50 Shades: The Good, The Bad & The Downright Dirty

By Kim Droze

While there's no denying that the majority of men have a voracious appetite for most things sex-related, it's always been a gray area for energy-sapped women who seem to search for any excuse they can find to avoid intercourse. But thanks to "the book," there's a hot new remedy for those "headaches."

Sex has gone from gray to grey thanks to "the book" that has launched a thousand orgasms. We're talking about 50 Shades of Grey (Vintage, 2012), an erotic novel penned by British author E.L. James that's on the lips of women everywhere -- from CEOs to soccer moms. Released in 2011, the trilogy centers around plain Jane college graduate Anastasia Steele and the enigmatic Christian Grey, a rich, powerful, handsome businessman who entices her to become a submissive in his wild world of bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.


At its inception, the Twilight-inspired book was entitled Master of the Universe and published on fan fiction websites. But because of its racy nature, it soon found a home on the author's own website FiftyShades.com. The book was distributed as an e-book but due to its overwhelming success, it was marketed as a print-on-demand paperback by The Writers' Coffee Shop.

Today, the little book that could has sold more than 20 million copies with book rights sold in 37 countries. Adding to its accolades, 50 Shades of Grey has also earned the title for being the fastest-selling paperback of all time, even surpassing the Harry Potter books. Oh, and It's single-handedly responsible for the rise of "mommy porn." It's even been credited with reviving sex lives, giving women a newfound fervor for frisky behavior.

It's far-reaching effects haven't gone unnoticed. New York Times bestselling author and Today show contributor Ian Kerner points out that 50 Shades of Grey has been a game changer. Although erotic fiction is hardly a novel concept, 50 Shades of Grey is the first of its kind to become so openly embraced by society, says the co-author of the Big, Fun Sexy Sex Book (Gallery Books, 2012) and founder of www.goodinbed.com.

"Although 50 Shades isn't the first erotica book, it's the first to go mainstream and get mainstream PR," Kerner tells MyDailyMoment.com. "Women don't feel embarrassed or judged or shamed in reading it. Whenever something sexy is mainstream, people for more comfortable using it. It's the same thing with the rabbit vibrator on Sex in the City. That made it okay to talk about the vibrator and buy the vibrator. This is also an extremely sexualized moment in culture. From Games of Thrones on HBO to all the porn that's out there on the internet, most of it is catering to men and a male approach to sexuality.


"This is catering to women. It shows that when you successfully create sexy content that's aimed at women by women, it can be extremely popular. Women can be just as sexual as men in that way. That is why it's being called "mommy porn.'"

While it might seem that most women would shy away from a book that glorifies whips and chains, it's actually had the opposite effect on the ladies. Even women who don't typically find the time to read can't peel their eyes away from the pages of this groundbreaking literary work. Perhaps the biggest push for 50 Shades of Grey has been the virility as it spreads via word of mouth. Like anything, the reviews of the most-talked about book in the world are a mixed bag.

According to Jenny Colgan of The Guardian, 50 Shades is "jolly, eminently readable and as sweet and safe as BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) erotica can be without contravening the trade descriptions act." The British tabloid also deemed the book "more enjoyable" than other "literary erotic books." However, the Chicago Tribune wasn't so kind when it wrote than the book is "depressing" and "sprinkled liberally and repeatedly with asinine phrases."

Of course, even readers differ on their opinions of 50 Shades. Some may love it. Some may hate it. But they all know it, which is ironic considering that much of the X-rated content is beyond most women's wildest dreams.

Kim J. of Coral Springs, Florida was one of millions who was encouraged by friends to get her copy of the books. Although she's typically a fan of comedic romances or mystery fiction, the avid reader kept an open mind about the genre that was relatively new to her. And it goes without saying that 50 Shades proved to be an eye-opening experience for the mother of three.


"When I got to the revealing part, I was flabbergasted," the 41-year-old corporate secretary tells MyDailyMoment.com. "As I read on, I liked the book. I found books two and three to be much better reads than the other one. They had more of a storyline. Book one was all about the sex, and while books two and three had plenty of it, they had a real storyline."

Although many women maintain that the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy has given their libidos an extra boost, Kim J. says it's really had no effect on her sex life at all. While it hasn't changed her preferences in the bedroom, it has opened the door up for more erotic fiction. She admits she'd definitely be inclined to read more books like it.

One person who definitely had her fair share of 50 is public relations guru Jenn K. After taking the recommendation of a closest friend, the 54-year-old divorcee had high expectations for the erotic thriller. However, she had problems reading between the lines. A professional writer, Jenn K. admits she was turned off by the language in the book... and she's not talking about those four-letter words.

Says Jenn K., "What a complete waste of time. I wasn't shocked at the sex or the storyline, I was shocked at how terribly written it was. The author actually managed to makewild sex seem tedious. And every single description of food or wine was 'delicious.' Are you kidding me? There's not another adjective she could have come up with?"

She adds, "After the first one ended with a total thud, my friend convinced me to read the second book. Reluctantly, I did, but I have to say I forced myself to finish it. I would not let this dumb book defeat me.I couldn't stand Ana or Christian by the end of it. And please don't tell me Kristin Stewart will be cast in the movie version - although maybe she's the right choice, so the movie can be as dreary and uninspired as the book."


But erotic fiction aficionado Janet B. points out that anyone looking for perfectly-executed prose in 50 Shades of Grey is guaranteed to come away feeling disappointed. It's the equivalent to looking for love in all the wrong places.

"The writing in general wasn't anything spectacular if you're looking at it from a writer's view," says Janet B. "It kept my interest, but I don't read those books because the grammar or punctuation is good. That's not why anyone reads those kinds of books.

"When people say it's grammatically horrible, they're reading it for the wrong reasons. It cracks me up when people comment on the writing."

While erotic fiction isn't for the faint of heart, Janet B. says that after reading more than 100 books in the genre James' book is far from the raciest she's encountered. Despite the ben wa balls and bondage, she says that 50 Shades is a far cry from the real BDSM deal. In fact, she says it's just enough to whet the palate.

"They didn't go into the erotica as much. They talked about the playroom and such but they didn't get into the entire lifestyle the way other erotica books do. She just touched on it, which is why mainstream housewives like it so much. She touched on it, but it wasn't really that intense."


She points out that the read looking for a true BDSM experience should look to authors such as Lora Leigh and Maya Banks who have been writing this genre for years and years.

Regardless of how women feel about the book, it's hard to deny its role as an aphrodisiac. Vivica H., a 30-year-old New York sales director, says that before she turned to 50 her bedroom activities had become tiresome. In an effort to spice up her sex life, she began reading excerpts of the book to her fiancé. It wasn't long before they were role-playing Ana and Christian.

Vivica admits she's also become more open minded about experimenting with some of the sexual play in the book such as using ben waballs, getting bound by something other than handcuffs and using riding crops, whips made of braided leather. All in all, she says she has the book to thank for a more lively sex life.

"I was hungry sexually the entire time I was reading the book. You can't hide that sort of thing when you live together. I was always so damn horny. I had to let him know why. We definitely have sex more frequently now," Vivica says.

She adds, "I didn't really have any preconceived notions about BDSM, expect that I found it, kinky I guess. I still think it's kinky, but would like to be tied up by a man that knows what he's doing any day of the week."


Vivica is in good company. There has been plenty of buzz about this startling sexual reawakening that's occurred. According to Kerner, it's a very, very good thing for couples. While they might not go to the great lengths that the characters in 50 Shades of Grey do, it's obviously serving as some serious inspiration.

Kerner explains: "You hear about 50 Shades pregnancies. I've spoken to a lot of women who have gotten their husbands reading it or they're reading it together. It's safe to say it's heating upaction in the bedroom. I don't know that couples are going out to enact thescenarios in the submission and domination aspect. But it's turning couples on and they're having more sex. I think some of them as a result are interested in exploring and dipping their toes into the shallow waters of kinkier sex."

So why does it take a book to transform women from cold fish to naughty nymphs? Kerner points out that many women begin seeking sexual adventure. The other aspect is that people get stuck in low-libido or sexless marriages where there is no time for intimacy. Unlike grocery shopping, laundry and other responsibilities, sex isn't something that's at the top of their to-do lists.


"50 Shades of Grey makes it top of mind for many women who were somewhat shut down sexually. They had kids. Sex is no longer a priority and they don't think about it. 50 Shades of Great gets them in the habit of thinking, imagining and fantasizing about sex and that's really healthy."

For the reader looking for erotica lite, it's all there in black and white... and grey of course.