So I read 50 Shades of Grey on the weekend. I finished it as much "in one sitting" as it is possible for a mother of two small children to pull off without endangering her kids. The first chapter is truly terribly written, but I kept on going because I hadn't reached the sex yet, but by the time I did I was too far in to extricate myself. It reached the point where I was reading as quickly as possible, just so I could mercifully reach the end.
It made me cross. Not just because of the writing, the heroine's constant "inner goddess" twaddle or the annoying lip biting, but because of the example this, the fastest selling paperback of all time, is setting to younger women. I was disturbed to learn that it is popular among "teenage girls and college women". Is this going to be the first literary erotic role modeling these girls have? Will it shape their views on how relationships are supposed to work? Will the popularity of this book mean the gents assume this is what all women want in real life? I'm terrified for them all.
First up, pedophilia. Never acceptable. Even if it is between a teenage son of a crack whore and his adopted mother's friend, and somehow "saved" him. What a crock. This is exactly the kind of crap pedophiles tell themselves to justify their actions, and having it defended repeatedly in this book (by the main, exceptional successful, character no less) is deplorable.
In a tale about BDSM the power imbalance is obviously going to be a key plot point, but the power imbalance here extends way outside the bedroom. When our two main players meet he is a billionaire company owner while she is a broke college girl. She requires his approval in order to complete a task for her overbearing room mate, least she endangers her cushy living conditions.
The power starts and remains completely in his hands. As the novel plays out he constantly reminds her by buying ludicrously expensive gifts that she feels uncomfortable accepting, probably because she realises he is not lavishing affection, but rather reinforcing his power. This is further underlined by him constantly knowing her location and home addresses. Even she calls it stalking.
But what can Anastasia do? She has brought herself up on a steady diet of historical British novels, where the heroine's first love is usually her one true love, and they then live out their happily ever after.
And, after all, Anastasia does think she is in love. With a man she has known for a week or two. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called hormones. Just hormones. How can she possibly love him in that time frame?
And if she hadn't run (after he beat her) when the heady mix of pheromones wears thin she would find herself firmly ensconced in a relationship with a man who gets off on her pain. A man who is willing to boldly confront a virgin with a contract about sticking his fist up her bum, and then smack her with a belt a few days later. And she will be trapped there by her own upbringing - striving to "fix" him, looking for her happily ever after, and no doubt failing miserably.
It concerns me deeply that this kind of novel is being so widely read and lauded. Yes, it has sex scenes, but it is not sexy. There is nothing sexy about such an imbalanced, unhealthy relationship.