Before taking a trip across the country, I posted on Facebook asking for recommendations for pleasure reading. I got several recommendations for the Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed 3-volume Boxed Set by E. L. James.
“I read all three and they get better each time” recommended one friend. “Fifty Shades!!! On the second and can’t wait until the third!” said another. “I loved the the 50 Shades Trilogy. Erotic parts, yes – but I saw it more as a romance/fantasy” advised someone else. I Googled it, and it sounded like perfect light reading for those long plane rides and waits in the airport. I like a titillating, erotic, romance novel as much as the next girl….or so I thought.
I got the first book and started it before even leaving for the trip. Upon seeing me reading it, my son exclaimed “Mom, that’s porn!” I related this in the comments under the original post on Facebook and was advised by more than one person that there was a great love story mixed in with all the hype. I was not far into the book at that point, and, while the main male character was into bondage and submissives, it was not what I would consider pornography.
After finishing the first book on the initial leg of the flight across the country, I was mad that I had wasted my time reading this bull shit, but some part of me also kind of liked reading this bull shit. I was in the airport with a 3 hour layover and nothing to read; so I bought the second book at the expensive airport shop. After finishing the second book, I wanted to write a scathing blog about the series right then. However, I figured that I should, at least, read the third book to be fair, to be informed, and to see where the story and characters went.
The books follow the romance of Christian Grey and Anastacia Steele. Christian is a dashing, twenty something, gazillionaire, who is a tortured soul because of harsh early childhood which left him orphaned and mentally as well as physically scarred. He was adopted by a very affluent, educated, loving couple. A bored, married, female friend of the couple decided to make Christian her sexual submissive while he was a handsome teenager doing yard work for her.
Anastacia Steele is a demure, clumsy, awkwardly dressed yet naturally stunning college senior with a perfect figure (I cannot recall her working out once in the books) who interviews Grey for an article in the college paper. Upon her stumbling into his office, he is apparently so smitten with her totally irresistible ways that he asks his super sleuth on staff to get the details on her. He, then, arranges to just happen into the hardware store where she worked to buy a few bondage accessories, like cable ties, tape and rope. The books detail their tumultuous romance and subsequent marriage.
Christian originally sets out to make Anastacia his sexual submissive and, while she does initially entertain the idea, reads the rules and tries to play the part, she finds that it is just not in her nature to be very good at it because it requires obedience outside of the bedroom too. Early on, she risks a spanking any time she rolls her eyes, talks to another man, disobeys an instruction or otherwise arbitrarily angers the controlling Christian.
All throughout the books Anastacia spends a lot of time trying to predict and anticipate Christian’s reactions, thoughts, and moods. Anastacia is happy and her “inner goddess does an arabesque” when Christian is happy with her and things are going well. In all fairness, her inner goddess looks sternly over her half-moon glasses questioning Anastascia’s decisions and actions when they seem to be not in her best interest. She does this a lot.
Their relationship is based on ownership of of the other person, control, assuming, and reacting. It is the typical “bad boy turns into a prince charming who rescues the maiden who turns out to be a beautiful princess” fairy tale.
Anastacia, who was a virgin when they met, is able to make Christian, a man who has been into “kinky fuckery” for years, explode in ecstasy with just a few minutes of her novice, vanilla skills. Just the sight of Anastacia biting her lip drives Christian wild with uncontrollable desire. Come on, really?!? Similarly, Anastacia always climaxes multiple times in a single sex session (without getting too explicit) with very little effort. It would be absolutely wonderful if only it was that easy!
While I do know that the books are fiction and were never meant to stand up to the litmus test of reality, it makes me sad and mad that these are best sellers because women STILL like to buy into, fantasize and dream about these same old lies…then get disappointed when real life doesn’t look anything like this. To glorify the type of relationship depicted in these books continues to promote unhealthy, unrealistic ideas about what constitutes a healthy, happy, loving relationship, sex, and life. These distorted stereotypes, with which we are inundated everywhere we turn, seep into our brains and become part of our beliefs and norms subconsciously if not consciously and become the standard by which people judge themselves and their lives unless they make the conscious decision to do differently.
In all fairness, the story, over the trilogy, does portray Christian healing his psychological wounds, becoming more trusting and less controlling, even letting go of the kinky stuff for the most part, because of his authentic love and caring for Anastacia while she does come into her own, kind of, and finds some self esteem and the ability to assert herself.
Begrudgingly, I have to admit that when Christian dropped to one knee in the boat house filled with twinkly lights and flowers and asked Anastacia to marry him that I teared up. Also, during many of the sex scenes, I got all tingly. This, too, made me mad. I felt like my own body was betraying me! My guess is that, even though my head knows better, these illusory ideas, which were instilled in me most of my life, were deeply ingrained and are still there on some level.
All in all, the trilogy was entertaining, light, mindless reading, but I did find it to be a ridiculously insulting depiction of a modern, healthy female and relationship.
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