I Haven’t Read 50 Shades, But I’ve Still Got An Opinion

I am a frightful snob when it comes to books. Many of you will know or at least suspect this, after all I didn’t just happen to be in the area when they handed out my Micky Mouse degree, so in a way I think I get to be. I do cleverly disguise this feature (which isn’t too popular with a great number of people) by proclaiming Harry Potter as one of my all time favourites, which I am not ashamed to read and bawl at in public, even though a lot of people frown at this. I freely admit that I’m cheating here, because unlike Eragon, Gossip Girl and, oh well, Twilight, I deem Rowling’s work Truly Great Literature. It’s not hard to endorse things you like.

That said, and because you can’t shake a very rigid squirrel these days without knocking over a stack of E.L. James Twilight-fanfiction-turned-ebook-turned-publishing-sensation-turned-annoying-public-debate 50 Shades trilogy, I have decided I want to use this platform to proclaim that No, thank you, I won’t be reading it. Neither in public nor in my sitting room nor, God forbid, in my bedroom. And the reason behind this is not any feminist outrage at the mind-boggling incapacity of the “heroine” Anastasia, or that I’m a prude. The reason behind this is that I think it’s a fantastically dull plot, with fantastically uninteresting characters, and fantastically uninventive language. And these are all things that I disapprove of when I’m assembling my bed- and bogside library.

My feminist outrage is directed at the outraged feminists who are writing outraged feminist blog posts and newspaper articles and talking in an outraged way on radio programmes about the 50 Shades phenomenon, and how women like it because they can’t handle Having It All, and whether all successful women secretly wish for an emotionally stunted bachelor to take a leather-studded paddle to their backside. Here’s my outraged question to all of them: What The Actual Fuck.

Here’s what: 50 Shades is porn. Badly written, smutty, softie porn, in which people are tied up in uncomfortable positions, and penetrated at uncomfortable angles, and a lot of the positions are a) humanely impossible and b) blatantly ridiculous. And women like it, because here’s the shocking secret: Women Like Porn. Women like reading about The Sex. We also like seeing The Sex on screen, and thinking about The Sex while we’re pretending to review an excel sheet, and having The Sex whilst we should be filing our tax returns. But the pity is, there is very little sex out there that is directed at or focuses on women (other than in the conventional YouPorn way of course), so we have to make do with what is out there. And whether you’re reading about Ana’s exploding castles in the sky in paperback form or NC-17 fanfiction about Buffy And Angel Without The Pesky Curse on your iPhone, well, that’s really no one’s business, other than your own and maybe the 20 of your closest friends who you discuss masturbation fantasies with. It’s awful enough that the killjoy patriarchy has tried to meddle with and limit women’s sexuality for hundreds of years by telling us what’s appropriate and what’s not. Please, you well-meaning feminists out there, don’t you start with us as well.

So I guess, and I’m not saying this lightly believe you me, we should thank E.L. James, for being a middle-aged mediocre writer fantasising about sparkly RPatz. Your readers owe you a lot, and if other, better writers follow in your foot steps, then so will I. Forgive me if I stick with Buffy and Angel for the moment though.

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