Erotic Fiction


So I’ve just read Fifty Shades of Grey and clearly had been living in a cave as I had absolutely NO idea what I was getting myself into.  As the latest book club selection, I just downloaded it to my kindle and started to read.  It was only once I got a few chapters in when I realised that the rest of the world were reading and talking about this book and, obviously, why.

Louis Theroux did a great documentary this week on the lives of Porn stars and the decline of the industry. It tackles how much the internet has had an impact on the ‘performers’ and their livelihood.  It even featured a young Women’s Studies and Psychology student who does porn ‘because it’s the only industry where women get paid more than men’.  She then proudly trotted off to fake an orgasm with a man in his 40’s.

Her mum must be so proud…

Everyone’s going on about how liberating this new notion of Erotic Fiction is. Porn just got all clever and literary.  Porn in writing, rather than on screen, has somehow made it sensitive…  ‘Hallelujah!’ Everyone’s shouting.  Porn for girls! Porn that isn’t degrading or treating women as objects. Something women can enjoy.

I’m sorry, but isn’t Christian Grey (If you haven’t read it, he’s the protagonist and also – where have you been!?) an emotional psychopath, incapable of love who wants to lock up Ana (who is 22, beautiful and a virgin… Really?) in his ‘room of pain’?  How is this liberating to women? And why does everyone now fancy Christian Grey?

If he was exactly the same character – mood swings, emotionless, ‘don’t touch me’, stalker, etc, even if he was still good looking – but wasn’t a multi-millionaire, I’d hazard a guess that the reading population of the world would be hugely less interested.  Ana would probably be less forthcoming with her virginity if Mr Grey rocked up on a push bike and offered her a backy to a battered old garage with rope swings and chains?  That would make him a pervert.  It’s much better dealing with sexual depravity if you arrived there by helicopter…

In fact, I’d go as far as to say, if Christian Grey wasn’t rich and Ana wasn’t a graduate, they’d both be doing lie detector tests on The Jeremy Kyle Show. Christian in a shell suit, front teeth missing. Ana with a home dye job, crying ‘he doesn’t trust me, the kid is his!’ Everyone in the audience will be thinking, as you always do with Jezza, ‘What are you doing? You’re boyfriend’s a nutter!’

But redemption seems to be in the shape of a $ and getting whipped for rolling your eyes is fine, as long as the perpetrator has ‘overwhelming good looks’ and a personal driver.

Another thing that most people seem to overlook is that Ana, the virginal academic/victim is quite clearly schizophrenic. Multiple-personality disorder is blatantly referenced throughout the whole book when Ana continuously goes on and on about her ‘inner goddess‘ and her ‘subconscious‘ (one a naked nymph full of sexual drive, the other, vulnerable and sensible wary about getting her heart broken and then her other side which is just a bumbling idiot who falls over all the time).

But the genius behind E.L James’ piece of work here is, no matter how much I wanted to stop… how irritated I got by the unsophisticated writing and that the story full of loop holes… I still read it to the end. It’s a bit like TOWIE . Or a car crash. You know it’s bad, but you can’t help it.

As unbelievable as the characters are, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele seemed to mirror the real life porn stars of Louis’ documentary.  Torn between different personalities, trying to exist in the ‘grey’ (pun fully intended) area between love and sex and neither the book or the documentary paint a particularly happy ending.

But of course Fifty Shades of Grey is the first in the trilogy series. The question is whether I’ll read the others.


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One Comment on “Erotic Fiction”

  1. July 27, 2012 at 4:53 am #

    I find it incredibly sad that people who have never read erotic fiction before are reading Fifty Shades and assuming that this is the state of the art when it comes to that genre. And more saddened still that people are so unfamiliar with explicit eroticism in text, that they can’t tell the difference between erotic fiction and porn.

    Erotic fiction is a story form. It needs to obey the rules of good storytelling: character development, conflict, plot, etc. The fact that Fifty Shades of Grey delivers badly on all those fronts just marks it as bad storytelling, not porn. Erotic fiction may or may not arouse the reader, but it frames the story through an erotic lens.

    Porn is meant to induce arousal, and aid in masturbation. It doesn’t require characterization or plot, and who the hell wants conflict in their porn?

    They are entirely different beasts serving different functions. And it is a comment on how fundamentally ambivalent our society is about sexual explicitness that most people can’t differentiate the two.

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