“It’s brilliant” “You have to read it” “Even my mum has read it”
My friends were raving about it. My facebook wall was filled with cryptic comments between friends.
“Just popping to the hardware shop. Wink wink” “Hubby came home last night with some cable ties. LOL”
I hate not ‘being in the know’ so when offered a free copy of Fifty Shades I took the books home to read. I decided they were badly written, repetitive, there was barely any story line and the best bits about the ‘red room of pain’ in book 1 was the shock value when it was first mentioned, following by some mental theatrics as my own mind took over to add some imagination to the story. By book 2 it had degenerated into some cheesy love story and it didn’t improve in book 3. The first book was the best, as it was slightly titillating and amusing at the start. Now I had read them, I could join in to conversations as and when it was mentioned. Job done.
I moved on to my next read.
But the hype continued. Some of my friends were totally smitten by the book. One husband read it, took heed of the implied instruction to pay more attention to pleasing his wife, invested in the contents of an entire adult store and they spent some happy times trying out new ideas. Fabulous. She certainly was happy with the added attention and he was pleased by her revived interest in the bedroom. The book had done some good.
Then there was news that the books would be made into a film. Opinions were split between those who couldn’t wait to see it all come to life and those who thought seeing someone else’s interpretation would ruin the picture they had imagined.
Yet more debate was to come and it was surprising in it’s intensity. A random thought had me looking up Fifty Shades on Amazon, some months after I had put the book aside. I was reading through the comments and feedback – some of it was extremely well written, some scathing and some hilarious.
However, some of the most damning condemnation of the book came in buckets of concern by those who felt that if young girls read it, they would feel that it was ok to be controlled by a man. That a man could tie his partner up, turn her into a sex slave and paddle her backside with a belt and it would be ok, because he was doing it for her pleasure. I read several discussions on the subject, multiple threads on forums, posts on blogs, conversations amongst friends on facebook, hotly debating the effect on young naive women. Some became full on arguments, as internet discussions often do.
I am not an expert on relationships. I am not experienced in S&M. I have been lucky in finding my husband at 22 and having a normal relationship where whips and chains might be a choice and not an instruction. I know many women – and men – have been in violent controlling relationships. One of the concerns raised is that the young, naive woman in the book, Anna, justifies the behaviour of the male lead, because he cares for her. Because she believes she can change him. There were fears that this could lead to more women accepting domestic violence.
I read another blog tonight, Why I (probably) won’t read Fifty Shades of Grey. It made me think again about the reactions to this book. Fifty shades is poorly written. No one can say that it is a literary masterpiece. But it is provoking a lot of feelings, discussions and ongoing commentary. In itself, that is surely a sign of a good piece of writing.
Now, I know that some of my friends disagree with my own opinion on this. I hope that I am not offensive in my viewpoint, that is not my intention. I do not know what it is that makes a person stay in a relationship that is violent, or where they are victimised by emotional abuse. My understanding can only be limited to what other people have told me.
I understand that there are a number of different beginnings that lead people down the path to staying in these relationship traps. Perhaps they had abusive parents and grew up thinking this was normal. Perhaps they have low self-esteem, or are addicts. Perhaps the abuser was a manipulator that over time convinced them that they should accept whatever happened because it was their fault. I am sure there is much more to it.
I know of two friends who allowed their sixteen year old daughters to read the books. While I don’t necessarily agree with that, it’s because I think that sixteen year olds girls are too young to be reading any books about sex (but when my own little girl is sixteen, maybe I will have a more informed opinion on that one). Not because I think that, having read Fifty Shades, the two girls have had their personalities altered.
I know that these girls, from two different families, have had different backgrounds and experiences. I know that, whatever boyfriends they have had so far, their mother’s are strong, independent women who have talked to them about sex, about men and about healthy relationships. They have been given years of teaching from watching their own parents interact. They have observed aunts, grandmothers, godmothers, older sisters, friends, teachers and various other women in their lives interact with male friends and partners.
So can all of this background in their lives be over ridden by reading one book? No. I don’t think that one badly written book will have such a powerful impact on a young girl that it will convince them they need to find a complete arse to spend the rest of their life trying to change. I don’t believe that just reading about one girl finding a billionaire, over controlling, stalker boyfriend will turn them into submissive sex slaves, any more than years of watching Disney movies makes teenagers go around literally fishing in ponds for frogs.
What does this book say about me?
Either I am thoughtless, shallow and unobservant and missed the deeper meaning and sad commentary this book makes on the state of feminism and the dangers stalking the young women of today.
Or I read a book, found it mildly entertaining at the start and pretty dull by the middle. And thought no more about it.
It’s a story, people. If you don’t like horror stories, don’t read them!