How many shades…

*50 Shades of Grey Summary* Anastasia is a twenty something year old, falls in love with Christian on first meeting. The usual spark of electricity which is the promise of great sex in all romantic novels. The twist is, she is a virgin, he is a troubled guy who is into bondage, but he has to be the boss. They have the sex, the novels plot twists are engineered partly by shadowing Twilight, due to the fact that 50shades began as fan fiction to the Twilight series. She is meant to have integrity and be soulful, he is meant to be noble and damaged. They are meant to be together. The End.

I have been a reader of Fifty Shades of Grey, I borrowed it from my boss. I first picked it up in Waterstones and searched for the first sex scene, which amused me muchly. I put it down again. I was not going to spend the money on it ever. I downloaded a sample onto kindle when the peer pressure was getting to me, I hate feeling out of the loop and I’ve loved reading all the reviews of how terrible people (in particular, women) have found the writing style. I love that people have done a count of how many times she bites her lip, how many times someone looks moody. I enjoyed the Metro text section going off on a 50shades discussion. I would borrow the other two from the library if they had them as obviously available as Waterstones does. But I refuse to spend the money.

I also have been refusing to give my opinion on whether I enjoy it as a book, whether I think it works as a love story, I’ve not even committed to saying it is terrible writing, which is generally the first port of call with 50shades when you’re a woman who reads. I don’t hate it, I actually did enjoy it as light fiction that wasn’t life changing but a way of passing train time. It’s not exactly psychologically deep, when your main character has a back up ‘inner goddess’ who can be called out as a shortcut to describing how good and sexy she feels, it’s not really leading deep places. I thought this was so funny I contemplated writing the stories of the inner goddess, why was she an inner goddess, would she ever get out, where did she learn all those dance routines anyway? Where’s she from? I still enjoy hearing reviewers scathingly quote the inner goddess of Anastasia.

And now Cathy Byrant has drawn my attention to this article, I am confused. ‘Sex abuse victim’s charity to burn copies of 50shades of grey’. I’ve since heard they’ve changed their minds about the burning but are still intent on destroying copies in someway to express the feeling that this book perpetuates oppression of women. That is depicts a romantic relationship in domestic abuse terms that actually confuse the whole issue of what love is. The quote that disturbs me: Do millions and millions of women suffer from secret self-loathing? Do they all want to be treated this badly?

The thing is, 50shades is indeed so badly written that even though we are repeatedly told Anastasia is a virgin with no interest in sex, I actually read into her behaviour that she’s been practising with various people nightly. No virgin could be as thorough as this character is, I see the whole virgin thing as a charade which is a nod to Jane Austen times. I suppose when you are writing a novel to amuse yourself, as this author was, the ethics of allowing young people to read this behaviour as what is expected of all virgins wouldn’t be troubling you.  I wouldn’t have given my twelve year old self this book, but I think it’s very strange to destroy it, even as a point to make. Destroying the physical evidence won’t make it go away, and the issue is so many women have identified with something of this book, and maybe yes, there are millions of women who suffer from secret self-loathing. Doesn’t our society actively encourage a certain amount of self loathing as perfectly healthy and actually necessary to get by with? Isn’t it better to analyse why it exists? What about Christian and the implication that he was abused by the older woman which is why he is the way he is?

I am troubled that they think if a man wrote it it wouldn’t have been published. That sounds so complicit with sexism and gender typing, and doesn’t seem to be the point at all. Also, I think it still would have got published.

”One victim of domestic violence who had read the book said it left her confused.

‘If this is a love story, how come it didn’t feel like this when it was happening to me’, she said.”

In that case, doesn’t it open up a new discussion for her on what she defines as love? Do we honestly think we can protect people from abuse by closing doors when someone is discussing their strange manipulative relationship that they call love? I can understand the concern that it is adding to the rhetoric of oppression, in the guise of being a romance, but that is what every mills and boons novel does to be honest. I remember reading fricking Beth and the Barbarian for crying out loud, when I was fifteen. Pretty much exactly the same thing.

Basically, I’ve been feeling very passive about the fifty shades of grey phenomena, and now I feel annoyingly activated into having an opinion. And I’m still not quite sure what that opinion is….one point only remains, I will not be spending the monies. Which is perhaps my own method of burning it…


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