Secondly, I have not read Fifty Shades of ….. as I don’t want to support it in any way. Initially, I struggled with the concept of engaging in a discussion of a book that I refuse to read however, I don’t read porn magazines and feel fine about voicing my opinion and concerns on those. My opinion comes from reviews, the wiki site (yes shun me if you will), the author’s own page and reading random pages in my local bookstore.
So, here we go, let’s start with the cover. The book is apparently centered on our heroine Ana, yet the cover features a man’s tie, representative of middle class white male power and possibly a reference to the bondage contained in the book. The colours are not representative of a young female heroine at all, so from the beginning the question must be asked ‘whose story is this really?’
I am willing to skip past the creation of this as Twilight fan fiction, and really we should be thankful they don’t have fangs.
My issue is that this book normalises the structure of a relationship where a much younger woman becomes the plaything of an older man who controls her emotionally, intellectually and physically. Explicit sex scenes are not an issue, authors have included erotic imagery and language in novels regularly throughout the history of literature. Sex in this book is very clearly about power and Ana has none.
What is wrong with this? The real concern here is the popularity of this book and the message it sends;
- why are women drawn to this tale of objectification and subjugation in such droves?
- Is it that our lives are so busy and often complicated that having someone make the hard choices (no pun intended) becomes so attractive?
- Do we yearn for times when we had clearly identifiable gender and life roles?
- Or has explicit sexualisation of women in our world resulted in a desensitising to what we consider normal and acceptable relationship roles for women?
- What message do we send young women when we read and approve of novels in which they are essentially victims?
- Where are the roles models of women that walk in their own power?
- What does it say about our society that this is a number one bestseller?
Does it really matter? Books represent the ideas of the time they are created in and so this story isn’t just Ana’s it is also a reflection of the the place of women in our society.
Can I recommend Jane Eyre instead of Fifty Shades of …..?
* I should note this is the discussion that landed me in the middle of a huge Facebook mess, apparently I was only meant to click like on the book cover image posted.
- ‘Fifty Shades’ prompts hunt for sugar daddies (lfpress.com)
- In defence of Fifty Shades of Grey (newstatesman.com)
- Fifty Shades of Porn (blogs.independent.co.uk)