50 Shades Freed? Absolutely.
This just in from our new writer, CiarDubh!
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the publishing phenomenon that is the 50 Shades of whatever-you’re-having-yourself trilogy.
If you’ve only the vaguest idea of what a phenomenon it is, let’s have a brief recap: The books have sold around 40 million copies in 30 languages, earning the author, E.L. James, something in the region of 15 million. Not bad for books that started life as internet fan-fiction.
Unless you possess levels of self-restraint usually reserved for religious ascetics, we’re all going to presume you’ve read at least a teeny tiny bit of it over someone’s shoulder on the bus. So you know what I’m talking about. You may even be among the millions of people who forked over money for the book.
Granted, her writing leaves a little to be desired, her plots are somewhat improbable and her grasp of the basic tenets of BDSM is outright deplorable but, while it’s fun to verbally abuse writers who make incomprehensible amounts of money, at this stage there may be more sarcastic websites and venomous reviews out there than copies of the original book. One guy wrote a full novel based on 50 Shades in ten days and it has also been parodied by Selena Gomez, Kristen Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres. So I’ll leave book-bashing to the masters.
50 Shades is a good thing. Seriously
In actual fact, I’m here today to sing the praises of 50 Shades and propose that we nominate it for a GLAAD award. It hasn’t portrayed the LGBT community in any way at all, but it does make us look better by comparison.
There has been a serious quantity of nonsense bandied around about the books, and topping the list of praise and adoration are pieces about how it’s a freeing, eye-opening moment for women’s sexuality, how it’s a major success for the self-publishing movement (though the authors of How Not To Write A Novel have wryly observed a successful self-published author is one who gets a conventional book deal, which certainly holds true in this case) and that this apparently trashy book has mystical powers to save marriages.
Lofty, if debatable, achievements all. But nothing to what it can offer us.
If you’re queer, you’ve probably experienced that moment where someone has just discovered you’re gay/ lesbian/bi/trans** and you just know the attention they were paying you just a second ago has now become derailed and is endlessly looping some kind of funny sex in their head. The particular kind of weird sex they presume you have varies depending on the stereotypes they’ve encountered, but you definitely have that kind of sex. And, no doubt, scandalous quantities of it more than any normal person could physically withstand.
And all of us, at least once in our lives, have cringed.
The awkward moment when…
We make some sort of joke which, we pray, conveys the fact that no, we don’t have sex swinging on purple fluffy bungee cords strung from the ceiling of public libraries – some of us just don’t have that kind of budget! Even if that kind of encounter is water off a duck’s back to you these days, it probably wasn’t always as easy to disregard.
In many day-to-day situations queer people waste a hell of a lot of energy trying to project “Not A Freak” for the benefit of any small, mean minds that we have to deal with in work, on the bus, at family gatherings and so on. If other people are making ribald jokes over lunch, we stay deathly silent as we stare into our soup.
Worst of all, we police each other. If one LGBTer conforms too much to a stereotype or has lots of exotic sex and talks about it there is always the resentful murmur from the corners “…making the rest of us look bad.” The LGBT community – not all of us, but plenty of us – has a bad case of What Will The Neighbours Say.
If you’re the type who feels a bit self-conscious about what other people presume about your sex life, next time you’re feeling the pressure remember just how well E.L. James’ books have sold. Half the people around you probably own a copy. 50 Shades of Grey outsold Harry Potter.
Straight people are into some weeeeird shit.
Flaunting their hetero peccadillos in public. Imagine!
The rest of us are just trying to live our lives, you know, we don’t want that sort of depraved lifestyle in our face every time we walk into a bookshop, step onto a bus or open a magazine.
Whatever we do in private, whatever other people think we do in private, it’s got to be more acceptable than nabbing a sexually naive, in fact just generally naive, woman and leading her astray into a relationship that I wouldn’t do the dignity of labelling as BDSM. Ms. James, our hearts overflow with gratitude – just as our minds overflow with incredulity – for the services you have done in making us look bloody boring.
If you know somebody who thinks “you people” do weird and unnatural things prepare some pointed comments about the new standard in “mommy porn”. If you fancy a bit of steamy reading on the bus to work, I recommend anything else.
*Trans isn’t a sexuality. But there are plenty of horrendously misinformed people who still think it is, and that it’s something weird about kinky cross-dressing. So if you’re trans, even if you’re straight as a die, you get stuck with this rubbish too.