Okay people. It’s time to come clean. No use pretending you’re above reading the controversial Fifty Shades trilogy. You know you’ve got those books on your Kindle. The truly brave ones own them in paperback (but you’ll never catch them reading in public).
Admitting that you’ve read the “Forbidden Trilogy” is now akin to admitting you’ve battled lice in your home; people whisper it and only to others who’ve also quietly divulged their own underground secret. Being the brazen, mediocre mom and wife that I am, I publicly admit that I’ve read the books. All three in two weeks. Really, they’re that addicting. For those that are worried about people knowing you’ve read them, let me put your mind at ease. Reading the Fifty Shades trilogy doesn’t make you a perverse, debase, sexaholic anymore than reading Silence of the Lambs makes you a sociopathic killer, or Gone With the Wind makes you a determined and mouthy Southern Belle, or trying to decipher Finnegan’s Wake makes you a Mensa member. They are books containing ideas that you don’t necessarily have to embrace or even understand, quite frankly. Yet people are worried about their mother’s knowing they read them (or worse, knowing your own mother read them), whispering in hushed tones about the content, and feeling guilty that they liked them. What gives?
As popular as these books are, I don’t think there is one person who’d argue that they’re well written tomes with poetic prose. These books certainly aren’t going to be added to the literary canon anytime soon, unless of course the books are held responsible for our society’s subsequent baby boom nine months from now. And though I read all three books and enjoyed certain aspects of them, if I ever see the words mercurial, megalomaniac, or sardonically again, (not to mention the many and varied uses of words beginning with “F”), I’m going to have to gouge my eyes out with a battery operated toy of some sort. These books have been pegged “mommy porn” by media outlets, been spoofed by Saturday Night Live and Ellen, and the jury is hung (pardon the pun) when it comes to determining if they are pornography or merely smutty fiction. Which I suppose is the larger debate instilling fear into the hearts of readers everywhere.
A member from my book club picked Fifty Shades of Grey for last month’s read. Opinions at book club were mixed. Some felt the books were pornography. Some disagreed because there aren’t visuals, only the images the reader creates in her mind. (We’re all women, but I’m sure plenty of men have read these too.) The one thing we all wanted to know: Why are these books so popular? Sure, maybe people envision their private life to be a bit more exciting and risqué than it actually is and living vicariously through Ana and Christian is cathartic. For some perhaps, they needed a few new ideas and inspiration after having grown weary of their own playroom paraphernalia. For me personally, the sex scenes got a little old. Kind of like when I went to Europe and visited magnificent castles and churches; I was so awed and enamored I wanted to savor every moment. The gilded columns, Oooh! The al fresco paintings, Ahhh! The opulent tapestries and ornately carved furniture, Oh My! But there’s only so much decadence a person can take and before long, I found myself saying, “It’s another bloody castle, let’s find a pub.” I felt that way about the sex scenes half way through book two. Enough already. There’s a red room and a big dresser with many drawers filled with lots of things. I get it. Skip, skip, skip. The best part of the books for me were the notions of “hard limits’ and “soft limits” which I plan to employ in my everyday speech and decision making skills. Cleaning the toilet and ironing my husband’s work shirts, for example, are hard limits for me, while mowing the lawn and making dinner are soft limits. Still not agreeable, but will perform if necessary.
I’m sure I’m going to be attacked for suggesting this, but I felt like the books were more a statement about women and what we want versus what we think we want, more than the salacious nature of the extracurricular activities. And for simplicity I’m going to use the word WE as a sweeping generalization for women everywhere—knowing full well that all women do not fit into any one specific category, BUT disclaimer notwithstanding—we want what we want. Women want the good guys but are attracted to the bad boys. We want someone to come sweep us off our feet, take care of us, cradle, coddle, and watch us sleep, but then feel smothered, controlled, and stalked. We want independence and have the ability (the RIGHT!) to make our own decisions, and yet crave for someone else to decide where to eat dinner and then pay for the check (at least occasionally). We want romance and hearts and flowers, and we want someone to take control and kiss us forcefully against a wall, to grip our face, hold our chin as he moves from our lips to our neck (Seriously, how many movies have this very scene in them?). We want vanilla and yet crave chocolate, strawberry, and butter pecan and secretly dream about the banana split covered in hot fudge. More than anything, we want to believe in the notion that love conquers all; overcomes all manner of dysfunction, can save a person from the heinous horrors of his or her past. We want to believe that if we love someone hard enough, long enough, give enough, concede enough, that those choices and that unconditional love without strings will save a drowning man’s very soul, will make him be the person we know he could be. Whether we want to do the saving or want to be saved ourselves, we want to believe that love can do this. We want to believe that true love is always redemptive.
And surely it can be. When you are Christian and Anastasia and you have no monetary concerns or constraints, you don’t have to really work for a living, you have no children, you’re both under 30, and have 24 hours a day to devote solely to sating each other’s incessant desire for, er, physical touch. Oh, and both parties are extremely hot, have personal trainers, cooks, and assistants. In situations such as these, perfect, redemptive love is totally doable.
So now’s the time to rip up that NDA and share. Why did you read these books? If you haven’t, why not? Do you consider them pornography or simply smutty fiction? What do you think is the big appeal? The sex scenes or the messages of redemption and romance? And tell us: do you own the books in paperback or on Kindle? Be bold! Tell us what you think!!
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Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer, blogger, social media specialist, and author. She’s also a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com or purchase her latest book, Little Changes. You might not be a better parent after reading her stuff, but you will feel like one. Follow her on Twitter @RachelVidoni.