By Alexa Day
If you’re following me on social media (which I encourage) or in real life (those folks, sadly, are stuck with me), then you’re well aware of my feelings toward Fifty Shades of Grey. You know that I insist on calling it out of its name; I refer to it as That Book with the Tie. You know that I will dive for the remote rather than let the movie trailer play on any television in my home. You know that it is one of only two books I’ve been ashamed to be seen with. (The other, for trivia’s sake, was Why He Didn’t Call You Back, a dating book which also no longer resides with me.)
In short, if you know me, you know that I hate Fifty Shades of Grey. You know that I hate it so much that I stopped reading shortly after the first sex scene and then took pains to get it out of my home. Seriously, I took it out to the car that very night and shipped it back the next morning to the person who sold it to me.
I’m not a fan of innocent heroines, and this one crossed the line between innocent and dim more than once. I thought the sex was unsexy, even though I stopped after the “weird, pinching sensation.” I still don’t understand what’s attractive about Mr. Grey, who is worse than the classic alph-hole hero from romance’s Bad Old Days. I have very, very serious misgivings about the sex masquerading as BDSM. I wanted to kick the Inner Goddess down a flight of stairs while she was doing the Funky Chicken. I never understood why Ana’s roommate, if she was the editor of the paper, didn’t assign a member of her staff to use a telephone to conduct an important interview, rather than to send her completely inexperienced roommate to do it in person. And, God, if I had to read one more “holy crap” or “down there,” I was going to scream.
I might have forgiven some or all of this if Fifty Shades were a better written book, but it isn’t. I can’t get around poor writing. I can’t. I’m not the world’s best writer, but dammit, I think it’s important to try harder. I do not aspire to be popular in spite of poor writing.
A great many fans of That Book are kind of defensive when they hear how much people hate it. “If you hated it so much,” they say, “don’t read it!” Sound advice. Putting That Book back in the mail was absolutely the right thing to do. I still try to warn people away from it — it’s that horrendous — but hey, I stopped reading it. Life’s too short, as I said last week.
But as long as thinking about That Book causes bright pinpoints of light to dance before my eyes, I have
to deal with it somehow. It’s not going away. People who are new to erotica and erotic romance are using Fifty Shades as a barometer of sorts. When they ask whether my work is like Fifty Shades, they’re asking whether the heroine is innocent or whether there’s any BDSM in it or whether the sex is explicit. They’re curious and open-minded. They don’t understand that That Book causes me to grind my teeth. So I’m trying to be better about That Book. Nobody takes book recommendations from someone grinding her teeth.
Now I want to help you live with it, too. As That Book becomes That Movie, here’s a reading list of sorts. Whether you’re looking for something to read after Fifty Shades or a way to avoid That Book altogether, I hope you’ll find something that holds your attention in a way that doesn’t make you fear for our literary future.
No one throws shade at Fifty Shades like Jenny Trout. If you hated That Book, you’ll love her chapter-by-chapter recaps.
Listening to Laura Antoniou read her short story “Fifty Shades of Sellout” was a bit like getting a hug from the author of the classic Marketplace series. If you’re a writer living in a Fifty Shades world, see if you don’t feel better after just thirty seconds of this parody. Actually, if you’re curious about erotica focused on the total power exchange elements of the BDSM lifestyle, why don’t you go right to The Marketplace series? You’ll find secret societies, service contracts, and participants discovering themselves as they explore consent, submission and domination.
Laura Antoniou’s work also appears in Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s a collection of essays from writers, sexuality experts, and participants in the BDSM lifestyle. Tiffany Reisz, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Midori, and Dr. Katherine Ramsland all contribute to the examination of That Book and its effect on pop culture at large. Whether you enjoyed Fifty Shades or couldn’t wait to be rid of it, this book will help you live with it.
You might also try anything in this Buzzfeed list. Seriously, just pick a number and go for it.
And finally, have you read Twilight yet? I did. I was curious to see if the source material was any better than the fanfic that became That Book, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself quite immersed in the story. It works so well because Bella’s a teenager (and appropriately clueless), Edward’s a vampire (and appropriately threatening), and there’s no horribly written, unsexy, unsafe, nonconsensual, non-BDSM sex in it. I would say that it is Fifty Shades with all the awful Fifty Shades written out of it, but Twilight came first.
How are you getting through this difficult period before That Movie comes out? How did you feel about That Book? Mix it up in the comments.
And follow Lady Smut. Our goddesses are all on the outside.