Have you heard about 50 Shades of Grey? It’s practically impossible not to these days. The book began as fan fiction but now it has gone on to be the fastest selling paperback of all time, outstripping even Harry Potter himself.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, without getting into too many details, it’s about a relationship between a young, beautiful ingénue and an experienced older man who likes to take control. It is, without a doubt, graphic. No one is claiming that the writing is literature, but it’s certainly popular.
Over the past weeks and months I’ve heard stories of this book everywhere. I walked into my favorite bookstore the other day and there was a huge display of 50 Shades along with the two sequels just inside the door. One friend noted that on a recent business flight she could count four women reading the book, and those were just the ones who had the paperback edition. E-readers make it easier to read a book that makes you blush.
Indulging our curiosity
The New York Times famously referred to the book as “mommy porn” in reference to its popularity among women in their 30s. Others have commented that many married women are reporting that the books have had a very positive affect on their sex lives. Not that they are running out to buy whips and handcuffs of their own, but the book seems to give women permission to consider their sex lives. I wonder if the true allure of 50 Shades of Grey is simply that it allows us to have conversations about sex, a topic that is rarely discussed openly?
In book club the other night we got into a discussion of 50 Shades, which is surprising because the book we read that month was Molly Wizenberg’s delicious food memoir A Homemade Life. Just about everyone in the group knew people in other book clubs who had read 50 Shades and what followed turned into a pretty frank discussion of sex, erotica, and preference. I’ll admit to being a little relieved when the discussion came back around to Molly’s recipes!
Finding a place to ask questions
Sex is a big part of our culture and it makes sense that people want to talk about it. When an open discussion is not possible we tend to take our questions to places where we can whisper them. Nowhere is this more apparent on the web. Right here on this site our most popular articles for years have been about relationships. (Have you read the top two? Here are the links: What Men Want and Help My Husband Doesn’t Want Sex!)
If you have questions about your relationship, we have mentors available. Simply use this form to request a mentor and we’ll be in touch. Mentoring is a free and confidential service. (Please note that mentors are not able to respond to explicit questions.) If you find yourself battling with a secret, try our free lesson: Secrets – How to stop hiding.
It’s not really that surprising that a book like 50 Shades of Grey is causing such an uproar but I don’t expect to add it to my reading list anytime soon. I noticed that the bookstore with the 50 Shades display was already recommending two other books from their erotica collection along with a small sign that said “for mature audiences only”. I wonder if this time next year we’ll look back at 50 Shades and consider it tame? I think I’ll stick to Molly Wizenberg. Her new book should be out by then.
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