Your Mom’s Erotica

Andrew Sullivan —  May 25 2012 @ 10:57am

Fifty Shades of Grey has sold over 10 million copies in six weeks:

The Grey trilogy, penned by E L James, began life as Twilight fan-fiction detailing the erotic adventures of a certain well-coifed vampire and his human object of affection. After other fans raised concerns over how explicit some of the scenes were, James changed the names of the characters and then reposted the stories with a different title which led to a gigantic book deal which then lead to a gigantic movie deal.

Libraries are being inundated with requests, with thousands of holds for the book. A kink:

A good number of libraries are refusing to order the books, saying that they "violated its no-erotica policy" or "did not meet the standards of the community." The National Coalition Against Censorship's executive director, Joan Bertin, said it was "egregious" for a library to remove a book from its adult section. "There are some possible arguments for trying to keep kids away from certain kinds of content, but in the case of adults, other than the restrictions on obscenity and child pornography, there's simply no excuse," she said.

Sex shops are also feeling the demand, specifically in requests for floggers, restraints and paddles. The main target audience for the book is mothers:

E. L. James, the author of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy, is a mother and television executive in her forties. …[E]ven though her characters are college-aged, the books have resonated most strongly with James’s contemporaries—mothers, wives, "The View" enthusiasts—women who, if they owned riding crops, would store them in the garage between the skis and mountain bikes. The promise of erotic reading may be the initial draw, but, for many readers, there’s the added fantasy of E. L. James herself—the working mother and fan-fiction writer turned overnight success.

Dan Savage criticizes the book's view of BDSM, namely that it's a result of the main character's disturbing past:

Kink, particularly BDSM, is almost always framed negatively in mainstream literature and films—even when (particularly when!) filmmakers and writers are trying to titillate average (read: non-kinky) audience members. Lazy "artists" can be faulted for this, of course, and they should be faulted. But most filmmakers and writers are aiming for a mass audience, i.e. a mostly non-kinky-to-begin-with audience, and the overwhelming majority of non-kinky filmgoers and readers can't seem to relax and allow themselves to enjoy a good kinky fantasy unless they're told—unless they're reminded over and over again—that this kink shit is crazy and that kinksters are fucked up.

It's kinda pathetic: In order to set aside their anti-kink attitudes and enjoy trash like Fifty Shades the average reader first needs to have her assumptions about kink confirmed—crazy! fucked up!—and only then is she able to get down to the business of furiously masturbating about what she's just read.