Tuesday 3 July 2012

50 Shades of Hey! That's not nice.


I’m not usually one for bandwagon jumping, but everyone else seems to be blogging/tweeting/yapping on about EL James’ Fifty Shades books. For God’s sake it was the topic of a Radio Leeds mid-morning phone-in last week. And women in their fifties were talking about it at my diet class. And, what the hell, it might push a bit of site traffic my way.

 So, let’s get the obligatory questions out of the way.

Have I read them?
Yep. All three. In quick succession.

But, are they as badly written as everyone says they are?
Fuck, yeah.

Would you go to the Red Room with Christian Grey and the riding crop?
Fuck, yeah. Times about a billion.

So, what is left to say about the badly written mummy porn? Well, nothing. My problem is with the tone in which it is all being said. The snarky, high-handed, sneering way in which the three best-selling books have been discussed. But not just the books; the women that have read and enjoyed them.

Apparently, anybody reading them for anything other than research for a Guardian column is being suckered. They have ‘suboptimal reading skills’. They are buying into terrible sexual politics and want to be dominated by emotionally crippled billionaires – the sappy fools. The very phrase ‘mummy porn’ smacks of value judgement. I understand that mummys like sex too – I believe that’s how most of ‘em get up the stick in the first place.

And here’s what I recently realised. When those snarky twats are describing this simpering, nappy-changing bint who has to sound out the big words, they’re describing me. I read the first one out of curiosity. I was on holiday and wanted something unchallenging and fun. And I got what I asked for. I enjoyed the first one so much that I went straight out and bought the second. I got the third one in the airport and read it on the flight home.

And yet at no time did I switch off my critical facilities.

I think Anastasia is a silly bitch and almost completely unreflective of any other women I know. Perhaps EL James edited out the chapter where she gets the lobotomy. Just because I read the book, I don’t want to BE Anastasia. I wasn’t fantasising about being a doormat. Actually, she was being one so that I don’t have to be. Isn’t that the point of fiction? To take you places you wouldn’t normally go to walk in other people’s shoes?

As for Mr Fifty Shades. Well, had I been Anastasia there would not have been three books. The minute he pulled out that ‘I don’t make love, I fuck’ line, I’d have handed him his grey tie and shown him the door. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have been tempted to set aside my principles for a whizz-bang with the well-endowed, sexually dextrous, billionaire but I’m pretty sure I’d have said no. Well, I’m reasonably confident that I would. You know, depends whether I’d made an effort and put on an uncomfortable bra for the date. You don’t want that going to waste…

Oi! Holdsworth! Isn’t this blog supposed to be about writing not bonking?

Oh yeah. Point is that I think the Fifty Shades phenomenon kind of proves the point of my earlier blogs. If something is seemingly inexplicably popular, as writers we should be trying to explain the inexplicable. All that energy spent sneering is just sour grapes. Because after I’d finished inhaling those three books I was left with the overwhelming feeling that I could have done it better, No! That I should have done it better. I should have had the instinct to write a best-selling bonkbuster. But a well-written one.

I should have been aware of that possible audience. Not the dumbasses that the columnists would have us believe are reading that book but women like me. I deserved better on my holidays. I deserved a book with good fucking and good sentence structure. There’s a huge hole (Ooh, missus) in the market! I should have seen it.

And here we come to the part that may make some people squirm in their seats, so look away if you are of a nervous disposition. Maybe the reason that there isn’t a better class of clit-lit out there (or at least it isn’t being marketed to us) is because it would mean admitting that women masturbate.

Quick, the smelling salts!

Because that’s what all the sneering and tittering has really been about. The success of these books has been because women like to get off. Although, looking at the coverage, you’d think that female masturbation was only invented last week. Hence the huge amount of press coverage; because male newspaper editors think that jilling-off is the phenomenon; not the EL James’ big old cash-in on it.

So, what have we learnt? Firstly, my mother can’t read this blog – ever. Secondly, stop sneering at bad writing being a success. Acknowledge the potential audience and give them something better! Give them something that blows their minds, challenges their intellect and feeds their souls. Know this: you are as sure as shit a better writer than EL James.

And that’s cruel. But then I’m sure Ms James is crying herself to sleep on her big fucking pile of money.


  1. I don't mind bad writing being successful. If that were the case, there'd be no Harry Potter (my brain's blocked on who wrote it, so forgive inconsistency), no Dan Brown, no Stephanie Meyer (Twilight), no... Oh, you get the idea. And looking at those examples, I'm not making a great case. But bear with me.

    'Pageturner' isn't a review of writing greatness. It's something people feel *comfortable* reading. They don't want highbrow Vikram Seth and Salman Rushdie. Some do, fair enough. Most don't. And fair play to 'em.

    I kind of object to the media whoring of One Book per Year. But I don't mind if it keeps the writing industry (and publishing industry) going, and keeps interest in the medium.

    With 50 Shades, I object most to the hypocrisy of it. The Daily Mail (hey, I bet you didn't see that one coming) wanks on about how great 50 Shades is, and in the next story is decrying how bad porn is. 50 Shades, however you look at it, is porn. It's even the same S&M tie me/beat me porn that the DM is so up in arms about in the next story.

    I know, "Daddy Porn" is bad, whereas "Mummy Porn" isn't. And I kind of get that - except really it's just different access channels to the same material.

    That's what annoys me.

    1. In fairness to the book, it was initially a word of mouth thing from the slash fiction origins onwards. The marketing bods have kicked in now and are flogging the dead horse to pieces. Until the film gets released and then we'll have to go through it all again. However, as @easilytempted opined, anything that gets people having more (consensuual, safe, fun, non-exploitative) sex can't be a bad thing.

    2. Absolutely. Anything that improves sex in general - and even more importantly, *talking* about sex, and removing taboos - is no bad thing.

      In the same way the Rowling / Potter was important *because* it got parents reading to their children, and made the *children* want to read.

      I'm stuck on a positive point to come out of Dan Brown / Da Vinci Code, but maybe just "Catholics/Opus Dei Are Bad, M'Kay?" is the best we can get from that one.

    3. Exactly how does Dan Brown get lumped in with those other authors??

  2. J K Rowling, that's the biffer.

  3. Ann Summers (I don't mean that as a cypher for anything, I mean "the legal entity which trades under the name of 'Ann Summers' ") sells more than two million vibrators a year. We may deduce, therefore, that not only women in general, but British women included, masturbate. I agree that this fact is ignored in all sorts of ways and all sorts of settings.

    1. It still makes people very uncomfortable whether discussing it or admittign to it. If this poorly-written book opens a few minds then it's done a good job.

  4. I don't really care what people read. Although generally I recommend better written junk, than the Stephanie Meyers of the world.

    What bores me is the number of people on my timeline saying: "early night with Mr Grey"

    I don't care that women masturbate. But I don't put my status as "just watching the latest jenna jameson" - not that I'm embarrassed - I just don't care that you're reading porn! But maybe this is just me finally tiring of the inane posts on Facebook these days.

    1. I have a similar reaction to 'it's wine o'clock' statuses and pictures of cats.

  5. oh don't get me started on status comments!
    totally agree!

    Especially couples who have public conversations on their status.

  6. "early night with Mr Grey", Ha! Do they know how tough it is to masturbate holding a book? Even with a kindle, it's pretty crap.