You know the worst thing about Fifty Shades of Grey?
It’s not just that it’s an appalling affront to basic intelligence, with its awkward writing, cringe-worthy clichés and constantly repeated phrases.
It’s not that it was originally written as an online fan-fiction homage to Twilight, written under the pseudonym of Snowdragon Icequeen. And sure the sex scenes draw from BDSM ((bondage, discipline and sado masochism), but hey, whatever floats your boat.
These elements pretty much mark the book as your run-of-the-mill self-published erotic fiction novel, give or take the odd whip and nipple clamp.
For me what’s unsettling about this book is the manipulation, coercion and glamourised abuse of the young female protagonist, Ana, and the fact that women around the world can’t get enough of the bullying, controlling hero, Christian Grey.
Ana is a never-been-kissed 21-year-old virgin about to finish university and begin adult life. She owns just one skirt, doesn’t have a computer or smart phone, her car is a bomb, she’s never been drunk and she’s as about as streetwise as your average Amish teenager.
She’s introduced to readers as an empty vessel, a blank page upon on which Christian is about to indelibly stomp his muddy feet.
We’re told Christian is one of America’s leading entrepreneurs, a powerful global player at just 27-years-old, with 40,000 minions beneath him and several romantic relationships under his belt.
“His time is extraordinarily precious – much more precious than mine,” Ana tells us in clunky first-person prose.
The dynamic of their relationship is demonstrated at their first meeting when Ana trips over thin air and ends up on her hands and knees before Christian. Cos girls are clumsy and silly – and easily subjugated – like that.
The clear imbalance of power between Ana and Christian, who is “like a man twice his age,” and his penchant for hurting women – which is hinted to stem from his own childhood abuse – sets up a coercive relationship. Christian pressures Ana to sign on to play Sub to his Dominant via a detailed contract, which would control every aspect of her life, both in and out, of the bedroom.