They are the books credited with bringing sex back to suburbia: Fifty Shades, the mega- selling erotic trilogy by E. L. James, a fortysomething television executive and mother of two from West London.
If internet chatter is to be believed, the novels have become something of a self-help phenomena, with on-line forums bursting with women who claim that reading them has revived long-dormant sex lives.
In Fifty Shades Of Grey and its two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Of Freedom, dashing billionaire Christian Grey has a dark side: a fetish for dominating women. His young, innocent lover Ana is asked to decide if she can become a submissive sexual partner.
The erotic novel has improved the sex lives of women across the globe
As someone who has read erotica for a living, the story held nothing new for me. The gothic romance fantasy of a young, innocent woman being seduced by a powerful, older man who owns fabulous real estate have been around since the dawn of popular fiction: just think of Jane Eyre. In the 20th Century, women writers felt emboldened to add torrid sex to the mix; Pauline Reage’s The Story Of O (a French novel published in 1954) makes 50 Shades look tame.
In fact, reading the trilogy made me hark back to the steamy romps of Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper and other Eighties bonk-busters, or even Mills & Boon.
A book at bedtime: The first novel in the erotic Fifty Shades trilogy
One image that’s really caught public imagination is Christian binding Ana’s hands with a grey silk tie before sex. It’s hardly whips and chains, but that is the key to its success, I believe. Yes, it’s risque and taboo, but it’s set within the safe parameters of a fictional world where no one is harmed. Everything is consensual; the sex is all very tender.
Many women feel disloyal in some way for having sexual fantasies, but hanker after a little gentle experimentation. What this book has done is given a sexual template for them to explore with their partners.
Anyone in a long-standing relationship understands sex becomes repetitive, predictable or staid. Yet the worry with fantasies is: ‘Do I want them to become a reality?’
In many cases, women don’t want the fantasy to become true – but the chance to emulate a little of Christian’s mastery in 50 Shades might energise some husbands in the bedroom, should their wives request it.
It’s hardly groundbreaking, but these books have reached women who have never looked at this kind of thing before – and inspired their erotic imagination, opening up boundaries they would once never have considered, let alone crossed.
It has allowed them to enjoy sex again, which can only be a healthy thing.
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING…
I’m a mum of a twentysomething and a ten-year-old, married for almost 12 years – a professional with a career and never a single moment to myself. I heard about these and read them in six days. I found myself feeling different and looking at my husband in a way I never have. Needless to say, I am planning a date night with no kids. I was reminded what marriage is, and am so very glad I read them.
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My wife and I (both 41 with two young kids) read it and loved it. Spiced up our relationship too. It is not degrading to women.
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I’m a mother of two young kids, work full-time, not getting enough sleep and totally uninterested in sex. Reading the books reminded me of things I have forgotten or relegated to the back of my mind while making dinner, running errands or balancing work and family have come to the forefront. I have seen a glimpse of the person I was before having kids – someone who enjoyed having sex, even looked forward to it.
Tamara Engel, blog, mommyish.com
Author E L James has inspired women’s imaginations and is improving sex lives all over the world
After reading, my husband finally ‘got it’!! Our marriage is stronger than ever!! He is much more attentive to my needs, we’re enjoying the greatest level of intimacy we’ve ever experienced. We are in our mid-50s and are acting like teenagers!! and . . . who cares what the kids think!!
There’s nothing like adding spice to marriage or relationships, and personally, I have to say that although I’d never entertained such activities, it’s definitely breathed new life into an otherwise stale concept. Who even knew it needed addressing? Open minds people, you’ll love it.
Psychologist Marisa Peer