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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Turns out, I'm not all that into 50 Shades of Grey

If you really like a book you should want to read it all the time, get lost in it for hours and never want to put it down. Put off doing household cleaning etc just so you can spend more time reading it. Right? At least that has been my experience in the past (despite the fact I hardly read books).

So, the fact that it has taken me nearly three months and I'm not quite finished the first 50 Shades of Grey book is a really obvious sign that I'm just not that into it.


I started out reading with the best intentions that I would like it, honestly. All I was told was that it was about this relationship between a guy and a girl and that there was a lot of sex, and there was a contract involved. The book was supposedly saving marriages it was that good. And really, who doesn't want to read a book that contains a lot of sex? Don't look at me with judging eyes I know that's why people secretly read Mills and Boon books. So, off I went to read the book expecting a love story with a twist, peppered with a fair bit of sex.

Contrary to a lot of other people, I did not fall in love with the book at all. In fact it was actually quite hard for me to read some chapters. I literally forced myself to read through a few of the pages whilst my subconscious was screaming at me to put it down and back away because it was stirring up a lot of old emotions. Really bad emotions. This book took me back to where I was a few years ago, with low self esteem and stuck trying to please someone who wanted nothing more than to control me and treat me like a possession. I seriously don't see how someone could be turned on by a person who asks you to sign a contract in order to be with them, and not even in the context of an actual relationship..? I guess my new-found independent subconscious is ruling my thoughts on this one. Yes I did like the constant struggle between Ana's subconscious and inner goddess - it was the only part of the book I did like because it gave a real, deeper insight into Ana's actual personality.

Before all you haters get up on your high horse and start telling me that the book has nothing to do with abuse etc this is simply how it made me feel based on my past circumstances. The main issues I have with it are the fact that Ana clearly has low self esteem and Christian's incessant need to control her. Case in point:

"I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don't  I shall punish you, and you will learn."

"I like the control it gives me, Anastasia. I want you to behave in a particular way, and if you don't  I shall punish you and you will learn to behave the way I desire. I enjoy punishing you."

If anyone ever straight forward told me I had to follow their rules in order to get a reward I would respond with 'I'm sorry, I'm not a dog I don't do tricks for a treat'. Actually firstly I would say you can take your rules and shove them up....

As far as learning to behave the way he desires is concerned, this to me is bordering on emotional abuse (in the way that I have experienced it). You should not set out to change a person to suit you. If you don't like the way a person is in the beginning then move on. End of story. Nobody should ever feel like they are superior and have the ability, or the right, to mould someone's behaviour, for their own benefit. This is not 50 shades of grey, this is 50 shades of narcissism, plain and simple.

And the punishment aspect, well! Seriously, would any self respecting woman lay down to be spanked because they broke the rules?! I get the sexual aspect of it, but I for one would not be able to turn off my brain and lay there and allow myself to be treated with such disrespect because he thought I needed to be punished. Certainly not by choice and most definitely not these days. On a few occasions of varying circumstances (none in a sexual way) my ex husband hit me, I guess to punish me (once for saying I loved one of my gay male friends). Being hit by a man, especially one you are supposed to be in a relationship with (no matter what type of relationship) is humiliating and makes you feel violated. At least E L James somewhat acknowledged this in the book.

"this evening, he actually hit me. I've never been hit in my life. What have I gotten myself into? Very slowly, my tears begin to slide down the side of my face and into my ears. I have fallen for someone who's so emotionally shut down, I will only get hurt - deep down I know this - someone who by his own admission is completely fucked up."

At this point I thought good she's coming to her senses. If she isn't going to end the relationship she will at least stand up for her rights and demand to be treated as equal. Obviously, I also knew there was no way this was going to happen, otherwise there would be no need for two more books. So this is pretty much the point where I completely lost interest in the book and decided to let it sit quietly on the shelf and gather dust.


Here's the thing, if you're a bored housewife with a lacking sex life then yes you will probably like the book if not for anything other than the 'exciting' sex. By exciting I mean different to the norm. I don't mean to patronise housewives, I am merely generalising for the sake of keeping succinct. I think people are drawn to the whole fantasy of a rich, good looking man coming along and wanting you so much that he wants you all to himself. Most women want someone to want them so much that they make you the centre of their universe. And, if he's rich, good looking and has a high libido then even better. But, if you strip away the money and the good looks then you just have an egocentric narcissist who happens to be into BDSM trying to control everything you do purely for his own benefit. Doesn't sound so appealing now does it? That's where I'm seeing it from.

I fear this book gives women extremely unrealistic expectations. It shows the fantasy side of BDSM in a very glorified way (I mean how many of the guys that do this are actually going to be rich and attractive?). I think the reality would be very different (not that I ever actually want to find out). I also think it exploits Ana's low self esteem which really irritates me. I guess that is a necessary element (its not like Kate would ever agree to this contractual arrangement - for those of you playing at home who have read the book). Although, I think I would have fewer issues with the book if it was someone more experienced with higher self esteem going into it as it would feel a lot less manipulative. And really, how is someone who is so inexperienced going to fall so "in love" with someone after just 3 weeks that they get to the point where they actually contemplate (let alone agree to) doing any of these things?

The book does bring up quite a few interesting aspects though:

1. We as women tend to fundamentally want to fix everything that is broken (including people)
2. Women do tend to like the "bad guys" or at least the guys they know aren't right for them
4. Low self esteem does tend to lead us to make bad decisions

All very good topics for future posts.

But for now, if you have relatively good self esteem, you like to read books for their literary value and you're not the slightest bit interested in BDSM (or you already have a relatively satisfying sex life) then this book is so not for you. I'm quite happy to leave it sitting on the shelf and go ahead living my emotionally fulfilling, equal, non BDSM relationship for now.

If E L James does ever write the rumoured 4th book from Christian's perspective, I would be a lot more interested in reading that one. Purely because I love psycho analysing and it would be interesting to find out exactly why a narcissist came to be that way.

Toni x

Would you like to comment?

  1. I am so appreciative of this post because I have been hearing how great these books are. Now I shall avoid them completely. I love Oprah, but I read she downloaded the entire series. I thought, oh, maybe I will take a look-see ... but not now. You have saved me time and money. I listen to my instinct. When I cannot make myself read I give up as soon as this thought enters my mind.