I was, once again, at a complete loss as to what to read next. I read too fast and sometimes it's a problem. A friend of mine said that I should check out this Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I grabbed the books and started to read them. Three days later, I was finished and thinking about the ideas, the plot, and the overall feel of the books. As someone who has had many dealings with BDSM and the community in which it lives, breathes, and thrives, I found that I was sort of annoyed with some of the ideas presented in these books. Some of us have jokes about "Internet dominants". Christian Grey initially struck me as one.
To be fair, it wasn't the character's fault. It was the fault of his creator, EL James. She has capitalized the word "dominant" throughout the books or used the word "dom" with capitalization where it doesn't need to be capitalized. If you've read my previous post on random capitalization in the online world of BDSM, you'll know exactly how I feel about that. The only time I didn't feel that inner twitch start when reading the books was during the plot points mentioning the contract that Grey had written up for Anastasia Steele (the heroine, if you will).
I possibly should have been more forgiving than I was, considering they are romance novels and they were started as, shudder, Twilight fan-fiction, but I found myself being somewhat over-critical from the start. The idea that people involved in the BDSM lifestyle are always broken in some fashion, and if they'd just try something different they could be fixed is insulting. This was my initial impression.
As the trilogy moves on it seems that James is looking for a way to reconcile mildly kinky things that a good deal of "regular" people enjoy -- spanking, playing rough, and so on -- with a feeling of normalcy in one's sexuality. If you're into romance novels then you'll find this giving you all of the things every romance novel does -- girl meets boy, and they fall in love and admit it with astonishing speed; girl and boy fight over ridiculous things with an incredible level of obtuseness on the parts of both parties; girl manages to make boy more reasonable while not changing at all (or maybe a tiny bit); girl gets knocked up and proceeds to turn into a happily ever after breeding factory after boy has initial nuclear meltdown over impending fatherhood.
They're as formulaic as they come. Instead of 300 pages, they're stretched out across 3 full novels. Everyone is talking about the sex scenes as though they are spectacular. With the exception of the orgasm denial scene, I wholly disagree. There is some irony in that the most BDSM-like scene in the entire series ends with the heroine having a major meltdown. The usual outcome of such play would be different. A slave she is not. That said, the sex is as formulaic as the plot. The exception is stronger language and some "taboo" subject matter. Regular romance novels don't usually bring toys into consideration, and they rarely include anal sex or any kink aside from spanking.
If you've ever had a good BDSM experience or have any understanding whatsoever of what is involved in such a lifestyle, parts of the Fifty Shades trilogy may annoy you to no end at times, as they did me. If you've never had those experiences, but you enjoy the steamier, more explicit romance novels, then you'll probably lap these books up and be begging for more once they're over. For myself, I wish I'd borrowed them instead of bought them [even if I didn't actually pay for them directly] - I don't generally like romance novels and the lifestyle aspects weren't as realistic, as fair, or as objective as they could have been.