50 shades of fed up

Oh look, yet more inches devoted to this year’s fastest-selling book, 50 Shades of Grey.  Up until Olympics mania reached fever pitch a couple of days ago, nearly every daily publication would have something to say about EL James’ erotic novel.  Many claims have been made over this book: ‘it’s changed my sex life for the better/worse’, ‘it’s released the stigma attached to erotica’, ‘it glamorises destructive relationships’ etc. etc.  Perhaps the only thing that hasn’t been said is that the tale of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey is original, compelling, and well-written.  Why?  Because it isn’t.

EL James started out writing fan fiction for Twilight, which won’t come as a surprise for anyone who has read 50 Shades.  Awkward shy girl who is beautiful but doesn’t know it meet devastatingly attractive slightly older man who is rich and part of a beautiful adopted family.  Shy girl has a male best friend of a slightly different ethnic background who is in love with her.  Shy girl has a habit of getting herself into trouble.  Older guy wants to protect her, but has a dark secret that sooner or later shy girl will find out…  Sound familiar?  Take out the sex scenes in 50 Shades, and you’re left with a pretty standard he-meets-her-they-fall-in-love-it-goes-wrong-they-get-back-together plot.

Admittedly, I have read the complete trilogy, and to begin with I was hooked.  But by the time Christian and Ana had blindfolded and spanked their way to the third book, it had all got a bit too much.  I mean, there’s only so many times you can read about someone’s consistently mind-blowing sex life before thinking ‘Come on love, surely you’re a bit tired now?’

So, here are my 50 thoughts on 50 Shades, which has almost certainly been done before, but if EL James can make millions out of repetition, surely I can do it for free…

  1. No one, and I mean NO ONE, has multiple orgasms when they lose their virginity.  It just doesn’t happen, so why pretend that it does?
  2. On a similar vein, Anastasia surely has the most sensitive nerve endings known to human kind
  3. Because since when do women orgasm from someone just touching their boobs?
  4. Apparently biting one’s lip is a massive turn-on.  So that’s where we’ve been going wrong all these years…
  5. Oh, and rolling one’s eyes has the same effect.  Who knew?
  6. For someone who was a virgin at the beginning of the book, Ana turns out to be great in bed pretty much from the word go.  Again, bit of a reality stretch going on here
  7. The first blow job she ever gives is amazing.  Continued reality stretch
  8. She comes round to the idea of being a submissive pretty quickly for someone who had sex for the first time a few pages ago.  I’ve been having sex for over 7 years and the idea of being taken into a ‘Red Room of Pain’ scares the shit out of me
  9. Speaking of the colour red – period sex? Really??
  10. And then into the bath afterwards???  I actually had a bit of sick in my mouth at this point.  Why would you write about that, EL James, WHY??  It’s just wrong
  11. Look, Ana has an ‘inner goddess’ that she has conversations with, because that’s like, totally normal
  12. Inner Goddess purrs and sings and dances and pouts and sulks.  Someone get this woman on TV
  13. But there’s her subconscious too, who sounds a little schoolmarm-esque compared to Inner Goddess, and Mrs Subconscious is there to keep wild Inner Goddess in line.  Oh, behave
  14. Why don’t I have these two women living inside my head?  It might brighten up the odd dull moment; we could all compare fashion tips…
  15. Who knew that emailing could be so titillating?
  16. But then again, who really ever puts that much effort into subject lines and signatures?
  17. Anastasia seems to have a sum total of two friends, who she’s quite happy to ditch in favour of her new uber-controlling and generally f**ked up man.  Really Ana, at your young age you should be having the time of your life and making more friends, not cutting off the very few you have
  18. Also, by the age of 21, the girl has never had sex, never really been involved with a guy, has two friends, has never left the country, and generally seems a bit of a recluse.  Seriously woman, what do you do for fun??
  19. And yet, for someone so naïve and unworldly, she takes to her new lifestyle like a duck to water
  20. If a man came at me with a contract and rules, I’d run for the hills.  Just saying…
  21. And if a man told me what I could and couldn’t do in my personal life, I’d show him the door.  For all of Ana’s ‘inner goddess’ spiel, the fact that she allows Christian to tell her what to do, and then spank her when she disobeys him makes for a pretty twisted relationship.  Take the sexual side out of the spanking, and you’d get domestic abuse.  Again, just saying…
  22. How on earth does someone become a billionaire by the age of 27??  And still be fit and healthy and have the time to indulge in ‘kinky f**kery’ most evenings?  Christian must be some hybrid of Superman, Donald Trump, Robert Pattinson and Hugh Heffner
  23. Whilst we’re on the subject, yes Christian had a pretty messed up childhood.  We get it.  No need to mention it on every other page
  24. Yes, Christian doesn’t like to be touched.  Again, EL James, we get it.  Talk about hammering a point home…
  25. At this halfway point, a moment of silence please for the author’s poor teenage sons who are no doubt getting a torrent of abuse for their mother’s sexual fantasies.  If there was ever a reason to ban your mother from all school events, this is it
  26. So, EL James, is all of this a result of your own repressed sex life, or do you and your husband have your own ‘playroom’?  Having said that, I doubt we really want to know…
  27. Stop trying to make ‘Fifty’ an acceptable nickname.  It just doesn’t work.  It’s never going to be a ‘thing’.  Just leave it on the front cover and be done with it
  28. Similar comment for ‘laters baby’.  Imagine this phrase said in an Essex accent.  Still a fan?  I thought not
  29. When it comes to describing sex, Anastasia has the vocabulary of a censored teenager.  ‘Oh my’, ‘wow’, ‘holy cow’ and eyebrows disappearing into her hairline make for slightly tedious reading, especially given the frequency with which Ana and Christian are getting down and dirty
  30. On the subject of frequency, I’m amazed Anastasia has never contracted cystitis
  31. And she seems to have a mild form of anorexia.  The woman eats about five times in the space of three books.  You would have thought all this between-the-sheets activity would result in the need for carbs and sugar and other energy-giving food.  Maybe one smouldering gaze from Christian is a food substitute, in which case could someone please find a way of selling this over the counter
  32. ‘Happy trail’.  This phrase confuses me.  What’s so happy about the line of hair from a man’s navel to his groin?
  33. The English language has given us many words to describe the male sex organ.  Surely, EL James, you can come up with something other than ‘his length’?
  34. While we’re on the subject, ‘my sex’ is just not acceptable terminology for, say it with me now, va-gi-na.  Try the synonyms feature on Word, it will change your life…
  35. If Anastasia tells us one more time about how Christian’s jeans ‘hang from his hips in that way’, and how much it turns her on, I swear I’m going to scream
  36. Surely it’s a bit much to ask a house keeper to clean one’s sex toys??  What if she suddenly turns all vindictive and puts chilli oil on them?  There are just some things that shouldn’t be done by staff
  37. And whilst we’re on the subject of staff, surely guys such as Taylor would be more useful in the employ of something like the CIA or FBI, where they could use their skills for the good of a far greater number of people
  38. Christian sounds like he’s on the verge of being a psycho stalker.  Who gets a PI to get a background check on someone he’s met for five minutes?  And tracks their phone?  And just turns up at their place of work?  My bet is if he wasn’t so chiselled and downright sexy, Ana would have called the police and got a restraining order
  39. Which makes me think, Christian bemoans his beauty, saying ‘it’s just a face’, but let’s be honest here, it lets him get away with a hell of a lot of creepy behaviour
  40. Back to the sex side of things: every encounter seems to be this big ‘event’, complete with bells and whistles (or more precisely ties and paddles).  It gets you wondering where they’ll be five years down the line and every single combination of toy, restraining method and kinky trick has been used…
  41. I’ll be honest here – I, along with every woman in the country, am rather jealous of Ana’s ability to orgasm at the drop of a hat.  Anyone else suspicious of an addiction to female Viagra?
  42. No matter how amazing the sex is, you do not, repeat NOT, agree to marry someone after knowing them for five weeks.  I don’t care how ‘connected’ you feel to the guy.  He’s clearly unstable and by his own admittance ‘fifty shades of f**ked up’.  Run, Ana, RUN!
  43. This girl has acquiesced to all kinds of sexual games, a lot of which sound pretty painful.  But she draws the line at waxing??
  44. Which reminds me, that scene where he takes care of her, erm, pubic situation made me want to curl up and die
  45. If you get girls to sign a contract and agree to be your submissive, surely you’re going to encounter a couple of crazies.  Deal with it
  46. Sorry Christian but I’m with Ana on this whole ‘Mrs Robinson’ thing – the woman is a paedophile and there’s no two ways about it.  And the fact that she’s your mum’s friend just makes it even worse.  Surely she began to get a bit saggy towards the end..?
  47. I’m still wondering whether EL James’ husband knew about her BDSM obsession before the book was published
  48. I’m also wondering whether EL James was a submissive in earlier life
  49. We all like a bit of rough now and then (unless you’re the kind of girl that wants candles and roses on every occasion, in which case you’ll probably die alone), but surely this prolific use of handcuffs, ties, whips and silver balls becomes a bit old hat after a while?
  50. Yes, the book made me horny, but let’s be honest here: nothing in real life is ever going to live up to it in terms of variety and never-ending satisfaction.  So thanks, EL James, I used to think I had a pretty decent sex life compared to most.  Now I feel it’s just mediochre.  I’ll be sending you the invoice for my therapy.
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Coming of age

People as a whole can be scared of a vast range of things.  Heights, spiders, darkness and open spaces are just a few of the more common and more acceptable fears that we can have.  My personal phobias are moths, touching someone else’s hand on public transport, and the open sea.  These are all fairly irrational and inconsequential, but I’ve recently become aware of something that is far greater and far more terrifying: grown-up life.

Having recently moved to London to start my first ever proper job, the realisation that I’m no longer a student has hit me hard.  I can’t hide behind loans and exams any more.  I can’t go out three times a week without a second thought.  I can’t just go and get some crappy bar job in the knowledge that I’ll only have to do it for a month or so.  This is it.  I’m officially an adult, and I feel like I’m free-falling.

I’ve spent most of my life saying that I would never consider things like marriage and children until I’m 25.  That age seemed an impossibly long way away; now it’s next year.  On reflection, 25 is rather young to be getting settled and all the rest of it, but it has still brought me up short.  It’s been said a million times, but time really does fly.  And now that I’m (nearly) financially independent, what next?  I only fully got to grips with what a mortgage is a couple of months ago.  I have no idea how to do a tax return, and I should really start, as I should have done years ago, saving money properly.

Thinking about it, the first 24 years of my life were pretty much planned out for me.  School until 18, year out, 4 years of uni, home for a bit, ski season.  Simples.  And I think the same can be said for many people of my generation.  We have had to put very little thought into our futures in terms of location and activity.  Having arrived at university, yes we had to work hard and make lots of small decisions such as which modules to take, who to live with, and what to wear on a Thursday night, but the bigger picture was already painted for us.  Now that graduation has been and gone, we are masters of our own worlds, and while this is thrilling and exciting, it’s also bloody scary.

And it’s not just these fiscal and geographical things that concern me.  This is (apparently) the age at which we start to seriously fall in love and begin to think about settling down.  Maybe this is what scares me the most.  How do you know if whoever it is is The One?  What prevents you from making some massive mistake and regretting it forever?  I come out in a cold sweat just considering the idea of taking a relationship beyond something casual, because I know how much it can hurt if and/or when it comes to an end.

Maybe this is the crux of the whole thing: I am scared of getting it wrong.  Whether it’s in terms of my career, my finances, or my love life, I am absolutely terrified that it will all come crashing down around my ears.  Physical pain I can deal with, it goes away eventually.  But having seen friends and family go through extreme emotional pain, I know that it can stay with you for a long time.  It’s what is holding me back from telling someone how I really feel about them; it’s what held me back from giving my absolute all to get my dream job; and it’s what will continue to hold me back in the future.  After all, no one wants to have to deal with rejection and heartbreak and loneliness.  

I know I’m not the only one who is slightly petrified about this whole growing up thing.  Several friends I’ve spoken to in the year since we graduated have had a similar dazzled-by-the-lights outlook.  Phrases like ‘real life is hard’ and ‘I miss being a student’ have come up frequently, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this.  Of course we’re nostalgic about our sheltered lives where most things were handed to us on a plate.  It’s just a fact of life that we can’t live that way forever.  We need to take the plunge and dive headfirst into the unknown waters of a world in which we make our own way.

So perhaps this is really what being an adult is all about: taking risks.  Just man up and do it, and take the consequences as they come.