Saturday Edition (On A Thursday): Fifty Shades of WTF?

Kamel usually writes on Saturdays (when he can get his act together). Because it’s been a while and because this is the week-o-books, he’s here talk about his experience reading Fifty Shades of Grey. To be fair and upfront: I did not read this book, only Kamel did. Also we would both like to point out, and this will be repeated in the post: If you are a grown ass person and loved this book – get your freak on.

A few months ago I remember the Today Show talking about this new book called Fifty Shades of Grey, and how it was all dark and mysterious and a huge hit amongst women. Finally a book for women, I think they said. But they had someone argue it was bad for women. I had no idea since they never really mentioned anything that happened. All they, or anyone later on for that matter, kept saying is that it was a story of a girl who meets Christian Grey, a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating.

Months went by and people kept raving about how good it was. It even went on to become the fastest selling paperback of all time, surpassing Harry Potter! Over 30 million copies sold, and to this day it continues to be number 1. Why? I asked a few people, and they all said the same thing “Oh I heard it’s so good!” or “Oh it’s because women finally have an amazing story to read about their inner most fantasies” or “It’s a secret.”

What? Well, there was only one way to find out right? So I did what no man has done before….

Yes, I decided to read the thing. I read the WHOLE fucking THING, from beginning to end.

SPOILER ALERT – I’m going to spoil the crap out of this story, because honestly, I WISH someone would’ve spoiled it for me and saved me the agony of reading this nonsense.

Note: I’ve never reviewed a book before. I have no idea what I’m doing so I’m just going to type out my thoughts. It’s okay for this one to be spoiled, I’m saving you hours of your life you’ll never get back. However, if you like what I’m typing so far, then please stop and go read the book, it might be your thing. Okay…

This is porn. Lady porn? Maybe? The story is basically about a stupid 20-somthing year old girl named Anastasia, who interviews a 26 year old billionaire named Christian Grey (this full name is mentioned about 9,000 times, be warned) and then she finds herself obsessed with him in a very immature and self destructing way.

The “Secret” is this: Dude is also super into her but only because he wants to dominate her, fuck her, and beat her into submission. He doesn’t want to “make love” because he doesn’t make love, he fucks. He doesn’t want her to touch him in the forbidden zone (his chest), he is “Fifty Shades of fucked up” he says. And get this, she loves it. Why? Because she is a naive idiot who is blissfully unaware that right from the get go, this man is abusing, controlling, manipulating and emotionally harming her intentionally because he gets off from watching her suffer. This book is not deep. I’m not reaching for this information, it’s right there on the page.

Christian Grey, even before we find out is really into hard core BDSM (he has a playroom and everything), is the most controlling, condescending asshole ever to be written. Right from the get go, he is ordering her around.

“Anastasia, where are you? Tell me now.” His tone is so, so dictatorial, his usual control freak. I imagine him as an old time movie director wearing jodhpurs, holding an old fashioned megaphone and a riding crop. The image makes me laugh out loud. “You’re so… domineering,” I giggle. “Ana, so help me, where the fuck are you?”

After pages and pages of horribly written crap (there is a stereotypical “Latino” character named Jose, who is totally in love with Ana, but she will have none of it) Anastasia ends up confessing to Grey that she wants to be with him. In return, Grey does the most romantic thing in the world, he draws up a contract that she must sign in order to be with him.

Before this, she must sign an NDA that prevents her from telling anyone about all the psycho shit that’s about to go down. She agrees to this, but doesn’t sign the contract yet. The contract is basically him owning her almost literally. She must always obey, she must never question, she must never look at him without permission, she must allow him to fuck her whenever he wants, she must eat what he says, dress the way he wants her to, be on call, exercise, and never question him. If she fails to do so, per the contract she will get physically punished. Does she run as far away as possible like any self respecting woman would probably do? Nope. She entertains the idea because she thinks it would be a way for her to have this man. What?!

While talking about this, she confesses that she is a virgin and dude proceeds to fuck her. He says he has to so she can understand the contract better. She loves it. The rest of the book they spend their time discussing the contract and “rules” via endless emails and texts (zzzzzzzzzzzz) and of course fucking all while she is being naive and stupid… and biting her lip. Endlessly.

At one point in the morning after sexy times, she wakes up before him and decides to wear pig tails “to be safe from him.” And then, as soon as he sees her, he grabs her by the pig tails and says, “you think these pigtails will keep you safe?!” What? Because that is the normal reaction to pig tails? More biting lip, more rolling of eyes.  Both of these happen about 1,000 times. Each time she bites her lip, dude gets turned on but demands her to stop. And every time she rolls her eyes, dude wants to beat the shit out of her (for reals).

Half way through my read, I decided to research the author. Oh. My. God. We are doomed as a civilization. This book was originally Twilight fan fiction erotica, originally titled “Master of the Universe” written by the same author but under the name Snowqueens Icedragon. what the fuck? The author then changed Edward and Bella’s names to Grey and Anastasia, found a publisher and became the fastest selling paperback of all time. Really people? Okay, I’m not the one to judge here as I enjoy crap shows every now and then (Starship Troopers, Envy and Indiana Jones 4). But this is basically fan fiction of an already crappy book. Not only that, it’s basically a woman writing about an abusive man who takes advantage of a young girl and people rave that this is “the book for women”?

31 million women bought this? Have they even read the book? It reminds me of when I worked at the camera store in the Marina, and women would come in with their copy of DaVinci code, and I’d ask them how it was, and they would confess they hadn’t actually read it, but heard it was really good. I bet those people never did read it, and just bought it because of the hype. Possible.

So back to the story now. In the end after tons of emails and rewrites of the contract, dude spanks her and she just wants to be with him in a way that he OBVIOUSLY does not want to be with her. She wants love, he wants sadistic violence towards women. A match made in heaven.

Having had enough, he again tells her:

“I want to hurt you.” [Christian Grey Says] “Why?” He runs his hand through his hair and he shrugs. “I just need it.” He pauses, gazing at me with anguish, and he closes his eyes and shakes his head. “I can’t tell you,” he whispers.

So! curiosity gets the best of her and she allows him to “punish” her just to see what it’s like. He gets all excited and grabs his belt, pulls her pants down and orders her to count after each lash. He will beat her with his belt 7 times and she must be okay with this for their “relationship” to work. One, Two, Three…. she counts after each, and she kinda likes it, but is surprised that it’s harder than the spanking. Four… she begins to cry, and no joke, she is angry that she is crying. Five… she thinks she hates him now. Six….

“Don’t touch me! You’re one fucked up son of a bitch!”


They go back and forth trying to make it work, but no, he wants to abuse, she wants to cuddle. Not gonna happen, so she leaves. The book ends with her in pain, crying and sad that it’s over. The end.

Okay, there is so much wrong with this book. Especially the claim that this book is great for women. It’s not. A woman should not lust after wanting a man that just wants to beat her and dominate her. Maybe in pretend S&M fantasy land, sure. But this world that the book is in isn’t pretend. This is real dominating, scary shit.

And a man should not be taking pleasure from inflicting pain to a woman or thinking it’s okay to trick her into this. I think this will set horrible examples for young women who think this is what exciting sex is. And at the same time, it will set even worse examples for young boys who read this searching for “what women want” and think it’s okay to behave this way. In a world where violence against women is real and dangerous, how is this what everyone is thrilled about? Yes, it’s just a book and can live in fantasy land… but how is that hot? How is having someone control your life and beat the shit out of you sexy?

I don’t think I’ll read the other two, because I bet you anything she ends up going back to him and that will anger me.

My final thought: How are they going to turn this into a movie? I don’t think studio heads, directors, or actors have actually read this because the rumors of paying 6 million for the film rights and top talent dying for a part…. to what is basically pornography? Though if they do make this, I think Christian Bale as American Psycho will fit the part of Grey perfectly.


36 thoughts on “Saturday Edition (On A Thursday): Fifty Shades of WTF?”

  1. Oh my god, this made me laugh SO hard. I have been simultaneously confused and disturbed by all the 50 Shades hype, because… seriously?! Twilight fanfic??! Anyway, after your review I am now EXTRA sure I am not going to read it.

  2. Thank you! I read the first book (not sure why I read the whole thing), and it was AWFUL. The writing is crap, the message is disturbing, and it makes me sad that so many women are obsessed with it.

  3. Kamel, thank you for this review! I’ve always suspected that this book was full of crap and never intended to read it, but I did wonder what the hype was all about.

    … I guess I’m still wondering as to the cause of the hype, as it sounds like complete trash.

  4. Yes, this:

    And a man should not be taking pleasure from inflicting pain to a woman or thinking it’s okay to trick her into this. I think this will set horrible examples for young women who think this is what exciting sex is. And at the same time, it will set even worse examples for young boys who read this searching for “what women want” and think it’s okay to behave this way. In a world where violence against women is real and dangerous, how is this what everyone is thrilled about? Yes, it’s just a book and can live in fantasy land… but how is that hot? How is having someone control your life and beat the shit out of you sexy?

    Giant cavet, of course: some upright, thinking grown-ass people like to explore power dynamics in sexual relationships. Successful ones depend on boundary discussion on an even playing field *prior* to the establishment of power dynamics. If that’s your thing (and done respectfully with all consenting parties), whip on, friend, whip on.

    1. I think that’s a HUGE distinction and something we talked about a lot this morning. If this had been about two people finding each other and their love of domination TOGETHER, it would be a whole different (and possibly super hot) story. The Duprez house is not anti freak.

      1. Totally! I completely agreed, hence the giant text quote where Kamel rightly points out that 50 Shades is anti-women crap.

        The biggest danger, to me, in boxes like this is two-fold: 1) young women and men will think that the only “hot” framework for sex is manipulation and extreme domination and 2) folks won’t have the language or emotional strength to explore non-traditional aspects of their sexuality if they so choose.

        Everyone loses.

  5. I never read Twilight and am generally against over hyped books, instead preferring to think that I’m some sort of intellectual who earned her English degree. Obviously I have my own set of issues regarding literature, and I’m sure I could spend hours dissecting the overly wrought and repetitive plot lines. But what really gets me is that there are enough women out there that buy this kindof stuff, creating a market for publishers to make a quick buck on books I consider to be disrespectful of sex, relationships and women in general. I read Mitch Albom’s take in the Detroit Free Press and I think if I were to read it, I’d feel similarly – prudish and embarrassed. Contrasted to Lauren’s recommended Outlander which I did read and only blushed a little – there’s a story that involves love, appropriately identifies rape and revolves around a heroine who does more than roll over.

    1. The most harm that will come of this is that studio execs will want to cash in by not only making this movie, but by green lighting shows with similar characters and plots. In the process they might cancel or order rewrites on existing shows that have strong female leads and turn them into weak, dominated characters. All for the profits because they’ll think this is what
      women will pay to watch.

      The confusing part is that via voting with dollars, they will be validated.

  6. Best. Book Review. Ever.

    And totally agree. WTF kind of message is this book sending? I’m all for lady-porn, but this shit just ain’t right.

    Oh, also? I have learned via Wikipedia that she does go back to him. So yeah. Don’t read any further.

  7. THANK YOU for saving me from reading this book and wasting my time! That sounds terrible!! My friend is obsessed with this book and I was almost convinced I should read it. You should write more book reviews – this was honest and fun to read!

    1. Thank you! Though I had no idea really how to review a book, but it was fun typing it all out and seeing all the feedback afterwards. =) Maybe I’ll do it again one day.

  8. You are a braver soul than I. I only made it a third of the way into the book and I had to give up. What a horrible piece of writing.

  9. Ahahaha, Kamel, I am so glad you read this and gave a male’s perspective to this book. I actually think the 50 shades trilogy can start a lot of really important dialogues and I’ve been dying to talk about this, but all my friends are like, OMG Christian is so hot.

    I read all three books (a friend chose the series for our book club pick, so I had to, of course!), but Christian Grey never once excited me. For me, it was one of those train-wreck books where it was so awful, I was dying to know what happened next. See also: why I used to watch The Hills marathons on Sunday. I have some conflicting feelings. Firstly (I almost wrote “fistly” – Freudian slip?), I am horrified that a woman who cannot write worth a damn sold 31 million copies of a book that started out as fan fiction of an already awful book (which I didn’t happen to read, so I’m just guessing on that one).

    Now, to me, the portrayal of sex in this novel is extremely dangerous – as pp Liz already pointed out, BDSM is fine in a relationship that is otherwise balanced and consensual, but this rich, experienced man took a poor virgin (already a hugely unbalanced with regards to power) and truly manipulated her into an unhealthy sexual arrangement that she had no ability to put into context with other sexual experiences. But if this is what a certain person wants to read, say it’s a fantasy that floats your boat, I mean – go for it. I don’t have a problem with a grown adult who is able to put a story and experiences in proper context reading a technically awful book.

    Not gonna lie, I love (guilty pleasure-love, not intellectual-love; I do distinguish) reading books with the controlling-bad-boy trope. But that’s not real life. In real life, it’s not romantic to control women; it’s abusive. Nevertheless, we read what we want, right? But do I trust OTHER people to know that this isn’t real life? Do I trust every young women / high school student to know this? And even if I don’t trust her (or men, as Kamel mentioned) to realize this, does that mean I should tell her he or she shouldn’t? I’m not asking these questions in a leading way; these are really things that I’ve been thinking about since I read these books.

    And then of course there’s the ever-present issue of “voting with your dollar.” I bought all three of the 50 shades books; still, I’m horrified at how many copies it has sold and wish that I wouldn’t have had to be one of them. But how do we find the happy medium between only supporting things that we agree with philosophically and “letting our hair down” a bit and indulging in the guilty pleasures that we, as consenting, mature adults, are allowed to have? Am I making any sense? Like I said before, 50 Shades isn’t my cup of guilty pleasure, but these are issues that I find really interesting and I would love to hear other people’s viewpoints. Sorry for the book-length comment!!!

    1. I am with you on not ever being excited by Christian and also this:

      “For me, it was one of those train-wreck books where it was so awful, I was dying to know what happened next. ”

      I found myself shouting “Oh no she didn’t!” several times throughout the series (especially book 2).

      I’ve also been dying to discuss this book/series, but most of my friends won’t touch it and the ones who did have blinders on to any comments that aren’t “OMG CHRISTIAN IS SO FREAKING HOT!” or the like.

      Anyway, if you’d like to have a more in depth discussion on the books (and aren’t creeped out by random internet person asking), let me know and I’ll give you my email address.

      1. Hahaha, yes on the “oh no she didn’t” – that, and “nuh-UH!!!!” I had so much fun reading the second book because it was such a comedy. It suffered from what I like to call the “and thens…” If you ever saw the movie Dude Where’s My Car (which I’m not recommending – LOL) where Ashton Kutcher’s character is ordering at the drive thru window and the person on the speaker keeps saying, “AND THEN,” that’s what I always picture in these books with all these plot twists. And then this happens, AND THEN this happens, and you’ll never guess what happens next – AND THEN!!!!!! It’s like bad writers can just pick one plot, they have to have ALL THE PLOTS with ALL THE TWISTS.

        I would love to chat more!! Not creeped out at all!

        1. haha! I did see Dude, Where’s My Car? I never thought to apply that scene to anything other than Chinese restaurants (because it IS fairly accurate, though exaggerated, in my experience), but that is an excellent way to describe plot twists!

          you can email me at fastwomenrun at gmail dot com 🙂

  10. I did not read this book…I bought the audiobook versions of the whole trilogy and listened to them on my commute to work. After hearing about all the grammatical errors, I thank my lucky stars I didn’t buy the actual book.

    1. The writing is terrible. I spent more time editing sentences in my head than enjoying the story.
    2. When I wasn’t editing the book (or counting Britishisms), I was screaming at Ana to stop being an idiot.
    3. The sex isn’t hot. It’s weirdly idealized/unrealistic (seriously, who has an orgasm EVERY SINGLE TIME they’ve had sex ever in their life, and who can orgasm on command EVERY SINGLE TIME?!).
    4. Ana has the emotional maturity of a 15 year old. She falls in love ASAP, and overlooks all of this man’s glaring flaws, like the fact he stalks her, tells her he needs to control her, and the fact that he said SHE SHOULDN’T BE WITH HIM (sorry for the “shouty caps,” blech. lol).
    5. What is UP with all the mentions of her “inner goddess” and “subconscious” (and does E. L. James know what the word subconscious even means? I think she meant conscience)
    6. Kamel, I agree with everything you said.


    After book 1 was over, I was compelled to get book 2. And I listened to it, and there is some intense, effed up, ultra-dramatic, soap operay stuff there. Yes, it’s the definition of trash, but I had fun listening to it.

    At a certain point, I got Stockholm Syndrome with this series and let go — “Okay, their dynamic is fucked up and someone should intervene in this girl’s life for REAL (and for the love of GOD, shut up about your “subconscious and inner goddess”) but HOLY CRAP, I can’t believe Mrs. Robinson said THAT!”

    The third book was not as soap opera-y and dramatic, but still entertaining.

    I just hope that young girls aren’t reading this series and thinking that Christian and Ana’s is a model of a healthy relationship.

  11. Oh wow, I was not intending on reading this cause it just didn’t appeal me and I read somewhere that it was basically soft porn, but was wondering what the big deal was, so thanks for doing that for us.
    And wow, just wow, this is fifty shades fucked up… and like you guys say it is damaging on so many levels…

  12. Note to self: NEVER READ THIS BOOK. I would lose my mind and am totally amazed you made it through the whole thing! The entire time you were describing this I was thinking of American Psycho! For sure! So so weird. and YES – HOW IS THIS A BOOK FOR WOMEN?! Yeah…be with a guy who doesn’t want to be with you – get your ass beat – have sex how he wants to have sex – the end. Sounds just like what our culture needs right now… or not. Ugh.

    Also – hilarious book review Kamel!! Read more bad books and review them! haha Please. 🙂

    1. Thank you! haha. If you know of another crappy book I should read, I just might do that. Maybe when the next E.L. James masterpiece comes out… 🙂

  13. I admit, I read book 1.
    I gave it about 3 stars – because it was “easy” to whip through, and some of the sex scenes at the start were interestingly written.
    But I did have serious reservations about the relationship.
    I agree with the others – if used as a tool to spice up a balanced sex life, this stuff can be interesting, and if you can separate the unbalanced relationship from the rest, its not a bad book.
    But you shouldnt have to do that.

    I wont read the rest, thats for sure, even though I was (until I read a series of most excellent reviews on curious as to where the story went from here – I dont want to help this series make more money.

    1. Even if the topic was not about abusing and manipulating a partner, the book is HORRIBLY written. With grammar and typos up the wazzoo.

  14. I have not read this book. I will not read this book, based on this very honest review! (I’m going to go on reading about comic books in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, thank you very much).

    What is interesting about the title is that it implies there are shades of grey in the sexual realm. I agree. And honestly, I’m usually all about the “grey areas” and hate when things are black and white. However, this seems to be a not very grey message about sex at all!

    Thanks for the candid review, Kamel!

  15. I never wanted to join the group of people that read this book. I work for a library and saw it on the cart. So I skimmed through some of the pages and the writing is horrible. Is this what it takes to sell a book! Goodness I should be able to sell my poetry easily.

    Anyways Kamel you wrote a great review that backed up all of your opinions. It’s nice to finally have someone take the time to say what is going on in this novel. I don’t like the message of sex that this conveys.

    Thank you for the saving of time to my life.

  16. Dude, Kamel! You’re a great reviewer. I already knew this book was bullshit but you made it hilariously bullshit.

    To be totally honest, I had just gotten my kindle when I saw that these were the #1, 2, and 3 books on the bestseller list for kindle, and had I been impressionable, I may have bought the first one… but I didn’t. And I’m glad, because later I found out what they were about.

    No thanks…

  17. I think plenty of people agree with you Kamel because, while the sales figures for the first book are insane, they are no where near as high for the 2nd and 3rd. Most people do what you did and stop after the first one… or don’t even make it past the first few pages. That’s the problem with sales figures – they don’t say anything about what the buyers actually thought about the book or if the book is any good. It tells us millions were suckered in by the hype.

    I’ve just finished reading the trilogy. I couldn’t stop at one but only because I was hoping for something, anything to happen. Stuff does start to happen (a plot! hooray!) but it in no way makes up for the tripe of the first book.

    There’s an awesome review of the book here: – Absolutely hilarious.

  18. As someone who is very pro-getting-your-freak-on, I’ve had mixed feelings about the book. I haven’t read it yet, and I’ve mostly been avoiding picking it up because of two things. 1, I don’t like what I hear about the power dynamic in the relationship. If she’s not into the freaky stuff, how is this exploring her fantasies and women’s fantasies in general? How is it supposed to be enjoyable? 2, I heard about the Twilight fan fic bit and all the bad grammar/editing etc and that has made me very weary.

    I’m loving, though, that we’re hearing a real, honest and sensitive review from a guy here. You’re very right that if this is what we’re telling people that “women want” it could have some very real and very serious reprecussions in the real world expectations. And men and women already have so much social disconnect in the messages they get about ideal relationships through porn and social programming (Disney princess crap and whatnot) that explicitly telling men that “hey, women want to be dominated and treated like crap” is only going to make the situation worse.

  19. Oddly enough, this review makes me want to read the book, but only so that when someone brings it up in conversation I can give fair and complete opinion. I’m rathercertain that I’ll agree with 90-100% of your points here, Kamel. But to just repeat what you’re saying wouldn’t be an effective argument. I’m going to read it, and I’m going to make my opinion known to every one who asks.

    I think that the only way to fight the damaging effects of presenting this as “what good, hot sex is like” is to point out the obvious abuse and domination.

    That being said, I thought that you were brilliant. And I hope more peope who pick it up, see what you see and make a point of speaking up about it.

  20. Ugg… a couple of people recommended this to me and would not just shut up and drop it. It’s so annoying to nicely tell them no. I want to say, “Are you a fucking moron? No, I’m not reading this crap. I like real books. With plots. And literary merit.”

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