Just when I thought the rumpus was dying down a bit, another batch of articles about the Fifty Shades Phenomenon surface in the national press. "Everyone's reading it... ooh, isn't it naughty... let's laugh at the 'mummy porn'... aren't women idiots?" Those may not be actual quotes, but we've all seen something like them.
I've held off commenting on Fifty Shades of Grey for this long - partly because I have no intention of reading the first book, let alone the other two - but now I have to admit that I can no longer take it. I have to say something. The whole thing makes me angry.
The main reason I get so annoyed with some of these newspaper articles is that they like to assume that, because women read this shit, we all want to be dominated. All the time. What part of fantasy do you not understand? Just because I enjoy reading books where the protagonist is male, doesn't mean I want to be a man.
There's also the idea floating around that submissives want to submit in every aspect of their lives (they don't), or that only women are submissive (wrong again). If a woman reads a book about female submission, it does not mean that she wants to quit her job and let a man do everything for her. Reading a book does not automatically mean you identify with the story, even if it's erotica and it turns you on. There are many things I think sound hot but would never want to try in real life.
And then there's the subject of how badly written the book apparently is, or before we hear that EL James appears to know very little of the acts she describes in its pages.
I freely admit that I haven't read the book myself, but I had someone review it for my blog so that I could find out more without reading it. She loves fanfic, porn and BDSM, yet still found this painful to read. Proud submissive women - like my reviewer and also sex blogger Molly - hate the way James and the press who write about her book have made incorrect assumptions about the act of submission.
Proud feminists like myself hate the way the press are making assumptions about feminism based solely on this series of books. Yet people keep on reading it... and talking about it. (And, yes, I know that I'm now making things worse.)
It's time to admit that the reason we all moan about it is the same reason we click on the links to Daily Mail stories that fly around Twitter leaving outrage in their wake. We love to get angry. I asked two friends to read Fifty Shades Darker and live tweet their thoughts (as @50shadesofWTF and @50shadesofROFL) even though I knew they'd hate it, and they actually agreed.
So, where is all the good erotica? If we're all apparently happy to read poorly written and lazily researched filth, where are the recommendations for better books? The stuff that combines a great story with good fucking? It must be out there. Ultimately though... should we really give a shit what other people are reading?
Lori Smith is a sex-positive LGBT feminist and blogger who rarely has enough time to sit down and read a good book. However, she always seems to have time for Twitter and newspaper articles.