50 Shades- A Complicated Review

June 3, 2012 at 16:28 (erotica) (, , , , , )

In 1965, ten years after its original publication, a book called The Story of O was first published in English.  It’s reception was mixed, but its introduction to mainstream literature has been regarded as a milestone in many ways for both BDSM culture and literature in general.  In 2012 there are websites, books, and even scenes in movies and television that deal with the lifestyle that have been either accepted or ignored, but none have made as much of an impression on Vanilla America as the 50 Shades trilogy.  I finally gave in to the books when my mother-in law assumed I’d read them and asked my opinion, either giving away some of her clandestine knowledge about my and my lifestyle or letting  out a few secrets of her own.  I had read reviews, but I never form an opinion based on those of others, so I decided to take what the nice boy at Barnes and Noble called “The 50 Shades Challenge” myself.  My impression was mixed, but I was not turned off of reading all three books before forming a final opinion.

As far as its literary merit, the books are not fantastic, but better than most fan fic I’ve read.  The language is a little repetitive, the descriptions in some parts are a little wrote, and while some of the language is phenomenal some of it doesn’t quite to justice to the intensity of the situation.

On the side of accuracy, if Ms. James is not a part of the lifestyle herself she at least did some research or reads BDSM erotica.  Terms are proper and the way Mr Grey conducts himself and negotiates his agreements it pretty standard, and who doesn’t buy supplies at department stores? I got a few funny looks in the break room at work for chuckling under my breath at reading the notorious bad boy’s ” hard limits” list and realized that at least half of it is on my “must-have” list, and there were a few inspiring scenes that I made a note to mention to Angelflare, but this was not a unique experience.  There were points were I was dismayed to get the impression that it was becoming a “these people are broken and need to be saved” sort of story, but in the end I was pleased to see that the last book made a point of including play in a very healthy relationship.  I feel it’s important to show that side of the lifestyle to readers, especially when the fan base is so widespread and mainstream.  It’s integral for people to accept this as a relationship option for happy, sane, consensual people.  In the end it made excellent brain candy and became the catalyst for some interesting conversations, but other than that it was not new information…for me, anyway.

One of the reasons I believe this book has become so popular among housewifes and modern suburbia is the same reason Twilight did, and possibly the same way Story of O did in time.  It speaks to that dark side we all share, whether or not we indulge in the fantasies that arise from it, but it does it in a way that is so over the top and so unbelievable that it’s safe and distant.  In Twilight it was vampires and werewolves.  Here it’s the gorgeous bad boy every woman dreams of, and he’s so unbelievable rich and lavish that he becomes a fantasy creature in his own right.  If Ana had met the guy who works at the local bookstore and they had formed this kind of relationship I do not believe they would be as popular in the mainstream.  These women will never meet Christian Grey, so becomes a safe fantasy.  It doesn’t become a strange and dark prospect until they imagine the neighbours having a basement dungeon.  It’s acceptable for this extremely lucky girl to indulge in play, but it’s weird when it’s me.

I was extremely surprised to find myself so absorbed by the books.  Aside from point where the language made me cringe (who says Holy Cow or Jeeze during sex?), I was completely drawn in to the story.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit I found myself emotionally invested.  I laughed audibly, I cried, I worried, and I found myself anxious to get back to my reading whenever I could.  Friends, it has been a long time since a book has affected me this way.  I was baffled by my reaction.

Then I realized what the root was, familiarity.  Without the bells and whistles this could have been our story.  I had been a part of the scene before meeting Angelflare, but it was the first time I had been in a romantic relationship that included that part of my life.  He was a bad boy with a past.  He was cool, collected, and a bit reckless with his own life and the love of those with whom he had any kind of intimate relationship.  The day he told me he loved me he was torn between unfamiliar emotion and the compulsion to run, and the next few weeks were rocky and intense, mainly because he was afraid to let me in, afraid I would see that darker side of him and ask him to leave.  Being as stubborn as we both have been known to be, we worked through it,  and our relationship grew and spread like a wildfire.  Within two weeks he was living with me, not long after that we were committed, then married.

I experienced many of the same concerns and internal crises Anastasia did, and still do at times.  Now throw in health issues, ex lover issues, real life problems, and our decisions to open our marriage and give this 24/7 arrangement a shot.  We have had some of these conversations about fears and insecurities, but we have also had the same exhilarating moments of clarity and passion.  We have learned how to blend real life, love, and an M/s relationship to make a beautiful marriage that works for us.  It’s taken work, it still does, and it always will, but what marriage doesn’t for one reason or another.  These issues have not been caused by our lifestyle, nor do we suffer them because of it.  In many ways the books reminded me of how far we’ve come as a couple, as friends, as lovers, and as people.  We have  an alternative love story.  We also have a pretty interesting basement.

In the end, would I recommend the books? Yes, if you can suspend skepticism and just enjoy a good story.  They were a quick read with some interesting merit.  I must admit I never made it through the Twilight books, any of them, so I don’t really catch the comparison or the fan fic element, and maybe that’s why the origins of the 50 Shades trilogy don’t bother me as much as they seem to bother other readers.  I’m sure I could have found handfuls of reasons to be critical and  argumentative, but I read the books in the spirit they were written, let myself be immersed, and fell in love with the characters and the story itself. I challenge you all to do the same.


Go now, fall in love with something dark.

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