I'm sorry, hate me if you must, but I am not a fan. I tried - really, I did - to find a redeeming quality to this book. And I'll be the first to admit it, I am not done with the book. I've been reading it off and on for the past six weeks and given it a solid 427 pages (out of 657) to get someplace. Maybe I'm dead wrong and the book suddenly picks up speed in the last two hundred or so pages, and if that's the case, please feel free to tell me that and I'll finish. But I have this sinking suspicion that it doesn't and I'm just going to waste more time. And I hate wasting time.
The only analogy I can draw for the book is that it's kind of like trying a new casserole - you're not really a big fan of casseroles to begin with, but everyone's talking about this new recipe. So you give it a go. It has some weird ingredients in it, but you tend to trust the masses, so you plow ahead. It looks a little weird, and the first bite tastes strange. You give it another chance. And then another. And then, by bite #3, you realize: this is really bad.
I'm currently on bite #3.
In the event you don't know what the book is about, let me give you a brief (hopefully un-biased) synopsis: the author, E.L. James, imagines what it would be like if "Twilight's" Bella and Edward had met as adults - and no one was a vampire. Set in the pacific northwest, just like Twilight, Christian Grey (aka Edward) is a 27-year old dashingly handsome self-made billionaire who runs a massive corporation. He's smart, intelligent, and controlling (by his own admission). Enter Anastasia "Ana" Steele, a virginal 21-year old recent college grad with smooth skin and a simple naivete about her. She and Christian have a chance meeting, and sparks fly. Ana seems to always be in some kind of danger, and Christian, her night in shining armor, manages to find the time to save her from whatever peril has befallen her: drunk college guys, a old beater of a car, the job market, etc.
Okay, sounds pretty normal so far, right? Sounds like your standard romance novel. As I said to friends yesterday, I'm not a fan of the "He's a pirate/I'm a maiden/my corset shows my heaving bosoms/help me!" but that's cool - a lot of people do like romance novels, and who am I to fault them? It's not my genre, but that's cool.
But then it gets weird. My exact reaction? "Okay, okay, okay...okay, no, whoa! Whoa! WHOA! Holy Jesus my eyeballs are bleeding!"
Because as you find out (SPOILER ALERT), Christian has a certain, um, propensity for, ah, types of, well, kinky sex. (Mom, please stop reading). Specifically, bondage, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism (BDSM).
(Yes, I had to look that up. And yes, now my computer has been flagged.)
Regardless of what government watch-groups I am now on my Google searches Christian essentially wants Ana to be his Submissive, and he her Dominant. Like, to the point that there is a contract - an actual, written contract involved. That outlines what is and not okay in their "relationship." Things that 1.) I didn't know existed and 2.) I cannot bring myself to type in my sweet little PG-rated blog. Just use your imagination. Aside from the crazy stuff, she must refer to him as "Sir," she cannot show disrespect (like rolling her eyes), she cannot touch him, look him in the eyes, and she must do whatever he says when in his company (every weekend for the next three months). Oh, and she must not say a word about this to anyone. And if Ana doesn't adhere to the "rules" set forth by Christian? She gets punished. As in spanked, hit, slapped, or paddled.
Call me crazy, but this sounds like an abusive relationship. Oh wait, it's BDSM. And there is a contract involved. Never mind.
Anyways, according to him, this whole arrangement is consensual and she can opt out at any time (yay for contracts!). The upside to their "relationship?" A clothing allowance, a new car, flying around in Charlie Tango, lots of spa days.
Now this sounds like prostitution.
Eek, there goes my opinion again. Must. Remain. Unbiased.
I don't know how the novel ends - maybe he goes to therapy? Maybe she walks away? Or - this is what I'm guessing - her love "changes" him and helps him to unlock the reason why he is like this (cue the abusive childhood narrative), thus making him a better man. (cue the violins)
Regardless of the ending (and please, tell me if I'm way off base or something), my biggest issue with the book isn't the incredibly graphic sex scenes or terrible writing - it's the violence against women. It's the power difference that exists between this 20-something female and an older, rich man. It's the fact that women are already one-down in society and books like this simply perpetuate - and glamorize - misogyny.
But, you argue, they are engaged in a consensual BDSM relationship. She can walk away anytime she pleases. This is not your textbook abusive relationship but simple exploration into sexual fetishes practiced by a percentage of the population. In fact, you state, this is the very definition of feminism - individual freedoms to express herself and practice beliefs, whatever they may be. There is no known connection between BDSM and sex crimes, so step off your soapbox, Kim.
(I'm really trying hard to see both sides of the argument)
And to your argument, I would say: you are right. But this is my thing: I'm guessing you are NOT part of the percentage of people who practice BDSM, and this is not an argument about the right or wrongness of BDSM. For me, this book is simply not entertaining. And it's insulting. The part where he punishes her - and she is surprised that she enjoys it - makes me worry that some guy out there is reading this, thinking, "Yeah, that's cool! I can do that too! When I hit my girlfriend, she's going to get turned on!" without understanding the subculture or inaccuracy behind that scene. It's troubling, to say the least.
And don't even get me started on the media's sensational coining of the term "mommy porn." I know, we house-wives are just so darn bored that we need stimulation and a fantasy world with playboy billionaires with kinky sex practices to escape. Um, no. I'm too busy with actual, real concerns - childcare being first on that list. And making sure my child never grows up to become a Christian Grey.
Sorry to be all Debbie Downer about this book, as I know a great many people like it. But I feel like it is insulting to women, insulting to me, and a dangerous example for others that maybe don't have the best moral filter. I'm not advocating censorship nor am I advocating against BDSM, but E.L James takes a man that was abused in childhood, brought into his own BDSM relationship at the age of 15, and tries to turn him into a prince, through the naive eyes of a young woman with no additional sexual experience. The whole thing just falls flat. It's insipid, juvenile, and the characters are one-dimensional.
Thanks, but no thanks.