By Laura Spinella
Note, this blog contains sexually explicit material—none of it pertaining to Fifty Shades of Grey
It began with a call from Liz, wanting to know if I was watching the Today show. They were doing a piece on the titillatingly popular Fifty Shades book by E L James. My good friend wanted to know what all the hype was about and was it worth reading? I assume the fact that I am her author-friend and not her auto-mechanic-friend, made me the go-to expert. I hadn’t read it—not at that point—so we watched together. One psychological expert applauded the book for putting fantasy on paper, making it okay to indulge in kinky sex (don’t email me, kinky according to the bi-laws of vanilla sex, pg. 8 in the Submissive contract, clause 13E). The argument was that women had come full circle and it was okay to give back control in the bedroom. Liz asked, “Do you think that’s right?” I was glad she was on the other end of the phone, preventing her from seeing the blank look on my face. The other expert said the book was dangerous territory, exploiting an inexperienced young woman who would submit to just about anything to please a man. “Oh, she makes a good point,” Liz said, clearly caught up in the right and wrong of reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
I put the thought aside, too busy with two jobs, not to mention a manuscript that required one more round of revisions. In addition to this, I’d recently agreed to be the resident author for a critique group, the initial meeting scheduled for the next day. I’d all but forgotten Fifty Shades until I showed up to the critique group. The women, all new to each other, were immersed in anything but a grey discussion of the New York Times bestselling novel. Some were huge fans while others argued everything from the lack of writing skill to that earlier mention about the parameters of vanilla sex. Again, not being their auto-mechanic but closest facsimile to a breathing author, they wanted to know what I thought, especially since I’d penned a love scene or two. I felt as if I’d turned up to class without my homework, sheepishly confessing to not having pulled the shades to read Fifty Shades.
|Trip & Gus, Trip is the biter|
Moving on, I arrived home to find a Fifty Shades message on my Facebook page. It was from an old high school friend. You guessed it. Her PhD self was midway through the provocative read, thoroughly engrossed. What did I think? Without answering, I turned off the computer and went to bed. There I did nothing but sleep—no silky neckties, no blindfolds, no spanking. Well, that’s not entirely true. The cat bit my chin around 3 a.m. and was the recipient of a flailing arm. Hot multimillionaires with a penchant for pain need not apply, not when we have a pedestrian tiger-striped cat willing to do the same for wet tuna. The following day put me over the Fifty Shades edge, finding a gift copy on my Nook. It was from my boss. Really? Yes, really, but it was all quite innocent, a work-related assignment from the same person who'd sent me The Goal, a dryer than dirt book on effective process improvements. However, he was not without a specific motive. Apparently, he’d been contacted by a major magazine wanting to interview men who’d read Fifty Shades. What did I think?
From here the plot thickens about as much as the one in Fifty Shades. I submitted, sitting down and reading the damn book. I read from two different perspectives, half writer, half audience. I did have a couple of must-share thoughts: First, I’d no idea riding crops were so versatile. Second, I think E L James should have to produce a breathing girl over the age of 21 who does not have an email address or computer—and an Amish girl does not count. I won’t bore you with a more detailed opinion. Surely, by now, you’ve heard it all, the outward protests of those dedicated to literary prose, as well as those who take pride in complete sentences. Clearly, there are many who loved the book. Honestly, my reaction was neither here nor there. Take a spin through your TV channels; you can find bars set far lower without subscribing to pay TV. Just the other night, I wandered into an MTV Q&A where the male interviewer was discussing, in excruciating detail, the female interviewee’s oral sex life. All I’m thinking is WTF, why is this crap on my basic cable channels? With the blatant over sharing of personal information so available to this impressionable demographic, I’m not sure a novel, which appears to have found its audience with women well over the age of 21 is that brow-raising. Fifty Shades of Grey is a conscious choice where readers can happily indulge or otherwise conclude that the book is nothing more than another prop in the red room of pain. Yeah, you actually have to read the book to get the last one. There are, I suspect, more important thoughts to think.
Laura Spinella is the author of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, a 2012 RITA Finalist for Best First Book. Visit her website at lauraspinella.net