This isn’t really a book review because I haven’t finished the book. I can’t. I’d rather eat my own eyeballs (but only if my Dominant tells me to).

I bought Fifty Shades of Grey because a) I generally like rude books (or “erotic literature”, as it’s more commonly known), and b) it seemed to be getting much more hype than the stuff I usually read, so I thought bloody hell, it must be good. Well, more fool me (I deserve to be punished). Let’s face it, if the Daily Mail appears to be getting behind “X-rated” women’s literature, either the world’s turning on its axis, or something’s not quite right with said literature. Believe me, it’s the definitely latter.

Fifty Shades of Grey (or more accurately, the first half of Fifty Shades of Grey plus the remaining rudey bits I’ve flicked through towards the end) is the least erotic, most gobsmackingly awful piece of so-called porn I’ve ever encountered. It doesn’t even have the decency to be properly indecent. Sure, there’s lots of bondage (when you actually get to the sex bits), but they’re all comfortably located in the most depressingly conservative of contexts. It’s BDSM for the GOP, transgressing boundaries only to reinforce them with a vigour that leaves you further back than where you started, and not even pleasantly sore.

Here are some of the reasons why this book is so not worth wanking over:

  1. the heroine, Anastasia Steele. In the creation of Ana the author seems to have confused being submissive with being totally bloody useless. Ana’s first encounter with Christian Grey involves her literally falling into his office (ha ha, so kooky!) and things only get worse from then onwards. Ana’s so useless she doesn’t just frequently forget to eat (like some nineteenth-century semi-anorexic swooning maiden), but she forgets to breathe (thankfully Christian is on hand to remind her. “Breathe, Ana!” he frequently says). Of course, when Ana meets Christian, she isn’t just innocent; she’s an actual virgin.Which oughtn’t to matter so much – there’s plenty of erotic literature where the heroine starts out a virgin – but in the overall context, there seems to be a rather unpleasant message about the kind of girl who “deserves to” find pleasure in the arms / at the crotch of a ridiculously gorgeous billionaire bully.
  2. the hero, Christian Grey. He is mysterious and enigmatic. That is, he’s 27 and doesn’t act it, although sometimes he does, and that’s all a bit confusing, and he talks in a really weird, patronising way that Ana likes, but then there’s no accounting for taste. Particularly as it’s not clear why Christian is so taken with Ana, either. It’s her “innocence” or something. The fact that she’s not like other girls. Although tall, skinny, beautiful, kooky Ana is exactly like other girls if we’re talking about girls in Hello rather than girls in normal pleb-life. In fact, if you were Christian Grey (gorgeous billionaire, did I mention that?) it’d be bloody weird if you weren’t surrounded by girls like Ana all the time.
  3. Ana’s best friend, Kate. She’s the “grounded one”, ie the one who’s less kooky and more slaggy. She can piss right off.
  4. the length of time it takes for the actual shagging to start. I presume it’s meant to be an erotic build-up of tension or something. Well, it’s not. It’s just boring because the narrative’s so crap, and usually that doesn’t matter in porn because you get to the shagging in a reasonable length of time. And then when you do get to it, you think ah, finally, it’s got going, but no. There’s more endless exposition. Great. Bloody great.
  5. the unpleasantly conservative safeness of it all. We get to see the contract Christian sets up with Ana. Several times. Just so we know all her terms and conditions and what she will do and won’t, and so we know it’s all consensual. That’s good, right? Well, kind of. There’s something horribly sterile about it all. Absolutely nothing in the book is “grey”. It’s all very black and white, and reassuringly heterosexual (sleeping with men is “not my thing”, Christian tells Ana. He doesn’t have to but hey, good to know).* Maybe I just don’t get bondage, but I’ve always thought it’s about the chance to act out power relationships which don’t exist in real life. But in the world of Ana and Christian, the highly gendered power imbalance is there all the time, and hence it’s boring. These are people who aren’t remotely real, yet nothing in the book comes across as fantasy, either.

In short, I’m going back to Black Lace (the women’s erotic fiction series, not the eighties funsters behind Agadoo).** You might think a million American housewives can’t be wrong. But let’s be honest, you probably don’t.

* He might sleep with a man in a bit of the book I haven’t got to. But really, I can’t care enough to get there.

** I think one half of the group Black Lace is dead now anyhow. Which is sad.