the very hot new book that women love

Women everywhere are getting really excited about a very sexy book, and its two companions. So excited that they’ve made the trilogy runaway bestsellers, and driven the project into the arms of movie producers.

I read about it in the New York Times. And then somewhere else. And then somewhere else. “Mommy bloggers love it!” one of the articles proclaimed.

And then an argument was had over whether or not it was “good for women.” Whether or not it was “feminist.”

So I read the book, of course. It had originally been intended as Twilight fan fiction. Which I didn’t know at the time of my reading.

(source)

The book, Fifty Shades of Grey is told from the perspective of a (sort of, I guess) spunky twenty-one year old college student named Anastasia Steele who falls breathlessly in love with a gorgeous, wounded, enigmatic billionaire entrepreneur named Christian Grey. Christian Grey is twenty-seven, and he can do everything. He’s a brilliant pianist, flies his own helicopter, manages a business empire while having plenty of time for relationship drama, and can successfully identify down to the serial number any model of gleaming new Audi sports car he happens to own (and they appear to all be Audis, interestingly). But the most interesting thing about him is that he is a Dominant. And he wants a Submissive.

 

He wants a woman who will submit to him utterly, in every way. He has written up a contract to this end, and it, along with ALL of its technical clauses, is included in the book. The contract details that his Submissive may not choose her own clothing. She has to sleep a certain number of hours every night. She has to eat a certain diet, of his choosing. She has to work out a certain amount (which sounded like a lot!).

Fifty Shades of Grey is an S&M romance novel. Our pert and sympathetic heroine isn’t sure about all this punishment stuff, and she is pretty sure something’s wrong with Christian, but he is so ridiculously hot and so compelling that she decides to get involved anyway.

People are talking about the books because so many people are reading them. Because so many women are enjoying them. Because those women are writing about how much they enjoy them. And because some other people have, inevitably, come out and said, “This is just some stupid porn! Why are we glorifying it?” And “This sounds like rape! Why is this sexy?” And “This is bad for women!”

And then some women shot back, “It’s GOOD for women!”

And you know what? I didn’t like either one of those statements.

I didn’t like the book either. I read the ending aloud to Bear. “This is boring,” he said. It really was. There are long transcripts of the characters’ email exchanges. There’s a lot of “oh my” and “I had never seen anyone so masculine.” There are a lot of details about just how very, very rich this guy is. SO RICH. A penthouse! So many cars! He bought a book, ONE BOOK, for $14,000! EEEEEeeeeee!!! So rich.

It annoyed me.

Everyone had the same kind of orgasm. She was always “flying to pieces.” Practically at the sight of his genitals. Or she was “falling apart.” Her orgasms always sounded like she was being destroyed. I couldn’t identify. Meanwhile, he was always “finding his release.” He did that a lot. And of course, looked threatening and intimidating just before.

And also, the whole thing reminded me suddenly of this bad relationship I was in with an emotionally unavailable guy who had a lot of rules that I wished could be broken. The book brought back that sense of being trapped—of not being able to call any of the shots. Of wishing so much that we could just be more normal, less complicated. I felt like I was suffocating in that relationship. And I didn’t leave for the longest time, because he was beautiful, and captivating, and because, for a while, I couldn’t see past that, to freedom.

The book reminded me of all that, because of the contracts, and because the heroine is not allowed to touch the hero. That is one of his rules. She is not permitted to roll her eyes in his presence. Because he is so broken and distant – and I no longer find brokenness sexy.

But that’s just me.

Oh, and the class stuff. Is that really the pinnacle of masculinity, still? All that money? The penthouse? Is that what we’re supposed to be dreaming of? God, I hope not.

But that’s just me.

The book is a fantasy. I understand. Fantasies can be anything that turns anyone on. Nothing wrong with that. If all of the rest of the women in the world were getting really turned on by the idea of the violent, hurt billionaire with the chiseled abs telling them exactly how much caviar they are allowed to eat before he takes them back to his leather-padded “play room,” then fine.  Seriously, fine.

Just don’t tell me that it’s good for women. Don’t tell me that it’s ANYTHING for women, actually.

Instead, just let it be.

The thing is, when you tell me it’s good for women, and you give me all these reasons, like, because there’s consent in it! It’s about consent! Because it’s from the female perspective! Because it’s complicated! He was abused! And when you make a big argument about erotica, just any erotica, being empowering for all of us, I get frustrated.

Not hot and bothered frustrated. Pissed off.

Once I wrote an erotic short story. It was awesome. The hero was a nerdy, pale math major, and the heroine a very outgoing, very certain sociology major who invited him to “study” with her in an abandoned corner of the library. Yay!

Fifty Shades of Grey does not represent my desires. And I don’t think we even need to have a conversation about what it means for women to like it or not like it. Some women like some things. Other women like other things.

Why is it so shocking either way?

I didn’t want to be shocked, so I tried to understand why so many women love this series. I puzzled it out, with Bear, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, trying to be cool. Sometimes I feel like I don’t understand other women. And then when people talk about all the women who love something that I don’t even like, I wonder if I’m missing something basic.

“Am I supposed to be turned on by this?” I said. “This must have some universal appeal, so why isn’t it hot to me?” And then I answered my own questions with all of the above.

And in the end, when we were almost all the way across the bridge, I decided that it was fine for me not to like it and hundreds of thousands of other women to like it. It was fine for me not to understand, and for them to totally get it.

The only thing that remained not fine was the part where the debate was about why it of course appealed to ALL women, or why women shouldn’t read it at ALL. I was still annoyed at the mommy blogger who is telling everyone to read it now because it will save your marriage! and the conservative pundit who is convinced that no one can tell fiction from reality and that it should be banned from bookstores.

The world of readers and critics and bloggers is scandalized (S&M! Oh my!) and titillated and intrigued.

Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? everyone wants to know.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a thing. 

*  *  *

Um, thoughts? I’m honestly not even sure what to ask. Have you read the book? Or maybe, do you enjoy romance novels?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look with really short nails. Or maybe more the way I feel.

P.S. This topic felt complicated for me. I hope I wrote about it  in a reasonable, understandable way. I feel like I’m still sorting through it!

64 Comments »

Kate on March 27th 2012 in feminism

64 Responses to “the very hot new book that women love”

  1. Gerri responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    “Sometimes I feel like I don’t understand other women. And then when people talk about all the women who love something that I don’t even like, I wonder if I’m missing something basic.”

    I loved this post and especially these two lines. I feel the same way. I’ve not read the book, but from what you’ve written, I don’t think I will be. Thanks.

  2. Emily G responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    I personally would not find that idea very sexy or even very intriguing. But I can understand why a woman would since it represents very exaggerated gender roles. So, socially I understand why that would play into a woman’s fantasies. However, nothing is less of a turn-on than a disturbed, tortured male figure. That’s also just me.

    It is condescending when people proclaim things as good or bad for women. As if we’re children who cannot make informed decisions for ourselves. If I were turned-on by such subject matter I don’t think I would be a lost, abused woman. It would be just that–something that turned me on.

  3. antoinette jeanine responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    This sounds like the exact opposite of the movie Secretary, which treated BDSM in a thoughtful way that was pretty much divorced from gender politics at large. I highly recommend it. This book, on the other hand, sounds like trash — regardless of any societal implications. I’ll keep reading World War Z, thankyouverymuch.

  4. Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    @Emily G
    I think that’s right– it’s about very exaggerated gender roles. Especially the hero. The heroine is more of a blank canvas. The hero is every “alpha” trait, times ten. Except maybe the classical piano playing? Now WHAT is that? :-)

  5. Melanie responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    It doesn’t sound like my type of read at all. I like to escape in to silly stuff sometimes, but this doesn’t seem like my kind of silly.

    I think if you are in a sub-dom relationship because that’s your thing, awesome! More power to you! But if the female lead in the book is thinking, “This is wrong, but I can’t resist his man pole and his Audis” I would want to stab her. In the nicest way possible of course.

    You made the topic pretty uncomplicated. I don’t understand a lot of what other women “want” either. I want simple and uncomplicated. Probably because I went through all the relationships with fireworks, yelling, drama, and uneasiness, and I know how NOT sexy that is to me now.

    My boyfriend and I snuggle on the couch and watch movies. We eat a little too much ice cream. We talk to each other in silly voices. He does dumb dances for me when he walks in the door. That, to me, is exactly the kind of romance I need.

    Also, if I ever fly to pieces or fall apart during orgasm, I hope I live through it. It sounds very messy and uncomfortable. :)

  6. Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    @antoinette
    I kept thinking that if this guy was really poor, the S&M wouldn’t work, because it was all about his social power.

  7. Grace responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    All I can say is (and I apologize for the profanity!) A-to-the-fucking-men. Personally, this book gives me the creeps. Like you, I’ve been in a relationship where I was constantly told what to do, and it was never sexy–it was suffocating, scary, and confusing. But bodice rippers are nothing new, and this just strikes me as another one packaged in a slightly different way. Not good, not bad, just…whatever. It’s nothing radical. I think we need to get over this idea of “one woman feels empowered, therefor we ALL must feel empowered!!” Everyone has different tastes, and that’s how it should be!

  8. Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    @Melanie
    This whole comment made me grin. Especially: “This is wrong, but I can’t resist his man pole and his Audis”
    And also, I love that your boyfriend does little dances for you.

  9. Kerry responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I vote for “just a thing.”

    And the most puzzling thing to me regarding the controversy of this book, is that the conversation seems to imply that this is the first taste “the womens” are having in regard to s&m literature, or erotic literature in general. Don’t the pundits and the bloggers know that women (and men) have been reading this type of stuff for…centuries? It’s all over the internet. It’s done BETTER all over the internet. (I say that not having read 50sog – it sounds a bit…clinical for me).

    I think the most interesting thing about this book is that it’s basically fan fiction stemming from Twilight (which I also haven’t read) and there’s a lot of conversation going ’round whether the characters were stolen, and who has rights to characters as intellectual currency, etc…

  10. Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    @Kerry
    GOOD POINT. Why are people reacting like it’s such a new thing?
    And if it’s possible to “steal” the character of a very domineering man and a very innocent woman, then fiction writing might just be over :-)

  11. Emmi responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    What is it with humans, we have to make everything all-or-nothing, agree with me or you’re wrong! I wish more people could just say, “Hey, here is this thing, this is my opinion of it, please make your own and we can discuss!” Sweeping, all-encompassing generalizations are unnecessary and unrealistic.

    I haven’t read the Twilight series and won’t read this book, not because I’m necessarily against them but because I prefer to read other things. But I see the appeal of this for some people, and I think it’s nice that it’s being enjoyed on a widespread scale.

    I have to admit though, I’m confused about the orgasm descriptions. In my experience, orgasms are the best way for me to feel in touch with my whole body all at once in a beautiful, blossoming way. I feel sort of bad for someone who feels like they’re flying apart during one – that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me! But hey, whatever rubs your Buddha.

    I guess that’s really what I’m trying to boil down to here – if you like it, cool! If you don’t, why expend energy railing against it? (Not you Kate, I’m referencing the haters you discussed) Why can’t people just be glad that there is stuff out there that makes other people happy? I don’t need to understand it, I can share in your joy for the sake of joy.

  12. Jen responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    I’m glad you wrote about this, since my bookclub was just talking about adding this to the reading list. I was all for it – I love erotica! I love romance novels! – but this just sounds gross. I recently read another series that included some erotic S&M stuff – the Kushiel trilogy, which I loved – and I think I’ll just stick to that. S&M and erotica are fine, but foisting your own brokenness on someone else as a way of feeling whole? No thank you.

  13. rowdygirl responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    I haven’t read this and don’t plan to.. it sounds like “9 1/2 weeks” to me. Another he man versus poor little desperate woman.. no thanks. I appreciate you saving me the time. :)

  14. Anne responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    I hadn’t heard that the book started out as a Twilight fanfic, but it totally makes sense- that book also has the dominant, “untouchable” male and the weak female who will do anything for him. Not something I’m into at all (I totally don’t get why people like Twilight, either- if you like vampires, there are SO MANY better-written vampire books out there!). I hate how so much erotica/romance written for women has to include wealth/class in it as well- why does the guy have to be rich? It reinforces all kinds of bad stereotypes, in my mind.
    On the other hand, I’m not going to begrudge anyone her literary (or sexual, as long as no one’s getting hurt) choices. I just don’t want to be told that I HAVE to read something!
    By the way, what did you think of the writing quality? Better than Twilight (which, incidentally, reads to me like it’s own fanfic)? I might be interested in reading it if the writing was stellar.

  15. Anne responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Just realized I used the wrong ‘its,’ sorry! Of course I make that mistake when asking about writing quality…

  16. Jessica responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    “Once I wrote an erotic short story. It was awesome. The hero was a nerdy, pale math major, and the heroine a very outgoing, very certain sociology major who invited him to “study” with her in an abandoned corner of the library. Yay!”

    Amazing. And hilarious. And truthful. Thanks for making my day every day.

    (also de-lurking, HI!)

  17. Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    @Anne
    Pretty poor writing. Hilariously so, at times (“oh my!” happens A LOT). It takes her a really long time to get to the point. There are a lot of unnecessary words. But even so, you always understand what’s going on, so there’s that.

  18. Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    @Jessica
    Thanks for appreciating that!!
    And hi!

  19. Courtney responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    I haven’t read the book, but I’ve been hearing a lot about it. I don’t go for romance novels, so I’ve been staying away because of that.

    If I were to guess, I’d say it’s success has more to do with the buzz it’s generated. This has caused women to read it to see what all the fuss is about. Women who aren’t used to reading this kind of thing are likely to have a strong reaction to it–whether it’s positive or negative doesn’t really matter. I think how vocal they are is what matters. The cycle keeps going, but it’ll fizzle.

    As you said, some women like some things, other women like other things. I think the buzz around the book, coupled with its subject matter, is what’s causing so many strong reactions.

  20. Amanda responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I own it, but I haven’t read it. I can’t get past the first page — nothing is grabbing me. And I say this as a person with more books than shelf space, so it’s not as if my arm has to be twisted for me to read something.

  21. Celynne responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    I’d never even heard of the book, but I know already I have zero interest in reading it. I’m not big on that kind of Fantasy fiction… If I’m reading Fantasy, I want epic tales, grand battles, magical powers and strange beings… Not weird mental abuse and unhealthy sexual relationships thank you. I’ve never been one to really go along with much mainstream stuff, I just don’t like those things most of the time, and it’s okay that way, there’s plenty other stuff out there for me to get busy enjoying instead.

  22. Lynellekw responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Speaking in very broad terms, books about Relationships don’t tend to interest me. I prefer books that are about other things, that have Relationships as an element of the story telling. And I rarely get what “women” are supposed to like. I mostly avoid books that are aimed at “women”, because they’re just plain boring. My mother in law gave me a book that was about women finding themselves through the medium of belly dance. I guess she thought I’d like it because I used to belly dance. But a book about a group of ladies deciding what they want out of Relationships and Life is just not my thing. I’ve pretty much worked out that if a book is marketed as “appealing to women” then I’m pretty much guaranteed not to like it.

  23. Diana5 responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    I didn’t read this book, but what you are saying about it reminds me of the “Story of O” Desclos 1954. It’s classic erotica that was written by a woman for her aging lover to enjoy. It too alludes to s&m dominance. I found it sexy and don’t know why. I love the story of why it was written and that it was written by a woman.

  24. Tina responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Great article and I think there are a lot of us that don’t get it or find it a turn on or attractive. I’m in the middle of the first book on my kindle. Why because of course everyone was talking about it, I cannot stand Twilight and took a lot of heat for not even giving it a try. I’m an avid reader and can go thru a couple of books a day. I also down loaded the Hunger Games Trilogy and haven’t touched it yet, I’m beginning to think I shouldn’t have touched this one either. It does nothing for me, its boring and yet because I love to read and downloaded it I cannot just stop in the middle and not finish it. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way with this download that I know what I like. If I stuck it out like the Twilight series I wouldn’t have to finish this craptastic book. Now I’m afraid I will feel the same way about the hunger games. I need to learn trust what I like and find interesting not what I’m suppose to like.

  25. Sooz responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    I don’t get why that book is interesting to so many people. But whatever. I didn’t get Twilight either. Or a myriad of other things that people deemed wildly popular. Whateves…. :)

  26. Another Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Pretty sure if I tried to use this book to save my relationship, it would be a total disaster.

    Anyway, sometimes I think S&M is hot for women–especially women now–is because the idea of succumbing completely to a man is appealing. It’s exhausting to be everything to everyone sometimes. There are constant decisions to be made (Can I afford this? Should I do that? Would that make me sexier/more successful/fulfilled?), and letting someone make those decisions for you, even to the extent listed here, can seem appealing to the point of arousal.

    But. Not many women can actually be made happy by that sort of life. It’s fun to fantasize about–and it’s even okay to fantasize about it–but as you point out, in reality, it’s stifling.

    That being said, the wonderful thing about literature is that it lets you escape real life for a while and indulge in whatever fantasy you want without real-life consequences.

    I’m rambling and I think I lost my point, but what I mean to say is that: 1) Books are awesome mediums for sharing and indulging in fantasy, 2) S&M fantasies can give some women a sense of relief from worries about being sexy and successful and paying bills, and 3)Fantasies should not be mistaken for a real-life ideal.

  27. Kate responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    @Another Kate
    I think you put all that really well.

  28. Lissa Matthews responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    I’m involved in the BDSM lifestyle, but the book isn’t representative of my interpretation. I tried to read it. Other people I know in the BDSM lifestyle, have tried to read it. Other authors I know have tried to read it. Most of us couldn’t finish it because we couldn’t connect at all with the characters, some of us couldn’t get beyond the poor writing and poor editing and put it down after the first few pages.

  29. Shelley responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Fiction is neither good or bad for anyone – you either enjoy it or you don’t, – it either makes you think about something you haven’t considered before or lets you escape into mindless entertainment – all of those things are good – but like TV channels – if you don’t like it, just change the channel! You don’t have to read the book if it is not your thing. People need to chill and stop being outraged on behalf of others all the time…
    Sounds like the Story of O which I read a million years ago and didn’t get the appeal either but that doesn’t mean that I would want to ban it – I am sure lots of men and women out there enjoyed it and more power to them. Live and let live…

  30. Lynellekw responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    @Tina – I didn’t think I’d like the Hunger Games – in the end I only read it because a number of friends with similar tastes in fiction to me recommended it. And I did enjoy it, as did my husband.

  31. Ellen responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    Honestly I don’t get the hype. People are talking like no one’s ever written an erotic romance novel for women before. This isn’t Lady Chatterly; it just sounds like another Mills and Boon but in ebook form. So what?

  32. Isadora Vega responded on 27 Mar 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    I’ve never heard of this book but it already sounds revolting simply because it suggests that Dominants only become that way by being abused as children. Ugh. I wonder if it would have had anywhere near this amount of hype if the woman was the dominant, rich, tormented one and the man was the moth to the flame. But, of course, that would be interesting, and therefore would not have started as a Twilight fanfiction. I totally adore the movie Secretary too.

    Do I enjoy romance novels? Uh…does The Time Traveler’s Wife count? Or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

  33. Val responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Kate, did you ever watch Wedding Crashers?

    It’s a raunchy, funny, terrible comedy and I laughed my head off.

    When the two guys were on a hunting expedition and muttering to each other–that was like a conversation my oldest sons would have.

    I laughed until I had pain.

    But the most memorable scene of all was when someone was on a bed tying up Vince Vaughn, saying something about all his fantasies, and he objects:

    “This is not one of my fantasies!”

    Exactly. I totally understood that.

    Vince Vaughn is very easy on the eyes, but nothing about porn culture has the least thing to do with me.

    It never has, makes my skin crawl. The whole industry makes me angry. Sooooo, then what?

    I don’t know!

    I have no explanation for myself and my relationship with the world.

    I know that, and that’s the truth.

    I’m in love with the same guy I fell in love with 35 years ago, and he’s quietly snoring away here now beside me.

    I don’t feel dominated and do not find even the idea of that enticing.

    But then again, Anne Tyler is my favorite novelist, so there’s the whole story there.

    I used to always think if I had money, I’d do this or that. (Money is the big draw these men have to attract women to them. Women crave security and imagine these fools can provide it.)

    Then the day came when I could easily afford to, and nah.

    I discovered I already have everything I could ever need or want. Unexciting as my life may be, I don’t need to own any more stuff.

    It’s fun to go places, but just as fun to come home.

    Okay, what I’m trying to say is it’s okay to be yourself, and if you can cut a decade or two off the acceptance process, good for you.

    love, Val

  34. Elsa responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 1:25 am #

    I think about this a lot, and I always end up in a tangle about it. I love romance novels, but am embarrassed to be seen reading them. I often hide the covers. Then I feel annoyed at myself for being so self-conscious.

    Funny though, I’ve never been able to read romance novels set in the present. The plot patterns and character traits are almost exactly the same, I think, but to me carriages in place of cars make all the difference.

    It’s sort of ironic that historical romance novels don’t activate my ‘this is unrealistic and unsettling’ reaction, but modern day romance novels do.

    I guess what I enjoy about historical romance novels is the delightful, escapist predictability of them. Of course the heroine’s eyes are an ‘unpopular shade of violet blue.’ Of course the hero is a notorious rake who has never really known love. I find it ridiculous and delightful. But I kind of feel like a bad person for feeling that way.

    Favorite romance novel: Dreaming of You, by Lisa Kleypas.

  35. Nanai responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 6:13 am #

    I haven’t read the book but heard there’s some uproar about it. Hearing about the character’s back story is slightly strange to me because he sounds like my very own boyfriend, except for the sex part and the being broken. The BF is a self-made man and entrepreneur, only slightly older than this one, drives an Audi and plays the piano wonderfully. He is a manly man and surely complicated at times, but not broken or freakishly addicted to controlling other people, in bed or elsewhere. Oh, and guess what: His name is Christian :-)

    Now I find myself wondering if I should read this book if the character sounds so much and then again so little like the man in my life :-D

    PS: I hate generalizations about pieces of writing or music, too. “Listen to this song, it will change your life!” “People who don’t love this song are impossible!” “Everyone has to love this song!” As it turns out I usually hate the song in question.

  36. Jeneveve responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 8:21 am #

    I’ve not read it. I read Twilight because everyone was making such a fuss about it and wanted to sue Ms Meyer to get my lost hours back.

    Lots of people like Twilight. I don’t. And that’s okay. Lots of people get turned on by certain things. I don’t. That’s okay too.

  37. Janet Oberholtzer responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 9:10 am #

    To answer your questions… I’ve not read the book and I don’t like romance novels. (which explains why I have no desire to read the book)

    And I love your thought process from wondering if you should feel a certain way because many other do to realizing that you can feel any way you want to, even if you are the lone person in the world feeling that way.

  38. Janet Oberholtzer responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 9:12 am #

    For some reason my comment above posted before I was finished, I wanted to add…
    I also cannot imagine any scenario in which this book (or any book like it) would be good for women.

  39. Another other Kate. responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 9:46 am #

    “And also, the whole thing reminded me suddenly of this bad relationship I was in with an emotionally unavailable guy who had a lot of rules that I wished could be broken. The book brought back that sense of being trapped—of not being able to call any of the shots. Of wishing so much that we could just be more normal, less complicated. I felt like I was suffocating in that relationship. And I didn’t leave for the longest time, because he was beautiful, and captivating, and because, for a while, I couldn’t see past that, to freedom.”

    -I love your blog and this is the first time I’ve commented so I’m a tad nervous (I dont’ know why, but things like commenting on blogs I read on the regular make me nervous)! But this statement really hit close to home for me. I’m currently dealing with this exact type of relationship and although I believe I’m finally dealing with the end of it, I’m still having such a hard time letting go of wanting it…even though I know wanting it isn’t the best thing for me at all. Do you have any advice for getting over something like that??

  40. Kate responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 9:53 am #

    @Another other Kate
    It took me a long time to get over it. Relationships like that are really, really intense. The best thing I did was cut him out of my life. Unfortunately, I did it in stages, letting him sneak back in again and again. In retrospect, I recognize that I really should have definitively ended it, clenched my teeth against the pain, and plowed ahead. It’s the hardest thing at the time, and the best thing for the future. I wish there was a better, easier answer.
    Also, dating casually right away, to distract yourself can be helpful (I know people think this is terrible advice, because you “need time,” but it’s really helped me to have interactions with other people, especially when they’re healthy and kind!)

  41. Frankie responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 10:33 am #

    I had never heard of this book before. Apparently I live under a rock. I immediately ventured over to Goodreads (best website ever, are you on it?) And read some of the reviews. It seems like the people (mostly women) are either totally for it and loved it, or hated it. I also saw that it’s on my mother’s to read shelf… and I got a little uncomfortable. I don’t think I’ll read it as it doesn’t really appeal to me. (I enjoy a good cheap romance novel now and again, but this one just doesn’t draw me in.)

    I think it’s interesting that you question why you don’t like the same things as “most women.” I actually have never felt that way- in fact it aggrivates me that I enjoy typical lady things so much: gardening, painting, crafting, cooking, baking, etc. It makes me feel like I’m just some giant cliche. I’m prouder of the things I like that aren’t as stereotypical.

    I think we should just let it be. Some women like the book some women don’t. It’s the same for all books. Not everyone likes the same book. Why do we have to put eachother down for individual tastes in books? Why does someone have to feel ashamed that she’s reading a romance novel, but feel proud that she’s read Pride and Prejudice? (Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel, just an old one.) It isn’t enough to just say I like to read, people always want to know what you like to read, and somehow the response everything isn’t acceptable. But I read whatever I want to read at the time, sometimes it’s fiction, other times it’s non-fiction. I read cheap romance novels and award winning bestsellers. Sometimes they’re even one in the same. Why judge?

  42. Sheryl responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 11:58 am #

    I think part of the problem stems from people feeling like the book should be a big “aha” moment for women OR should be completely shunned. It’s a false dichotomy. I haven’t read it myself, but the subject matter intrigues me.

    Books, and the enjoyment thereof, is so completely subjective that anyone who tries to present a work of literary art as having the same impact, getting the same reactions, from everyone who will read it is being more than a little absurd.

    And at the end of the day, if it isn’t written well and the whole book relies on stereotypes and power dynamics? It’s really too bad that we’re looking at it as something that people would universally get.

  43. morgaine responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    “Some women like some things. Other women like other things.

    Why is it so shocking either way?”

    Thank you. THANK YOU.

    Such a simple statement, but it’s surprising how often people forget it.

    “Women” aren’t a monolith. We are also not so fragile that our desires crumble under the knowledge that not everyone shares them. One experience does not negate another.

  44. RRainey responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Sorry, I know I’m probably being very judgemental, but any woman who thinks this is a great read and is turn on by this is severely damage. Somewhere along the way, they either bought into the abuse they received from the men in their lives or they secretly long for a man to take control over their lives because living a life where they have to call the shots themselves became “too hard.”
    Besides, not only is the subject bad, but it is poorly written. It does not surprise me that it started out as Twilight fan-fiction. I bet my entire savings that it was probably written by the same author.

  45. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Dammit Kate…now I’m gonna HAVE to read the book :) And I am very in tune with your thoughts on this…but I’m a Leo and prefer a book with the roles reversed, so I’m not understanding why a woman wouldn’t be more turned on by being the dominant. Although…I do have a weakness for Scorpios!

  46. morgaine responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    RRainey – I very much disagree. While I haven’t read this particular book, I’ve read a lot of BDSM literature, and one of its most important messages is that there is a huge variety of healthy sexual behavior. One’s bedroom proclivities cannot necessarily be extrapolated to the rest of one’s lifestyle. Most women in BDSM and other kink communities will be the first to tell you that their choices are their own, that consent is paramount, and that consensually engaging in power play is a way to take control of themselves, even if their position is ultimately submissive.

    “[A]ny woman who thinks this is a great read and is turn on by this is severely damage” is too simplistic. Desires are complicated. They can’t be traced back to one unequivocal source. There are myriad reasons why someone might enjoy BDSM; abuse is only one.

  47. Jo B responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    I think what annoys me about people saying that this book (or anything for that matter: book, movie, sport) is good for ALL women or bad for ALL women is that I have never heard anyone say that a book is either good or bad for all men. Have you?

    Does this suggest that we accept that men are a) all individuals and/or b) strong minded enough not to be hugely influenced by every book/album/tv show etc. that comes their way? If so, why can’t anyone accept the same of women? Why are women constantly treated like children?

  48. morgaine responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Jo B – THIS. 100%. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Same with people saying “women and children” when they really mean “innocent civilians.” Some women are soldiers, and some men are civilians.

  49. Hannah responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    CONFESSION: I have actually read the Twilight books.
    CONFESSION #2: I remember them enough to talk about them. Consider yourself warned.

    The piano part in 50 Shades of Grey probably comes from the Twilight books themselves. Edward, being immortal and with no need of sleep, spends his evenings reading and playing piano (and stalking Bella). He’s supposed to be pretty incredible; certainly Bella is enthralled by his playing.

    I think for me there are two really interesting things about this book:
    1. It was written as fanfiction, and became a not-fanfiction fiction, maybe. The lines between them are sometimes very, very fine, and this is making people think about it again, which is cool.

    2. When Twilight first came out, I don’t think people really talked a lot about how controlling Edward is. We were *supposed* to find it romantic, and the fact that so many people called themselves ‘Team Edward’ shows that lots of people did. But since then, people have really started exploring the ways in which Bella’s relationship with Edward is super unhealthy– especially since she doesn’t ever acknowledge how dominating he is.
    This book was obviously written for a very different audience than the tweens who catapulted Twilight to the spotlight, but I think any book which makes people fight over whether or not it (and also, by extension, Twilight itself) is “good for women” is a good thing.

    Not that we’re fighting about what’s good for women, or generalizing about what it means to have something be good for women — but that we’re THINKING about what’s good for women.
    Because that means thinking about what it means to be a Woman, and I think that’s a very, very, very worthwhile question to have tip-toeing in the back of people’s minds.

    P.S. Written by a woman. That perplexes me a little.
    P.P.S. THEY’RE MAKING A MOVIE????

  50. Kate responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    @Hannah
    OOhhh, this was so interesting!! Thanks for the comment. I still haven’t read Twilight. I keep meaning to, and then I just can’t.
    And yes, how will that movie work? I’m kind of curious.

  51. RRainey responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    @morgaine
    I understand that sexual desires are complex. I have been turned on by the idea of being submissive to a man, but not to the degree this book portrays. The man in the is nothing short of abusive.Just because something is consensual does not mean that it is healthy. I understand the desire of wanted to be dominated over, but when a woman is turn on or engages over by this extreme, I do believe it speaks of a deeper problem. But, in the end, to each their own.

  52. morgaine responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    @RRainey – the fact that a situation may not be easily understood to outsiders doesn’t mean it’s necessarily unhealthy. Some people engage in 24/7 D/s relationships – refer to the second LW in this issue of “Savage Love”:

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=12927907

    It’s not my cup of tea, but if a woman says it’s consensual and she’s happy, I choose to believe her. As an outsider, I have no idea what her life and psyche are like.

  53. morgaine responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    *understood by

  54. Jensketch responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    I wouldn’t worry Kate this is not on everyone’s radar. I didn’t even know it existed until your post.

    Twilight fanfic??? That made me laugh out loud.

  55. Mandy responded on 28 Mar 2012 at 6:20 pm #

    Interesting. I’ve always been an outsider, so I’ve never felt the need to like what everyone else does. I think that makes me more interesting, not less.
    Never read the book, and after your review, I find I’m not interested. I read the first Twilight book, and wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the characters–and quite frankly, the idea of sparkly vampires were just too much for my Suspenders of Disbelief (thank you Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary for that wonderful phrase!)

  56. Joy Daniels (@AuthorJDaniels) responded on 29 Mar 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I’ll tell you one group of (mostly) women that this novel is good for: writers of erotic romance. Being one of them it makes me very very happy to hear that hundreds of thousands of women have “discovered” erotic romance. I only hope that they’ll want to read more!

    The “mommy porn” label did irk me: as if the fact that “mommies” were reading these stories was so shocking because we’re all supposed to be asexual – except of course for the act that MADE US MOMMIES. Or are we all supposed to aspire to immaculate conception?

    (I heard a rumor that there was a Jewish girl who managed to do that but THIS ONE ain’t interested).

  57. rmncereader responded on 29 Mar 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    As Elsa said I am also a big fan of romance novels however i try not to read it in public. However, one thing I have noticed is that in recent years every romance novel has become too much sexualized. And new authors pay more importance towards the sexual relationship rather than the plot/story itself.Maybe thats why I mainly stick to authors who started their careers in early 90s and some new ones. Also good romance authors do have a strong female characters. Some good romance authors have good mixture plot, romance and sex. But now everything is SEX and no-depth to their characters.

  58. Book 31: Fifty Shades of Grey « Leaves of Trees responded on 30 Mar 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    [...] I decided to read it because of a post I saw about it on a blog I read. Here’s the post: the very hot new book that women love. I figured, hey, if it’s good enough for the internet, then it’s good enough for [...]

  59. Emmie responded on 31 Mar 2012 at 2:23 am #

    I had never heard of this book until this post but it doesn’t sound very appealing to me and I’m actually in a 24/7 D/s relationship and have been for several years. Anyone who knows me would agree that I am happy, confident, and competent. I just enjoy being the submissive partner in my relationship. It doesn’t sound like the book is good or bad for women, just a book which some people enjoy and others don’t.

  60. What’s Up In the Fatosphere | Manolo for the Big Girl responded on 31 Mar 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    [...] actually a codified part of the Fatosphere, but I loved this article by Kate of Eat the Damn Cake on her musings about Fifty Shades of Grey. Oh, and while you’re [...]

  61. Alisha Ria responded on 01 Apr 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    Wow, I have never heard of this book before today but it doesn’t sound like my type. The hero (minus the wealth) reminds me of an ex, who was emotionally abuse and would probably want a contract where the girl would do everything he says. Ugh *shudder*. However, I agree with you that it’s fine for women to be turned on by whatever they want, we’re all different…

  62. Brie responded on 17 Apr 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    I have read all 3 books and enjoyed them for what they were, mindless entertainment, but hey ever so often I want to be entertained without using my brain. I can see that women who don’t like the books would be on the defensive because so many people are obsessed with them, however I think the backlash against them is not fair. My sister who did not want to read these and was disgusted by the concept but caved due to curiosity commented they are nothing like the detractors complaints. Most if the sex is NOT kinky, only a few BDSM type sex scenes, and very watered down at that. The plot of the story is a damaged man getting healthier, in his sex life and emotional life, by being challenged by a woman he falls for that will not be dominated as he prefers so he can be emotionally unavailable. It is the classic fantasy of a woman changing a man, not the man changing the woman, and a woman breaking through a troubled man’s emotional barriers. This is not a new theme, it is accented with many accounts of the woman having countless orgasms, but a man that is eager to please is also a fantasy for some women who have men that rarely think about their sexual pleasure, and whether they are tied up and blindfolded when the man is so concerned about blowing their mind really is irrelevant in my opinion.

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