Apr 032013
 

Perkins, Lori, ed. Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey. Benbella Smartpop, 2012 Amazon

Much like Christian Grey himself, the Fifty Shades trilogy is everywhere, overwhelming and relentless, dominating bestseller lists, metastatizing into countless imitators, and spawning an entire industry of gifts, CDs, boardgames and other branded merchandise, plus a feature film. Through sheer repetition and ubiquity, we find ourselves trying to accommodate it, even to make excuses for its flaws and offences. Some of the authors in this essay collection try too hard to put a positive spin on Fifty Shades. Even the collection’s  editor, Lori Perkins, says:

Some have wondered how a “classic” can be so “poorly written.” But I contend that it is not poorly written, but rather written in an everywoman’s voice, a necessary part of its success I once worked with an author who used plebian language…. When she returned my edits, she told me that she did indeed know the word “simultaneously,” but when she was fantasizing, she always used the phrase “at the same time as,” and she knew that her readers did as well. [Pg.3]

EL James’ prose is not “plebian” or “in an everywoman’s voice”, it’s just plain bad. You don’t need an MFA to read or write good prose or hot prose.

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Sep 192012
 

The National Coalition on Sexual Freedom is running a survey on consent in BDSM, and they plan on closing it in two weeks. I think this is a worthy cause towards gathering data on an important issue.

I have some quibbles with the design of the survey, as some of the questions about personal rights extend well beyond the realms of BDSM. For example, one involves how much you believe a person can consent to being killed, which is far more likely to come up in the context of debilitating illness than anything resembling BDSM.

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Jun 212012
 

The parts of Ana and Christian’s relationship that aren’t abusive are tedious. They have a post-coital cuddle and then Christian runs off to a meeting. He does mention that he’s running late for it, a rarity for him, like sleeping with a woman. Ana interprets this as success, that she is making him change for her.

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Jun 212012
 

Christian scoots off almost immediately, leaving Ana high and dry in one of the most emotional moments in her life. Ana’s mother calls, and tells that Ana is obviously upset about a man.

“What’s he done to you?” Her alarm is palpable.
“It’s not like that.” Although it is… Oh crap. I don’t want to worry her. I just want someone else to be strong for me at the moment.

Ana, of course, doesn’t tell her mother what’s really going on, or take her up on her offer to come home and take a break. When Kate comes in, Ana doesn’t tell her either. Ana even makes up a story when Kate wonders why Ana’s butt is tender.

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Jun 212012
 

Before we go any further, I want to go on record about a few things.

First, I don’t like the term “mommyporn” that is being applied to the Fifty Shades trilogy. Mommies have as much right to sexual pleasure as anybody else, and they don’t need snobs looking down at them for their interests.

Second, I don’t like the judgment that, because this series was originally Twilight fanfiction, it is automatically and obviously subliterate trash. I’ve enjoyed reading fanfiction, and written and posted it too. Lots of fanfiction writers have graduated to writing professional fiction.

The relationship between original fiction and derivative fiction is a complex one, and worthy of at least a few posts, but isn’t really in the purview of this blog. Suffice to say, if a writer alters his or her fan work enough to not be blatant plagiarism, I say go ahead and publish  it (or at least try). If by some fluke the work becomes a bestseller, well, ride that train.

If I could say anything to the millions of people who have bought millions of copies of these books, it is that there are BDSM erotica/romance books out there that are so much better in every way than this, and please give the authors and publishers of those books some of the financial support you’ve given to EL James.

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Jun 192012
 

Alone in Ana and Kate’s duplex, Christian and Ana have a face to face. They squabble over the antique books (like they’re the problem), and Ana begins to stand up for herself by saying she’ll donate them to charity. Then she immediately backs down.

“I’ll think about it,” I murmur, I don’t want to disappoint him, and his words come back to me. I want you to want to please me.
“Don’t think, Anastasia. Not about this.” His tone is quiet and serious.

Christian’s constant urging for Ana to stop thinking wouldn’t so troubling if she had ever started thinking about her sexuality or her relationship.

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Jun 182012
 

EL James opens this chapter with Ana and Christian finally getting to it, then pulls the “it was all a dream” scam. Clearly, Ana fantasizes about kink, and has at least some degree of interest in BDSM. This does not, however, mean that she should accept Christian’s proposal.

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Jun 172012
 

Earlier in this book, I was intrigued by the possibility that Christian is unwilling or unable have vanilla relationships, and that the consent principles of BDSM might actually provide a structure that would contain his controlling and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Christian’s controlling tendencies would be the problem, and the consent and negotiation ethics of BDSM would be the solution, letting Ana and Christian work out a way they could have a relationship.

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Jun 162012
 

“And please, let’s try it for three months. If it’s not for you then, you can walk away anytime.”

“Three months?” I’m feeling railroaded. I take another large sip of wine and treat myself to another oyster. I could learn to like these.

That’s because Ana is being railroaded. The all-or-nothing offer and the display of his wealthy lifestyle and constant flattery are all high-pressure sales tactics. Ana, unfortunately, seems to be falling for all of them.

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