Fifty Shades of Annoying

Before you make a frantic dash to beat the hordes of women and men clamoring for Fify Shades of Grey at your local Barnes & Noble, check out Crystal Saldana’s smart, funny review:

With the movie rights sold to Universal and Focus films for reportedly more than $5 million, it’s obvious that what started out as Twilight fan-fiction has morphed into something much, much more. The best result from this series undoubtedly has to be that it’s given liberty for more women to speak more openly about sex. The worst result is the perpetual headache I’ll have to endure for the next month for having read this trilogy. Whether on the side of finding this series offensive in its nature, or finding it intriguing whilst taking notes, it’s got people talking.

The Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James centers around Anastasia Steele, a 21-year-old college student who falls (literally and figuratively) for 27-year-old mega-rich entrepreneur, Christian Grey. But Christian Grey has a secret, one that Anastasia has to sign a non-disclosure agreement to find out: he’s into BDSM. Wait…what?! You’d think a 21-year-old virgin who’s only known this “love interest” for 48 hours would be running for the hills, but to our surprise — and Christian’s — she stays…because, I mean, who wouldn’t?

Now — Let’s talk about sex.

It felt to me that about half of the book was comprised of sexual encounters. Some are hot and steamy, some are sweet and loving, and one is pretty gross — he pulls her tampon out and plunges in. (Ah, and they say chivalry is dead.) The BDSM (Bondage Domination Submission Masochism) in the book is light, according to a lot of reviewers on Goodreads. This being the first BDSM erotic novel I’ve ever read, I thought it wasn’t a bad introduction into the lifestyle, but apparently a very PG-13 introduction. While Ana learns about this sexual world she never knew existed, so do we.

 Ana: “So you’ll get your kicks by exerting your will over me.”

Christian: “It’s about gaining your trust and your respect, so you’ll let me exert my will over you. I will gain a great deal of pleasure, joy even, in your submission. The more you submit, the greater my joy – it’s a very simple equation.”

The first book deals mainly with Ana deciding if she wants to enter into a BDSM relationship while actually having a mostly “vanilla” sexual relationship with would-be dominant, Christian.  Now, according to many reviewers, Christian Grey seems to be God’s gift to women. Well, I think not. I thinketh not a lot.

Sure, he’s a perfect picture of privilege: he has the looks of a Greek God, he’s ultra rich, young, dresses well, and he’s well-endowed, but he’s also controlling, “restraining order” possessive, and has serious mommy issues. I bet you’re thinking, “possessive and jealous can be a turn-on if taken in small doses,” but I assure you, Mr. Grey doesn’t do anything in small doses. In one chapter, Christian purchases a first-class ticket for Ana and purchases the seat next to her so she has nobody around her. If you’re not thinking “crazy,” “psycho,” or any variation thereof, this might be the book for you.

Dr. Logan Levkoff from The Huffington Post had a very interesting point when she states that:

In our culture, it is politically incorrect for women to become aroused by something that makes us appear/seem/act submissive. However, we don’t control how and if we turn on to something or someone. We may not desire to have fantasies about losing control, but many of us do. It doesn’t make us bad women or bad people. It doesn’t even say anything about our psyche or whether or not we want to “lose control” in our own lives. We may not have even known that we could turn on to a particular scene or experience until reading about it. And in the case of “Fifty Shades,” if it got you hot and bothered, it got you hot and bothered.

Yes, I suppose some scenes got me “hot and bothered,” but others also got me annoyed and angry.  The story would have flowed much better had I not had to deal with Ana’s subconscious reading The Complete Works of Charles Dickens Volume 1 and her inner goddess doing back flips throughout the whole trilogy. I could have easily done without all the “holy shits/fucks/cows” as well. They made me want to run away, “like Edvard Munch’s Scream.”

I wanted to like Ana. Trust me, I tried. I really, really tried. But ultimately I found her to be the most irritating heroine I’ve ever had to endure — and I’ve endured Bella Swan. There were just so many times I wanted to shake Ana and yell, “Get a grip!” Although, in her defense, she did have her moments. Moments where I wanted to shout, “Well said, Miss Steele!”

For instance, when she goes to visit her mom in Georgia for a few days she communicates with Christian through e-mail. She’s not  face to face yet, but she eventually gets there. You have to crawl before you can…crawl further…

What you are offering is erotic and sexy, and I’m curious, but I’m also scared you’ll hurt me – physically and emotionally. After three months you could say goodbye, and where will that leave me if you do? But then I suppose that risk is there in any relationship. This just isn’t the sort of relationship I ever envisaged having, especially as my first. It’s a huge leap of faith for me.

But these moments are few and far between. She constantly lets Christian walk all over her and her concerns. I was irked with Ana’s submissive behavior, and her need to often say, “Please, don’t be mad at me” was the most troubling. An argument would start and Christian would end it with sex. The first time was amusing, for lack of a better word, but after the fourteenth time, it gets a little old. You start wondering, “How exactly are they going to overcome their differences if they never get around to talking about them?”

When she’s not surrounded by books or watching TV on DVD, Crystal like to take long, romantic walks…to the liquor store. Sometimes she’ll even pick up a pen and put thoughts on paper.

4 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Annoying

  1. It makes me wonder, in a BDSM relationship, are there different levels of control? I mean I know it’s really about trust and respect, which is what Christian says, and then he buys a seat on a plane next to her, that’s not trust that’s paranoia! Admittedly I have yet to read the book as erotic novels aren’t really my thing. It seems that the reading of erotica or romantic novels is more for the ladies in our culture. I remember walking by rows of books back when the grocery store sold them and seeing shirtless, long haired, glistening, muscle laden, TROPHIES of men portrayed on book covers holding swooning women. Walking by, my brother and I couldn’t help but giggle at how ridiculously perfect the stallion-like men were portrayed. It’s good to see that the novel touches on something considered so taboo by a lot of people, and may introduce them to trying some stuff out. But it sounds like the writing was stanky for the most part.

    • re: different levels of control

      Ideally, a BDSM relationship is all about creating a safe psychological space in which sexual partners can engage in varying levels of power play.

      I think the problem with the books — and I must admit, I never got past the first fifty pages, so this is based on Crystal’s awesome analysis — is that Ana does not seem to feel like she’s in a safe psychological, emotional space.

      Sure, it can be sexy and fun to engage in submissive sexual behaviors, but consenting to be physically dominated in BDSM encounters is different from allowing oneself to be smacked up romantically/emotionally. It sounds like Ana does both, and the latter is what makes the story so unappealing to readers like me and Crystal.

  2. Crystal, you are a stronger woman than I. Thank you so much for suffering through Fifty Shades, and for sharing your work on Vagina Dentwata :D

    Which of the three books in the trilogy did you despise the least? Or were they all equally craptastic?

  3. This is the Emperor’s New Clothes of books. I have lost it, it descends into the crap \twilight descended into when it set out to portray Bella as the greatest creation since ‘sliced bread.’ Anastasia is so annoying, I am fed up of the lip chewing, the inner Goddess, the shy looks, oh hell she irritates me and if I have no feeling for the character at all.
    Christian’s fifty shades lessen by the minute in book two as he descends to his idiot of girlfriends level. It didn’t get darker it became lighter. The book is about sex and the sexual encounters become the same I have tread the same sex scene over and over. Repetition, repetition and you milk three books, surely one good one would be preferable.
    Watched the Secretary today after someone drew my attention to it, even down to the name Grey it has degrees of familiarity to the above. These books could have been great handled correctly and not been so repetitious to appeal to sexual appetite.
    When I read a sequel I want something new, not same old same old. Darker? I question that it is far too sugary it’s like an erotic Dannielle Steel, give us grit if you want to claim darkness.
    Give sequels a miss. Anastasia ruins it.

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