I have seen a lot of reactions to 50 Shades of Grey, reactions I strongly disagree with. I don’t disagree with these reactions because I think 50 Shades of Grey is a good book, but because I think they represent a very misguided understanding of literature and its function.
50 Shades of Grey is porn. It’s written for the purpose of being masturbated to. Right off the bat, if you treat it like literary fiction and attempt to criticize characters and dialog and the plot and the like, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It would be like complaining why Game of Bones: Winter is Cumming is not very faithful to its highly acclaimed source A Song of Ice and Fire. (That’s a real movie by the way, look it up).
It is porn and it is written for someone. As far as I can say, it’s written for people who have fantasies of being dominated. Also as far as I can say reading one porn book in that genre doesn’t mean much for your overall taste. Personally, when it comes to porn, I’m mainly driven by my curiosity to peek into other people’s fantasies, so I have watched all manners of disgusting and deviant porn from scat fetishism to violent hentai, and it’s all a very amusing spectacle to me, and a testament to many desires of humanity we want to keep hidden in our fake polite societies.
Going by its popularity, 50 Shades of Grey has satisfied many people and has provided possibly millions of satisfying masturbation sessions, so, to me at least, that’s enough: good job 50 Shades of Grey, you have served your masturbatory purpose and in the grand scheme of the universe you have occupied your rightful place, excellent.
It’s not just that. I believe 50 Shades of Grey has made the world a better place. 50 Shades of Grey is a very tame book. If you really masturbate to 50 Shades of Grey, then most probably you have not been masturbating to some genuinely disturbing and horrifying porn out there. If 50 Shades of Grey has provided its readers with a sense of breaking the taboo, then it means that its readers had never branched out of the vomit inducing monogamist family friendly idea of love. It means that 50 Shades of Grey has opened to a new door to them. That is has shown them that they have another side, another desires.
And that’s good. Don’t be boring.
But then that’s apparently not enough. Some people expect 50 Shades of Grey to be other things than that, like, a good guide to healthy relationships, or a manual of how to do safe BDSM, or to be a good representative of BDSM, or similar worries, and to these people I say that you are attempting to milk a male cow. It’s a porn book. It’s not meant to be educating anyone, and really, if anyone is making judgments about BDSM or relationships based on this book, it’s the fault of that person and not the book.
The purpose of this book is to satisfy a specific fantasy. It’s not a textbook. Does it idealize or glorify a relationship which would be considered abusive were it real? Most probably yes. Does that matter? No. Does it condone abuse? No. Works of literature, even smutty low literature like this, are not party lines and PSAs. They don’t condone or condemn anything. Condoning and condemning is the job of propaganda. The purpose of literature is either escapism and entertainment, or a higher understanding through depiction, or both.
You have a wrong expectation. You expect every single work of literature to be a handbook of either “how to live happily in stable relationships” or “how to do BDSM safely”. I’m sorry, but the rest of humanity is not interested. We’re not saying there should be no space or place for your kind of work. We just think there’s a place and space for other things too, things that are not preaching us and rather letting us masturbate. When we’re done masturbating we’ll listen to you. You can coexist with 50 Shades of Grey.
Also, you insult people. That’s the most offensive part about your campaigns against 50 Shades of Grey. People are not gullible. People are not play-doh devoid of reason and free will to be shaped by E. L. James. This book will not romanticize abuse for teenagers. Teenagers are not play-doh. They can distinguish between reality and fantasy and junk fantasy just-for-a-quick-masturbation, and most readers of these books are middle aged anyway and teenagers are watching much worse things behind your back and they will turn alright.
What makes you so enlightened that you can read 50 Shades of Grey and understand that it is not an ideal healthy relationship but the rest of us are gullible people who blindly imitate the last book they have read and you need to intervene and save us? Other people can see the obvious too, I’m sorry, please go preach on the corner of Hyde Park.
Now I’m sure many of my readers would say “but there’s already a lot of abuse in the society”. That’s true. But 50 Shades of Grey didn’t create that and it wouldn’t solve it, and it wouldn’t make it worse. If someone has abusive tendencies or is ignorant of abuse they might fail to see this, and if they’re not, they will see it.
There’s nothing worthier in this world but to fight abuse. But at the same time, people need a break and an outlet for their fantasies. We shouldn’t confuse these two things together.
And if all of this doesn’t work, be sure that the more you try to boycott 50 Shades of Grey more people will be curious to see it. Just let it go.