I’m not going to lie. I was a hold out. I really, truly, based on the feedback of others, didn’t want to read this book. I didn’t. However, after I started to get requests for press snippets based on the book, I figured that I was being pretty ridiculous to not read it. THIS book is the hot subject in sexuality right now; it’s the Rabbit Vibrator of Sex and the City of 2012. I needed to read it.
So I bought Fifty Shades of Grey and brought it with me on our trip to Florida to read over. I had heard that it poorly represented the kink community, that the writing was terrible, that is was boring, etc. I tried to go in with an open mind, but I’ll admit, I had some bias.
The writing, especially the first few chapters, felt like an 11th grade essay. It was as if someone had told the author that she needed to be more descriptive, so she would use about four or five adjectives every time she tried to describe something. One might call it flowery language. To me, this was kind of annoying. However, as some folks have pointed out, not everyone has the same reading level, and this use of language might make it more accessible to more people. This is a great point, and while I still may grumble about her descriptions of Kate on the first few pages, I get that this allows more people to read. More people reading is awesome, PERIOD, even if I personally don’t mesh with the writing style.
The characters are interesting in that in some ways, they are over developed, in other ways, they aren’t at all. I think it’s nice having a heroine who isn’t blonde and stereotypically thin yet buxom…on the other hand, I think it’s a little sad that she has to get her self confidence (the little she gains) from someone who is not her. I have trouble supporting the idea that we have to rely on partners to love ourselves. Also, I cannot imagine (also noted by Jack Stratton) that someone is ridiculously “old-fashioned” and formal as Mr. Grey would call Ana “baby.” I mean, really? That was not well thought through.
I have some issues with the idea that he wouldn’t even consider playing with her (or anyone else, for that matter) a few times before bringing up the idea of a full time (or full weekend?) slave contract. I feel like if someone did that in our local community (“If you’re interested in me, you must sign a 24/7 contract before we can see if you like this and if we are compatible together”), we would call out that person for predatory behavior (actually, this has happened in our community, and said person was banned from multiple dungeons for poaching on newbies to the scene, and contracting them to his “house” without allowing them to get their footing first).
So yes, I have issues overall. However, I do appreciate that they covered STI testing and safewords (though I would have rather them talked about dams too, and condoms for oral, rather than just penile-vaginal), which are frequently left out of romance style novels and much erotica. I like that they talked about consent. I don’t like that she was banned from discussing things (I think that is a huge part of being kinky is trying new things, discussing your feelings/reactions with others, and tweaking what your like/don’t like), but I get that is was part of his millionaire schtick.
Is it the BEST intro book into kink? Perhaps not. I personally would recommend Becoming sage by Kasi Alexander
(here is a link to my review of Becoming Sage) as a book I feel better fits the reality of the community (and also has a writing style I like better). However, I think this is a good Gateway Book into kink. If people read this, and it gets them hot, and that then inspires them to join FetLife, read kinky erotica, check out local kink events, and to have their desires fulfilled, then it is absolutely successful, whether or not I think it is perfect. So if you or your “friend” (or actual friend) is considering this, remember to take it with a grain of salt (it IS a romance novel), but know that for many folks, this is the book that revolutionized the way they look at sex. And that, my friends, is an excellent thing!
Click here to buy your own copy of Fifty Shades of Grey .