UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | February 23, 2024

Cover to Cover: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ insult to literature, sexuality

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True love means caring more about someone than you care about yourself, being with that person through thick and thin, making that person sign a contract that binds his or her sexual activity to exclusively cater to your fetish with cable ties and spanking.

Wait, what?

If you were alive last summer, which I hope most of you were, you may have felt a shift in the world of romantic literature. This shift went from blood-sucking sex monsters to, well, just sex monsters.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” author E.L. James has openly admitted her best-selling novel is roughly based on the plot of “Twilight,” written by Stephenie Meyer. One may not easily catch how James’ erotic romance featuring a wispy, ambitious college graduate who meets the haughty, multi-millionaire CEO lines up with Meyer’s own vampire trilogy. Well, let me set the stage for the doubters.

The similarities between the main characters of both novels are unmistakable. Anastasia Steele grew up with separated parents, just as Bella Swan did. It irks me that this character really has nothing for the reader to sympathize with. She’s beautiful, smart and has her whole life lined up after college with job offers and a gorgeous apartment, which she shares with her rich, beautiful friend.

Christian Grey, like Edward Cullen, has a bottomless bank account and the physique of a Greek god. Women melt at his feet, and he claims to be able to read people, similar to how Cullen can read people’s minds. Coincidence? I’m embarrassed to say, no. All of this is true to the book.

When I finished “Fifty Shades of Grey,” I had no idea what kind of book I’d just read. Was it bondage and discipline erotica? Or the tale of a man’s childhood abuse and how this impacted his sex life later on? Were Grey’s sexual tastes supposed to be erotic or wrong? It isn’t clear.

The lack of structure was amateurish and painful, and it made me wonder if the book had been edited at all. It read like a trashy script in an episode of “One Tree Hill.” It read like, “I did this, and then this happened, and I walked here, and I made my bed.”

Beyond the offensive elements I found in this book, nothing is more offensive than poor writing.

The greatest offense was the portrayal of the characters. Steele is genuinely afraid of Grey and is never entirely comfortable with the “punishment” aspect of their relationship. But Grey manipulates her with sex to continue the relationship.

I have a hard time believing a virgin would somehow become a sex goddess overnight because that is exactly what happens. Steele is in her 20s and has never felt the urge to have sex with anyone until Christian came along with his whips and chains. I don’t think so. Sorry, I’m a realist.

Are you not convinced this relationship is unhealthy and fifty shades of screwed up? Well, to ensure Grey gets Steele to do what he wants, he manipulates her with promises of a relationship if she is willing to try his lifestyle.

So the reader assumes that, in Steele’s mind, his need to control and beat her is a form of therapy? That is absurd.

Grey exploits, stalks and abuses Steele. She cries after sex. She is afraid of him being angry. Even when he is angry at something else, she thinks it’s her. She let’s Grey hit her because she’s afraid to lose him. Everything about this story screams domestic abuse.

This book became a best-seller for all the wrong reasons. The general public thinks “Fifty Shades of Grey” provides almost every woman’s erotic fantasy. I hesitate to criticize readers who loved this book, but I am definitely criticizing the media coverage.

When people say “Fifty Shades of Grey” is empowering women in their sexuality, something is seriously wrong. Never in a million years could this story empower me in my sexuality. This book is not a commentary on a woman’s true sexuality — it’s an insult.

There is a time and a place for crappy smut, and the New York Times best seller list is not that place.