Gulp. I am nervous.
I have kept my thoughts mostly to myself about this trilogy but now I will share them. Of course in the name of a more spiritual sexuality for all of us. And not because I am a riled-up blowhard. Never that.
First, this entire post is one big spoiler. Do not continue reading if you think you may want to be surprised by anything in the first book. I can’t comment on the details of the other two because I only made it about 3/4 of the way through the first, and that only happened because I was on a red-eye back home and I was a self-imposed captive. I left my other books behind so I would be forced to read it. I make a solemn vow before every Jet Blue flight not to watch anything with the words “housewives” or “matchmaker” or “hills” in it and I fail miserably every time. Then I get off the plane wanting to wash my eyeballs off and feeling like I just ate ten packets of red Kool Aid drink mix and nothing else, and hoping no one puts a knife in my hand for any reason whatsoever until I can shower and sleep it off. I figured, maybe one source of junk food would be equivalent to another. A book might even trump TV, was my thinking. Wrong.
Secondly, if you did read the books and you did like them, what I am about to rant on about discuss is not a reflection of how I feel about you. I don’t pretend to be the arbiter of what makes anyone hot, and I shouldn’t think you should assume I should.
Lastly, please do not assume that the strength of my opinions means I am able to discuss it in public, or in a group, without blushing. For all of our complaining, writers really do enjoy the illusion of their solitude.
So now I will begin.
ARE. YOU. KIDDING ME? I didn’t read romance novels as a young girl, so I was not prepared for the willing suspension of disbelief one needs to enter into that world, but I caught on quick. Still, SERIOUSLY:
Our protagonist is named Anastasia Steele? And she works in a hardware store? Actually that may be the only clever plot device in this whole mess of a story. She could get Gray an employee discount on all his dungeon supplies! Brilliant.
Unfortunately, I think that may be lost on the writer. Because the writing is awful, boring, and humorless. It’s the kind of writing which makes me wince. Which is sort of the opposite of in the mood. I don’t know if I could do better, but I do know there is no way I could sustain the interest in these nimrods long enough to write about them day after day until a book had been completed. I’d rather use the time/energy it took to write the damn thing actually screwing. The grammar, the phrasing, the horrible tics, it’s just a nightmare. Somebody please tell me that the 50-something BRITISH woman who wrote this has someone in her life willing to be honest with her. Because the same people who told her she sounds just like a 21-year old woman from Seattle must have also avoided telling her a whole bunch of other shit she needs to know.
We are supposed to believe that Anastasia is 21, is a virgin (plausible), has never masturbated (possible) because she’s never been interested (sad), and has never had an orgasm. This is where I really lose my composure. This book is selling hand over fist (sorry)! Women are unabashedly unashamed to buy it and read it in public, to talk about it with their friends. Their partners are clicking their heels on the way to work because of the amazing amounts of sex they’re having! Good God, why is there mass appeal here? What’s the turn-on about her becoming a submissive? Women, have we really made no progress whatsoever? The misogynist implications of this makes me sick to my stomach. All Gray has to do is wield his mighty member of “impressive length” and she is having orgasms all over the place? Repeatedly. Come ON Sisters! And Brothers too! Really?
This is women “embracing their sexuality”? Women’s rights in this country are being systematically run through until we’re back into the dark ages wearing chastity belts and THIS is what is popular? And what’s worse, this series is nicknamed “Mommy Porn”. We’re outing mothers for feeling great about reading this stuff. Mothers who are sending daughters and sons into a world still so frozen by gender stereotypes, wage gaps, and glass ceilings, it boggles my mind that this is what we’re risking our reputations for by talking about it in book groups and at coffee shops.
Why does feminine sexuality have to be reductionistic, simplistic, and banal to be acceptable? I heard one friend comment that it only appears that she’s not in control. She’s actually the one with all the control. Okay…..does she know that? And again, what is it saying? That we can’t be direct?
Why does the character have absolutely no sexual relationship with herself or anyone else that is substantial and complex? Like the women that we truly are?
And why, oh Why does sex have to hurt to be hot? Okay, here I must confess I am neither an expert in the non-vanilla sexual world nor do I have experience in this, so before I shut the hell up I won’t belabor the point, I will say I do get the forbidden fantasy thing, but again, think of the book’s popularity. It is breaking sales records, or at least helping keep independent bookstores alive (for which I am eternally grateful). But we have enough of a problem with the objectification of women, domestic violence, rape, and incest without needing to read about a young woman with absolutely no sexual experience as turned on by sex that is physically painful. How is that creative? How is that stimulating? Are we that numb?
(Hint: meditation and yoga or anything else that balances the emotional/spiritual/physical energies would seem to me to be the antidote to prop-dependent sex. But it requires work, as all consciousness building does. Then again, this may be above my pay grade).
And of course, our male protagonist Gray is just screwed up enough to be captivating. He’s wounded. That’s right, ladies, the most attractive guy is the one who’d rather spend thousands on a dungeon than on a good therapist.
I’ll end now before I get a second wind. Please just do me a favor? If you’re going to buy the books buy them from Water Street Bookstore. And while you’re there, at least check out the sex scenes in The Outlander series by DianaGabaldon. Then talk amongst yourselves.