What shade are you – obsessed or possessed?

2012-08-06 16:08

Is it porn, or is it corn? As sales of EL James’s bodice-whipping trilogy cruised past the 30 million mark this week, I emailed my friends to ask if they’d read Fifty Shades of Grey.

Within minutes my inbox was pinging like a set of Ben Wa balls.

Surprisingly, only one person who replied to my little survey had read the books. And she, it must be said, is a professional book reviewer.

“I remember blushing slightly when the publishers delivered the books to me,” MM emailed. “I looked over my shoulder in case anyone was watching, even though I was in the driveway of my own home.”

But by the end of the third novel, MM had this to say: “I think Fifty Shades is repulsive, empty, gaudy porn – and it worries the hell out of me that so many women think it’s tit.”

Happily, not reading the book didn’t stop anyone else in my survey from having an opinion. Everybody knew somebody who’d read it.

“According to my sister-in-law, the prose is awful, but it’s a good pick-me-up for the libido,” said JT of the novels that dragged BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism) – kicking and screaming – out of the dungeon and into the supermarket.

Said LT: “My friend read it and says she hasn’t been this interested in sex with her husband for years.”

Revealed MR: “A male friend asked me to buy it for him because he was too embarrassed to get it himself.”

And there was this telling sign of the Fifty Shades craze, overheard by DM: “I was in Exclusives the other day and there were these three teenagers milling about – two boys and a girl. Heard one saying to the others, ‘So has your mum read Fifty Shades yet?’”

LL, herself an accomplished author, admitted to experiencing blockbuster sales envy (BSE).

But by far the biggest number of responses came from friends who said they hadn’t read Fifty Shades and wouldn’t, even if they were chained upside down on a rack in a rubber suit.

“I have not and will not read that book,” said MW. “The S&M will put me off sex for Lent. Same as eating snails. Do not get the eroticism. It makes me feel embarrassed, alienated and queasy.”

LJ was similarly offended: “Won’t read it. Not even a bit curious. I also won’t be painting my nails green, wearing denim shorts over black tights or using the word ‘trilogy’ to describe things that loll in a shopping basket with my GM bread and paracetamol.”

Fifty Shades did, however, make it into the shopping basket of my Jozi book club.

MW tells me: “The brave and adventurous members tried it and hated it – but the moral majority have resolved to smile and wave, and move on to the latest William Boyd and Peter Carey.”

And, finally, this from LS, who confessed to hearing excerpts read out loud on holiday: “It is unspeakable shit.”

Sighing with a mixture of pride and pain at having such smartarses for friends, I resolved to read it myself.

So off I went to the local supermarket, where I snatched up a copy from a drama-tically dwin-dling pile.

Tossing a few more items on top to deflect suspicion, I made my way to the till, by which time everything in my basket looked pervy: the double cream, the nylon washing line my mum needed, the wet wipes?.?.?.

Back home I settled down and read it. So here’s a cut-out-and-keep cheat sheet of some of my favourite bits that you can throw around at trending dinner tables without adding another cent to E L James’s tower of money.

Page 1: We meet Anastasia Steele, who has just woken up and is trying to brush her hair into “submission” because she went to sleep with it wet. With this arch opener, the author flags a time when our heroine’s hair will not be the only thing that gets out of control and requires a paddle brush.

Page 105: The tousled and terribly rich Mr Grey shows Anastasia the contract she must sign before they enter his Play-room.

As the Submissive she will “agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant”, never look him in the eye, wear only the clothes he buys her and keep her lady garden waxed. Anastasia objects. “I’m not sure about accepting money for clothes.”

Pages 75, 102, 129, 155, 312 etc: Mr Grey makes Anastasia eat masses of food – especially pancakes with maple syrup. I’ll bet lots of women lie back and think about pancakes with maple syrup while being trussed up for a spanking.

Page 402: Mr Grey buys Anastasia a MacBook Pro and a BlackBerry so they can send each other dirty emails.

She wakes up “wrapped around my laptop, hugging it to me”. I hope this isn’t meant to be erotic. At least she’s stopped sleeping with wet hair.

Page 397: “I am in my blue halterneck tankini, sipping a Diet Coke, on a sunbed facing the Atlantic Ocean.” Anastasia is on a mini break from Mr Grey and has gone to the seaside with her mum. She feels “comfortable, safe and warm”.

This, my friends, is what happens when clit-lit meets chick-lit.

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