February 8, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grim Acceptance: Living with the Hatred of "That Book"

If you hated That Book (as I did), this book will help you live with it.
If you hated That Book (as I did), this book will help you live with it. Click to buy.

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.

Who greenlighted this cover? Today, it's called Have Him at Hello. Click to buy.
Who greenlighted this cover? Today, it’s called Have Him at Hello. Click to buy.

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

You *can* do better than Fifty Shades. Click to become a believer.
You *can* do better than Fifty Shades. Click to become a believer.

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.

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  • Post authorbarbaramikula

    I have to agree that Fifty Shades is not well written. I did read all three myself. While I also did not care for the super inexperienced heroine, the second and third books got somewhat better and did pull me in. I am a writer of BDSM M/f and M/m erotic romance (with 25 books published under the name Skye Michaels), and my books are very explicit and usually rated Sextreme. It is sometimes a struggle to keep the sex interesting, and I definitely try for that. I also try for a well written book with a GOOD story. If you don’t have a good story, you don’t have a book. That said, EL James made the 97m not me. Rats! One other thing is that she opened the door wider for a lot of us writing in that genre, and for that I am grateful. – Skye Michaels, Erotic Romance with a Dark Edge.

    Reply to barbaramikula
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      I have to be grateful for the open door. Time has made it a little easier to be grateful … but just a little. 😉

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorLiz Everly

    I read all three, too, because I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I didn’t really like the sex scenes either. But I found Christian’s story compelling enough to keep reading. Skye is right–the writing does get a bit better with each book. And it did open up the genre to a hell of a lot more readers. I admire your stance on the book, Alexa. I took a kind of similar stance with Twilight. I read it because my 12-year-old daughter wanted to read it. I ended up saying she could read it, but here’s why I didn’t like the book: Bella didn’t have anything else in her life except this boy, Edward (pointed out this is not a good thing); also, she was perfectly willing to give her life up for him (um, not happening in my house); also, I’d rather my daughters read good writers, good fiction. Little Women. Emma. You know what I mean. But oh well, she read it and we discussed all of those things and it ended up a learning experience for all of us. Today, as a 16-year-old, she hates Twilight. And I am happy about it. 😉

    Reply to Liz Everly
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      You know, they say things like That Book are actually opportunities in disguise. So I try to see it as the chance to become a better writer and a more graceful human being. And the genre is more popular now, which is good.

      More power to you and Skye for reading all three of Those Books, though. I just couldn’t keep at it.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    So many Twi-haters, so little time. I’m always fascinated when something’s not just successful, but it’s pushing everyone’s buttons. Twilight did that for reals, and although I really do think of 50 Shades as it’s own book — boy it does the same and more.

    We’ve seen dimmer heroines, and since it’s actually 85% or more an anti-BDSM novel, none of the clunkiness there surprised me. More on that later this week!

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      The innocent heroine and her sister, the Good Girl, nearly drove me away from romance altogether, so these days I try hard to keep the two of them out of my reading as much as possible. Ana slid in under the radar because I thought I needed to know what was going on with That Book. I guess there are heroines out there even less sharp than she is, but I try to keep out of their way!

      Add to that the presentation of BDSM as damage caused by “bad people” and curable by one girl’s pure, healing ignorance, and … there’s my blood pressure again. I just can’t. I can’t even.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorAlexa Day

    Reblogged this on Alexa J. Day and commented:

    I can’t stop it; I can only learn to live with it.

    Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorKim Talks Books

    I don’t understand all the hype around the book or the movie. I tried to read the book and found myself getting annoyed at how dim-witted the heroine was and how unsexy and boorish the supposedly elusive Mr. Grey was. Did I find the book sexy? No. And the movie trailers aren’t very sexy either.

    Reply to Kim Talks Books
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      I managed to avoid the trailer until this afternoon, when one came on in the break room at work, where I do not control the remote. 🙂 I didn’t look at it — that would have been too much — but it didn’t sound hot at all.

      I remember feeling that the enigmatic Christian Grey was just a jackass with few, if any, redeeming qualities shortly before I stopped reading. I don’t get what’s attractive about that, either, but I might just be spoiled. I’ve gotten to read a lot of genuinely enigmatic, brooding, dark heroes! I just hope that the book works as a gateway for lots of new readers.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorErica Scott

    One of my favorite comments of all time was another blogger who said, “I hope her Inner Goddess drowns in the @#$%ing bathtub.” But falling down the stairs is good too. Oh, how I hate this trilogy. And how I hate that this badly written trilogy earned its wannabe author gazillions of dollars, when there are so many good writers out there who are barely acknowledged. And how I detest that the uneducated and the inexperienced will think this is what Safe, Sane and Consensual BDSM is about. (It isn’t.)

    How do I cope? I bitch about it to people who will listen. I avoid the people gushing about the books and the movie. And I revel in the spoofs and the diatribes and the incisively intelligent blogs about what a POS FSOG is.

    Reply to Erica Scott
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      I’ve met some great people and read some great things through my antipathy for That Book. 🙂 But I still wish it would disappear for all the reasons you mention. Here’s to coping!

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorMadeline Moore

    It was the money that bugged me the most. Now that the movie is imminent, I imagine this might be that rare event – a flick that’s better than the book. One can always hope. (I won’t see the movie.) I read all of the first book. Yes, it’s bad. I don’t hate E.L. James. No list of antidotes is complete without the parody novel Fifty Shames of Earl Grey, by Fanny Merkin. Sorry I can’t be more eloquent on the topic. I just don’t have the time or the inclination to care, anymore. I’m Fifty Shades of Fucking Bored with FSOG.

    Reply to Madeline Moore
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      I know what you mean, Madeline. I’m almost at the place where I’m tired of hearing myself hating on it. Almost.

      Thank you for adding Fifty Shames! I’ll make it part of my list. 🙂

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorKate

    I’d like to offer an alternative positive viewpoint. 50 Shades got us talking about women’s sexuality and that’s a good thing. I discuss this at length in my Romance Beat article “That Book and now That Movie… and what to do about it” (link below). I approached sex-perts (sex educators and an erotic romance authors for their viewpoint) as well. The gist of it was, since I thought the book helped get us talking we should continue that by standing up and being counted, promising to see the movie, although I had low expectations given the movie trailers. So last night, I went to opening night and was counted as a fan—not a screaming, cheering fan like the hordes that filled the theater, but I was there munching popcorn and hopeful.

    And that hope was fulfilled and then some. The movie was good, even great! A little slow at the beginning, but I think that’s because all the movies now move at such a hyper pace it’s unusual to watch a movie that takes it’s time. Then when it does ramp up… Wow! The director came through and made an enjoyable movie without the issues so problematic in the book.

    Even in the pivotal beating scene, I could feel Christian’s motivation, understand he was exercising his demons in the only way he knows how, and see his conflicting love for Ana even as he hits her. Doesn’t make it right that he does this, needs this—and Ana as we know from the book doesn’t put up with it. But it made sense to me, more than it did in the book. So congratulations to everyone involved in the movie.

    As to my other hope, that the movie helps move the discussion of women’s sexuality forward…I realized last night as I sat and watched that it won’t do this. The movie is good entertainment, the sex scenes artfully done, but the book’s ability to shock, to raise awareness about alternative lifestyles, to get people talking has already done it’s job—whether that was E L James’ intention or not—and the movie doesn’t really add to that, not when it’s so entertaining and fun. I think that was my mistake, layering too many hopes onto one film.

    So, if you’re curious go and enjoy, perhaps buy a new toy and try it out. By the way, watch for the Bunny Flogger hanging in the Red Room of Pain…trust me, they’re mega sensual-icious.


    Reply to Kate
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      We welcome the clash of opinions on this blog. Thanks for expressing your views Kate!

      Reply to Madeline Iva
      • Post authorKate

        I already liked Lady Smut, but now even more so!! I wasn’t sure if my post would make it past moderation…and I respect so much people that are willing to hear and post (if not agree with) alternate opinions. Thanks so much!

        Reply to Kate
        • Post authorAlexa Day

          Kate! I would never have moderated you out of the conversation; that’s just ungentlemanly. 🙂 I’m always trying to start a discussion. I *need* the alternate opinion.

          I hope to see your name in the Comments more often!

          Reply to Alexa Day
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