By Susan Winston
Susan Winston is an award winning television producer, director, and writer, as well as a psychotherapist. She resides with her family in Los Angeles.
You have to hand it to E.L. James. This British mom of two figured out how to make zillions by saying the same thing over and over and over again in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. The fact that this series has been discussed in all seriousness by Forbes, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, my home paper, The Los Angeles Times, is nothing less than astounding. Even more astounding is that E.L. James is noted on the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World list.
You have got to be kidding.
We are talking about a book series that women are reading behind closed-doors. Why are they drawn to this? Simple. It is about sex. Readers are paying for the privilege of reading porn, but tell themselves that this is about a “relationship.” This relationship has more sex in it than any body part could ever really handle. I’m in pain just thinking about it and the various devices employed in the pleasure/pain arena. To get an idea, walk into your local hardware store and imagine anything you see there being used in on or around your body. Even "The Pleasure Chest,” a Los Angeles institution, can't boast of housing this much paraphernalia. This is not a book club book or something you pass along to your husband or guy friend. It is your private little secret. There is a reason this is referred to as “Mommy-porn.” This is a nicely bound pornographic yet monochromatic sex novel. The cover features a close up of a man’s grey business tie. It looks more like a book about ties to business or the Wall Street Journal than ties like handcuffs. More alluring than the predecessor referred to as “romance novels,” those books had some romance. These books have so much sex that body parts should be falling off.
Billionaire business magnate, Christian Grey becomes infatuated with college graduate Ana Steele. Steele—Grey—does anyone see the connection here? And what is the infatuation based upon? Unless you are reading under a rock, damaged child Christian seems to have a thing for dominating women who look like his “crack-whore” mother, a fact not revealed until post mid-section of book 2—but come on... you know that in the beginning of book 1.
Let me make this simple for you. It’s a story about Subs and Doms. I come from the boring place where I come from, that means Subway or Dominos. This is an entirely different type of meal. And women are flocking to this. Why? It is a world they will never enter. It is the ramblings of a sadistic relationship which readers would cover the text should someone come into the room. They want a glimpse into the BDSM world presented. And if you haven’t figured out BDSM yet, look it up.
The biggest problem with this series is that it becomes boring all too soon. Like immediately. Repetitious sentences and experiences quickly make the story tedious and predictable. (I should be so lucky to sell something as boring and predictable). But how often can he “press her body against his” or can she hook her fingers into his waistband? How many times do we need to hear that he is wearing the pants that “hang just so right on his hips” (he’s a billionaire—get another pair of pants)? Or how many times do we need to read that they smell good? I mean, who’s going to hang out so intimately with someone who smells bad? Appendages and orifices at the ready, non-stop. It becomes quickly numbing and boring and predictable.
They have tongues that defy geometry. Contortionist devices more pliable than any toy found in the Red Room of Death or Play or whatever. No orifice is left intact—again and again and in exactly the same prose, if you can call it that. There’s a war theme with countless amounts of surrender and losing and explorations. The anatomical geography actually does have its limits—but are forever revisited.
Fisting—something I thought I actually knew about, turns out to be an athletic feat of grabbing one’s hair (on head—let’s keep this PG). When one’s hair is not being “fisted,” it is being twisted or thrusted-into. We’re talking about a head of hair here, so pity the poor other body parts. Through all this fisting, twisting and thrusting, the poor head is being pulled back. A mere mortal would have a severed head at this point.
Condoms, not exactly your most exciting sexual device, should have had a product placement sponsorship. More tin foil is ripped apart here than on the Food Network.
Obsessions—the untouchable chest hair. Certainly there are more exciting arenas!
And everything is so beautiful (the guy). All the time reading you find yourself thinking, what’s wrong with me? And why is he so into her? And who would not be into some god-like guy who is “beautiful,” a billionaire, had amazing pants-hanging hips, residences in all the right places, and a playroom full of toys? Who cares what his obsessions are. You get a great wardrobe, hot digs, a job for life. What are a few shackles and whips?
Desensitization. It is one of the approaches a therapist (remember—I am a psychotherapist) takes when a client presents with PTSD—this one I’ll translate for you... Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a debilitating anxiety disorder triggered by exposure to a traumatic experience. The process here is to return again and again and again to the traumatic event so that it becomes less traumatic with time. It has less and less affect. Like this book!
Oh, Miss Steele
Oh, Mr. Grey
Oh, I’m going to puke!
This is the dialogue—three long books of the same, same, same.
One newspaper book section editor had the nerve to suggest that this would be an Oprah pick? Oprah—please tell me it’s not true! And just to be completely clear, there is not one second of substantive dialogue. You would think that a billionaire business mogul and a college grad would have something to say other than “oh my” or pass the Kleenex.
E. L. is no J.K. (as in Rowling) but has proven that one become a wealthy everyday name by giving us hundreds of pages of vacuous dialogue and a playroom full of sex toys. I make no claim to be a marketing genius or to have the pulse of the public that this author does. The pure numbers of those buying these books should increase my psychotherapy business ten-fold. Clearly we Mommy-porn addicts have far too much time on our hands and our lovers are dramatically uncreative (thank goodness).
I figure E. L. owes me 10% of all book sales she makes due to this article. I have merely tickled the sexual ivories and can probably tell you the end of the trilogy without even opening the piano lid of book 3. Yes—there is a piano-top scene. And I promise, I will not do that—tell you or open the lid. Some things are best left never opened... like these books.
Susan Winston can be contacted via: www.susanwinstonmft.com