Jumping on the 50 Shades Bandwagon, Or, Me Ranting About Sex In Writing

As a writer of erotica, I’ve followed the whole 50 Shades debate with interest. I’ve read all three books; yes, I enjoyed them. I haven’t seen the film yet. I don’t have any fantastic insights or conclusions to add, I’m sure, but here’s my two penn’orth anyway. πŸ˜‰

Number one pet peeve: the people who are criticising the book when they haven’t read it. Or if they have, they’ve read a different book to me. I know everyone takes different stuff away from a book: that’s the beauty of one. But some of the things people have said are so inaccurate that I began to question if my memory was going wonky. So I’ve just re-read all three books. Nope, turns out they just hadn’t read it.

Yes, it’s not the most brilliantly written thing I’ve ever read. Neither is it by far the worst. So what? I thought it was a page-turner, but not everyone will. That’s fine.

Several people have said Christian ‘stalks’ Ana at the beginning of the book, until she agrees to have a relationship with him. Ahem…I should probably be locked up then, because I did the same to most of the guys I fancied when I was younger. I didn’t have access to a helicopter, a private jet, or even a fast car, but as far as my meagre finances would allow, I turned up at their workplace, their watering hole, and made sure I got noticed. Did it work? Sometimes. Did I ever get a lasting relationship out of it? Ask hubby.

Oh, and I’ve been stalked. House watched, harassing phone calls, and physically attacked. That’s a story for another time, but for me, what Christian does is not stalking.

It’s a STORY. This is the big one, isn’t it?

Should we not have these stories, because some people might take them as gospel truth, or some kind of handbook on how to have a relationship?

Some of you will say, ah, but, these stories aren’t necessary. Why do we need stories about kinky sex, fucked-up people (ooh, I swore), and odd relationships? Well, by the same standard, why do we need stories about dragons, spaceships, and Superman? Let’s get rid of all those too. Ah, but those stories don’t harm anyone. Tell that to the young me who jumped out of her bedroom window to see if she could fly. (I can’t, but I have great balance and I can land really well. Otherwise that story would have ended very differently). And yes, I knew even back then that I was being stupid. I did it anyway. There lies the story of human nature.

I got most of my sex education in my early teens from Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel. My mum had told me the mechanics of sex when I asked, aged 10. She explained very well, too, but what she couldn’t explain was passion, desire, or even love. My parents didn’t have a loving relationship. I learned about those from books. I also learned about wanting the wrong person, making the wrong decisions, why drugs and sex can be a dodgy mix, and all kinds of other stuff. Did I think that what I read was ‘reality’? No! Was it the definitive way to conduct a relationship or a sex life? No. Did I think ‘Hmm, I might like to try that?’ Yes.

What did I learn from reading trashy sexy novels? That men and women can both be monsters. That women can be empowered and take charge in and out of the bedroom. That playing around with different sex scenarios can be fun. IF YOU WANT TO.

There can be true love, great sex, and all points around and in between. There can also be crap relationships and crap sex. There can be abuse from both men and women. These things I didn’t learn only from books.

Aren’t we just catering to the lowest common denominator if we don’t write, film, paint, sculpt, whatever, this kind of stuff? Isn’t it just another example of ‘dumbing down’? Surely the answer is BETTER EDUCATION. About fiction, about fantasy, and that crossing it over to reality should only happen WHEN YOU WANT IT TO.

Ana chooses to try Christian’s way. She enjoys it, and when she asks him to go further to see what it’s like, and hates it, she dumps him and leaves. They get back together, but then he has to make changes if he wants to be with her, because she doesn’t like all the stuff he likes. So.

I like a straightforward romance as much as the next person. I also like to have my buttons pushed every so often. Damaged people are much more fascinating to read about than sweet, simpering heroes and heroines. The rogue cop who gets results is way more interesting than the policeman who does it by the book. Don’t we just love the maverick doctor who takes risks and saves the patient’s life with an unorthodox treatment? In real life, the lines will never be so neatly drawn.

Yes, I like this stuff. Sue me.

Yes, I like this stuff. Sue me.

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19 thoughts on “Jumping on the 50 Shades Bandwagon, Or, Me Ranting About Sex In Writing

  1. Well I am hubby and yes she did stalk me and I am scared…….help me please some one help me 😜………just kidding
    Yes the above is very true and I think people just need to chill out stop taking thing so seriously
    Very good honey

    • Thanks, Julie. I was going to wait until the film came out on DVD, but after a few people saying they liked it ( and out of curiosity and in the spirit of research, lol), I think I’ll try and see it at the cinema. πŸ˜‰

  2. I am curious about one thing in your stalking example: how did you find out about where these guys worked or drank? And how did Christian? My understanding was that he suggested he’d track her phone signal and got access to her bank details at one point or another. That’s seriously enabled stalking. Some of it after she tells him she needs space to think?

    I’ve had my stalkerish moments in my life (when I was younger) and they were all of the sort you say you did, but not of the scary, technology-enabled sort Christian seems to have engaged in.

    • Oh, I don’t condone everything Christian does – yes, in real life, it would be inappropriate to most people. Ana even tells him his actions are inappropriate on several occasions. A ‘normal’ guy (whatever that is, lol) would have phoned Kate and said ‘Hey, I’d really like to see Ana again – is she attached?’ Or made up some story about wanting to do more with the interview. Instead he uses technology – which is a very Christian Grey way of doing things, because he doesn’t have friends and interact with people.
      Talking to people was how I found out where the guys I liked were – either they themselves, or mutual friends, told me where they worked and hung out. I’m sure many of them thought I was a pest. Many made it clear they weren’t interested if I was being persistent. And some of them I ended up going out with, and more. πŸ˜‰
      If I was Ana, and I said I needed time to think, and meant it, and then Christian showed up again, I’d do one of two things:
      a) Think ‘Wow, this guy is mad for me, and let’s face it, I really fancy him too, okay, let’s give it a go.’ Which is basically what Ana does.
      b) Think ‘No, I really meant back off, and you’re creeping me out now, so I’m going to tell you again and if you don’t back away, I’m reporting you to the police.’
      In real life, if a Christian Grey character turned up, b) is probably more likely to be what happens – or what should happen. But a) makes for a better story. πŸ˜‰

  3. Love your ‘lowest common denominator’ comment. My husband and I reference this all the the time (with speed limits usually) and I definitely agree with you. We shouldn’t dumb things down.

    And I about died laughing with your jumping out a window story. That’s living life!

    Haven’t personally read the books, so I can’t say much there. But I completely agree, don’t critique if you haven’t read.

  4. I completely agree about the it being a story bit. Nothing wrong with having stories like this. I think the thing that bothers me is how worked up people are getting about it.
    I haven’t read the books (I’ve read the beginning and flicked through) and won’t be seeing the film, but I get the impression that some parts are quite abusive (does Christian try to isolate Ana from her friends/family? Or call her stupid at some point? I might have gotten that from someone who hasn’t read the book).
    Lately there has been a worrying trend in media where women are affectively abused by men and it’s seen as ok (stalked, emotionally, verbally or physically abuse). It just feels like gender equality is going backwards and 50 Shades is adding to it, because there will always be people who take things in a dangerous way. That could be said for anything, I know, but I wonder how different it would have been if Ana had been the wealthy, control freak and Christian the innocent virgin.

    Oh, and I had someone turning up in places to see me, staring at me constantly while at work, texting and calling at all hours. Felt like stalking to me, but only because I’d already said no. A lot.

  5. I read the first one and liked it. It bothers me that people say how it wasn’t well written. Was it a literary masterpiece, no…but it was very easy to read, and good enough that it got published, and has got people talking…good for E.L James, I say. Also, why the sour comments about it being based on fan fiction? Sometimes it’s better than the original. I write fan fiction, just don’t know how to turn it into something more, so just having fun. But, well done to those who do. Oh, and didn’t Ana take forever to even sign that contract Christian gave her? She went over it, made some changes, and agreed enough to sign on the dotted line. I like your views, Karen!

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