Why I (probably) won’t read Fifty Shades of Grey

Other than the fact that everyone I know right now has told me about this story and what happens in it so that I feel like I already have read it?  Oh wait, let me amend that sentence; every woman I know.  I have not met a single man yet who has read it.  Anyone else?

If you read my Confessions of a Book Snob you will note Confession #5 – I typically ignore any book that for some unknown reason turns masses of women into screaming, uncontrollable and obsessive bullies.

Fifty Shades of Grey is becoming one of those books/series.  I haven’t experienced the bullying side of women yet regarding this book but the obsessive is certainly rampant.  It is rare to find a woman who hasn’t read it and when they find out I haven’t read it yet they look at me like I have tears of blood flowing from my eyes and then proceed to work every angle they can to convince me (short of bribing me) that it is a must read.  Even my church going mother-in-law has read it and wants to talk about it.  In fact, every woman I’ve met who’s read it wants to talk about it yet what surprises me the most is they don’t want to talk about the most obvious thing in the book – the sex.  This is what I find extremely interesting.  Why are women who have read it scratching their heads and saying “it isn’t a very good story but there is something about it”?  Why are they all saying – “you know, it isn’t about the sex…I just don’t know what it is” followed by a lengthy discussion on the male character himself, Christan Grey?   Then it occurred to me.  I think I got a sense of what is making women turn into puddles of goo over it and no, it wasn’t the sex.  Once I had my suspicion I started talking to other women, the women who secretly wished they never read the book in the first place.

I’ve read my share of erotica.  I once read Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series in my early impressionable years thinking it was a cool retelling of Sleeping Beauty and nothing more.  Yowzer!  I don’t think I’ve ever blushed so much as I did reading that series.  And while it felt wonderfully forbidden to read these tantalizing stories, something started to bother me.  So I tried a couple of other erotica and found most of them to be similar and was able to put my finger on what was bothering me – women being dominated by men in humiliating situations.  I even turned to romance for a few books to see if this theme was presenting itself in them and found that so far, yes, they were.  Romance novelists just make it more subtle.  So my thoughts led me to believe that this obsession with Fifty Shades of Grey had to do with women secretly wanting to be dominated by men.  Yet, even that didn’t sit right with me because there are women I know who had read it that didn’t care for the sex scenes in the book.  The obsession seemed to be with Christian Grey himself.  So I started to read reviews and other people’s thought on this book and what was bugging me became a clear question in my head.  Do we women, still to this day, secretly believe that we can change a man?  No, not change him, but save him?  Is this belief still prevalent in our secret thoughts?  That we women will save a tortured man from himself?  I gotta tell you, I don’t like this line of thought and had hoped we, as women, were far past it.  This line of thought can prevent a woman from leaving an abusive relationship.  This line of thought can lead a woman to an abusive relationship.

I don’t know about you but the emotionally neutered and ‘tortured’ men I’ve met in my life I couldn’t be bothered with.  I have my own issues to deal with.  Girls – we can’t change men.  Ever.  Never.  It won’t ever happen.  A man’s evolution and growth, just like our own, is dependent only upon himself and his desire to change.

I was in the book store yesterday and saw that it has begun.  All the other Fifty Shades of Grey type books are coming out and I don’t know if I should be running for the hills.  I read the summaries and they all have the same storyline – a plain-jane woman dealing with insecurities meets a man that she shouldn’t be attracted to but she is because she can’t help herself as there is just something so powerful and commanding about him so she does everything she can to resist him because he is cold, cruel and tortured but man, there is just something about him – and he just needs to be helped, right?  In the end he falls in love with her because out of all the women that he has sexually humiliated and controlled and bullied, she, she is the one who saves him from himself.  All that crap he has done to her in the meantime?  Forgiven.  Because she gets to be the one who saves him.  (Okay, maybe I’ve elaborated a bit.)

One of my favourite bloggers suggested reading this book if ONLY for a debating point on whether or not women are regressing.  This alone has me considering the read which is where the ‘probably’ in the title is coming from.  I realize if I am going to have such a strong stance against the harmful concept that women can change men that I should arm myself with first hand knowledge, not the information whispered to me in passing by women who hated what this book represents.  I’d love to hear other people’s arguments for or against reading it.

But jeez girl, it’s just a frickin’ book!  Lighten up will ya?

I’m a book snob.  I take this shit seriously.  Besides, it wouldn’t make me question it if it wasn’t so damned popular – like everything that grabs the attention of the collective consciousness, I have to question it.  It is my nature.

Hey, did you know Fifty Shades of Grey originated as Twilight fan fiction?  Yeah…

UPDATE – NOVEMBER 11, 2012

Since posting this I have since tried to read the book.  Tried being the operative word here.  I got to page 75 and decided I loved myself too much to continue on.  The story is dull – it barely has enough mass to hold my attention.  Anastasia is a caricature (does the writer want me to like her or hate her?) and Christian Grey is the same type of mysterious, brooding self -loathing description of a man I’ve read in countless other books.

This is my rating:

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About Geeky Book Snob

Learning stuff since birth. Happy introvert who likes socializing when she's not busy being an introvert who likes to read.

Posted on August 12, 2012, in General Musings & Thoughts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. I hadn’t thought about it like that, that women are obsessed with it because they want to change men, but it certainly makes sense and would partly explain why this particular series is getting so much attention when there are plenty of books about kinky sex out there. I read the first book partly because that sort of lifestyle intrigues me and partly to see what all the fuss is about. I have to say that I wasn’t satisfied on either count. I felt offended for people who enjoy that sort of relationship, and I just didn’t see what the huge deal was.

    It might be good for you to read it just so you have more specific examples to draw on for why it’s horrible. That’s the reason I read the first two Twilight books. Much easier to insult something you’ve actually read. 🙂

  2. Yeah, I think I may read it after all, just so I can see what my own emotions will be first hand – I know how I feel when people tell me about it but what will I feel when I read it myself? You know how it is though when you just are dreading reading something? I will be dragging my feet for a bit on it.

  3. I would definitely say that the popularity of this book is about the woman in it being able to change the man – but really, give me a break!
    You can look at all the other elements, gorgeous guy, rich, successful, powerful, totally enamoured with the girl, but deeply flawed – actually, in this instance due to a very troubled childhood experience – and obviously needing the love of a good woman to make him better. And, actually, not just make him better but change him for the better. What if he just likes S&M and doesn’t want curing! Tough, he’s getting cured whether he wants to or not. It clearly appeals to women in this way, maybe thinking they can help this damaged man. For me personally there were so many things about this book that annoyed me that it would take a fortnight to go through them all! So, I won’t do so you’ll be pleased to hear.
    I actually think you should read this, it would be interesting to see your comments.
    Whilst I’m confessing – I also have book 2 and 3 (both belong to my friend – bought and read, nay devoured, by her within a New York minute and passed eagerly to me for comment) – I read book 2 – if you can call skimming every three pages out of 5 – literally I can’t have even read 200 pages of the entire novel (and I use that word grudgingly).
    Oh dear, I’ve gone on a bit of a rant. I’ll just step away from the computer…
    Lynn 😀

  4. I totally agree! I too have thought that people were missing the point about this book- it’s not being dominated by a man, it’s ‘taming’ said man which appeals to women. It seems to justify remaining in abusive relationships in the hope that the man will change. I tried to read the first book, as far as I could, but gave up before the end. It’s just so boring…

    • Boring yes! I totally agree with what you say. I got to page 74 and stopped. I know what else bugs me now too. I watched a documentary the other day about how women view themselves, not from their own perspectives, but from the perspective of men. That we view ourselves as objects of desire and that this perspective is starting at a young age now (7 years old!!!!). Anastasia is awkward, geeky, a hot mess right? But as soon as Grey desires her she becomes something more. It is his desire that validates her. This bothers me because once again a woman’s worth is in the hands of a man.

  5. Yes, that’s also true. Anastasia doesn’t seem to be much of a person in her own right. She can hardly be described as the heroine of the story. It’s all about Grey. So wrong, on so many levels!

  6. “Hey, did you know Fifty Shades of Grey originated as Twilight fan fiction? Yeah…”

    This is often how I start my conversations with friends who have read the book and recommend it to me. Ha! I just can’t bring myself to read it. Perhaps it’s all the Harlequin romances I read as a teenager, but I find that I’m long past the relationship novels that lead to expectations of love that are simply not real.

    And therein lies the appeal of a book like “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It’s the unreality of it that women are craving. The day to day hard-core reality of love can be hard to overcome. Real relationships include tedious chores like laundry, dishes, fixing cars, cleaning the floors, etc. along with a little of the excitement and passion that a book like this describes.

    When you can wash and fold your husband’s clothes because you love him or when he can appreciate you even though you haven’t done a damn thing all day, that’s romance. When he fixes your car for you when it twenty-eight degrees outside, or he comes home from a hard day of work and falls asleep in his chair at seven and you let him sleep, that’s romance. Women get a skewed version of romance and a one-sided look at love when they read books as dangerous as “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

    Reality is much more appealing to me.

    • I agree with you. I have a few younger female friends who think relationships are supposed to be more magical than they are and seem to get disappointed quickly. Just being in the same room with nothing to say, enjoying each other’s presence holds more ‘magic’ for me than dramatic performances of romance.

  7. I don’t think I need to read it at all to understand what Fifty Shades of Grey is about and it’s appeal. You in fact summed it up really well in this post. I really enjoyed your view point that women enjoy stories such as these because they believe they can change men.

    I personally believe all women have an instinct to nurture. Yet society tells them this is bad and they must seek the things men seek. They must find a way to distill out this unconscious desire. Society has also taught women they must control. You can already see the effect this has had on men in the last few generations. Control and nurture don’t really go hand in hand. They oppose one another. So even if a woman is in a situation where they can nurture their controlling natures won’t allow them to and be satisfied. It’s eternal unhappiness. So a story where their deepest desire can be met but they don’t actually have to give up control is of extreme fascination to most women.

    I really admire women who are great examples of balancing between having control over their destiny while also allowing themselves to give up some of that control and nurture those they love. Cheers 🙂

    PS. I also loved the comment about how love is more than passion and desire. It’s all those things a couple does for each other that is the day to day drudgery of living life. In other words it’s more than the honeymoon stage of love.

    • I sometimes wonder if we women can believe we truly can have it all, that we can be nurturing while at the same time be warriors. There are so many layers of lies that both sexes believe about each other that it is going to take a lot of honest talking to uncover them all.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment – as for love, it’s the utter mundaneness of it that makes it so wonderful.

  8. I hate to say it but I believe that this kind of mass media trash that is being swallowed by the masses has a darker purpose of programing us to believe these things about women and men. The more people that believe the more the archetypes will be perpetuated in our mass consciousness. Thanks for this post!

    • I don’t disagree with you. I’ve got hope though, a lot more women I know disliked the book than liked it. There are a lot of very aware people out there. As long as we can engage in healthy discussion right?

  9. I read your blog with interest – this book seems to be figuring prominently every where I look this week – where I had thought all the chat and interest in it had died down last month. In fact it seems to have kicked off so many arguments among friends that this week I saw some long term friendships strained by different view points. I have reached 50 Shades over load – and after reading your own post I had to explode and add to the huge masses of viewpoints by writing my own on my blog – safer then getting drawn in to any of the mass fisticuffs kicking off online!

    • I read your post and totally appreciate your point of view. It’s the constant two-sided argument I have with myself and not just about this book (part of me says lighten up and the other part of me, the observer sees meaning in everything – exhausting I know). I’ve read other books that have provoked me in a negative way and as I’ve said in other posts in this blog, I always will appreciate an author who can provoke me, good or bad. Viva la reading!

  10. I really enjoyed this post, I gave into to reading the first two books because I wanted to see what could make so many women like it so much. I was ok with the first one because I kept expecting a huge twist or something in order for it to live up to all the hype. I was really dragging on book two and skipping pages just to try to find some unpredictability… I honestly think that you are right, women still like to believe that they can change a man. I also think that the reason why it had a huge success (but possible societal failure) is because it’s like and adult version of a disney princess story. Prince charming rescuing poor insecure woman, and giving her self esteem and success. There is need for her to be her own hero, to strive for it and attain it.These are the type of stories that most women grew up with, and they somehow shaped their dreams and fantasies. 50 shades re-kindles those far-fetched life is easy fantasies most of us watched over and over again. With that being said, I’m glad that more and more women like you are waking up, and positive heroine stories are being written for the next generation of women.

    • Ever read Women Who Run with the Wolves? You would enjoy it. The author calls to women to get back in touch with their ‘wildness’. She uses examples of well known myths and fairy tales and breaks them down, showing how they can limit women but how they can also free women. What you say about fairy tales really hits home considering I just watched this documentary on the sexualization of young girls and fairy tales was discussed – the idea that we aren’t valid until a man values us is predominate in our society right now – *shudder*. I appreciate that these books exist because they force us to take some hard looks at ourselves.

      • motivationalrants

        The book sounds great, I’m going to look into it. Just out of curiosity what’s the name of the documentary? I’d like to check that out too. I’m glad they exist as well, they sure have helped me a lot!

        • It was on tv – CBC (Canadian channel) called Sext up Kids. http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/Doc+Zone/ID/2201416792/ This type of conversation has ramped up here in Canada these last few days with the recent suicide of 15 year old Amanda Todd in BC. It is an awful story of a male online predator who seduced her online, manipulating her so she felt valued and then left her out to the wolves to be torn apart for being a ‘slut’. Her story is awful. It is that fine line that girls walk, the lie they are told that they are only worth something if they are desired by a man and the consequence of giving in to said desire – slut shaming. So sad.

          • motivationalrants

            That’s terrible, I’ve seen things like that happen to so many girls, and it’s just swept under the rug…I’m glad the conversation is starting. I’m in California and I know we desperately need it here and everywhere! Thanks a lot for sharing that with me, I had know idea. I hope this issue brings about a positive change out there. I’m going to look into the documentary as well, thanks!! 🙂

  11. Haha yes I do find it so perplexing that so many females balk at the idea of mentioning sex as an open discussion, even with fellow peers and it’s ironic because I had commented something similar – on the lines that many women secretly desire to be the ‘hero’ persay towards this blog about dating the ‘strong silent type’. It’s such a controversial debate, they say this book promotes female expression of their inner fantasies but the percentage willing to be genuine about their thoughts are still the same as prior so the argument’s poor. And I actually have not read the 50 shades of grey so bravo for not being one of the many falling for this erotica.

  12. i read the blurb on the book before i knew it was ‘in’ and threw it back on the shelf … i have since been amazed and dismayed at the number of women who say they loved it ..

    perhapes such trash is only trash when you’ve had the gloss knocked off?

    for the record i wont be reading it and thanks to the heavens none off my grown up daughters wants to either.. now thats progress

  13. “There is NO need for her to be her own hero,” somehow I skipped it! 🙂

  14. I have no intention of reading 50 Shades of Grey.

  15. Lorraine Gouland

    Don’t read it, you don’t need to. You’ve clearly sussed out what the appeal is and to force yourself between Mr Grey’s covers would be like stabbing yourself repeatedly in the eye with a fork.
    I downloaded the first book onto my e reader for my sister but she got too bored to finish it. I’m hoping she’ll let me delete it now because I fear the shame of anyone thinking it’s mine.

  16. I’m in agreement with you! There are so many books to read and not enough time to do it all that I have to be (can be) picky. A story about a woman being humiliated by a man does NOT do it for me. If I want porn, soft or otherwise, there are a lot of other good books out there.

    I saw under your rules about reading paper. I love reading on my iPad – my opinion only – but 1) I don’t have to have optimal light, a big plus especially at night and 2) I’ve downloaded to read a number of authors I’d not have exposure to otherwise. I have a wonderful library and read books I wouldn’t have otherwise, but the hours don’t fit to my schedule very well.

    Nancy

  17. This is so funny, I too wrote a blog on why I wouldn’t be reading this book either called “Holding out for a Heroine”.
    Oh well, we’ll just become a part of the minority…

  18. I read 50 Shades of Grey a couple of years ago when it was a Twilight fanfiction, and even in fanfiction form (e.g. meant to be terrible writing and full of smut) I couldn’t finish it.

    However, I really think you made a great point in your blog. I don’t really care what people read, because the idea of people reading excites me as so few people seem to nowadays. However, the fact that they’re reading this just breaks my heart. And not because its full of sex, or because it’s essentially plagarism, or because its terrible writing, but because it sends a horrendous message, particularly to teenage girls who are reading this.

    You’re right. It’s wrong that people are turned on by Christian Grey. How is it erotic that he forces his girlfriend into doing things sexually when she clearly states she doesn’t want to. In the real world, that would be considered rape. Yet because its an ‘erotic fantasy’ and she changes him in the end, it’s alright?

    And like you said, what type of message is this saying to girls reading these books? That its ok to be bullied if you’re the one who changes him? That a man can treat you like dirt, as long as he’s handsome and powerful?

    That’s the issue I have with these books. Appears we may be in the minority. though.

    Sorry! Rant over!

    • Rant away! It is important for these types of books to be part of our culture so that we can get these discussions happening. I am reading what all you have been posting and I love the opinions and thoughts and perspectives. This is really awesome. I did think I was in the minority but now I am now so sure, not after reading what you all are saying loud and clear! LOVE IT! Really, what this is bringing to light is the still unbalanced perceptions between men and women. The fact that this was written by a woman gets me. Sure, I have fantasies but they don’t include a man’s dominance over me because I don’t want that. Words and stories are never just for shits and giggles. We write them, listen to them and share them because they speak to our joys, hopes, struggles and shadows. This is just one amongst many that can show us where we are at as a society and how much discussion still needs to be had.

      • Exactly. At the end of the day even though it’s a fantasy, fantasies are fuelled by some deeper need. It really makes you wonder why so many women fantasise about this considering we already live in a patriarchal society that often demeans women, inside and outside of the bedroom.

  19. I talked with people who loved the series and others that hated it. I read the worst ratings on Amazon because I was truly interested to see just how bad it really was. So I finally gave in and borrowed them from my library on my Kindle (no way was I spending money/letting the general public know I was reading crap)
    And it lived up to my expectations: no good. The writing was poor; I’m surprised Grey didn’t have neck problems from cocking his head so much, or that Ana didn’t have a bloody lip from how often she bit it. So much repetition, no character development, rather unrealistic and could have been one book, not three.

    Okay, I think that’s my two cents 🙂

  20. I am a woman and I haven’t read it. I posted an author’s column criticizing it on Facebook and my two best friends, specially one, started to discuss my hate (both personal as a woman and professional as a woman who studied literature and thinks has some little tiny right to have a well-informed opinion) to the point of insulting me: they even called me anti-feminist for criticizing a model of women. And then you just hit it: “women being dominated by men in humiliating situations” + “Do we women, still to this day, secretly believe that we can change a man? No, not change him, but save him? ” and that was it. That is exactly what I think.

    If, as 21st century young women we still want that and think we have the right to want that, we have a problem, a huge one and in case my future baby is a girl, I don’t want her to believe this kind of behaviour is acceptable or even remotely possible.

    Then, I realized the two friends who were so hard on me, have no partner whatsoever and haven’t been in a relationship (any kind) in the past three years, neither have any of my acquitances who enjoy the book. On the contrary, those of us who criticize it, have been in a relationship for a long time.

    Oh and I shouldn’t dare to call myself a feminist and criticize a type of woman… i guess I’m another book snob, but I’m proud of being so! 🙂

  21. Wonderful rating for a worthless book.. As a guy, I tried reading it.. why? because I was recommended by a woman who was obsessed with it and told me that it was really interesting. Thinking that there must be something in the book despite of the fact that it is an erotica, I tried and I wanted to puke. I can’t believe how can a woman act like that? How can she be so masochistic that she was attracted to such a narcissist and misogynist? Of course, I left it after reading a few pages.

  22. Oh good! I thought I was the only one who couldn’t stand that series 🙂

  1. Pingback: What Fifty Shades of Grey says about me! « Talk About Cheesecake

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