50 Shades of Grey is one of the top-grossing erotica book series in the world today. While the book series is known for being the latest controversial set of novels to focus on non-mainstream sex, the books (and its author) are being criticized for a lot more than straying away from the missionary position. From the literary field you have people saying the books are nothing more than Twilight fan fiction, and if that wasn’t bad enough you have all the social backlash at the content of the books themselves.
What’s so bad about 50 Shades of Grey? Just read through the latest Twitter Q&A, and you’ll get a pretty good idea pretty quickly.
Twitter question and answer sessions aren’t all that unusual, especially if you’re a famous author or a movie star. However, while E. L. James agreed to participate in the event to talk with her fans, most of the questions came from her critics. Questions ranging from, “Is it okay for me to follow a woman I’m attracted to against her wishes, as long as she doesn’t know I’m doing it?” to “when are you planning on writing a sequel where Christian gets arrested for stalking and rape?”
In short, the event didn’t go well.
What the Twitter Q&A did do, however, was point out that there is a lot of change happening in regards to how sex and rape culture are being viewed (a general run down of the term rape culture and what it means can be found at Women Against Violence Against Women). In the wake of the success of books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey (along with all of their imitators), there are a lot of people stepping up and pointing out that the “romance” being depicted is in fact nothing more than paint-by-numbers abuse. The female characters have their consent violated numerous times by wealthy, powerful men, and that’s supposed to be sexy.
On the one hand, people will read whatever they find entertaining. On the other hand the backlash at the Twitter event has made it quite clear that there are certain tropes that are on their way out as far as cultural acceptance goes. If things continue the way they’re going it’s entirely possible that books like 50 Shades, which portray a skewed, wholly inaccurate, and outright dangerous relationship will more likely be source of consternation than titillation.