Tuesday, September 23, 2014

To the gentleman courting my wife

I bet she told you

I ignore her,

we have nothing in common,

I forgot her birthday,

we’re only married for the kids,

we sleep in different beds,

I’m fucking my secretary.

      I bet she never told you about the last guy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Musings on Fifty Shades of Grey

I'm not sure what this says about the people I hang out with, but I could not stop hearing about Fifty Shades of Grey. My hanging-out-and-drinking-wine girlfriends wanted to know what I thought about the movie casting, and were shocked to hear that I had neither read the book nor seen the movie trailer. My book club friends (read: more hanging-out-and-drinking-wine girlfriends) dropped references to the Red Room of Pain in everyday conversation, then insisted that I read the book just so I would know what everyone was talking about. And my more, let's call them "sex-positive" friends wanted to talk about how unrealistic the characters and the book were in so many ways. So finally I found myself with nothing to read one day, and I borrowed the ebook from my public library.

In the first few chapters, some details about the two main characters emerge. Ana is a 21-year-old recent college graduate. She has never been kissed, never held hands, and never masturbated. She also has never used email. Christian is a 27-year-old self-made billionaire. He has done all of these things, but he has never had vanilla sex. Christian has a BDSM fetish, and domination is the only way he knows how to relate to women intimately.

The book's plot is simple: Ana and Christian meet and are immediately attracted to one another. Ana wants a romantic relationship, and Christian wants to dominate the shit out of her. They both like each other so much that they try to compromise. Ana and Christian have lots of mildly kinky sex, during which Ana orgasms nearly every time Christian touches her. Christian tries to give Ana more of the relationship she wants, but he still feels the need to control her, and she must eventually decide whether or not she can participate in his lifestyle.

The central conflict is a real one for kinky people looking for relationships. How do you tell potential love interests that kink is an important part of your life, and what do you do when the object of your affection has difficulty with your lifestyle? Once any sort of connection is forged, the situation becomes a difficult one for the vanilla half of the potential couple as well. This plot conflict provides some minimal amount of substance to the book so that women don't feel like they're just reading porn.

As ridiculous as the character profiles are, they set up a situation that is at once dirty and romantic. The strong man gets to teach the young virgin (who even wears pigtails!) about sex, while the tantalizing virgin is able to stir up romantic feelings in the man that he's never felt before.

It's not surprising that women with little exposure to kink or erotica would find this book appealing. It's just too bad that it's so poorly written. Had I read some book reviews first, I would have expected the abysmal writing style. But I didn't, so the woefully inadequate writing took me by surprise. The author, E. L. James, has so few tools in her toolbox, that she returns time and time again to the same ridiculous details, gimmicks, and turns of phrase. I didn't find it particularly interesting the first time I read that Christian has long fingers, so I certainly didn't need to read it in nearly every chapter.

Or take the way the author provides descriptions, as in these quotes:

It’s a huge twenty-one story office building, all curved glass and steel…
…he’s all shoulders and muscles, tanned skin, dark hair, and burning dark eyes.
Grey is followed into the suite by a man in his mid-thirties, all buzz cut and stubble…
She's all tiny camisole, tight jeans, and high heels...
These descriptions are all repetition and banality. Add in a few comma splices and laughable diction, and it's clear that an editor had no place in the production of this book.

Had there been an editor, perhaps he or she would have suggested that Ana cease referring to her genitals as "down there." And maybe Ana could also quit telling us about her inner goddess, the lascivious element of her personality, which partakes in its own activities such as the following:

…my very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba.
My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently.
My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.
My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.
Eventually I did watch the movie trailer and decided that the movie will probably be better than the book because it will spare us these goofy and distracting comments. Will I watch the movie? Probably not. The bottom line is that there are better options out there for both drama and porn.

It's a sad commentary on the state of our country's reading habits and its attitude toward sex that Fifty Shades became so popular. Maybe if we read a little more, we'd be selective enough to choose books that use the English language more skillfully. Maybe if we were more open about sexuality, women wouldn't react like starving puppies when finally offered a socially acceptable form of erotica.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go start the second book. I need to find out what happens.