There is no escaping the popularity that surrounds E.L James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. It has sold over 40 million copies in over 37 countries. You would have to be living under a very large rock, in the depths of a cave, at the bottom of an ocean to not have heard about this trilogy. The erotic novel first began as a Twilight fan-fiction piece but being too raunchy it was taken down from the site and republished on the authors own website. It is now the bestselling book of all time on Amazon.co.uk, knocking Harry Potter off the top spot. Looks like people are now favouring a steamier read rather than wizards and their small wands.
I don’t want to focus on the literary accolades of this trilogy, but rather more so on the effect it is having on people’s attitudes to this genre and the general topic it explores. Sex has never been a very openly discussed topic. Sure, magazines such as Cosmopolitan regularly feature articles on various sexual topics and any information you need to know is on the internet. However, nothing has ever gathered as much attention as this novel and its approach to sex. James has started a worldwide discussion and debate with the release of her novels. Women are now reading porn. There is no two ways about it: this trilogy is porn in the written form.
For years pornographic material has been generally accepted as man’s domain. Magazines such as Nuts and FHM have long provided entertainment for men while being deemed mostly socially acceptable. The internet is a catalogue of pornographic material catering for all preferences and quirks. While I’m not saying that these resources are solely and specifically for men, it would be the general consensus that they are explicitly targeted at them.
Porn is not a shameful thing in the attitudes of men. It is accepted, even expected, that they engage with this industry in some form. However, while there is, and always will be, a disapproving attitude to pornography by some, I would feel the majority of people see no problem with it. That is of course ignoring any issues of sex trafficking, forced labour and demeaning women. Ignoring such issues, if those involved enter freely into the industry and are happy to do their work then there should be nothing to criticise about the use of the industries products and media.
Porn is a man’s world, or at least it is perceived as so. Surveys show that the majority of women access porn of some form, largely on the internet. The difference between the genders is the accountability of this access. Most women would never admit to accessing porn due to the social opinion on the relationship of women and porn. Ladies don’t watch sexually explicit content in any form, ladies don’t masturbate, and ladies don’t talk about these things. Gender roles win again.
The powerhouse that has become Fifty Shades of Grey is a game changer. Women are reading this book on the bus, in the library, anywhere in public. They are not hiding it away at home under the bed for fear that someone may see them reading this erotic novel. It is being celebrated. Women are celebrating it. The silence and embarrassment of women around erotic or pornographic material is breaking down. It is becoming socially acceptable for women to want, and more importantly to enjoy, access to this form of media. Ladies: it is time to embrace your inner Anastasia Steele.