The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Laters, Baby

Fifty Shades of Grey this month became the fastest-selling paperback since records began.
Photograph: Rob Kim/Getty Images

It is the book everyone is talking about, has sold over 10 million copies since being published in March and is the fastest selling e-book ever; I’m talking about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E. L. James. The trilogy is about a young English Literature graduate, Anastasia Steele, who meets the young, rich, and good looking Christian Grey when she interviews him as a favour for a friend. Inevitably, she gets mixed up in his world of many shades. Filled to the rafters with sex scenes, fetishes, and BDSM, the books have been surrounded with controversy and brought what has been called ‘porn’ by some into the mainstream. Is it really that bad?

I admit I got sucked into the hype and the first book in particular has some scenes that are intended to shock, but having just finished the last in the series I have to say that I was mildly underwhelmed and disappointed with the ending. Although they may not be linguistically exquisite in their writing they are certainly an easy read, and popular because they play to the fantasies of many women – girl meets handsome, rich, powerful man who falls in love with her, educates her sexually and lavishes her with all she could want. However what could have been a thriller of a story turns out to be more of a modern Jane Austin with a few saucy bits thrown in.

As to whether young girls should be reading this – inevitably it would be pointless trying to stop them getting their hands on a copy – the romance and the story is still present in these books but parents should be wary. The plus points however are that young girls who would never even pause near a bookshop are reading, the books promote responsibility and safe sex – oh and you finally know why Ann Summers (a lingerie and adult shop) are selling so many sets of handcuffs!

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

1 comment:

  1. As a writer myself, I have issues with these books. Because I think it's unfair to criticize something I haven't read, I'm reading the trilogy, but I'm finding it hard going. The writing is terrible and the editing (both content and copy) is inconsistent. But what I find most troubling is the provenance of the books. They were originally erotic fan fiction for Twilight. Though Stephenie Meyers claims to not mind this, as a writer, I don't like the idea of someone else profiting from my ideas. I have no problems with fan fiction—I'm guilty of having read my fair share of Harry Potter fan fiction—but I believe selling fan fiction for money, even when it has undergone some changes, is a dangerous precedent.

    I also have issues with the content. I'm not bothered by the bondage or S&M, but to portray people involved in that culture as having mommy issues or being messed-up implies that all people in the BDSM community are sociopaths (Christian is definitely a sociopath).

    I've not finished the trilogy yet, but I've read plot summaries and reviews, and a lot of them are bothered by the same theme: people will change if they love someone enough. I won't say that's never true, but abusers are abusers, and they rarely change, whatever they might say. Christian going from sociopath abuser to doting daddy doesn't sit will in reality. The following quote stuck with me, and is why I think these books should be kept far away from children, young women, and even university-aged women, who are often impressionable about love (I know I was, but it's wishful thinking that 20-somethings won't read these books).

    “And I think it sends out a message young girls—who will inevitably get their hands on the 'forbidden fruit' and read it—don’t need reinforced: that the love of a good woman conquers all.  How many young women have fallen under the spell of a man who proved to be obsessive and abusive, a stalker, jealous of anyone and anything that takes their attention from the guy?”

    I have huge issues with what these books seem to say about love, sex, and relationships, and I feel they have done nothing positive for feminism and how women are and will be portrayed and treated. No means no, unless you have a prearranged and agreed upon safe word that means “no” instead. And if—because you've never experienced anything like it before—you forget your safe word or forget to use it, the dom should be smart enough to recognize your limits and stop of his/her own accord. And he/she should never expect you to apologize for betraying his/her trust: he/she betrayed yours.