Mardis Gras, 1990. About to leave for the Lords of Leather Ball. Yeah, young. And that hair!
“My community is on the sidelines shaking their heads….breeders…this is news? a hot topic? Really? What crap, indeed!” ~my gay husband on 50 Shades of Gray
Unlike the majority of giddy 50 Shades of Grey fans, who would no more know how to pull off a real BDSM scene than they’d know how to do brain surgery, I know a little about this community.
I spent 10 days at Mardis Gras in 1990 with five gay men and another woman, and that is our group preparing to leave for the Lords of Leather Ball, an annual Mardis Gras event put on by the gay leather community. The gay community has long been a key player in the BDSM scene and have honed its high theatre eroticism to an art form.
I saw more assless leather chaps at that ball than I’ve seen in an orgy (not that I’ve been to an orgy) and there are so many other iterations of the scene–well, let’s just say that it was an education. In fact, I even knew a gay couple who had their own young (of age) “slave.” He wore cute black leather shorts and a leather cap and their interactions were quite something. I also knew one of the Mr. Gay Leathers back then.
So when I hear soccer moms and others who wouldn’t know a riding crop from a crop circle all agog over this book, well, I shake MY head, too.
Oh wait. You want to know about that photo? Ok. My gay husband and I flank the guy in the mask. Oh, we were young. I wasn’t yet 40 years old!
I have a few bones to pick with 50 Shades. First, BDSM is more lifestyle than a romantic game. Back in the day, I knew a number of people into it and I promise you that average soccer mom would want nothing to do with it. Second, even when BDSM is practiced as an erotic game, the book simply doesn’t reflect reality. The fact is, this isn’t a mainstream scene at all and it can be darker and heavier than the romantic fantasies in this 21st century bodice-ripper.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with power play. People who enjoy it aren’t inherently flawed, although I do know a couple very into it who are psychologically damaged beyond repair. I’m not so sure that BDSM attracts those people in any greater numbers than any other fetish. But later on I offer you an expert’s opinion on that. It’s just not a given, if you know what I mean.
And finally, the book is terribly written. Just awful. And that’s the worst part–that so many are reading such a badly-written book. But don’t take my word for it. I perused some of the most amusing Amazon reviews, because some reviewers are much better writers than authors. Let me share some of the best excerpts:
What soccer moms think a riding crop is.
About half way through the book, I looked up the author to see if she was a teenager. I really did because the characters are out of a 16 year old’s fantasy. The main male character is a billionaire (not a millionaire but a billionaire) who speaks fluent French, is basically a concert level pianist, is a fully trained pilot, is athletic, drop dead gorgeous, tall, built perfectly with an enormous penis, and the best lover on the planet. In addition, he’s not only self made but is using his money to combat world hunger. Oh yeah, and all of this at the ripe old age of 26! And on top of that, he’s never working. Every second is spent having sex or texting and emailing the female character. His billions seem to have just come about by magic. It seriously feels like 2 teenage girls got together and decided to create their “dream man” and came up with Christian Grey.
Then come the sex scenes. The first one is tolerable but as she goes on, they become so unbelievable that it becomes more laughable than erotic. She orgasms at the drop of a hat. He says her name and she orgasms. He simply touches her and she orgasms. It seems that she’s climaxing on every page.
Then there’s the writing. If you take out the parts where the female character is blushing or chewing her lips, the book will be down to about 50 pages. Almost on every single page, there is a whole section devoted to her blushing, chewing her lips or wondering “Jeez” about something or another. Then there’s the use of “shades of”. He’s “fifty shades of @#$%% up,” “she turned 7 shades of crimson,” “he’s ten shades of x,y, and z.” Seriously?
The writing is just not up to par, the characters are unbelievable, and the sex verges on the comical. I don’t know what happens in the remaining books and I do not intend to read them to find out. But given the maturity level of the first book, I imagine that they get married, have 2 perfect children, cure world hunger, and live happily ever after while riding into the sunset, as the female character climaxes on her horse causing her to chew her bottom lip and blush fifty shades of crimson. Jeez!
The inimitable Tom Lehrer did a song called The Masochism Tango, which says it all. Here’s an excerpt, and then the whole thing on video. Don’t miss it!
Your eyes cast a spell that bewitches
The last time I needed twenty stitches
To sew up the gash
That you made with your lash,
As we danced to the masochism tango.
DS from LA has this to say in a review:
I enjoy erotica … but I’m five chapters in and just can’t take it anymore. This has to be the most appallingly atrocious writing I’ve ever seen in a major release. The pseudonymous British author sets the action (such as it is) in Washington State… for no reason than that her knowledge of America apparently consists of what she read in “Twilight”… but the entire first-person narrative is filled with Britishisms. How many American college students do you know who talk about “prams,” “ringing” someone on the phone, or choosing a “smart rucksack” to take “on holiday”? And the author’s geography sounds like she put together a jigsaw puzzle of the Pacific Northwest while drunk and ended up with several pieces in the wrong place.
And oh, the repetition…and the repetition…and the repetition. I’m convinced the author has a computer macro that she hits to insert one of her limited repertoire of facial expressions whenever she needs one. According to my Kindle search function, characters roll their eyes 41 times, Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian’s lips “quirk up” 16 times, Christian “cocks his head to one side” 17 times, characters “purse” their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. Add to that 80 references to Ana’s anthropomorphic “subconscious” (which also rolls its eyes and purses its lips, by the way), 58 references to Ana’s “inner goddess,” and 92 repetitions of Ana saying some form of “oh crap” (which, depending on the severity of the circumstances, can be intensified to “holy crap,” “double crap,” or the ultimate “triple crap”). And this is only part one of a trilogy…
This 1954 book was the original literary erotic novel with a BDSM theme. I read it in my 20s. I’m sure 99% of 50 Shades readers have never heard of it.
Ebeth822 reviews: Not the worst I’ve ever read… Oh wait. It IS.
I downloaded the book to my Kindle because it was on the best seller list and had 4 stars overall rating on Amazon. I wish I’d taken the time to read some of the reviews. As it turns out I agree with the negative.
I found myself thinking “Twilight, plus some spanking, minus the sparkly vampires.” Here, I’ll save you all some time (SPOILER ALERT):
Once upon a time…
I’m Ana. I’m clumsy and naive. I like books. I dig this guy. He couldn’t possibly like me. He’s rich. I wonder if he’s gay? His eyes are gray. Super gray. Intensely gray. Intense AND gray. Serious and gray. Super gray. Dark and gray. [insert 100+ other ways to say “gray eyes” here]
I blush. I gasp. He touches me “down there.” I gasp again. He gasps. We both gasp. I blush some more. I gasp some more. I refer to my genitals as “down there” a few more times. I blush some more. Sorry, I mean I “flush” some more. I bite my lip. He gasps a lot more. More gasping. More blushing/flushing. More lip biting. Still more gasping.
….the story is weak, the pace is slow and awkward, the characters come through as more schizophrenic than complicated, the “romance” is a juvenile and dysfunctional crush, and the “erotic” scenes alternate between Penthouse Forum and something that sounds like it was written by a painfully shy and sheltered 13 year old. I have now read through some of the rave reviews and I have to assume that these were posted by people easily shocked and/or titillated. I can’t imagine what fans are comparing this to when they describe this as “good.”
WR Smith says:
I understand that no one has read this book with intellectual enlightenment in mind, but this book goes beyond the pale of moronic.
Ah, the dumbing down of erotica, and what’s worse, this terrible example of erotica is fodder for book clubs.
“The average woman discovers the romance of BDSM.”
Sigh. As if.
But what do the experts say? Take a look. And then, tell me what you think.