It’s shocking the amount of conversations I have had about the explosion of the E L James novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. A few weeks ago I was asked my opinion on this new “romance book” that’s become a complete phenomenon. There's also been massive controversy about whether this book reflects sexual liberation for women or has us taking some mighty steps backward as the main character (and virgin) delves into a watered-down version of an S&M relationship with an older, and rather enigmatic, multimillionaire. So, I purchased it at the airport and figured I’d flip through its contents enough to write an articulate piece and an official statement on behalf of I AM THAT GIRL.
Needless to say, I hopped on the plane in hopes of settling the debate and providing grand insight from a liberal, post-feminist, stiletto-heel-wearing tomboy. Though I figured a few excerpts would suffice, I completed the 500-plus pages in less than 72 hours. More than the whimsical fantasy down sexy lane, I was awestruck by the conversations that followed with my dad, my brothers, girlfriends, strangers, ex-boyfriends, new acquaintances and co-workers. Does this book represent the leveling of the playing field in the book industry by allowing ordinary women like E L James a shot at the big leagues? Does it represent a suppressed sexuality among women and grant them permission to actually discuss the taboos of sex? Does it behoove all men to read this in order to answer the age-old question, "What do women want?" There were political questions of women’s rights and social issues. It brought up conversations of confidence, insecurities, gender roles and the challenges facing modern women. Everywhere I turned, this book was somehow relevant and it was in that moment I realized the real phenomenon was not in the literature itself, but in the conversations it ignited.
I think itâ��s superficial to discuss the shock value of the detailed and overexaggerated sex scenes. Is it really X-rated and do I think you need to be older than 18 to purchase it? Absolutely. Did I agree with all of the content? Some, not all. Far more important to me than anything else, though, is that fact that I, Alexis Whitney Jones, am writing a blog about sex. Growing up in Texas in a Christian household, the very fact that I am publicly talking about sex is a phenomenon. I was raised believing that there was nothing wrong with sex, itâ��s just that, â��Ladies donâ��t talk about it.â�� When in reality, we all should. Itâ��s as natural as breathing, sleeping and conveniently, the linchpin to the future of our race.
So, do I agree it’s empowering for women? I think that would be giving it too much credit. Even E L James is mortified that it has become so popular. In an interview on the Today Show, she said it was her midlife crisis, all her wildest sexual fantasies splashed on a page. Can it be dangerous when people start using fantasy and ideal standards by which to govern their own life? Of course, but escapism is acceptable when that’s all it is, and then you get back to the real world and the real you.
I’m grateful that E L James had the guts to write out her fantasies. She’s pushing the envelope, which got me thinking about my own sexuality, boundaries and expectations. On a much larger level, she managed to knock a beehive down and provide a conduit to have so many important conversations.Images courtesy of Nytimes.com, Buzzfeed.com