(Warning – language, abuse, sexual abuse.) Almost never have I not finished a book. I am a book lover, and I almost can’t bear not to know the ending of a book. Even if I am reading something less that inspiring, I usually flip ahead to the end and put my mind and the story to rest rather than just put it away unfinished, unknown.
This however, was sucking my joy.
Full disclosure: I knew nothing of the plot before I casually added this title into my vacation stack, other than hearing it was steamy. I imagined something like Nicholas Sparks or Andrew M. Greely or Jean M. Auel.
After all, I had seen women of different ages, on multiple occasions recommending this book to their friends and their sisters, in the best seller section of my local chapters. One woman I vividly remember with her two teen daughters there. I had seen acquaintances on facebook asking to borrow the second and third sequels, as they couldn’t wait to get to a book store to pick them up, they were so intrigued. I saw the Shades of Grey babies’ pinup on Pinterest. If all of that didn’t build my case for a light summer read, they carry all three books at Costco. (If that doesn’t put a book into the fluffy but harmless category, I don’t know what does.)
I hated it from page one. Anastasia (or Ana) opens by ‘scowl(ing) with frustration at (herself) in the mirror.’ 50 pages in she continues to bash her looks at every opportunity, she has met a ‘young and very attractive’ potential abuser and the writing is beyond weak and so cliché it makes me wonder how this book became a best seller.
Then I got angry. I struggled to read about half way through the book and it wasn’t only the shoddily written, ‘fucking hard’ scenes between an experienced dominator and a just college graduate virgin, that turned me off. It wasn’t the fact that she agrees to have unprotected sex with someone she has known for less than a month, and has admitted to having 15 other sexual partners, on his word that he is STD free. It wasn’t the fact that the main male character keeps buying Ana expensive stuff and ‘forcing’ her to take it. (Although to be fair these all added to my anger.) The base of my anger was there because women turned this appalling book written by another woman into a best seller.
Oh I was mad! I was ranting to my poor husband, held captive in the driver’s seat about how women have no respect for themselves, if they are going to buy like this. I was angry at women, for all the women who are suffering out there, at the hands of those of us who can choose differently for popularizing the submissiveness of women.
Because ladies, we all know this! Meeting a man who wants to 'fuck you hard, and then punish you, or 'punish you and then fuck you hard' is not romance. It is abuse! I know women in real life who have been or who are hit by the men they love for disobeying and it is not and never will be sexy! Trying to love someone enough to change them from someone who physically punishes you, when you God forbid, roll your eyes at them, wear something they don’t approve of, or see someone they dislike does not work in the real world - ever. (I am assuming that the title of the third book 50 Shades of Freed means that eventually Christian stops abusing Ana and they have a ‘normal’ relationship.) Insinuating to women through this work of fiction that the women’s desire is enough to change an abusers pattern is downright scary and deceitful.
I was livid and sick. Because this - is - real. There are women around the world being punished, beaten, raped, and pillaged and never, never, for the love of God, never, is it entertainment.
It has been four days since I stopped reading. I have processed a bit now and although I can still feel the anger, sadness is now overtaking it. There are women and men out there struggling every day to further egalitarian relationships, feminism and nonviolence and this fictional book gone bestseller feels like such a setback. I am mourning for that.
I am weeping for all the women who are out there, suffering, while a crappily written book, glorifies abuse and subordination. I have two daughters, both still really baby girls and this is not what I want for them. I can’t imagine there is a mother out there who does. So why hold it up in acclaim if you wouldn’t want your daughter playing the main role?
Women, beautiful women of the world, when can we start imagining a more creative (dare I say stimulating) future for ourselves, enough to reject this type of story? Women are strong and we are capable of changing the world for our sisters, our daughters and our sons. Let’s join together and reflect that in our fantasy life as well. Let’s partake in stories worth telling, because those are the stories worth living. Edited to add: I could continue to write about this and the issues I think it speaks to because frankly more stuff just keeps coming up with this social phenomenon, and I may or may not do that. Since I read two other good articles about this that I agree with. One was on Red Letter Christians 50 Shades of Broken - Why Do Women Fantasize About Abuse and Why I Am Not Reading 50 Shades of Grey.