Fifty Shades of Grey

14th May 2022

From Rhuwina:


Dear Bruce,

I’m going to have to own up here. I’ve never read these books and doubt that I ever will. Nothing to do with literary snobbery, more the tedium of reading nondescript writing that lacks wit or wisdom. I have, however, read the opening pages on Amazon.

Ignoring the soft porn content (which is presumably what appealed to so many readers) when Erika (her real name) sat down to write these books, who do you think she was writing them for? That should be our starting point. Let’s see what Erika has to say:

‘[this is] my midlife crisis, writ large. All my fantasies are in there, and that’s it.’

So, it’s probably safe to assume that Erika was writing for a mainly female audience who wanted some easy-to-read fantasy ‘romance’. The opening of the book sets the scene to lure the reader in. We are told:

‘I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair, it just won’t behave…’  

As openings go, I suspect most kids in Year 8 could pack more of a punch, don’t you? And far from getting better, the trajectory appears to go down. The heroine, Anastasia Steele having met Grey in his office in Chapter One, now contemplates their meeting at the start of Chapter Two:

‘No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why. Is it his looks? His civility? Wealth? Power? I don’t understand my irrational reaction….’

What amazes me most is how the first book ever got published. It’s hard to grasp why any commissioning editor didn’t chuck the manuscript in the bin after reading the first few pages.

I guess, Bruce, the message you can take away from the Grey trilogy if you want to be the next big name in publishing is this: keep your writing simple, your plot even simpler and create characters who are one-dimensional. Oh, and add in loads of BDSM. Honestly, I didn’t know what that was and had to look it up. Clearly my convent education fell a bit short in places.

I have a gut feeling you’ve hated having to review this book so next time, let’s go for a boy’s own author who I think you love. How about Stephen King? You choose the title this time.



To: Rhuwina

Dear Rhu

I’ll admit that I hadn’t read “Fifty Shades” either. I took a rather puerile and simultaneously scientific approach to the bonkbuster, by buying it as an electronic book and searching for rude words in the text.

For the record, the word “penis” is never used in the whole book whereas the word “vagina” features heavily in Chapters 8, 11, 15 and 18. This led me to Appendix 3 where the author studiously lists what the Submissive might consent to. The romantic aspect of adult liaison is somewhat lost in the author’s list of “fisting”, “butt plugs” and “genital clamps”. 

I was struck by the absence of male genitalia references and hunted for “bell-end”, “wang” and “purple-headed womb-warrior” to no avail. The author does use the phrase “cocks his head” in every chapter, along with “cocktail” and “cockpit”, but never the word “cock”, even in association with “butts” or “bondage with ropes”.

I was obsessed now. I kept searching.

Knob? Nope.

Chopper? Nope.

Trouser-Snake? Not a sniff.

I decide to try to cross-reference with verbs like “suck” and “thrust” to no avail. It turns out that Christian only ever pulls “himself” out, or “buries himself inside”. Was it that WL James couldn’t bring herself to write the word “todger” or “willy” or was that part of the editor’s process? Are women allowed to write about their own front and back bottoms, but not about the contents of men’s underpants?

I’m off the brief here I know, but all the eroticism was rather off-putting. If I want to create a fantastic world of S & M, dress it up as romance, I can just google “big-arse dominatrix” and I get all I need for a quiet afternoon, alone by the fire in my silk Japanese shorty dressing gown and slippers.

Suffice to say, I didn’t read much more. 

Apple Book’s electronic search tool has destroyed another defining part of any young man’s maturation. Gone are the days of smut-scouring, finding filth to read in otherwise sociably acceptable books. The days of dangling a book upside down, holding it by the spine in one sweaty palm and seeing what pages fell open, are long gone.

Maybe it’s just me, but 20 minutes hunting down the two erotic liaisons in my parent’s copy of “Day of the Jackal” and wondering what a “peignoir” was, seem somehow much more pleasurable.

Let’s move on.

I’m off to light the fire and slip on my dressing gown.


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