The Fifty Shades of Grey series by E.L. James has topped a multitude of bestsellers lists with its impressive record of over 10 million copes sold in just six weeks. Its impact on pop culture continues to blossom, as a book-inspired makeup, lingerie, and bedding accessories line are in the works. Sales at sex stores have reportedly seen increases in customer traffic of couples wanting to dip their hands in a particular brand of goodies.
But what is it about the novel series that has people talking, but more importantly, reading? For starters, Fifty Shades of Greyis not your average romantic tale. The ups and downs of the main characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey run along the lines of risqué. Like a lamb, the innocent young college graduate student Anastasia is drawn into the lion’s den of the impossibly wealthy yet troubled business tycoon Christian—who also has a dark taste for BDSM.
In all respects, the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon is a breakthrough. Rather than shamed, the erotica novels are openly read and discussed by all, dubbing the title “mommy porn” by the New York Times, in response to its large female, middle-aged demographic. Female sexuality and desire is being embraced—as well as facing criticism based on its explicit content.
According to Washington Post reporter Sally Quinn: “Certainly the kinky sex is outside the norm, yet reading about it has mesmerized and even ‘inspired’ women and to improve their marriages and even their lives.” In the very same article, she points out that Fifty Shades of Grey has also been addressed as “mulled by many writers who have debated whether or not this is a setback for women, to be attracted to a submissive relationship.” The latter argument remains controversial and can only be applied such towards criticism when those not capable of comprehending the difference between an outright unhealthy relationship and titillating bedroom (or rather “Red Room of Pain” according to the series) romp.
Female readers are not the only ones being swept into the arching popularity. Male readers—the single, boyfriends, and husbands alike, have also tried their hands at reading the raunchy novels. According to an article in International Business Times: “The immeasurable popularity of the lusty work was bound to inspire curiosity among men. Beyond visits to their local sex shop, some men are choosing to go right to the source — actually reading the book with the aim of better understanding what women want in the bedroom.”
The article further claims that one “could view the ‘Fifty Shades’ phenomenon as a kind of post-feminist victory: Finally, men are being held to the same unrealistic standards that women have been. Much like ‘Twilight’ (which inspired ‘Fifty Shades’), the sensual story presents an idealized, unattainable, romantic partner who has little in common with our real-life husbands and boyfriends. But instead of choosing to live in a fantasy world, many women are trying to incorporate the racy role-play of ‘Fifty Shades’ in their own lives, with their own partners.”
Either way, the trilogy has the masses openly and honestly talking—which is a substantial (and possibly relationship-saving) aftereffect in it of itself. Frank talk does not only open the doors in terms of experimentation, but may open doors to address over concerns outside of that spectrum.
Fifty Shades of Grey is currently undergoing options towards becoming a big-screen production.