It's a movie that has already flooded the Internet with sexy GIFs and endless trailers.
The Fifty Shades trilogy is a fantasy born of the Internet age. The stories soon became popular, so Leonard, who later took the pen name E. James, moved them to their own, now-defunct site , 50shades. By the time an imprint of Random House, Vintage Books, bought rights to the trilogy in , word of mouth had spread: The week the first book in the series went on sale, it hit number one on The New York Times bestseller list. It is difficult to overstate the massiveness of Fifty Shades. Two copies were sold every second during its peak. That is an unheard of number. The audience, of course, was women—mostly in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, Perreault said, although data from Nielsen suggests that about a third of the people who bought the books in the U.
Readers also span the ideological spectrum: According to data from an online survey of 1, adults by the Barna Group, a faith-focused polling firm, 9 percent of practicing Christian women in America have read at least the first book, which is roughly the same as the percentage of all women who have read Fifty Shades across the country. If anything, the books embrace a light, bro-y homophobia, in which hugs between dudes and mild jokes about gay sex are used to diffuse tension. The books have also fostered an online following—fan sites for the Fifty Shades books and movie have proliferated.
Crissy Maier, a single woman in her late 30s who lives on Long Island, started the website Laters, Baby! The site name is a Fifty Shades inside joke—Christian often uses that phrase when he and Ana part, with only a slight hint of irony.
The late 18th-, early 19th-century novels of the Marquis de Sade the namesake of the word "sadism" depicted explicit, violent sex scenes. The Story of O , a French erotic novel published in , depicts a young girl who enters into a submissive sexual relationship with a domineering film director; it was later made into a movie, just like Fifty Shades. And in the world of romance novels, the author Anne Rice wrote her three Sleeping Beauty books under a pseudonym in the early s, about an imaginary medieval world where the main character, Beauty, is trained as a submissive sex slave.
A fourth book in the series is coming out in But no book on this topic has caught on like Fifty Shades , nor reached such a mass audience. But it would be a mistake to brush the book off as an accident of e-book economics, he said. Not all readers have felt this way; in fact, much of the initial backlash against Fifty Shades was aimed at its crappy writing.
As other critics have pointed out , the narrative structure of the trilogy is actually not that new: It embraces many of the tropes of the extremely popular romance novels sold by the publishing company Harlequin in the s, 70s, and 80s. In the past several years, Harlequin has seen a steep decline in sales; last year, the Canadian publisher was sold to NewsCorp after enduring half a decade of significant declines in revenue.
Fisher said Harlequin novels now carry a stigma—the large format and logo are both easily recognizable, which might make it embarrassing for women to read them in public. But the publisher has also failed to catch up with contemporary sexual mores, she said.
Even though some have dismissed the Fifty Shades books as a slightly edgier version of the standard romance novel—and, presumably, the movie as a slightly kinkier version of the average chick flick—the portrayal of BDSM is a non-trivial aspect of their popularity. But the story of Fifty Shades is mundane, in the most straightforward sense of the word. There is no big idea or provocative subject matter or boundary-pushing craftsmanship. When it is kinky, though, it tends to be unhealthy.
This is clear at several points in the book. Tentatively, I uncurl my legs. Should I run? This is it; our relationship hangs in the balance, right here, right now. She does it. He spanks her—in a way that he feels is erotic, and that another partner might feel is erotic, but Ana clearly does not. And he hits me again and again. From somewhere deep inside, I want to beg him to stop. This isn't spanking as a form of erotic play. But even though she ostensibly consented to this interaction, it seems like a thin kind of consent.
Eventually, Ana agrees to some of the activities listed in the contract, giving explicit verbal consent.
This is not how experienced members of the kink community have sex. No matter what, these guidelines are always explicit. Some parties you might go to might hand those to you as you go in. In other words, E. In interviews, practitioners said they like kink and BDSM for lots of reasons: For some, pain releases the same kind of endorphins you might feel after running 10 miles, or after orgasm. Some enjoy the intense power dynamics involved in being completely dominant over or submissive to someone else. People might have fetishes for certain objects, like shoes or leather, which they feel the need to engage with in order to be sexually satisfied.
But that is not how the kink is portrayed in Fifty Shades. For all the talk of nipple clamps and butt plugs, BDSM is actually presented as a pathology, not a path to pleasure. Toward the middle of the first book, when Christian hands Ana a list of possible activities they might partake in, she reacts with shock—and, to an extent, a disgust that she never gets over. The thought depresses me. Although these kinds of desires can be related to other mental issues, the organization says in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , merely having these desires does not justify clinical intervention.
But that's not acknowledged in Fifty Shades —Christian's sexuality is an issue he has to work through with his therapist. With but a few swift strokes, he can get her to orgasm—loudly, frequently, in any position and any location—by intuiting what her body wants. He lived through the golden years of womanizing the staff, but when he's passed up for promotion to Vice President and Abigail Hunt takes the job from under him, he's in for a rude awakening. Made to live through the torment he's put on the women in the office, he's spanked publicly, made to dress as a woman, and takes on the identity of "Melody.
He rather enjoys being a woman, and when his best friend goes through the same transformation, they're eager to prove to their President that they're more than willing to play their roles as sissies.
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