At the hair salon last summer, I took my Nook along. My stylist said, “What are Christian and Anastasia up to *wink wink*?” I hadn’t yet read Fifty Shades, but I had heard of Christian and Anastasia. I said, “Oh, I’m not reading that.” Turns out a large number of her clients WERE reading that, coming in with Fifty Shades on their e-readers, the 21st century version of a plain brown wrapper. She whispered, “You have to check it out. Seriously. It’s hot.“
So on the advice of my stylist, I did check it out. And I’ll admit, it was sort of hot at first. But it was also sort of degrading and stupid and repetitive. It made me wonder just how this book became so popular, and I think it has little to do with good writing and everything to do with marketing.
We really don’t need a plain brown wrapper for Fifty Shades. The cover is tame, discreet. No bodice rippers or entwined bodies in sight. This, I think, is a huge part of the appeal, legitimizing the genre somehow and making it seem less cliched and old fashioned.
I’d also call it erotica-lite. FSOG has more of a relationship-focus than porn but more sex than a romance novel. So it’s ok because, you know, they love each other. Or something like that.
Book 1 of the FSOG trilogy is now the fastest selling paperback of all time, leaving a bewildered Harry Potter in the dust. 31 million copies of the trilogy have been sold worldwide. Practically everyone’s read this book; your friends, your sister, your neighbor, the lady sitting in front of you at church. If you haven’t read it, you’ve heard of it. Even people who wouldn’t normally read erotica (hi…) want to check it out to see what all the fuss is about. It’s been hand sold, woman to woman, in person and online over Facebook and Twitter.
Mommy Porn has influenced sales of racy toys and taken reading for pleasure to a whole new level. It’s an exciting time to be in the business of selling handcuffs. Publishers have rushed to put out erotica titles for the masses, with varying degrees of quality, and covers so subtle they are perfectly acceptable on the book tables at Costco.
What, if anything, does this say about our culture? Are we sexually frustrated? Bored? Oversexed? Did we need something like Fifty Shades to give us permission to talk about our fantasies with our friends or our partners? Or is this just pure escapism?
I don’t know, but I couldn’t get past the repetitiveness and the icky relationship between Christian and Ana. I’m sure there have to be better titles in this genre, which I’ll admit is not without it’s charms *wink wink*.