Here’s how a piece in The New York Times summarizes the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy: ” … the books tell the tale of a dominant-submissive affair between a manipulative millionaire and a naïve younger woman … ”

The thing is, that actually isn’t true.

Has anyone besides me and Marlo Thomas actually read this thing? (Full disclosure: I kicked myself for dallying on a piece I’d wanted to write about this topic BUT if I’m going to be beat to the punch, I’m almost OK with it being by Marlo Thomas.)

“My long-held passion for women’s issues made me very wary about anything that puts women and violence on the same page — literally,” Thomas writes, but goes on to explain that this is not what she found when she began reading.

As I chronicled a few weeks back in another Unfettered 50 post, my reasons for enjoying it were layered and have a lot to do with timing in my life. So this isn’t about defending it or my choice to read it. My issue now is with how many people, including prominent media voices, are expressing strong opinions when they haven’t bothered to read what EL James wrote.

The male lead character, Christian Grey, is indeed into a dominant-submissive dynamic and even wants Anastasia to sign a contract agreeing to terms, but she doesn’t do it. As he falls in love with her, the reader sees the power shifting Anastasia’s way. Finally we get that often in a dominant-submissive relationship, which this one is really not, it’s the submissive who actually holds the power.

I would venture to say that those seeking an S&M rush from it have been sorely disappointed. It doesn’t delve into that world except as a fascinating psychological study of why Christian has this proclivity.

Here is what is captivating the (mostly) women who are actually reading it:

1. The almost non-stop sex

2. The idea that a man can change his ways for love of a woman

3. A virgin getting schooled in intimacy from such a learned, patient partner

4. A man whose power surge resides in his ability to give his partner pleasure

5. The exploration around obsessive love, somehow both unhealthy and beautiful

According to The Times piece, “At the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio, a system that includes Cleveland, 454 holds were placed on the book in early April; last week there were 1,399.”


I would love to hear from people who have read at least one if not all three of the books. What did you think? What kept you reading (or not)? Were you surprised at what you found given what you’d read in previews and commentary?