Fifty Shades of Grey – a reader’s view

Posted: July 4, 2012

Just how raunchy is Fifty Shades of Grey? As part of our coverage of the Fifty Shades phenomena, last month we asked Wendy Stevenson, a former licensed sex shop owner and creator of adult board games such as Risky Or Frisky?, to give us a reader’s view of the book. She writes: 

 

When my Facebook friends started saying things like “OMG I want to jump into bed with my husband again,” “My husband has never had it so good, thanks Mr Grey,” and “I think I’m in love with Christian Grey,” I wanted to know what was going on. Obviously they were talking about Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

I enjoy a good book, usually romance, comedy, drama or thrillers, and as I have previously been involved in the adult industry I felt I was more than qualified to give this title a test read and share my opinion with ETO readers.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey is the first book in a trilogy, with the second Fifty Shades Darker and the last book Fifty Shades Freed, all being listed as romantic, liberating and totally addictive. Written by a 49-year-old mother of two, who actually uses the pen name of EL James, these books have catapulted the author into stardom and she has studios fighting over the film rights.

 

With over half of my friends going crazy over this book, saying “You have to buy it NOW”, I dashed into my nearest bookseller, which is Tesco – now that my local bookshop has closed because it couldn’t compete with the megastore.  While seeking out the book I decide to grab some milk, bread and eggs as well, just in case the cashier thought I was in desperate need of the book and she “knows” what it’s about , thinking “In your dreams, grandma!”

 

As an ex-sex shop owner I do consider myself to be extremely open to anything sexual, new ideas, positions, toys and lube etc, so why on earth did I feel the need to buy other items whilst purchasing a book? I’m pretty sure that when you are involved in the retail side of the adult industry you have the persona of someone that knows exactly what a double dong is, how long a condom can last and the best position to make love in if you have the hiccups – OK maybe not that one, but even so, we retailers have to be outgoing, show the customer want they want, encourage them to spend money in our shops and sometimes even be a counsellor at the same time. However, this time the shoe was on the other foot. I wasn’t out to try and impress anyone, I wasn’t out to show how much I knew about BDSM, I was just buying a paperback because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Without the security of my own shop walls I felt a little exposed as a customer on the other side of the counter. Now I know what it must have been like for all the nervous types who came into my shop for the first time!

 

After paying for the book I went back to my car and spent the next 30 minutes reading through a couple of chapters, still parked!

 

Addictive? Yes, I would agree with that, although perhaps not everyone will feel the same. I was addicted because I was hoping it would get better after each chapter – though I’m sure some friends will want to hurl the books at me for the mere suggestion that it was not completely brilliant. I felt it took some time to get going and, due to all the hype, I was hoping that the sex bits were sooner rather than later.

 

I think women are genuinely intrigued by the ‘taboo’ subjects in the book. I’m sure curiosity will have encouraged many to purchase it, and perhaps even see whether or not they could fit into or enjoy a Dom/Sub roleplay situation.

 

One particular friend I spoke to suggested that reading an erotic novel and using her imagination was sexier than watching porn, and even more romantic. This was indeed mentioned a few times by other females; they enjoyed the ‘romantic’ undertone in the book, which tends to be overlooked when it comes to watching porn! Fifty Shades of Grey was a first erotic novel for many of my friends, and many said they would certainly go on to read more, as long as there was a romantic storyline. As one reader said: “If it was purely porn I would have lost interest, but I’ve nearly finished the second book and I’m looking forward to the third!”

 

Another friend stated that she had read all three books really quickly and was “hooked from the first page”. She added: “I think everyone was initially attracted to it as it was a bit naughty, but then I got hooked by the two main characters… underneath all the erotic stuff it is a really nice love story. I definitely laughed, cried, smirked and got flustered over it!”

 
I remember at last year’s ETO Show talking to an exhibitor who was heavily involved in BDSM and had been a Submissive for quite a few years. I found it fascinating speaking with her, so when I heard that this book had this theme running through it I hoped that I would be able to have some ‘inside’ knowledge and really get to grips with reading more about the subject.

 

Unfortunately I was disappointed. The sex scenes were adequately descriptive and yes erotic and stimulating but the author did not explore BDSM as deeply as I thought she could have. Maybe, as it was her first novel, she didn’t want to shock her readers too much.

 

The main character, Ana Steele, comes across as very naïve, which I am sure was the author’s intention, allowing us to follow her journey through the trilogy, where she gets to learn the ropes (pardon the pun) as she goes along. However much of the book is quite repetitive and I feel that more could have been done with certain scenes, some of which were a re-hash of an earlier chapter. The whole area of Dom and Sub could have been explored in more depth in this first book. It was a very tame introduction into this area of sexuality, which at some stages were more childish than erotic, mainly down to the actual language being used, most of which was quite repetitive. I think Ana would be a regular visitor at her local A&E due to the number of times she bit down on her bottom lip, a look that drove Christian wild with passion apparently. I’m sure there are many women out there now just practicing the look, hoping that a gorgeous billionaire will just stumble across them, hopefully in a lift (read the book!).

 

If you read ETO and are involved, even in a small way, in the adult industry I think you’ll feel slightly small changed with this book. I’m now convinced that most of my friends think I’m some sort of sex maniac because I found it so tame.

 

It demonstrates just how powerful viral marketing can be, for this book to be such a phenomenal success with ‘average’ women. Having said that every woman deserves a Christian Grey in her life, whether it be her husband, lover or friend; someone that devotes their every waking breath to them – that’s the least we deserve don’t you think?

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