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.