Feed the Dragons!
So, there has been a lot, and I mean a lot, of fuss about the new trilogy 50 Shades of Grey by EL James. I’m going to go into a bunch of my own opinions on this book and some of the issues surrounding it. Take all that I write with a grain of salt. Also, if you are not over 18 years of age or just frankly find sex an uncomfortable topic, you should leave. Any terms that are unfamiliar to you can be found here.
My warning is my first point as well. This book is about a relationship between ADULTS. They are entitled to make their own decisions as long as those decisions don’t hurt others just like you’re entitled to do. Both adults have to be in a place where they can consent. That means no alcohol or drugs. In this book the guy, Christian, and dominate gives the girl, Ana, and submissive plenty of time to think over her decision in committing to this relationship. There is a lot of alcohol in the book, but conversations happen during sobriety, too, thus the issue of alcohol isn’t relevant. Both participants don’t do any type of drugs. You could argue that consent can’t be given because Christian has some serious issues about the abuse of his childhood. I’d agree that abuse can put people into positions where they can’t give consent. However, he is currently in therapy where he can openly discuss how his abuse and BDSM play into this new relationship. He communicates his issues with Ana, reluctantly yes (who wouldn’t be!) but still they are communicated. I think that elevates concerns about consent in regards to abuse.
It’s a book and it has graphic sex scenes. The genre most people call it is romance but having spent 11 years working in libraries, I’d call it erotica. Many in the media and on other blogs are dubbing these novels as “mommy porn.” Frankly, I’m pretty sure that mom’s of all ages have been watching porn long before this book. Talk about sexist. As if porn is only for men! Erotica or “Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.” has been around for years, try ancient Greece and Rome (Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter). Even the Judeo-Christian tradition includes the Song of Songs. Racey stuff! This isn’t new people. It’s not a revolution. The BDSM romance novels alone have been increasing dramatically the last decade. (oh the freedom of ebooks!)
Having recognized the long tradition of erotica in the written form, let’s not get carried away with our expectations. I don’t think most authors of erotica are planning to sweep readers away with their moving plot lines, deep riveting emotional changes, and sophisticated literary techniques. They will surely include bits and pieces of good writing. Occasionally, a piece of erotica will surprise you with it’s fanciful descriptions and depth. That exception doesn’t take away from the goal of arousing the reader. No one wants to read ten pages of landscape description when they pick this book up; they want sex. It’s not high literature. . . it’s erotica.