In his column debut, Punch Bowl sophomore, Hamza Qaiser, goes where no man has ever gone before (or should ever go in the future) – the depths of bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey.
When I first heard Fifty Shades of Grey had sold more copies than Harry Potter I was heartbroken. How could this unheard of title beat such classics as Harry Potter and Her Carpet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Bone? I will never forget the magical moment when Harry claims Dumbledore’s Death Stick for himself, or when Neville pulls his sword out and beats Voldemort’s Snake while everyone watches. Then someone told me I’d been reading fan fiction for what I can only assume is a very age-inappropriate children’s series, so I calmed down.
But then I found out Fifty Shades of Grey was Twilight fan fiction and I got pissed off all over again. Who the fuck was this Snowqueen Icedragon and why was SHE published?
So I read Fifty Shades of Gray. And in the words of Miss Anastasia Steele, I am a changed woman.
This book has the makings of a classic. The characters aren’t bogged down by the complexities of rational thought or plausibility. Instead they are simple, relatable and have lots of kinky sex. They realize that true love requires bonds of affection and trust, as well as bonds of plastic that can easily be purchased at your local hardware store (or for the low price of $2.09 on Amazon.com. Down from $4.99!). The women are glowing testaments to the success of feminism. They’re smart and beautiful on the outside, and are paralyzed by insecurity and slaves to their vaginas on the inside. The men are similarly strong, vaguely handsome and are neatly divided into two categories: “loaded and fucked up”, and “not”.
It is these two categories that our protagonist, the alluringly self-conscious Anastasia Steele, must choose from. To the left, José. Young, charming, exotically mexican. To the right, Christian Gray. Handsome, rich, powerful, and apparently bursting with more raw sex appeal than 5000 cannisters of axe body spray. Which is too much axe. Ana of course feels she is unworthy of the attention. I agree with her completely. I too realized long ago that my unruly hair and mediocre cleavage meant that no one would ever take me seriously. For years I suffered from the same symptoms as Anastasia: crippling social anxiety, inexplicable waves of weakness, erratic muscle response and a burning sensation in my loins. The doctors told me it was syphilis but in my heart I knew it to be love. And we both have outlets for our lack of self-worth. I read increasingly shameful erotic fiction. She enters into abusive relationships. We’re literally the same person.
Rich, handsome and damaged, Christian is every woman’s dream. Ana stares into his eyes and attempts to puzzle out his tortured past, in between having physically improbable amounts and kinds of sex. He flies her around in his fucking helicopter while making her listen to music ranging from the truly generic to classical music of the shittest kind, trying to convince her to sign a contract that would effectively make her his property. As a 21st century man, Christian is obviously troubled by Ana’s hesitation in agreeing to this and by her propensity to not unquestioningly obey his every whim. But then times change. Maybe it’s time there was a woman in literature who could say no (even though the entire premise of the book is that she eventually says yes.)
Sadly, the book ends on a heartbreaking note, which I won’t spoil for you here because you might care. On second thought, fuck it, they break up for like a week before getting together again in the second book. But that’s not the point. The point is you shouldn’t care because what these books are really about is the sex. Because oh my fucking god. What the fuck? Steel balls in her vagina? Where the fuck did you… shit. Fuck. Why, dear god, why would you do that? Holy sweet mother of jesus fuck. Oh my fucking-
And so on.
If you find your mother reading this book, rip it from her hands, build a fire and burn the psychological scarring away.
But as I turned the final page of Fifty Shades of Gray, mentally and physically exhausted, I found I had gained a few nuggets of wisdom as well as some very disturbing masturbation material.
I learned that being sexually assaulted by a friend is something you can only be mad about for a few days. After all, what’s a little attempted rape between friends?
I learned that if your boyfriend wants to control every aspect of your life, including diet, clothing and work environment, he’s being sweet, not psychotic.
I learned that fantasies about having sex in IHOP (I thought I was alone!) and communications with your “inner goddess” are not only acceptable, but are worthy of being committed to paper, published and sold to millions of people.
I learned that elevators generate a powerful sexual charge that make it impossible for two people standing next to each other to not ravage each other like rabbits.
I learned that domestic violence is just how some men express love.
But most important of all, I’ve learned that if I smeared shit on three pieces of paper and wrote a title on top with rat’s piss, someone somewhere would fucking publish it.
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