BY HANNAH SEMPLE
Over the past few months, it has been difficult to socialise in any group of females without someone asking the inevitable question “Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey yet?”
The book, written by E.L James, was originally a piece of Twilight fan fiction (fan written fiction usually posted on the internet, using the characters and world of another author). It has gained notoriety and worldwide fame, and created a media sensation in the process.
The success of Fifty Shades of Grey is somewhat surprising since the book is, first and foremost, erotica. It is by no means the first of its kind. Lining the shelves of many a grandmother's house are vast quantities of Mills and Boon. All of which contain a predictable storyline not dissimilar to that of Fifty Shades of Grey.
However, many have argued that it is the bondage aspect of the novel which sets it apart from others of its kind. It is however, not alone in this either. Anne Rice, the well-known author of the Interview with a Vampire series published a trilogy of books under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure. These books were loosely based on the fairytale of Sl
eeping Beauty and feature very heavy BDSM practices. There is considerably more BDSM than there is in Fifty Shades of Grey, yet they have enjoyed nowhere near the same level of popularity.
Why exactly these novels have become such a hit is arguably a combination of the fact they were based on Twilight, giving them a ready-made audience. Equally, the fact that it explores the world of BDSM which is, to most people, something of a mystery. Another factor has to be the nature of the heroine. A girl whose shoes, like Bella Swan's, it is easy to 'slot' yourself into, giving the book universal appeal amongst women. Something which also cannot be ignored is the simple fact that the covering of the book is nondescript and, for want of a better word, plain. Far from the Mills and Boon-esque images of hulking men grasping petite, yet well endowed, women. The cover of Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn't attract any sly smirks or knowing glances, making it more than acceptable to take out of the house and read in public without fear of being noticed.
Despite the negative aspects of the book, including, but not limited to: a bad writing style, a heroine who is insufferable and sentences such as: “…'I have never done this before.' I whimpered rabidly like a sad goat who is about to have sex,” the fact remains that it is opening many
women to the world of erotica and exploring their own sexuality. This can only be positive and a small step towards the normalisation of female sexuality. We can only hope that other books, which will inevitably follow the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, contain heroines who aren't afraid to use the word vagina!