A while back, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Alex, said to me: “I don’t understand how someone as smart as you are can be such an enthusiastic fan of three terribly written smut novels.”
At the time, all I could do was laugh at his familiar, snarky humor, roll my eyes, and mutter that I didn’t expect him to understand. It was a fair question though, and one that I’ve considered ever since.
I’ve noticed that there’s recently been an obvious upsurge in anti-Fifty Shades of Grey propaganda, due mainly to the release of the first film; and needless to say, my irritation has reached its threshold. This feels like an appropriate time to comment on why the series impacted me, as well as why I feel like the story is being mistaken for something it’s not.
Of course I respect that we all have the right to our opinions, and I’m certainly not expecting everyone to enjoy these books, the story, or the subject matter. Believe me, I’ll be the first to admit that the writing is far from being Pulitzer Prize material. BUT. That doesn’t mean the books can’t be valuable to those who choose to look between the lines, beyond the writing, and deeper into the heart of why erotic fiction is – dare I say it – necessary for some of us.
First of all, I have zero tolerance for abuse, especially when it comes to rape and assault. The quotes and excerpts from the books that are being used to fuel the anti-frenzy are being so twisted and distorted. Obviously it sounds creepy and extreme out of context… It’s erotic fiction! I’ve read the series twice, and when it comes to recalling details, my memory is basically a CIA vault. Everything that takes place between Ana and Christian is consensual. Everything is discussed in detail before it takes place. Ana enters each scenario with her big, blue eyes wide open, and in full awareness that she can use her safe words at any time, putting an immediate halt to anything she’s uncomfortable with. It’s made clear that she can leave at any time – the choice is always hers. And by the by, the single instance she uses a safe word, it’s not because she’s in physical pain. It’s because emotionally, he’s being a jerk.
And yes, these books delve deeply into a very grey area (no pun intended) in terms of the subject matter, and even I found myself thinking, “No way in hell would that fly,” at certain points. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the heck out of the story, and allowing it to awaken things in me that I’d been scared sh!tless of acknowledging.
I have a trauma history. I’ve run from intimacy most of my life, learning at a very young age that it was frightening, and would only get me into threatening situations that were out of my control. Unfortunately, this pattern was repeated more than once, only further reaffirming that personal truth for me, and adding more layers to the walls of defense I’d built to protect myself.
I was deep into confronting those demons in therapy, when I picked up the first Fifty Shades book at the recommendation of a close friend, who also has assault trauma in her past. For the first time in my life – in my 29 years at the time – I was faced with the possibility that feelings of desire were not, in fact, frightening. Feelings of excitement about what can take place between two consenting adults, is NOT something that would only get me into trouble. Even my therapist said, “I couldn’t prescribe a better medication for you than these books. They’re waking you up. Let them.”
Would I want to date Christian Grey in real life? HELL no. He’s an overly possessive control freak, and the biggest flaw in the story is that he’s magically changed by Ana’s love. The likelihood of this actually happening? HA!!! However… Are there aspects of the relationship that I find appealing? YES. Intrigue. Pursuit. Passion. Awakening. Healing. Growth. Unwavering devotion. And ultimately, that happily-ever-after that most of us seek, no matter how unobtainable it seems.
Again, I’m not expecting everyone to share my opinion – I’m speaking from the truth of my personal experience with the series. If you’ve read them and honestly think they’re violent and abusive, I’m truly sorry. Our educated perspectives are our own, and we’re entitled to them.
If you haven’t read the Fifty Shades series, and have no desire to, that’s perfectly fine. All I ask is that you take into account that there’s always a target placed on things that push the boundaries of what’s considered socially acceptable by the masses. Fifty Shades of Grey absolutely blurs those comfortable lines of normality, and that’s one of my favorite things about it.
I’m an educated, intelligent, strong-minded, self-aware, ADULT woman. If I choose to step outside of the harsh reality of what I’ve personally been shown in terms of “romance,” and read unrealistic fantasy fluff – I’m damn well going to do so. And believe it or not, it’s quite possible to do this while also keeping a firm grip on what’s truth, and what’s fiction.