Fifty Shades of Frustration
By Mandolyna Theadoracopulos
Mortified to be seen purchasing the erotic novel that has had every soccer mom from here to Vladivostok yearning to be softly squashed under a sexy man’s thumb since the book came out last year, I told the young man at the counter it was purely for research purposes. He smiled and said he was amazed by the variety of people buying the book and that he was certain I would be back in a few days for the second one, I had my doubts. I walked out of the store concealing Fifty Shades of Grey in a brown paper bag as though I were boozing it up on a Monday morning.
When I got home that evening I started reading. Though I wasn’t impressed with the first few pages I found I had read 150 of them by the time I had to head out for dinner. The next day I boarded a flight for a short trip, book in hand. I was embarrassed to be seen with Fifty Shades, but I couldn’t put it down. I wrapped my body around the paperback so people on either side of me couldn’t see what I was reading.
Now that I have been sucked into the vortex that is the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, it is clear that most women, even bossy ones, want their men to be in charge. To most of us, this is hotter than equality. Despite all the “grrrl power” nonsense touted by a few loud and loveless grrrls since the 1960s, you can’t change basic biological drives. What women want from men has always been a combination of domination and sensuality. Women want to be Kim Basinger in 91/2 Weeks and they want dudes to be like Mickey Rourke.
Most everyone I know who has read Fifty Shades agrees men should read the book too because frankly, most of you have no idea how to dance, seduce, or make love. Despite centuries of wisdom, too many men still can’t give women an orgasm and some don’t even stray from the missionary position. What can we do but read a book that articulates what we actually want and walk you through each step?
When we aren’t bossing our men around, we want men to be in charge behind closed doors. Even nice girls think about sex all the time—probably more so because we often have no satisfaction in real life. Why else do we love romantic films as much as we do?
While some scenes in Fifty Shades read like they were lifted right out of Pretty Woman, they are far more erotic. Anastasia Steele, the object of Christian Grey’s domination, is a subservient, reed-thin virgin who likes being tied up and smacked. What Grey has in common with the male studs from 91/2 Weeks and Pretty Woman is that they all move with grace and confidence. Anastasia Steele alludes to this often, and men should take note. Physicality is very important.
The storyline develops slowly across the trilogy and none of the real action happens until the second book, if you can get that far. Beyond the sophisticated backdrop, Fifty Shades is crappy chick lit, yet it still speaks volumes about the modern erotic void. Clearly there is an enormous gap between women and our sublimated desires. The book also makes some interesting points on childhood, adolescence, sexual deviance, and power. The author implies that a perv can enjoy “vanilla” sex, but I have a feeling this is more about James’s fantasy life, because none of the pervs I know ever orders vanilla down at the ice-cream shop.
Another beef: The prose is unsophisticated. I was highly annoyed by all the British words and expressions that Americans rarely if ever use. Why did a British author set the book in Seattle and then fail to use the right dialect? When was the last time you heard an American say they were “keen” to do anything? Along with this sloppy oversight were a number of typos. Where were the publishers on this? James’s narrator also uses certain words over and over again. The book is flush with the word “flush.” Anastasia is always flushing. Argh.
Eventually you get past these pesky details and wonder why this book has been so successful and why women everywhere are unable to put it down. The sad truth is that modern men are pathetic little jellyfish who have no idea what to do once the lights go out. Without a hot, rich, powerful, bare-chested Zorro type to ride in on a wild steed and make us swoon, women will be stuck seeking vicarious sexual domination from movies and books. Nothing else explains the immense popularity of E. L. James’s erotic novels.