I recently finished reading the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, the quirky love story of Christian Grey the young and wealthy CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. and Anastasia Steele a young college graduate interested in pursuing a career in publishing. The story begins with their chance meeting when she interviews him for her college newspaper in place of her sick roommate and takes you through the twists and turns of their tempestuous relationship and sexual escapades. The trilogy takes the reader into the world of the BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism) lifestyle and recounts in detail various acts that accompany the darker side of the sexual experience.
The books are not well written (when I was younger I never read Harlequin romance novels, so I imagine this might fit somewhat into that genre although I hope this was slightly better written) and the story seems highly improbable and yet I read all three of them within a week’s time. After I read them, I questioned why I felt compelled to do so. I started doing some research about the books and their rapid climb to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list and found various opinions regarding the onslaught of their popularity. Interesting, at times laughable and always mired in war of the sexes.
The research that has been done is showing that the books’ popularity is not with young women but rather middle aged and older women. Now that was a revelation (of course I fall into that group). But why? One writer opined that the younger women are still “getting it” and therefore do not need the fantasy world of the books. Another writer opined on the differences between what men and women want out of sexual experiences saying that men were more visual but women more auditory, hence women are drawn the the descriptive nature of the sexual acts in the books. Another opined that although many deviant sexual acts are described, the trilogy is really a love story and women cannot resist a good love story, improbable or otherwise. I’m not so sure these arguments make sense to me, and I have to question the theories of these articles all written by men. I love when men think they have women figured out and vice versa. It makes for interesting conversations.
So I had to question why I took the time to read them, cover to cover in one week. Am I a deviate, do I crave the BDSM lifestyle, what’s up with all of this and where did this come from? I’ve been thinking long and hard about this and have finally come to some conclusions. First of all, I am not a pervert nor do I desire to become one. This is not a lifestyle I would ever exploit or choose. But what occurred to me reading these books is that the author puts you behind closed doors, away from oversight and judgment and challenges you to admit that you have a dark side. We all have demons, we all have fantasies, we just don’t want to acknowledge them in polite company. As we grow up, we make choices. We choose our educational paths, we choose where we live, we choose our interests, our friends, lovers and yes, we even choose our sexual preferences. But we don’t talk about it, in reality we’re pretty puritanical about it. And after a while, we define en masse what we think is acceptable and what we think is taboo. And we go through life never deviating from that path in thought or deed… or do we?
The books make you think about who you really are in the darkest parts of your soul, your boundaries, limits, and take you on the journey of exploring your jump to judgment whether regarding yourself or others. What’s right, what’s wrong, is there a right or a wrong, and to what ends will you really go and why. I think older women may be drawn to this because they have already walked that path making those decisions, some in denial, some in secret others horrified or repulsed. But we don’t talk about it because in our puritanical society we label and judge, especially as it relates to women and sex. So I congratulate the author, E.L. James (a woman) for putting it out there and getting people, especially women, out of their veiled world and talking. As to whether it’s right or wrong that is for you, the reader, to decide.