I’m having a moment, and I don’t know how I feel about it. I just finished the first Fifty Shades of Grey book and prior to reading, I was excited for a novel that was provocative, steamy and unlike anything else I had ever read. However, as I began to read more and get into the parts involving BDSM (bondage/domination, sadism/masochism), my inner feminist came out and I began to question whether or not I should continue.
(For those of you who haven’t read it, you can read a summary here.)
On one hand I was pleasantly surprised by the relationship that Anastasia and Christian ended up developing. Prior to reading the book, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially in that on many levels, the release and fame of this book began to change how people view sex. It made sex more mainstream: something women were talking more openly about instead of hiding. This is something I’m all for, and I love that this book began to make it socially acceptable for women to talk about sex. However, despite its record sales (the fastest selling book ever, even beating Harry Potter), according to Kirsten Acuna in her article titled By the Numbers: The Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomenon, electronic copies on kindle alone (not including iBooks) sold six times more than print books. This suggests that even though we are talking about reading it, there is still shame in carrying around a copy on the metro.
Not only that, but if you look at the demographic of people reading this book, it’s fascinating. Readers range from an unexpected 14% being over 55 to 20% being male, according to an analysis by Bowker Market Research. That same analysis shows that only 30% of readers are what the perceived demographic is: mommies who are looking to spice up their sex lives after having children.
So who are the rest of these readers?
What this information tells me is that we are looking to talk about it. We are looking to add excitement to our lives and escape into a world so unfamiliar to ourselves. This also tells me that everyone from myself at 18 years old to my grandmother who is well into her 70s is reading this book. And that’s something that doesn’t happen very often. But as Kristyna Bronner, a blogger, points out, “it seems to have captivated many women, which says a lot about who we are as a society”. E L James could have written this and had no success, but that isn’t the case. In fact, it’s the complete opposite.
So, why are we reading? Are we intrigued? Do we want an escape? Is it a form of porn that’s socially acceptable? If sex is everywhere, then why are readers sometimes shameful of their choice to see what the buzz is all about? Why are we so quick to accept that sex sells everything: from the Carls Jr. burgers to candy bars, but when we want to talk about actual sex and BDSM, our hand is smacked down and suddenly we are seen as the “dirty” ones? I mean, we listened to Rihanna’s song S&M with no problem, but now that it’s in written form, we have a issue with it. Why is that?
We’ll save that discussion for next time. Make sure to come back tomorrow to actually find out why I have a problem with Fifty Shades of Grey… or do I?