As I presently find myself in a relationship, my acuteness to the female psyche has been somewhat enhanced. Therefore, it has come to my attention that even though many women will not admit, or even dare, to watch pornography, they feel that it is okay to read it instead. Somehow, the taboo has failed to reach the best-seller racks at Barnes & Nobles and the e-books catalogue on Amazon.com. Here comes the embarrassing revelation: I found myself trying to read this interesting piece of writing entitled Fifty Shades of Grey. I mean, I have heard a lot about it. Plus, it is also about sex, so why not? But I guess what they say about men tending to be more visual still holds true.
Still, we owe some applause to E.L. James for being able to write a hefty trilogy where essentially nothing happens but S&M. For those out there who do not know what the book is about, the novels center on the lives — and affection for whips, chains and handcuffs — of Christian Grey, a wealthy and handsome magnate and Anastasia Steele, a doe-eyed college student, and their twisted, sexual and sadistic relationship. Rumor has it James wrote the book in response to the Twilight series and her utter discontent with the PG-13 relationship. Fifty Shades of Grey is basically Twilight re-vamped, with even less of a story line and a lot more sex. The narrative is built on purple prose, common in pulp novels with lines such as, “my inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils.” I can now understand how incredibly hard it is to attempt reading a novel of this genre. You can call me old fashioned if you wish, but I think that this should be left to the Lord Byrons and John Keats of the world, who I am sure have come up with better metaphors for an orgasm and descriptions of sex in general.
Fifty Shades of Grey has also been met with a lot of criticism from feminist crusaders who find the content of the book derogatory towards women due to its aggressive treatment of them. Anastasia consents to being stalked, slapped and whipped on various occasions. As a writer who has been faced with criticism in the past, I want to address in advance that if this many women are caught up in the fad that is this novel, then — leaving aside the domestic violence — is there something wrong with a little consentual S&M? Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and though the book does not exactly make it into my list of top reads, who am I to discriminate?
According to a recent article in the New York Times, James’ novel has been credited with “introducing women who usually read run-of-the-mill literary or commercial fiction to graphic, heavy-breathing erotica.” American suburbs across the nation are apparently now filled with happy women with a newfound pastime — this I will leave open to interpretation. However, aside from a potential expanding of sexual horizons, this book does not do much else. It suffers from poor pacing, a lacking storyline and an excruciating amount of detail. Perhaps if they were Vampires …
My dilemma is the following: Though I know that this is not true of all girls, I have a feeling it takes a lot for one to admit to watching pornography. I decided to write this article when I found myself sitting at Terrace the other day amongst a group of girls who would not shut up about the novel. In an attempt to argue that the book is essentially the same as a porno, I got a couple of disapproving looks. But think about it, is it any different to read about S&M and to imagine it inside you head as opposed to watching a video with the same content? Perhaps I should not be complaining because, at the end of the day, this means that talking about erotica has become significantly less of a big deal. However, let us not forget that what Anastasia Steele did was more extreme than the girl who decided to put on a show at the Cornell libraries.
Abdiel Ortiz-Carrasquillo is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I Respectfully Dissent appears alternate Fridays this semester.