Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why the interest? OpEd on 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Straight from
50 Shades of Grey is the first title in a trilogy by British author E. L. James. This morning, the NYT reports (in what is currently the most-emailed article on the site) that the book has “electrified women across the country, who have spread the word like gospel on Facebook pages, at school functions and in spin classes…conversation about the book online has fed many of the sales.” Over 250,000 copies have been sold.

Though the NYT mentions the “word-of-mouth excitement” the trilogy has generated and says James “began the trilogy by posting fan fiction online,” the article doesn’t explain its origins in detail. Well-known romance blogs like “Dear Author” and “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books” have been covering 50 Shades of Grey since last year. 50 Shades of Grey is hugely popular on social reading site GoodReads, where it was a finalist for “Best Romance” in the 2011 GoodReads Choice Awards. There, it has been rated 6,821 times (with an average star rating of 4.34) and reviewed 1,347 times.

That snippet is just to give you a bit of background on my opinion. First of all, the strict genre of this book is Erotica. So, don't let the press or buzz fool you into thinking it's anything like Twilight, and frankly, my head spins at the number of times I saw these two compared.

That, my dear reader, is the falsest of advertising and the meanest of bait/switch. Twilight is, at its heart, an incredible love story. Romeo and Juliet. Never to be together and yet impossible to remain apart. 50 Shades of Grey is rampant with violent sex, in the form of rape fantasy (Do women fantasize about being raped? Get to therapy, ladies!), domination and sadomasochism. Unless I missed an entire undercurrent in the Twilight saga, these two are night and day.

About a man who is wildly successful in business, handsome, blah, blah, blah and the woman he pulls into his dangerous and illicit woman-hating fantasies. That is the summary in a nutshell. My question is: Why on earth is this book flying off the shelves?

What in us wants to read about violent sex? What on earth is wrong with society when a book publisher will pay seven figures for a series published over a year ago, which was (for the most part) available free online until recently?

There is no shortage of books! There are tons and tons of wonderful books out there to read that will not damage precious brain cells with images that you'll never be able to release. Choose one of these! Please, I am begging you. Do Not Buy This Book. It's poison. I am no fan of book censorship, and I strongly endorse the availability of this book on the shelves. However, I also fully support dust collecting on every one of them, as a sure and solid voice that we don't want to read books that glorify and romanticize violence of any kind against women, least of all sexual in nature.

Did you know that March 8th was World Women's Day? Do you know why we have to have a day like World Women's Day? Because of books like 50 Shades of Grey, which trivializes (at the least) violence against women and romanticizes it (at the worst).

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