By Jillian Aramowicz
I have always tried to remain open-minded to all manner of
things I encounter, whether it’s anything from new food to someone else’s
political beliefs. This is precisely how several people convinced me to read one of the most hilarious
excuses for literature ever to be put into print, also known as the popular
erotic novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
For those of you who have managed to avoid this phenomenon, first and foremost – I
applaud you, but for the sake of this column, I’ll briefly give an overview of
Thenovel, written by E.L. James, is the first in the “Fifty Shades trilogy.” It
focuses on a young college student, Anastasia Steele, a hapless 21-year-old
virgin who has never expressed much interest in men, has never been truly
kissed and has worked for four years in a hardware store. Conveniently, Ana is also
strikingly beautiful and irresistible, so in a nutshell, she is basically
someone who never exists in the real world, ever.
Themale antihero, Christian Grey, is a young and powerful self-made billionaire
with a dark and twisted past and a deep desire to control everything in his
life. He is unable to resist Ana after she interviews him for the student
newspaper and the two soon embark on a purely physical relationship heavily
influenced by Christian’s extreme BDSM (bondage & discipline/ dominance & submission/ sadism & masochism) fetish.
I could write volumes about how poor the writing is, because anyone
who passed third-grade phonics and has read the book will tell you the writing
is comical, simply because it is so awful.
Frequently the dialogue progresses in very short, irrelevant exclamations. The words,
“Oh!” or “Oh my!” are used multiple times. The female
protagonist, Ana, often uses phrases like, “Holy cow!” or “Wow!” to describe the
intensity of her sexual encounters.
Aside from James’s sophomoric writing skills, the book itself has opened a floodgate
of controversy because of the graphic sexual themes. Dubbed “mommy porn” by pop
culture media, James’ trilogy is insanely popular with women, many of whom find
it to be arousing and exciting. Fans have described it as liberating and
strengthening for their relationship.
My biggest problem with the book, however, was not the brain cells I lost reading
James’ prose, nor the sex, which is more often than not silly, but rather the
underlying theme of male dominance to female submission.
Christian’s character is the only part of the book I would dare to call complex. He harbors
a great deal of emotional pain. His vice is controlling everything around him,
which he eventually does to Ana. Many times in the book, Christian’s actions
are emotionally and physically abusive. He strikes Ana, binds her, disciplines
her like a child before having sex with her, and often leaves her in tears.
The concept of a BDSM lifestyle is not the issue. There are plenty of adults who
practice BDSM in a safe and non-abusive way behind closed doors, but “Fifty Shades
of Grey” glamorizes a sexual fetish that in the end, is not about having sex,
but more about the complete and unhealthy control one person has over another.
By the end of the book, Ana breaks up with Christian after a particularly rough
scene that borders on rape, ending with Christian whipping her for rolling her
eyes. However, forgive the spoiler alert, they immediately get back
together in the second installment.
This is what really bothers me. Throughout the first part of this trilogy, Ana exhibits a common characteristic many real women in real abusive relationships
encounter: Ana has her head stuck on the idea she can change Christian. And
even when he demeans her, hurts her and robs her of her previous life, she
continues to run back to him. She even apologizes for being mad when he crosses
the line with the hitting and on the last page of the book, Ana states that
being hit doesn’t hurt as bad as the emotional pain of the breakup.
I’ve known many women who have done the same thing in real life. Only in reality, these
men don’t redeem themselves like knights in shining armor, they do not
change their behavior because of their girlfriends and they don’t live happily
The first installment in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy is in no way liberating or triumphant
for women. All E.L. James has managed to do is tell readers it’s OK to let
someone use your body, especially if they’re attractive, and if they hurt you,
they will someday change their behavior for your benefit. This book is nothing
more than ridiculous smut that is more insulting to readers’ integrity than it is pornographic.
Jillian Aramowicz is a senior in advertising. Please send all comments to [email protected]