Why are we reading this crap? (What Twenty-Somethings [I] See in Christian Grey)

Working in a library, it is impossible not to recognize the title Fifty Shades of Grey or the name Christian Grey. Frankly, living on planet Earth in 2012, it is impossible not to recognize either. Never in history, has any book been more overdone. Don’t get me wrong. I want to be a librarian. I do not care if you read smut. In fact, personally, I encourage it as a healthy expression of your own sexuality, in which no actual person is degraded in any way, unlike in pornographic films and magazines. In short:

Me: “I don’t care if Christian Grey wants to string Anastasia Steele up from the ceiling and gut her because it’s sexy. It’s still pretend.”
Gail: choking on soda “I DO!”

They’re make-believe. No real daddy issues are present. More power to you. End disclaimer.

The sex in 50 Shades of Grey is redundant and dry (pun fully intended), the writing atrocious, and the entire premise of a well-hung over-protective billionaire is just, for lack of a more fitting word, silly. Reading reviews for this title is a far more entertaining venture than actually reading said book. There are also much better ones out there than I could bother giving that much thought to, so I’ll avoid competing and address another issue all together.

What exactly is Christian Grey’s true appeal for women in their twenties?

I know that the primary audience for 50 Shades is women in their forties, but I also know a number of women my age who are reading it and swooning. So what’s the draw?

Women who’ve never been abused seem to consider Christian’s psychotic obsession with Ana appealing. He wants to protect her… by controlling every move she makes. He puts tracking devices on her phone pretty much from the moment he learns her name. Guards follow her everywhere once they begin dating. That’s insane, but whatever. Women who’ve never had someone manipulate and control them probably just don’t see this as manipulating and controlling, so they can continue reading with one hand under the covers. Protective is clearly not the only motivator here, however, or pretty much any romance novel would do. I, myself, read plenty of paranormal romance, in which the lead male character is usually some powerful alpha male, so this is hardly specific to Christian Grey.

50 Shades of Grey is erotica on a good day, plain Lady Porn on a bad one. I don’t care if there’s a picture of a tie on the cover; erotica is the nicest and most accurate description for this book. So, clearly, the sex would be a consideration of what makes Mr. Grey so perfect. However, not only is the sex redundant, unrealistic, and awkward, but the actual mechanics of it seem to be so… specific… that it’s unclear why this would appeal to such a wide demographic. I, myself, do not want someone to stick his thumb in my bloody vagina and then into my mouth. Nor do I want to be strung up like a deer and denied orgasm as punishment for disobedience. Soooo, for women in their twenties, who were probably subjected to better sex scenes than this as tweens secretly watching Sex and the City, Christian Grey’s stamina and technique probably just seems unrealistic, weird, and even inconvenient.

Even outside of the bedroom, Christian Grey is talented at everything. He’s a concert pianist, he flies gliders (didn’t know those were a thing until this book) and actual planes, has a taste for art, is multilingual, knows every martial art ever, is extraordinarily well-read and well-dressed, dances, and I think even sings. If there were a way to make it sexy, I’m pretty sure we’d have seen Christian Grey knit himself a sweater from the fur of the angora rabbits he raised from birth. However, I’m not so sure this level of skill is attractive to women in their likely competitive twenties so much as it would be daunting. If he’s better than me at everything, then what do I bring to the table? Why am I even here? That’s not sexy. That’s threatening and makes me feel insecure.

He’s protective, he’s well-hung, has the stamina of a Mack Truck, is a connoisseur of everything, but most of all, Christian Grey is unrealistically wealthy. I’m pretty sure he sells Black Market unicorn blood, because at 26-years-old, he owns Seattle and apparently most of the geographically scrambled Northwest. He has a plane, 43 cars, eleventeen houses, all the clothes ever, several salons, and oh yeah… a publishing company. Now we’re getting somewhere.

I cannot speak for every twenty-something out there, but I can speak for myself. The only thing I see in Christian Grey lies in his ability to give Anastasia everything… particularly her dream job. Anastasia graduates college with a generic degree and no basic knowledge any 21-year-old should possess. She wants to do Something With English, but she doesn’t have her own computer or E-mail address. She’s spent the last few years working in a completely unrelated position at a hardware store and has a few hundred dollars in the bank. She has no future, when along comes Christian Grey with the gift of a new car that is apparently pretty needed and tons of fancy gadgets. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really care that much about the car and the technology. I’m an easy gal to please when it comes to physical possessions. Christian, however, doesn’t just buy her every new toy she wants (and some creepy ones she doesn’t), he buys the entire publishing company that hired her… then promotes her… and gives it to her. That is FUCKING AWESOME. I’d let a man string me up and stick anything in my ass he wanted if it meant he’d give me a library to run. I totally get it now. She graduated college with a pretend degree and no concrete plans and now she gets an entire publishing company? Keep your damned car and that British Library on iPad. I just want the dream job.

Security. That’s what I see in Christian Grey. It’s not the protectiveness, the sex, the talents, or even the luxury for me. It’s a girl with the murky future that always accompanies the end of college (particularly with no skills or specific goals) and a man who is going to give her total control in the career she most desires, with no experience at all. Later she gets a husband and kids and that’s all fine and well, but my greatest envy is a permanent position in her field. Considering my entire generation grew up swooning when an abusive Beast gives Belle a library, I am seriously doubting I’m alone here.

I had this jacket specially tailored to cover the handcuff bruises.

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3 thoughts on “Why are we reading this crap? (What Twenty-Somethings [I] See in Christian Grey)

  1. Pingback: In defense of E.L. James… from an unlikely source. | Atypical Midwestern Librarian

  2. Pingback: Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting Fifty Shades of Grey | Belle of the Library

  3. Pingback: Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting the Fifty Shades Series | Belle of the Library

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