Let me please start with this: I think it’s a godawful book. Long after it had become a hit, after reading comments and parodies, after hearing about it in almost every “respectable” sexuality TV or radio show, I decided to give it a shot. I couldn’t bear myself to go beyond page 70.
The main character is so bland, it’s just a prop for other people to act upon her. The metaphors make no sense, and the prose is badly constructed, adjectives repeat incessantly. And, more importantly, the love interest is a creep.
In his first apparition, when he is being interviewed by the protagonist, he does nothing but belittling her as a journalist and bragging about how rich and powerful he is. After that, he starts stalking her: he shows up at her workplace to buy a ton of bondage gear (seriously?), he finds out where he lives, and he broods, broods like the soul-sucking sparkless vampire he is. At some point, I just metaphorically threw the ebook away.
I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that, because of this fucking book, there is a generation who things that BDSM is a fucked-up rapey culture for damaged people only. It makes my blood boil that there are people actually looking at the abuser Christian Grey as an ideal lover.
It’s downright terrible. And you know what’s worse? Regular porn.
Look at the porn industry nowadays. Do you want some creepy? Here you are Barely Legal Teen Lolitas. You want violent and demeaning? Come for Golden Shower Barebacking Assfuck. You want rapey? Come see the Gangbang XXX See how She first Screams and then Moans.
I have the nagging feeling that, if 50 Shades has taken so much flak, it’s because it’s a book by women, for women. Terrible as it is, it has acknowledged that women, not only young women but mature ones, are sexual beings, not just objects, but people with actual desires who take action and actively consume erotica. And that makes many guys awkward. And remember one thing: all the things to criticise in 50 Shades, regular porn has them worse.
If I talk about how bad the book is, I feel that I really should start criticising History of O, or the thousand “highbrow” erotica novels written by men who appear to think that the female genital apparatus is just a hole. Let’s talk about Bukowski, Norman Mailer, serious guys who write very well respected novels where assault, rape and abuse are sexualised and glorified. “Ah, but this people write well, they are expressing the abyss of the soul”. Good writers my ass. Most of them write about themselves and their issues to wallow in self-pity and justify their misogyny.
So, my final message is: there is much to criticise in 50 Shades. There is so much better and healthier erotica around, I encourage everyone to search it. However, if you love the book after all, if it rocks your boat, just enjoy it and say a big fuck you to the world. And please don’t let snobs like me detain you.
Words by Esther Nelke
Illustration by Judy Mièl