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By Beth Withers on 14.7.2023

Filthy Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey: Sexual liberation or ‘Dangerous rape fantasy’?

It’s my opinion that all women (and men) are willing to do things to please, even at the cost of their pride and dignity. However, the rise of Fifty Shade of Grey presents such an urge in the extreme. An innocent, virginal woman stumbles into a written contract of willing subordination, scenes of explicit bondage following. The question is as to whether the novels are highlighting sexual freedom or what Dr Drew Pinsky highlighted as a ‘dangerous rape fantasy’. What’s more, how can a poorly written book that started off as Twilight fan fiction manage to sell faster than Harry Potter?

Admittedly I could not suffer through the entirety of the book, but what I gleaned from the first few chapters was not inspiring. Though its argued by many that popular fiction lacks written quality, E . L. James has reportedly made over one million dollars through what is basic language and a plot that lacks, well, everything. The running theme is the human desire to mould those we are attracted to into something ‘better’. The promotion of this idea is something that I find worrying, as I’m very much on the Bridget Jones “I love you just the way you are” bench of life. Is E. L. James really suggesting that women put themselves into contracts of slavery in order to create the ‘perfect man’? I’m not saying that this is not a key motif in popular literature, rather I’m highlighting the fact that instead of surrounding the idea with fluffy solutions to petty problems, Fifty Shades of Grey uses hardcore bondage to tame the villain of the novel, and excuse what edges very close to the physical abuse of women.

I can see how the novel could be seen as something positive as it shows women openly accepting their sexuality, and gives them satisfaction that they may not be able to achieve in the real world; desires that cannot be voiced at home are lived out through the novel. I see nothing wrong with this side of the novel; by all accounts it shows an equality that has been long coming. How often do men talk about pornography? However, what I do not agree with is how public this series has become. Anyone of any age can read this novel and believe that what is presented is a normal sexual relationship. Fifty Shades of Grey is banned from Libraries in 3 American states because of its X-rated content, a trend that I can’t help but hope catches on. I see people reading it around swimming pools, on buses, talking about it at work. Its popularity makes it inescapable.

I should clarify that there is nothing wrong with reading this novel; one can assume that it’s popular for a reason. However if you’re expecting literary genius and plots that question the deep desires of humanity, I suggest you look elsewhere. I can only hope that some sort of age restriction or warning is added sooner rather than later.


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