Mommy Porn?

Is popular erotic trilogy burning up the conservative Carolina coast?

For Weekly SurgeJune 20, 2012 

  • More information As the summer heats up, so does our taste in reading as you lounge on the beach, poolside or chill out in a hammock. If you have charged through all three books in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, you are probably looking for more. It seems that erotic romance has gone mainstream, especially with the explosion of “Fifty Shades,” so here are few reading suggestions to keep the mommy porn revolution going:   •  “Bared to You,” by Sylvia Day “Love Unscripted,” by Tina Reber •  “Poughkeepsie,” by Debra Anastasia •  “Slammed,” by Colleen Hoover •  “Sweet Addiction,” by Maya Banks •  “Thoughtless,” by S.C. Stephens •  “Wicked Burn,” by Beth Kery

Women across the Myrtle Beach area, married and single, are having an affair with one man: Christian Grey.

He is filthy rich, unbelievably sexy, more complicated than you will ever want to understand; oh, and he owns a bondage playroom called, “The Red Room of Pain.”

The affair is part of a scandalous book club of women who are intoxicated and infatuated with the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, written by British author, E.L. James. The books are described on the author’s Web site as romance, suspense and erotica and include three books, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” which have become the hottest, steamiest books of erotic romance mainstream.

Mass media outlets have dubbed the trilogy as “Mommy Porn” for its BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism), sex scenes and the fact that it appeals to married women older than 30. Maybe it’s the thrill of reading a supposed naughty book for its graphic, descriptive nature, or maybe it’s the idea of something else we yearn for in our own relationships. Whatever it is, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has become one of the most-purchased trilogies in the last few months. An international phenomenon, the intense popularity is still gaining steam at the beach, especially as summer reading gets into full swing. Although libraries in Wisconsin and Georgia have banned it, the libraries in Horry County have more than 260 people on the waiting list for the first book in the trilogy. And Charleston County libraries estimate that the wait time for the audio book is 150 days and the paperback is an undetermined wait time. Meanwhile, local adult/novelty retail shops are also reaping the benefits from the sexual curiosity aroused by “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

While the attraction to the trilogy has to do with the sexual content, there is a deeper, more passionate love story to this trilogy. The story is about college student, Anastasia Steele, who finds herself involved in a kinky relationship with a 27-year-old control-freak billionaire, the aforementioned Grey. Anastasia is naïve, innocent and strangely drawn to this man, who is also strangely drawn to her. Their intriguing and unique relationship evolves through his experience in submission and her inexperience in anything. Christian tells Anastasia, “I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul.” Not only does Anastasia learn about herself through this bondage-like relationship, she also explores Christian’s hidden sexual past and attempts to save him. She thinks, “This is a man in need. His fear is naked and obvious, but he’s lost…Somewhere in his darkness.”

Turned-On Moms

A shout-out on Facebook to borrow a copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey” created a storm of response for Juliann DeForrest of Myrtle Beach. She said that the comments were both sarcastic and supportive. DeForrest, who previously has read books by James Patterson and Dean Koontz, said she was simply trying to get back into reading, when she first heard about the book from a friend, who says she couldn’t put it down. “If there is a book that good, I had to read it,” said DeForrest, who works fulltime, is married and has two small children. “I started reading it one Saturday night and some nights I was up until 2:30 a.m. still reading.” She finished reading the first book in the trilogy in four days and has since bought the next two books. In describing the first book, DeForrest said, “It’s a modern-day romance, but a little bit raunchier.”

It seemed like women were talking about the books everywhere from the grocery store line, over lunch and even in the workplace, said Myrtle Beach resident/mom Wendi Lee. That is what intrigued her with the books. “A good friend of mine from college read the books and told me they were quite scandalous,” said Lee. “Finally, curiosity got the best of me and I downloaded a sample. I immediately became intrigued and downloaded the first book seconds after reading the sample.” Lee wasn’t overly impressed with the author’s writing. “The writing is very raw, and that is putting it nicely,” she said. “She is a great storyteller, but not the best writer. To be quite honest, the sex scenes are the best written parts about the books.”

Word-of-mouth on Facebook caught the attention of Danielle Kell of Surfside Beach and she wanted to know what the big deal was. She loved the fact that the author was open and not shy to write a book about the BDSM world. “I also like that at the same time, there is an actual story line,” said Kell. “When I first heard about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ I thought ‘What? A porn novel? What’s the big deal?’ I expected it to be nothing but sex, but I was very pleased that there is more to it.” This mother of two doesn’t agree that the books should be called ‘mommy porn.’ “If anything it’s a porno for single women or women in a relationship that is lacking in the sexual area,” she said. “By calling it ‘mommy porn’ are we implying that moms don’t have sex after children?”

Tabitha Strickland, a Conway mother of four, said she wanted to read the books because of all the hype about them. “I really don’t think they were very different than a Harlequin romance novel or a Sandra Brown book,” she said. “I would say it does fall into the erotic category and I wouldn’t want my kids reading them, but I would never let them read most romance novels anyway.” She thought the story was very typical of a romance novel, where everyone is gorgeous and the hero is loaded with money, looks and...you know, he just needed saving by someone different than anyone else he has dated. “I thought the books were good but I would not say they were exceptional,” said Strickland. “I think it’s caught more people’s attention with all the buzz about it and I know my husband enjoyed me reading it.” Strickland’s husband also started reading the books because he wanted to see what had his wife excited. “I think the books are great, especially for couples,” said Jamie Strickland. “Since we are both reading them it has created more open and fun discussions about sex.” He even admitted to exchanging more flirty text messages, “Yes. Sir,” being a favored response.

Popularity That Dominates

Distribution of “Fifty Shades of Grey” includes almost 15,000 physical retail outlets from bookstores and airports to newsstands and supermarkets. The trilogy has sold more than 10 million copies combined in six weeks, including trade paperbacks, eBooks and audio books. Rights to the novels have been sold in 37 countries.

“We have had to reprint the books on a weekly basis since publication,” said Anthony Chirico, President, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, “with some daily reprints topping 900,000 copies.”

The trilogy has captured 25 percent of the adult fiction market in recent weeks and that number is expected to grow as we get into summer when people travel, hang by the pool, and grab something to read when they head to the beach. “Fifty Shades of Grey” was originally published in May 2011 by a small Australian publishing house, The Writer’s Coffee Shop, which printed on-demand and in e-books. In March 2012, Vintage Books acquired the rights to print the trilogy. The three titles in the series were available in eBook form starting March 12 and they followed up with printing the first run of 750,000 copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey” in early April. Vintage Anchor Books is a division of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Random House, Inc., who has published authors including Stieg Larsson of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code.”

“These books have become a word-of-mouth sensation,” said Anne Messitte, publisher of Vintage Books in a press release, “capturing the attention of readers around the world. There is a palpable sense of excitement about the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy, with the demand for the books growing on a daily basis and interest in the author approaching fever pitch.”

Books in the trilogy have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon’s best-seller lists. “Our goal is to bring James’ work to the widest possible readership in all formats,” said Messitte.

The trilogy - with its sexual content - has also brought attention to the adult toy store / bookstore industry and has attracted curious new customers. Items named multiple times in the books that may have become popular among consumers include handcuffs, rope, riding crops, massagers and ben wa balls. Another popular item includes the signature grey tie, worn by Christian Grey and featured on the book jacket.

John Gaik, co-owner and operator of the Badd Kitty stores in Myrtle Beach and Charleston, said that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a great boost to his stores’ sales and they also stock the trilogy. “There has been a substantial increase in business, some may be tourism, but some is definitely this book,” said Gaik. The trilogy is available at Badd Kitty stores at a price lower than the cover price and they offer a special promotion, where they give customers a $10 gift certificate with the purchase of the first book. “It’s an encouragement for future business,” said Gaik. “Women love the book and it encourages them to come in and purchase the toys.” Gaik also mentioned that his stores have added more than a dozen new items just to meet the demands for toys and devices mentioned in the book. “Manufacturers are even running out these toys because the demand is so high, especially the vibrating beads,” he said. New clientele seems to be shopping at the Badd Kitty stores, people you wouldn’t expect to come in, said Gaik. “At the counter, they will buy something and I ask them, ‘Fifty Shades?’ And they answer, ‘uh huh’,” Gaik said about what people are buying. “I hope it adds excitement and spice to their sex life. I mean you have housewives buying whips.”

Having previously worked at an adult toy store, Kell thinks that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is awesome for women and couples alike to read and add spice to a relationship. “I was always happy when a couple came in and wanted to try new things at home,” said Kell. “This [book] is a more discreet way for couples to learn. You have to be open and willing to try new things, so it doesn’t get bland.”

Stiff Critics

However, with all its success, there comes controversy, due mostly to the erotic content of the books, which many claim to be porn-like. The trilogy has even been banned from a few libraries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Maryland and Florida,

“I do not know how many libraries have banned the book,” said Russell Perreault, VP/Director of Publicity for Vintage Books in an e-mail, “but a number have rescinded their bans.”

Florida’s ban in Brevard County was overturned due to an overwhelming demand from library patrons. In Harford County, Md., the series was banned from the library because it had been dubbed “Mommy Porn,” for its S&M scenes, and is too hot for the county, according to a May 30 article in The Baltimore Sun. According to the publisher of “Fifty Shades of Grey”: “Random House fervently opposes literary censorship and supports the First Amendment rights of readers to make their own reading choices. We believe some libraries are indulging in an act of censorship, and essentially are saying to library patrons: we will judge what you can read. These events resonate as unfortunately considered decisions, especially as the actions withdraw from circulation a book with one of the highest demand curves in recent history.”

The trilogy has not, however, been banned from South Carolina libraries, which includes more than 198 public libraries. According to Curtis Rogers, Communications Director for the South Carolina State Library, “I have not heard of this book to be considered to be banned in South Carolina libraries. Libraries do not ban books.” He mentioned that the second code of ethics of the American Library Association states: “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources. The American Library Association also affirms in the Library Bill of Rights, “Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.”

Also cited in the South Carolina Library Standards includes the Freedom to Read, which states: “The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove books from sale, to censor textbooks, to label ‘controversial’ books, etc.” It later states the following about freedom, “We believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture.” For more about the South Carolina Library Standards, visit www.statelibrary.sc.gov

Spank you very much...

If you plan to pick up this trilogy, you must have an open mind and if you don’t want others to know you are reading it, I suggest downloading it as an e-book to your Kindle or iPad. Remember, it’s a secret book club, which will only be revealed once the movie comes out. Then we will all face each other with blushed faces at the movie theater.

In May, Universal Pictures and Focus Features secured the rights to produce “Fifty Shades of Grey” for the silver screen. The author, who will have approvals over script, director and lead cast, plans to take her time in order to make the movie right. According to her Twitter posts, E.L. James says there are no details to share as yet. However, if you desire more details about the movie, search the Internet and you will find tons of speculation from fans and critics. There are lots of opinions for the roles of the main characters, such as Ryan Gosling or Alexander Skarsgard for the role of Christian Grey and Scarlett Johansson or Kristen Stewart for the role of Anastasia Steele. The Facebook page for Fifty Shades of Grey posted an online fan poll on www.WordandFilm.com asking who would be the perfect Christian Grey. The poll Web site choices include Simon Baker, Ian Somerhalder, Michael Fassbender, and Ryan Gosling and there is an option for “other.” At the time of writing this story, the results showed: Somerhalder at 55.65 percent, Gosling at 11.48 percent, Baker at 3.99 percent and Fassbender at 3.46 percent, then the other category was at 25.42 percent, although it didn’t name who it included.

Curiosity about Fifty Shades made me pick it up, too, and I read the first book in less than a week, which is a record for me, since I am also married, work full time and have a child. The story is told in first person from Anastasia’s perspective. Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I preferred to read books in first person or third person. I had never really thought about it before. However, after reading “Fifty Shades” and knowing the “inner goddess” thoughts and feelings of Anastasia while she explored her sexual and emotional relationship with Christian, I couldn’t imagine reading this book any other way. While she encounters experiences in Christian’s playroom with being submissive, she is also an honest character that makes most women relate to her emotions and situations. No matter what compels you to read it, whether it’s guilty-pleasure or the extreme hype, and no matter whom you are, “Fifty Shades of Grey” will make you turn 50 shades of red.

For more about the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, visit www.eljamesauthor.com or follow her on Twitter at @E_L_James For more about the books, you can “like” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FiftyShadesofGreyTrilogy or visit the official website at www.FiftyShadesTrilogy.co.uk

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