ANNE GILDEA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - REAL LIFE - Anne.gildea@mailon­sun­day.ie

pur­chased a pint; may I ask in what con­text?’ I had to go to three dif­fer­ent shops to get a copy, such was the run on it. Fi­nally, book in hand at the cash reg­is­ter of Dubray Books on Grafton Street, I quizzed the as­sis­tant, who in­formed me it’s out­selling Dan Brown back when Dan Brown was out­selling ev­ery­one. And the pub­lisher ran out of pa­per try­ing to keep up with de­mand. And it’s 30some­thing women who are the main pur­chasers.

The me­dia flurry has fo­cused on the BDSM (bondage, dom­i­na­tion, sado-masochism) el­e­ment. ‘Are you not wor­ried we’re all be­ing dragged care of peo­ple in your own life, that’s a great place to go to.’ I was ex­pect­ing some­thing much darker since it’s been dubbed ‘mommy porn’, and con­sid­er­ing what’s per­va­sively avail­able on the in­ter­net un­der the ‘p-word’, I, like the News­night pre­sen­ter, had a bad feel­ing about the trend I thought the book was part of — the in­sid­i­ous creep of that de­press­ing, de­mean­ing porn aes­thetic into or­di­nary life. In her hi­lar­i­ous mem­oire/fem­i­nist trea­tise How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Mo­ran notes that ‘12 per cent of the in­ter­net is pornog­ra­phy’ and sug­gests ‘porn cul­ture’ is ‘ar­guably the big­gest cul­tural in­fil­tra­tion since the counter- cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion of the 60s’. She sees its sleazy influence in the nor­mal­i­sa­tion of the ex­treme: fe­male wax­ing, kinky sky­scraper heels, fe­male en­ter­tain­ers per­form­ing in ver­sions of un­der­wear, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of cos­met­i­cally en­hanced breasts, and ubiq­ui­tous ad and en­ter­tain­ment im­ages of ‘glassy-eyed’, ‘open-mouthed’ women.

But, she ar­gues, it’s not the no­tion of porn per se, but the ‘offensive’, ‘emo­tion­ally bank­rupt’ porn in­dus­try that’s the prob­lem; the so­lu­tion be­ing a counter-move­ment of less crass, non-misog­y­nis­tic ma­te­rial. Ma­te­rial based more on real de­sire and con­nec­tion than the dis­turb­ing ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women all over the in­ter­net. Read­ing EL James, the thought oc­curred to me that you could ar­gue she’s part of such a pos­i­tive counter-weight.

But then again... I’ve known a man or two in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing his whippy side, and all I can say is — in con­trast to James’s wordy fan­tasies — ‘ouch’. Sorry, I much pre­fer a back rub, a cup of tea and a cud­dle. In re­al­ity I find pain is just pain, but I can imag­ine that James’s evo­ca­tions of it as gasp­ing, florid plea­sure will give rise to a few in­stances of ‘Hang on a minute, I’m just go­ing to the pot­ting shed to get one of the tomato plant canes: it’s spanky time!’ Good luck with that. I wouldn’t bother.

But I would get Mo­ran’s book if you’re down the shops. Now, that’s what I call a fab­u­lous read.

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