Fifty Shades of S***e (Or Why I’m Glad the Orange Prize Has Been Rescued)
The possible demise of the Orange prize was greeted warmly by male and female detractors who see the women only prize to promote originality, accessibility and excellence in women’s fiction writing as sexist, patronising and unnecessary. The prize has championed some excellent writing from women that was never going to make it onto the mainstream prize lists, or only over the cold dead bodies of all the male writers who choke up the nominations and winners lists (thus proving women are crappy writers, not that publishing reflects wider sexism in our society, if many of the Orange prize detractors are to be believed).
I for one am thrilled that the prize has been saved by private donors such as Cherie Blair and Martha Lane Fox today, because I’d rather be patronised by someone like Lionel Shriver or Hilary Mantel winning a prize for their excellent writing than by having Amazon recommend ’Fifty Shades of Grey to Me’ because ‘I have ordered books like this before.’
Really Amazon? I have?
I must have been drunk at the time because believe me you would need to be drunk to actually order and pay for this inane piece of ‘erotic’ fiction that’s about as sexy as a drunken stranger with vomit down their top staggering over to you in a club and asking if you want to go back to their bedroom at their mum’s house for ‘sexy time’ whilst pretending to honk your tits.
A friend passed this on to me whilst laughing about how much she knew I would hate it. I didn’t hate it. I loathed every sentence of it.
Normally I wouldn’t dream of disclosing the plot of a book, in fact it’s my pet hate, but in this instance I will make an exception:
Virgin-about-to-be-college-graduate who is so inexperienced/idiotic that she can’t even use one of the many accepted words for vagina but says ‘down there’ instead, is stalked by an older billionaire business man who is a bullying control freak (but his mum was a crack addicted prostitute so that can be safely overlooked). He does all manner of erotic things to her to persuade her to be his sub, like getting his man servant to check the size in her puke stained clothes and replace them, stealing her knickers before she meets his parents, going in a mood because she decides to visit her mother and then following/stalking her there (a plane flight away) and ruining the visit, demanding to know what she has eaten and making her clear her plate like a child, and most erotic of all getting her pissed so that she’ll sign his hokey dom/sub contract, which she does, but only because she wants him to be her boyfriend. Add to the mix a couple of male sex pest friends(hers), a best friend who spends most of her time trying to rile the stalker hero so that the heroine can see how dangerous he is (hers again, nice) and you’ve got the worst book I have ever had the misfortune to read. And I have read the Da Vinci Code.
My apologies if this summary has got you all hot and bothered, it’s pretty stimulating stuff.
I hate-read it to the end and can only describe the experience as confusing. I’m genuinely baffled as to who would find this book a turn on. In fact I’m genuinely baffled who could read this book and not be insulted by its portrayal of women. And to be honest if I was a man I’d still find plenty to be insulted by: ‘Deranged sex pest who stalks women into letting him hit them, or ordinary sex pest who just follows them round with sad puppy dog eyes and a semi: which kind of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey Guy Are You? Do our personality test now?!’
The real-life equivalent would be having to listen to a girlfriend gushingly tell you how dreamy her new man was because he had a really sweet habit of controlling everything she did, using illegal channels to locate her whereabouts and that of her family, and basing their relationship around his repeated requests for her to sign a contract so he can hit her with a clear conscience. Oh and who refused to actually be called her boyfriend. Commitment phobia is such a turn on.
The sex scenes are just weird. Imagine if Enid Blyton was still alive and feeling the pinch in these hard times so she decides to turn her hand to writing a bit of porn, but to disguise herself (and protect vital revenue from her Noddy, Famous Five and Faraway Tree books) she pretends to be American. If you can do that, you can pretty much imagine what a Fifty Shades sex scene reads like. Basically:
“His finger slips through the fine lace and circles me – there…He kneels up and pulls a condom onto his considerable length. Oh no…will? How?
‘Don’t worry,’ he breathes, his eyes on mine. ‘You expand too.’
‘Oh my, oh my, oh, my.’
‘ Can I hit you?’
‘ Yes, No, Oh okay, you’re so good at following me you might as well hit me too. And you have sad eyes so it would be wrong to question your motivations. Oh my, oh my, oh my…Actually you can’t hit me, you have sad eyes so it would be wrong to encourage you. Okay you can…[carries on for 514 pages] .’
Again, sorry if I’ve inappropriately turned you on.
If you must read this book, for the love of God don’t encourage the author by actually buying it, either steal it or borrow it. But really my advice would be, don’t even bother reading this nonsense. If you want to read erotic fiction that explores the female psyche and the darker aspects of male and female sexuality read Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ instead.
And never ever let a man steal your knickers just after you’ve had sex with him and just before you spend the evening eating dinner with his parents. The laws of gravity and the most basic table etiquette will not be on your side. Oh my, you have been warned.
And if you have already bought it, throw it away and go out and buy the entire (not) Orange prize right now, those talented female authors aren’t going to patronise themselves.