In defense of E.L. James… from an unlikely source.

So, if you follow my blog, you know it’s no secret that I, like many bloggers, enjoy a good Fifty Shades roast… and by that I mean:

roast

/rōst/
Verb

Cook (food, esp. meat) by prolonged exposure to heat in an oven or over a fire.

burning books

If you follow my blog religiously, you are awesome. You are also aware that I was abused for a good portion of my life; so, I fully recognize the abusive relationship chronicled in this swill. I recognize that it triggers  survivors and it’s painful for them, because the “murcurial” moments of Christian Grey stressed me the fuck out and that whole belt scene was just damned hard to read for personal reasons. I seriously almost stopped reading the first book, despite my curiosity, because it was making me physically sick and giving me nightmares. So I get it.

I’ve also read reports of E.L. James’s response to the claims that this book romanticizes abuse, which pretty much amount to “Nuh huh!” before she blocks them. This and… oh, I don’t know… her writing… are proof that she’s an insensitve moronic twat. I am intensely enjoying this hilariously spot on, chapter by chapter analysis over the entire series. So… maybe I just made a really good case for the execution of E.L. James. All that being said, however:

All she did was write a book…
I’m certain I’m not the first to say that E.L. James did not create domestic violence. Sure, it’s super disturbing that she thinks it’s sexy, but apparently, so do a lot of women. I did read the trilogy, from the library’s e-media collection, because I didn’t want to touch the paperback. I didn’t purchase the book or any of its paraphenalia (I saw that display in the sex store), because I didn’t want to further support E.L. James in her degradation of women, but I was curious. I pretty much came to the conclusion that Fifty is just sexy to people who’ve never been abused or manipulated ever, because I didn’t get the appeal… at all.

Where’s the personal responsibility in the Fifty Shades of Domestic Violence discussion, though? I am absolutely not referring to the idea that women need to be more vigilant about not-getting-hit. I’m referring to the fact that we’re grown ass women. We schedule our yearly gynecological visits, report the broken faucet to maintenance, pay our bills, make sure there’s food in the kitchen and the oil gets changed, do something-with-children if we’re moms, and oh, I don’t know… hold full-time fucking jobs, but we’re not capable of putting poorly written erotica into perspective and realizing that it’s only good in a fantasy? It’s like when you fantasize about something that would make your grandma cry while you masturbate, but in actuality, you know you’d feel disgusting and degraded if you did that in real life. Fifty Shades of Grey is exactly that… unless you’re stupid and irresponsible.

How is it the fault of a woman who couldn’t come up with another word for “crap” with a gun to her head that our teenagers are secretly reading what has always been dubbed “erotica” cough:: porn:: cough on their Kindles? How is it the fault of a shitty fan-fic writer if we fail to further research the whole dom/sub thing before giving it a go with that guy off Craigslist? If the concern is that this is “normalizing” domestic abuse, then we need to be talking more about what constitutes abuse in society, so people can differentiate fantasy from reality and realize that this book is not a fucking how-to guide. It’s been advertised as one, but again, we’re at fault if we don’t understand how advertising works.  We need to monitor our children’s media better and sit down with them and ask what they’re getting out of Twilight and explain what’s wrong about it. However, we also need to let adults take responsibility for what they’re reading and the ideas they’re getting from it, because they’re fucking adults.

“So help me God, Anastasia, if you don’t eat, I will take you across my knee here in this restaurant, and it will have nothing to do with my sexual gratification. Eat!”

I don’t even kind of fucking get what’s so hot about that, even in a fantasy, but in an actual restaurant, it’s a reason to blow that rape whistle. I think the majority of women who read Fifty do get that.

… that’s been written a hundred times…
This is my biggest defense of E.L James. Sure, it’s been a few years since we heard the whole dom/sub thing, but the Alpha Male shit is prevalent across most romance novels and every other media. It’s not new. From Darrin Stevens to Edward Cullen, this shit is hold fucking hat. Samantha Stevens literally gave up the power to provide for herself so Darrin could feel needed. That’s from an actual damned episode where she conjures herself a fur coat and he’s livid. Edward Cullen regularly told Bella what she was and was not allowed to do and she swooned. E.L. James adding some handcuffs to the mix, doesn’t create a new genre. Men have been abusing women to cheering crowds since caveman days. Does that make it right? Fuck no. It also doesn’t make E.L. James any worse than all of those other authors of books, spanning all genres, where men overpower women who secretly want it. Such as in:

Twilight – young adult
Club Dead – mystery: Bill fucking rapes Sookie in this book and it slips her gee dee mind.
A Hunger Like No Other – paranormal romance
Dark Lover – paranormal romance
Bared to You – erotica (to be fair, this one came after Fifty)

Those are just off the top of my head, but let’s see… how about every single book on this Good Reads list titled “Alpha Male“?

The fact that this book is BDSM related isn’t what makes it abusive. It’s the way he talks to her and treats her and threatens and belittles her. Sadly, though, E.L. James is still no trailblazer in this.

… and that no one was forced to read.
Fuck yeah, it gave me nightmares and made me want to vomit… because I chose to read it. I saw the movie The Collection with the guys not too long ago. It was absolutely disgusting, but I sat through the whole thing, because they were watching it and I wanted to know what totally anatomically implausible thing would happen next and couldn’t stop wondering what the popularity of this gore said about society. That right there is exactly why I read Fifty Shades of Grey. It was offensive and upsetting and I’ll admit, it was a trigger for me in a lot of ways. I could’ve put it down. I didn’t. That is not the fault of E.L. James. That’s the fault of the moron who started it in the first place, knowing what it was after Googling it and loudly asking a coworker “What does BDSM mean?” even though she’s twenty-fucking-five. I swear, I may as well be a virgin.

Ultimately…

Fifty Shades is one of my favorite things to hate, as you can tell, since I said so here, here, here, and here. This post, however, was brought on by reading some blogs trashing E.L. James. Don’t get me wrong. I read what she said about domestic violence and her book…

James says she “freaks out when she hears people say that her book encourages domestic violence. “Nothing freaks me out more than people who say this is about domestic abuse,” she says. “Bringing up my book in this context trivializes the issues, doing women who actually go through it a huge disservice. It also demonizes loads of women who enjoy this lifestyle, and ignores the many, many women who tell me they’ve found the books sexually empowering.”

… and I’ve read reports of her just refusing to discuss this issue with the people who’ve basically said “Um… I don’t feel trivialized by those people. I feel like you’re high-fiving me in the black eye.” I find her horribly inconsiderate. I’ve also been convinced for a while now that she sold her fucking soul to make these books popular, because they’re not even good porn. There is no plot, which is standard for erotica, but even the sex is redundant and awkward. As someone who’s been there, I can admit that yes, it’s upsetting when people call abuse sexy. However, E.L. James is not responsible for domestic abuse and has never actually compared the battered wives shelter to a brothel. Sure, it might be nice for her to come out and say “This book is not a how-to guide. It is meant for your enjoyment, not your replication,” but credit should be given where credit is due.

It’s not the porn industry’s fault that your marriage collapsed. It’s your ex-husband and his chafing dick that resulted from all of those downloads.

It’s not Alpha Male erotica that punched you in the kidneys. It’s a husband with anger problems who needs professional help.

Teenagers are not misinformed about sex because of an inaccurate erotic novel. They’re misinformed because their parents let them read it at 13.

It’s not the fault of a poorly written and irresponsibly advertised novel that someone ended up in the E.R. after misusing a spreader bar. It’s their fault for not taking advantage of the wealth of instantaneous information to research possibly unsafe bedroom activities.

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10 thoughts on “In defense of E.L. James… from an unlikely source.

  1. I really enjoyed this article, mainly because I agree with you in a lot of ways. I also read Fifty out of curiosity and I was a bit unsure of the appeal. But I liked the point you made about distinguishing fantasy from reality the best, because it’s something I’ve thought but not been able to put into words for a while. (Strange that I have trouble putting things into words when I’m blogging…)
    Anyway, thanks for writing a post that was interesting and well thought out! I enjoyed the read. -K

    • Thank you so much! I wasn’t sure if this one would appeal to people, because it kind of requires a dislike of Fifty Shades along with not completely hating E.L. James and that’s a delicate balance. Lol. I’ve just read so many articles that don’t take any consideration to personal responsibility into account.

  2. I thought this article was very well written. I have not read Fifty Shades (and am unlikely to), but you raise some very important points about responsiblity and what’s real. Down through the ages, women have been manipulated into all kinds of roles and been on the receiving end of a whole heap of abuse. They’ve also had ideas and acceptances forced on them as “normal” that can certainly screw their psyche.

    You write brilliantly. You not only capture a readers attention but get across the message you want to. I’m a writer and – shamefully – I’m guilty of writing scenes of abuse, although I think I handle the subject with more honesty and level-headedness than those writers who just want to titillate or warp it into something that it’s not.

    Anyway, thanks for a great article.

    • Thank you so much for such encouragement. It just frustrates me sometimes when we don’t give women more credit for being able to make these decisions. It’s almost as irritating as stereotyping them as more submissive.

  3. Somebody picked this book for my book club. I could not finish it because I found it so offensive. It horrifies me that it is so popular, but I never thought to blame the author. She is obviously not that intelligent, as you punted out as well.

    • Yeah, I was looking up funny reviews for the book and a lot of people blame E.L. James for giving the impression that abuse is sexy. There has to be someone to receive that message, though, so clearly she’s not the only problem. It is an interesting read in regards to what it says about society, though.

  4. Pingback: Shelving the Stereotypes: When I say I’m a librarian… | Belle of the Library

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

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