When I first read about the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey” I was really excited. I feel that the more women express their fantasies and create porn from a female perspective (in words or images), the better. Female fantasies are still greatly hidden and there is a lack of erotica by and for women. So I applaud all women who publish erotica soft or hard. I was looking forward to a good and exciting read.
I should have known better. “Fifty Shades of Grey” started out as a fan fiction novel based on the Twilight saga. It became a huge online success and was then snapped up by a major publisher and re-released in a whitewashed version. What remains is a romantic, anti-feminist fairytale with very little sexually explicit and exciting content. I had to get past page 200 for the first sex to happen and found it hard to keep reading, in the hope for some spice. Even though the book allegedly is about sm sex most of the (little) sex that actually happens is pretty vanilla. But what disappoints me most is not the lack of explicit and well-written sex scenes but the fact that the “heroine” Ana is still supposed to be a virgin in her twenties and only agrees to have sex and try out (light) SM-play with the multi-billionaire Christian Grey because she loves him. This is so true to the dated gender-clichés in classic romantic novels that I was surprised a book like this would be published in 2012. As if it was true that women cannot separate sex from love and choose to remain “innocent” (including never having masturbated themselves to orgasm) until they eventually give up their virginity in the name of love as a gift for the prince that sweeps them off their feet. So much for sexual liberation, women enjoying sex with no strings attached or giving themselves pleasure…
The book’s conservative streak continues by describing the dominant SM prince, Christian Grey, as deeply scarred and emotionally damaged (presumably because he was abused as a child). His fuckedupness seems to be the only reason for having fetishes and being into SM sex. As if in real life perfectly healthy, happy and balanced people do not enjoy role-play and experimenting with a power exchange in the bedroom (with or without cuffs and whips). In reality women and men both have fantasies about being dominant and/or submissive. Some choose to live those fantasies out, others choose for their fantasies remain a sexy movie in the head to be enjoyed during sex or masturbation. Reading an SM book or watching SM porn does not necessarily mean that you want to be a dom or sub in real life. This is why it is so annoying that the media now claims that the massive sales of the book are proof for the fact that most women are submissive and want to be dominated.
To me, the massive sales figures of the book are the perfect example of the power of marketing. The book promises something it does not give – It is sold as “porn for women” when it is not really pornographic (as in “explicit” and “aimed for arousal”) at all. Women snap this book up because they have so little pornographic material aimed at them to choose from but many end up being bitterly disappointed. No woman I have spoken to about “Fifty Shades” got turned on by reading it. Most stopped reading it after 50 or 100 pages because they were bored. By then, they have gone down in the statistics as a buyer and are allegedly a woman who wants to be dominated and got turned on by the book. The media perpetuates the endless marketing the book receives over and over again – usually without questioning the blurb created by the publishers. Not a day goes by without “Fifty Shades” being described as “porn for women” in most mainstream media.
Sadly, the truth is that if “Fifty Shades” really was explicit porn for women and featured a strong heroine who is sexually experienced and enjoys experimenting with SM sex (god forbid maybe even in the dominant role) and a hot, healthy and liberated man who gets off on being a dom just because he enjoys it, this book would not be available at your local supermarket. This book would have been published by a small indie publisher, available only at women’s sex shops or selected sites online because it would have been branded as “obscene pornographic material” that no major brand wants to be associated with and it.
This kind of book exists: “Carrie’s Story” came out over a decade ago, published by Cleiss press. I read it twice with gusto and it turned me on – a lot. I had quite a few great orgasms initiated by the scenarios in this book. Of course, this book never became a bestseller because it is genuinely explicit (SM) porn from a female perspective and simply not mainstream enough.
I don’t doubt that “Fifty Shades” will pave the way for more female erotica writers to be published – but hopefully one day without censoring by the publishers and plenty of explicit erotic content.
I do hope that “Fifty Shades” turns at least some women on. If it does then it will live up at least partially to the hype surrounding it.