Why I won’t be reading Fifty Shades of Grey

Tammy Sutherns
Tammy Sutherns

By Tammy Sutherns

Firstly, I have to admit that I read 49 pages of the second book in this “erotic” trilogy – Fifty Shades Darker – so I have at least given it a shot and am not basing the below on hear-say. The second book was more available to me than the first so I thought I’d give the first few chapters a whirl to see if I might be interested in actually reading the series and picking myself up a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. I can satisfactorily conclude that I will not be and more so, that I’m utterly shocked that this is a best seller.

I’m not even going to use the poor quality of writing and the insult that it is to the literary world as my argument in this case. However these factors are noteworthy and deserve mention. If you’re into reading about sex, there are thousands of books out there that are just as erotic, but at least include some skill when it comes to the actual writing style. If you don’t care about the literary merit then you can pick yourself up a copy of any old Mills and Boon rag and be none the wiser. The point here is that not only is not revolutionary in its graphic and detailed sex scenes, but it’s not even a good book?

But the reason why Fifty Shades of Grey is so problematic is that it has completely sexed up an abusive relationship. It’s the most typical Psychology 101 form of abuse – man is abused as a child, man does not overcome or cope with the violence inflicted on him, man repeats cycle. It doesn’t matter what “electricity” they feel between them or how madly in love our delightfully one-dimensional protagonist is, he dominates – in more ways than one – her to such an extent that she is intimidated, abused, controlled and overpowered. Just because he is honest about his “darker side” and the joy he feels in inflicting pain on her doesn’t make it any less so.

What is more alarming is that the sex scenes, designed to be erotic, blend into the abusive and violent scenes. One minute they are flirting and the next the poor girl is absolutely terrified of him. This is exactly what the problem was with Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. The reader goes from feeling sexually turned-on by a scene to suddenly disgusted by the gruesome and violent turn the narrative takes. The positive connotations of being turned on and feeling good during a sex scene should never bleed into violence, domination and abuse. It brings about completely conflicting desires and emotions and merges them into one, leaving the reader feeling rather confused at their own reactions. American Psycho displayed this far more starkly and while a great social dig at American consumerism, readers didn’t need the chapters and chapters and chapters to get the point.

I honestly believe that BDSM relationships, where there is a dominant and a subservient, can be played out far more safely and without those involved maintaining these roles in every aspect of their relationship. Fifty Shades of Grey is an example of how a woman can be crushed into subservience in every sphere of a relationship. The fact that there are some kinky scenes and some good, old healthy, liberating sex shouldn’t shadow this.

Perhaps I’ve completely missed the point and I’m very, very open to correction. All I could think when I read those pages was how glaringly obvious it was that an older and established man had completely captivated a much younger, shier woman and dominated her in every aspect – from the things she eats to the people she is friends with to the way that they have sex. To me it seems about much, much more than BDSM and yet we’re celebrating it? Or perhaps the author is trying to tell that exact story – where boundaries can get blurred – and it is the public that has missed the underlying message? I do doubt it though – I sneaked a look at the first few pages of the last book in the trilogy and it seems as though our protagonist marries the guy so I’m not so sure about this theory. Hey, but while we’re normalizing abusive relationships, Ana is such a good subservient, letting Christian order her food for her and dictating when she leaves a friend’s party even though E.L James has made it clear she doesn’t want to. Is it just me that finds this vomit-worthy?

In any case, I look forward to reading what others have to say on the topic.



9 thoughts on “Why I won’t be reading Fifty Shades of Grey”

  1. Oh wow thanks for writing on this. I was ready to jump on the bandwagon of the popularity of the books and give them a try but your article has changed my mind.


  2. Have heard alot about the book and am quite weary of bandwagonning, so your review is welcome! I do enjoy thrillers and have not delved into much erotic thrillers but the violence aspect you described seems a little disjointed to be caught on so mainstream… Is the problem / issue more common that we know?


    1. I completely agree – the review shows that the story is only understood on the most basic level and worse than that there are errors in understanding a small example would be that the age gap between the two main characters is only four or five years – both of them being in their twenties – pretty normal I think?


  3. ag, blurgh. it seems that this Fifty shades of grey thing is the 2012 version of The Story of O … which was big in the sixties, for the same alleged reason: liberating sex. Except it was basically a graphic description of a man annihilating a woman (turning her into an O … a zero … a nothing) in the processs. the liberatiion, it seemed, was all on his side: freely expressing his misogyistic sexuality. the more things change the more they stay the same, it seems. Depressing, really.
    And Phillipa, I don’t think Tammy said she was reviewing the book. She is telling us why she aint’ readin’ it. She got further than I would have…
    And Tammy: I remember not a single “sexy”, turn-on scene in American Psycho. what I do remember to this day — while wishing I could delete the imagery from my brain — is the rat scene.
    Which, I guess, is one of the reasons why I don’t read crap like the above-mentioned piece of writing …


  4. I have almost finished reading the first book and completely agree that the writing is a small disaster, however I have still, like millions more, enjoyed the book for what it is – a sexy escape at the end of the day. I will not recommend the book to a young women but have passed it onto my girlfriends who are comfortable in themselves, with their sexuality and in their relationships. Yes some of the issues addressed are disturbing but as a mature adult I feel sure that I can distinguish what I’m ok with and what I am not ok with. Life would be very dull if we didn’t explore all sorts of topics and issues but most importantly let’s not forget that this is an adult STORY and should be enjoyed as such.


  5. I agree with your blog. I got about half way through the first book and it was hard enough for me to get to that point. I had no desire to read continue to find out what happened to these charactes. I personally am not part of the BDSM community but I have researched that lifestyle as well as other alternative sexual lifestyles. The problem I have with 50 Shades is the idea that Ana would be convinced to entire the lifestyle simply because Christian is hot and wealthy. Most people who participate already know before finding a partner/s that they are dominate or a submissive, there is no need for convincing. Ana clearly states in the novel how uncomfortable she is and sometimes even grossed out by the idea of a BDSM relationship but she does it anyway. As far as realistically, I believe first instincts are the best, but this is fiction so hopefully the other millions of readers who got through the entire series can make the difference and not subject themselves to any type of treatment just because it’s the “hot thing to do at the momment”.


  6. I agree with you. Christian Grey is an abuser. The problem is when women see Mr. Grey as a romantic hero and which he was real. It is scary to hear them talk how sexy and hot he is. This is not a romantic story. This story is about abuse. He loves to hurt and control her. He would tell her she was in control but in reality he had all the power. He is a psycho. I can’t believe when women say this was a fun, entertaining or a sexy escape. How can an abusive relationship be a sexy escape? We hear it all the time in the news about abusive relationships and how bad they end. This is not a real BDSM relationship either. A real BDSM relationship is about trust and respect. Ana was afraid of Christian and she discribe him as a monster. The worst part is the message this book is sending to young women. That love can “fix” everything even a pyscho like Christian. A find these books sick!


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