I have no issue with a twenty one year old virgin, but to have never even fancied anyone before is beyond belief. It is said that Christian has had no adolescence, but neither has Ana. This is an adolescent relationship based on physical attraction and manipulation. Hardly healthy in any shape or form.
And yet, this is something we as women are meant to aspire to? She has had no experiences with the opposite sex other than some feeble “making out” sessions. The amount of time that it takes for Ana and Christian to meet, fall in love, and decide to marry is ridiculous. But I suppose this was meant to inject the romance that was lacking. In a matter of weeks, Ana has cured Christian of his “sadistic” ways and by their honeymoon he can no longer bear to see restraint marks upon her wrists and ankles. He is still essentially an overbearing prick, but at least he doesn't want to physically mark her anymore...
Love changes everything, remember?
Ana also seems to have some kind of multiple personality disorder. In her mind she is three people. Anastasia, her Subconscious, a bespectacled shrew and her Inner Goddess. Essentially her Inner Goddess is Ana’s Id. Her inner dialogue alternates between herself and the Shrew, while her Inner Goddess dons lingerie, red lipstick and spreads her legs at the sound of Christian’s voice. After a while, you actually just want Ana to stop talking to herself and her Shrew, and then lock her skipping Inner Goddess in a cupboard somewhere. It is nonsensical and distracting.
In a nutshell, I can't really understand why this set of stories has caught everyone’s imagination so much. There are so many erotic stories out there, sexier, hotter, racier, kinkier, and just simply, better written.