Slave screams he thinks he knows what he wants
Slave screams thinks he has something to say
Slave screams he hears but doesn’t want to listen
Slave screams he’s being beat into submission
Don’t open your eyes you won’t like what you see
The devils of truth steal the souls of the free
Don’t open your eyes take it from me
I have found
You can find
Happiness in slavery—Happiness in Slavery, Nine Inch Nails
In 1992, Trent Reznor released the song, Happiness in Slavery. It is a thundering, abrasive song about master and servant and the ability to find happiness in sexual servitude. He is not the first to write about this type of relationship, nor is he the creator of the sentiment of happiness in slavery. The book, The Story of O, published in Paris, in 1954, revolved around the story of O, a female submissive who is trained to erotic “adventures”. Erotica in poetry and prose has existed for quite sometime. Some authors write it better than others, but it seems like their women characters always get shortchanged in the creative process.
I suppose it is a little late in the game to show up at the table with a review of 50 Shades of Grey, but here I am. I had heard so much about this stinking book that I knew I had to read it. If I didn’t read it, then how could I talk smack about it? You cannot condemn something you know nothing about, at least not in my opinion. I had heard so many people discussing this book, in whispered tones and embarrassed confessions. I saw the skit on Saturday Night Live and heard news anchors refer to it as “mommy porn.” I also knew my female students were reading it, much as they have read Twilight for the last several years as sparkly vampires were everywhere, including their weekly journals and class discussions.
I actually paid money to read this book and took it with me to our beach vacation. I started reading it and felt the familiar girl meets weirdo vibe from the Twilight books, all the way to the girl was awkward and unknowing of her allure or value and the boy was rich, handsome, and dangerous, and so in love with the untutored girl. Where Twilight was afraid to go physically, 50 Shades was happy to explore what the author probably considered to be erotica and sweeping romance.
Yes, it was a lightly titillating read. I think I blushed more though, when I was sitting poolside, trying to cover what I was reading. My sons laughed and teased me for being ashamed of this book and were happy to point out the gray-haired granny across the pool proudly displaying the cover of her copy for all to see.
I know I should be reviewing this book, but I think the story has been played out. My biggest concern is once again how a book like this or Twilight influences young girls. So many of my female students have been looking for their Edwards the last 6 years at least. I know many of them graduated and hopefully matured, realizing it was all just Meyer’s adolescent dream world. Yet, these current students, fourteen to eighteen year old girls, are now picking up books like 50 Shades and graduating in maturity to this type of knowledge at a much younger age. I know that times have changed and the world has changed, but I don’t know if they really understand what they are reading. When one student wrote about her favorite book at the beginning of the school year, she wrote down 50 Shades and explained it was because of the love story. Maybe I’m old and cynical, but I think the relationship between Christian and what’s her name wasn’t the most healthy relationship to aspire to for a long term commitment. But then again, I don’t know what kind of messed up backgrounds some people have when they enter in to the fantasy world created in 50 Shades. Maybe that is the only healthy some people know and it seems safe and loving, in all of its twisted obnoxiousness.
I suppose I could write a missive about the warped reality that modern girls live in, growing up watching Disney princesses find their happily ever after. Additionally, the lack of a loving home environment sends some girls out looking for some human contact, any human contact. Any attention is good attention and sometimes the people you love like to hurt you. We live in a very hyper-sexual world where everything is on display so it becomes the norm. I guess it sounds like I think 50 Shades is a gateway to S&M and it could very well be. I can’t imagine girls in the 1950s running around reading The Story of O and trying it out with their beaus, but then again, I’m not that old.
I just hate that the literary bar has been set so low by the trash that is E.L. James 50 Shades of Grey. This is the type of book that is popular and gets on the bestseller list, yet in all of its controversy, it has not opened a dialogue for true discussions about sex, erotica, or relationships. People just giggle about the salacious content, speculating on the rumored cast of a big screen adaptation, and hotels offer 50 Shades Weekend Getaway Packages. I recommend this book only because it is o.k.to know what people are reading, especially your kids, and have a real conversation about love and sex if you have teenagers at home dabbling in popular literature.