'50 Shades of Grey': Just How Smutty Is It?

Plenty, but it's also unintentionally humorous and so badly written it hurts (and not in a good way).

In keeping with the number theme in the title, here's what you need to know before buying "50 Shades of Grey."

Number of times the protagonist, Anastasia Steele, says "Crap" or "Holy Crap": 86

Number of times Anastasia refers to her lover Christian Grey and his moves as "hot" or "freaking hot": 37

Number of times a specific part of the female anatomy is referred to as "down there": 6

If fine writing is like bittersweet truffles, this book is like a wad of Gummi Bears stuck to your back teeth. To use another food metaphor — and I'm not sure this author knows what a metaphor is — it's the literary equivalent of eating Sugar Smacks for dinner.

Author E.L. James gives us the first-person perspective of a naive 21-year-old college graduate who is also — wait for it — a virgin who has never really been kissed. She is thrown into the presence of a young and extremely handsome billionaire who is powerfully attracted to her but has a dark secret life that involves riding crops, rope and something he calls "The Red Room of Pain."

Substitute vampire for billionaire (some advice to the author: billionaires generally look more like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett than Ryan Gosling) and we're right about where "Twilight" begins. It's no surprise that began as fan fiction for that other nonsensical best-selling series.

Here's a little taste of James' clipped writing style:

"Why won't he look at me. Perhaps he's changed his mind? A wave of unease washes over me. Perhaps walking out on him last night was the end for him, too. He's bored of waiting for me to make up my mind. Oh no, I could have completely blown it. I remember his email last night. Maybe he's mad that I haven't replied."

The world of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey is as believable as a fairy tale, which apparently appeals to a great many people since the book is selling faster than condoms on spring break. Anastasia keeps asking herself why she'd even consider seeing a man who wants her to sign a written contract including her willingness to be suspended from the ceiling, but somehow talks herself into more and more encounters. Her learning curve in certain departments is steep, to say the least.

As for the sex scenes, they're frequent, explicit, and full of breathy descriptions of how "hot" bondage and spanking can be. If that's all you're after, go ahead and plunk down the money. You won't be disappointed and you'll have two money-printing sequels already waiting for you.

But there is most certainly better written and less ridiculous erotica or even "mommy porn," as this has been called, out there. This is one fad you can excuse yourself from joining, unless you're looking for a good laugh.

Author E.L. James will be appearing in Connecticut at an event in New Haven sponsored by Madison's R.J. Julia Booksellers on May 2. Tickets are $25, which includes $5 toward the purchase of a book. For reservations, call 203-245-3959 or visit R.J. Julia's website.

raisedbywolves1990@yahoo.com May 03, 2012 at 09:40 PM
I think this author is just a little jealous of the success of the Fifty Shades of Grey. They are amazing, and you can't argue with the numbers.
Lorene DeWolfe May 05, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with Susan's review of 50 Shades of Grey. I laughed all the way through because I couldn't get over how poorly written it is. The only reason I got even halfway through is that it was a book club selection. How can you take any of this seriously! Before I read her review, I actually found myself wondering how many times Ana says, "holy crap" or "he's so hot"...now I know. I like a little smut as much as the next person, but E.L. James' writing is sophomoric at best. There is zero character development ( which should be present in anything worth reading) unless, of course, you count how many times Grey is referred to as "gorgeous", "hot", or as having "just %#^* hair". Don't you think it immature to refer to the reviewer as "jealous" or "snotty ass judgmental"?Come on people, this is her job as a reviewer! Should a food critic call a restaurant wonderful because he or she is afraid to upset the public? Wouldn't it be fun fun to read erotica that was believable and well written?
Suzze May 05, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Just heard about this book last night and I will get the Kindle or Nook version. Psssst. Paper books are out!
S Zell May 08, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Psst - technology equals job loss. Your Kindle or Nook will be obsolete soon and you will be forced to upgrade.
sandy May 11, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Amen! I just don't understand what all the negativity is about! It may not be the best writing or the most believable story but it's a fictional story! Very hot, exciting one at that! Love the series!
Jennifer May 24, 2012 at 09:47 PM
I absolutely agree with Susan's review. In fact, if 50 Shades of Grey were half as well written, or nearly as funny, as this review I may not have hated it so much. The writing is poor and the characters and dialogue are unrealistic. Besides being a 21 year old virgin who is "beautiful" but never been kissed... she wears converse sneakers. Nothing against Chuck Taylors... I had a pair when I was 14. What 21 year old college girl wears Converses anymore? It was hysterical to read "gorgeous" billionaire Christian Grey taking those Converse and socks off her before making her quiver down there. Ridiculous. This book is the equivalent of a Cinemax movie after dark - with the cheesiness to go with it. For anyone who thinks this book is any good... trust me, jealously is the last thing I'm feeling. What I feel is anger. I'm angry that our society has dumbed down literature to this level and people actually spend money on it. I would say shame on E.L. James for producing such drivel but I guess she got the last laugh since we all (unfortunately) read it.
Karla Fritz May 26, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Thank you Jennifer. My feelings exactly. I am appalled at the popularity of this book.
Amaryllis May 26, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Dead on - this is literary junk food, all fluff. The argument that this would never happen is accurate, but doesn't necessarily matter in fiction. The problem is that people *would never act like this.* That makes it hard to relate to the characters, or care whether they die in a fiery crash at some point. A friend said she read the second book because the first "ended with a cliffhanger." I opt for the crash.
CIA May 29, 2012 at 09:42 PM
God! Cant you people bitch about something more important! I didnt buy the book expecting it to change my life I bought it because it sounded interesting! Apparently you negative hags didnt get the same enjoyment out of it as the rest of us did but then again I read that it was to heat up the fire in your love life. You cannot heat up something that is already cold! Move on! loved the FICTIONAL characters and story.
anna holler May 30, 2012 at 11:27 PM
I am fascinated by how smitten people are with these books. It shocks me to no end that reading about Christian "cupping Ana's sex," and saying, "you are mine" before "taking her" has HELPED anyone's sex life. I found the whole thing completely comical. What's not so funny is that so many women are finding themselves caught up in the fantasy of a fictional abusive relationship that they are mistaking for romance. That's a pretty sad statement, if you ask me.
elyseer June 02, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I have read all 3 and much to my surprise the story is what captured me. I think the sex that she has enlightened us about goes on in most home already .I know if it doesn't is a sad thing that being completely honest with your partner about what you need and want sexually. I'm happy to say that in my marriage it keeps us connected , I think E did a great job either way she is sold out and making money. REALLY good for you, I'm looking forward to seeing this writer grow. Congrats and good luck !!!!!!
Eva Green June 10, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Before people criticize how poorly the book is written, you should keep in mind that it was not a "true writer" who produced it. She's a diehard twilight fan and blogger who had the good business sense to cash in on her huge following. As for those criticizing the content...that is more of a matter of "different strokes for different folks". Judgemental Review: "I am fascinated by how smitten people are with these books. It shocks me to no end that reading about Christian "cupping Ana's sex," and saying, "you are mine" before "taking her" has HELPED anyone's sex life. I found the whole thing completely comical. What's not so funny is that so many women are finding themselves caught up in the fantasy of a fictional abusive relationship that they are mistaking for romance. That's a pretty sad statement, if you ask me." While the author of this judgemental post may prefer to hear about a rose-filled room, white wine, and soft music being played in the background while someone gently....blah blah blah; others may enjoy someone "cupping their sex" and claming ownership...sounds like a plan to me. It's a fun bdsm themed book by an novice writer ...if you're into that type of thing, or open to, just enjoy it for what it is. If you are 100% vanilla and looking for a life changing read...then this is not for you.
SD Grah June 21, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I totally agree with Susan's critique! This book is awful! It doesn't even qualify as good porn. The so-called erotic sections are so poorly written, it's distracting! And they're really not very creative, and, frankly, not very "dangerous" -- they're very tame. It's the type of porn that would only appeal to a religious or conservative women with a closeted sex drive. Sure, more power to you, Ms. James, for capitalizing on the unfulfilled fantasies of young women, but readers, please! The writing so detracts from the erotic sequencies, I didn't get anything from them. There is so much better and actually erotic erotica out there! Then there's the horrible dialog. Anastasia sprinkles in tween-speak with college-speak; seriously if graduating college weren't part of the intro, I would have thought she's 13. I just shake my head at the thought of the horrible writing. After the first couple of chapters, I just skimmed the rest, landing on the so-called porn, and being disappointed every time. There are so many well-written books with well-defined, complex characters that deserve more readers. Just goes to show how powerful (and potentially wrong) word of mouth (via the internet) can be! I feel robbed and tricked.
Kate June 22, 2012 at 11:27 PM
As a 31 year old female, the portrayal of taboo and risqué sex for a couple in their 20's is so far off, it's laughable. The terminology was shit. The repetitiveness of ever time he "took her" was shit. I was expecting something gasp worthy. It is the middle aged woman who's never had anything besides missionary's version of what steamy is.
CS June 25, 2012 at 12:27 PM
This is not my thing...for some it works but for me...NO! It's a waste of time and just not even worth reading. It's only catchy because in this society it only takes one to start a chain reaction. If I stand in the middle of the road and stare at the sky without moving...soon after hundreds will be standing next to me doing the same thing just because I started it! So one person said this is an amazing book series! Next thing you know everyone is agreeing. It's just lonely people wishing they had any kind of sexual escapades in their real lives that actually enjoy this ... "Crap"...as Anastasia put it so eloquently a million times! I couldn't have said it better myself :) And worse part is now young girls are reading it thinking it is like Twilight and Grey is Edward .... I am afraid what the future will hold in literature...
RJH June 26, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Please, do share the title and authors of the "so much better and actually erotic erotica out there." If this is bad as you and the original reviewer say, help us find the good stuff.
LittleDibby July 04, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Wait ... So you're saying if I had a leftover cheeseburger, and it was cold, it would be impossible to warm it up??? It is possible to reignite the fire in relationships, I just think it's shameful that middle aged women need a poorly written book to remind them how much they love their partner. I would totally respect this book as a member of a genre that is not my all time favorite. However it seems there was barely any effort put into making it a truly beautiful literary work as far as technique goes. This genre of erotic novels has been around for a long time, and there is many well written classics. For this to take the world by storm shows the literary illiteracy of our modern culture.
Jill Hussey July 04, 2012 at 09:25 AM
I fail to see what is so exciting about 50 shades. It is badly written, using the most repetitive drivel to describe 'sex', definitely verging on the comical. I also worry that an abusive relationship will be seen as erotic. It bores me and scares me that so many find this a good read.
Millie Simons July 07, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Obviously this author's following has never read an erotic novel before and have nothing to compare. Go to Amazon and search "victorian erotica", Anais Nin, even Ann Rice who wrote a book on domination without vampires that was not only a page turner but highly sexual.. The author should have signed the book "anonymous" if it isn't already a pen name because the writing was atrocious. But E.L. is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to the gullable people we have in the world. Basically this author has sold you all a "pet rock." Happy reading.
Michael Dinan (Editor) July 10, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Hi everyone, Just saw this & thought you may be interested. "Boyfriend squirted partner with brown sauce when she refused to stop reading Fifty Shades of Grey" -- from UK's "The Telegraph" newspaper http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9389109/Boyfriend-squirted-partner-with-brown-sauce-when-she-refused-to-stop-reading-Fifty-Shades-of-Grey.html
Jennifer July 15, 2012 at 12:22 PM
I heard about this book then looked on ebooks for it. I read threw to chapter eleven... Where my trial ended. I cant wait to pick up a copy in store (fingers crossed that I can find one). To me the dialogue is relatable to most. Im 100% for grey books and cant wait to finish it but I do agree the "she bit her lip" could be played with and not repeated so often. Is this the first poorly written book out there? I think not. This amature writer puts her hard work out there and its a best seller! I think it will inspire others to take a chance and write something. Get creative. Just remember your reading fantasy take a breath and just enjoy it. Its not the end of the world.
Jamie July 22, 2012 at 12:51 AM
I first thought, yay!!, a mainstream bdsm novel. Nope. No luck there. Sooo much repetition and poor quality writing. The person who writes this blog explains why this book is so many "shades" of wrong. http://historyofbdsm.com/2012/07/the-curious-kinky-persons-guide-to-fifty-shades-of-grey-chapter-22/
Marvin July 28, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I thought the review was spot on, but I am obviously used to reading a much different type of book than the average occassional reader. I bought it out of curiousity, but found it to be pure drivel. Couldn't make it past the second or third chapter, but can easily imagine why it is flying off the shelves. Just one more marker of the current state of affairs.
Logan Swartz August 22, 2012 at 03:08 AM
I find it hard to believe that a “diehard” fan of a book series that, arguably the greatest writer of all time, Stephen King called “About as well written as the instructions on side of my microwave mac & cheese” can write something worth reading. If you have to argue about how good or bad it is or was written, the book can't be all that great.
jess October 05, 2012 at 04:01 AM
what does it mean cupping my sex or anytime when she refers to something as my sex what us it ?
jess October 05, 2012 at 04:02 AM
I was thinking can't be v or cl. seeing as the author has written it in the book in a different part and after that part
neo malahlela October 22, 2012 at 01:50 PM
wow! people say the book is unrealistic...is that not the point of fiction?? I mean no one that read Harry Potter believes in wizards and all that. Relax and don't be so darn uptight! I mean we all know that it's highly unlikely that a woman orgasms everytime she has sex or has sex 5 times a day everyday and it's great each time but it's FICTION! I'm not American so the lack of accuracy regarding American character is a foreign concept so I am not bothered...and again with the sex, there are times when they only have sex once, maybe twice, I don't think that's irregular at all and if you do then your sex life needs polishing. I am 22 so I can sort of relate to Ana as far as her innocence and inexperience, there is growth with both her and Christian. Lastly, no I did not mistake the abuse for romance and I'm not going Christian Grey hunting either, my perception was of a young woman in love trying to make sense of it all...with a really extreme storyline. Please trust the readers to be smart enough to get the right ideas from the book and RELAX! Consider that she may not have been targeting the avid reader, she is an inexperienced writer, maybe a target was the ordinary person who doesn't do heavy reading. I think James did a good job for someone who has never written a book yet produced 3 books, totalling over 500 pages, that's a result of hard work and inspiration.
neo malahlela October 22, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Oh and it's not meant to be a bdsm novel I think, it's not about a couple in a bdsm lifestyle but rather a man who was PREVIOUSLY in a bdsm lifestyle but had to adjust his lifestyle for a girl who was not accustomed to that lifestyle thus the vanilla
Janell Meyer November 04, 2012 at 02:52 AM
"Anything For Georgetown And Other Stories" is erotic fiction with a focus on the fetishes of spanking and tickling. Monica is a spoiled Catholic schoolgirl with wealthy, successful parents. Despite her background, she hosts stripping parties for the boys of St. Veronica's. She also bullies other students. She is a bit of an enigma at her school. The new guidance counselor finds out about her background, and offers her a deal: give up her racy past, and agree to be punished "his" way, and he will help her get into Georgetown University, her first choice college. However, the deal they strike becomes unbearable. Does Monica get into Georgetown? The other three stories in the collection focus on a woman who places a personal ad to jump start her sex life. Rebecca, who is almost a 40-year-old virgin, finally knows what she wants. But will she find a man to satisfy her, as well as one she can trust enough to fall in love with? The ebook is available on Smashwords.com. (Please deactivate the adult filter.) The print book is available for only $7 (excluding shipping and handling) through November on Lulu.com.
English Major July 07, 2013 at 07:56 AM
50 Shades of Grey is a horrible book and here's why http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlyVLLq4G4U


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