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Fifty Shades of Confusion

I am reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

I won’t lie. I couldn’t finish Twilight. I got halfway through. Edward wasn’t going to drink Bella’s blood, then throw her corpse into Puget Sound. I just couldn’t hang.

So, knowing that Fifty Shades is actually Twilight fan fic, I had low expectations.

I will say that Anastasia Steele, though hilariously named, isn’t nearly as insufferable as Bella Swan (Also hilariously named.  When I make a zillion dollars on a book, my heroine shall be named Aurora Starborn Specialcakes, and she will have purple eyes and have no idea how beautiful she is.)

Newsweek is doing stories.  This is one of those books that is supposedly capturing the erotic imagination of Grown Assed Women nationwide.

Grown. Assed. Women.

Anastasia is a 21 year old virgin that never masturbates.

Let me repeat that:  this is a novel about a 21 year old virgin that has never masturbated.

What the hell is that?

I understand the mechanics of Twilight’s success. Bella is a Mary Sue, and she’s…. well, she’s pants. You put her on, like you put on pants, and you get to have creepy vampire Adonis fall in deepest lurve with you for no good reason. You get to be be super smart without having to know anything. You get to be beautiful, without having to be all those pretty chicks you hated in high school. I rationally understand the elements that cause the fandom.

But, it doesn’t work for me.

And, so now we’ve got Grown Assed Women trying on new “pants.”

Anastasia is pretty but doesn’t know it (like Bella.) She’s got multiple dudes pursuing her (like Bella.) So far as I can tell, her only flaw is that she’s slightly clumsy (guess what that’s also like?!  I know!  Bella.)  She’s hardworking, plucky, and smart. And, she’s virginal.  She’s never even held hands with a boy. She’s never so much as been attracted to a boy.

Until, DUN DUN DUN, she meets Our Hero.

And, then, despite knowing nothing about sex, or her own body, or men’s bodies, she’s a multiorgasmic champion cocksucker. And, he loves her just because she is… her. All innocent and useless and pure and plucky.

What the hell is this?

I don’t understand.

This is fantasy sex for the modern Grown Assed Woman in 2012?


No, I mean…. Really, really?

I can’t really even parse out how depressing that is. I can’t. I try. I sputter.

When Kathleen Woodiwiss published The Flame and the Flower in 1972, she found an audience of women that were basically from Betty Drapers’ generation. My grandmothers, really.

If you’re not familiar with the history of romance publishing:

The Flame and the Flower was revolutionary, featuring an epic historical romance with a strong heroine and actual sex scenes. This novel, published in 1972, sold over 2.3 million copies in its first four years of publication and is credited with spawning the modern romance genre, becoming the first romance novel “to [follow] the principals into the bedroom.”

It’s the original “bodice ripper” that launched a million heaving bosoms, including the career of Rosemary Rogers (who sold everything as both “sweet” and “savage.” As in Native American heroes. Savages. Get it? You can throw up later.) Like Fifty Shades, Flame had the super virginal heroine who’s sexual appetite is passive. 40 years ago, romance novels basically had to get the main characters to the penetrative zenith via rape, ravishment, and “being swept away.”

That was the industry buzz phrase in the 70′s.  ”Swept away.”

It’s not her idea, see? She’s not a whore.  She’s overcome, overpowered, like a tidal wave has pulled her out into the deep dick sea.

The “swept away” mandate dominated romance novels into the mid 80′s. “Swept away” justified a million lady tingles.

And, that is what happens in Fifty Shades of Grey. Anastasia is “swept away.” At least so far. I’m only a third through. She’s not a born dirty pervert with deviant desires, see? (Hell, neither is beastly Mr. Grey, actually. It’s Yet Another BDSM Title where the main character is traumatized, abused, and all fucked up. The world’s tiniest violin will now play a jaunty tune of surprise.) She wants love and vanilla sex. But! She’s not out looking for sex. Because she’s a good girl. She’ll let him lead her into kinkery, but only because of love, see?

The same way Grandma Draper could only enjoy unmarried sex in a romance novel if it was just-this-side of rape. Or, just plain rape. Because then she didn’t want it. It was just something that happened to her.

What do women want? That’s the cliche, right?

Do we want to be virgins? Forever virgins? With no self-awareness? Loved to the point of creepy stalking and exacting control by freakishly attractive men who are mysteriously captivated solely by our appearance and personal tics? And, maybe the healing power of our vaginas will fix him a little? Really?

This can’t be right, can it?

Please. Someone tell me it can’t be right.

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  1. blue_eyed_gypsy
    Posted April 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Yeah. Me, too. What you said. I read an excerpt on my Nook and barfed. It’s not even very well written.

    • Joan
      Posted April 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      I will say, the writing is better than Meyer’s. Really, you’d have to just bang your head into a keyboard over and over to be worse than Meyer.

      And E.L. James may be a new media marketing genius. For that, I have to give a little salute.

      • blue_eyed_gypsy
        Posted April 17, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

        Any comparison to Meyer’s writing is setting the bar very low.

        I am, perhaps, narrow minded in this, but I cannot develop any kind of connection with a “virginal” 20 something, who happens to catch *and* keep the attention of an also very young (but experienced!) bad boy dominant. Even if it were well written.

        And please, keep adding two spaces after a period.

        • Joan
          Posted April 17, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

          The double spacing between sentence is so hardwired at this point, I am pretty sure I can’t consciously break it. Though, I have finally gotten used to it being auto-corrected.

          • blue_eyed_gypsy
            Posted April 17, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

            Have you seen this article?


            Both funny and accurate.

  2. Joan
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    That is perfect.

  3. Marky Marks
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Hilarious post. Love your blog. intentionally leaving only one space between my sentences love it. I’m actually one of those 30 somethings that’s claiming he’s always been like this but has the I-snuck-my-mom’s-dirtiest-bodice-rippers-(including-a-few-where-the-heroine-gets-spanked)-to-read-in-my-bed-while-growing-up skins on the wall to prove it. By the way, is Anastasia Steele a Mormon too?

    • Joan
      Posted April 17, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink


      I suspect that Miss Steele is no Mormon. She’s drinking, sexing, and her Sundays are suspiciously free.

      • Marky Marks
        Posted April 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        By the way, that may have seemed like a random question. An explanation is warranted- I read how the lack of kissing, etc… in Twilight novels was a reflection on the author’s experience in Mormon culture where teenagers don’t do that sort of stuff, and just wondered because you mentioned that it was another young heroine that had not masturbated in Shades of Grey. Sometimes I struggle writing the connections in my train of thought.

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