50 Shades of Are You F-ing Kidding Me

Illustrations by Hannah Watanabe-Rocco

1. I’m a curious person so when something is recommended by friends and the Today Show and across Facebook and the Twitterverse, I can’t ignore it.

2. The book, which shall not be named because it certainly doesn’t need any more publicity, made its way onto my Kindle.

3. I’m very ashamed to admit this since there are so many wonderful books are out there that I haven’t read or even considered putting on my Kindle. Yet.

4. I haven’t put these wonderful books on my Kindle yet but I hope that I will one day soon, once I finally learn from my numerous Kindle buying mistakes. Like this one.

5. Back to the book that shall not be named: I thought it was ridiculous BUT . . .

6. I read the whole darn thing.

7. In two days.

8. And found it a little bit arousing, at moments.

9. Did I just admit that on my blog? Bad enough that I admitted to buying the book, but finishing it because it was exciting on a very physical level?

10. It’s probably too late now, but could my mother and mother-in-law and father-in-law please not read any more of this? Oh yeah. And my kids.

11. I wonder at my own admission since for all of the book’s woo-woo, I find the main characters, who participate in said woo-woo, to be about as realistic and fleshed out as two stick figures. One of them bent and broken with lots of fiery red welts, mind you.

12. And their relationship is completely not what I would ever want for myself or for my children. Or for anyone.

13. I’m talking about the relationship here.  I’m not talking about the  (cover your ears/eyes please, kiddies!) sex or the sex games.

14. I don’t care if two mature adults choose to play games that they both agree upon, even if they are not my cuppa.

15. And I completely get that a strong and powerful man like Mr. Grey of said unnamed book definitely can be appealing to many women, myself included, BUT not the selfish part. Or the violent part. Which are two of his largest parts. And the third large part that we know about, while valuable to a sex life, still doesn’t rank higher than somebody who treats me with respect. And interest.

15. Don’t we teach our children and claim to believe for ourselves that if somebody is thriving on inflicting pain on us, we not only say no and leave as quick as our feet will take us, but we immediately call the authorities and report a crime?

16. We give up too much of ourselves if we let others control us through pain or manipulation, even if the idea carries some level of thrill.

17. Lots of really stupid (and horrible) things can spark in us a certain thrill. But do we conjure up these thrills for others so they sound like something they might want, in their real lives?

18. I’m not talking about skydiving with all the safety gear, and perhaps a tandem, experienced diver. I’m talking about jumping off a building because somebody tells you that it turns them on.

19. It’s kind of thrilling to know you can turn somebody on. No matter who you are.

20. Foolish creatures we are, feeling somehow powerful because somebody is turned on by our acting out their fantasies.

21. If it’s your fantasy, fine. If it’s a mutual fantasy, fine.

22. But I read the book that shall not be named, and nowhere does it indicate in the book that any of the the stupid, painful, mildly thrilling things that the man inflicts upon our young (virginal) woman character are of her fantasies.

23. Because in the book, the girl does not actually appear to have her own fantasies. Or a mind of her own.

24. Which is at the heart of what frosts me about this extremely popular, highly successful piece of trash (yes, I said it. Sorry to those of you whom I love who loved this book. I still love you just not the book. And in this case, not your taste in this particular book.)

25. Women are not, and never were, blank slates.

26. Women are not men, have different qualities than men, but are not lesser than men.

27. And they have opinions, worldly opinions, domestic opinions, philosophic opinions, even if they have been taught to think or pretend that their opinions are not as important or valuable or worthy as those of men.

28. Which I hope isn’t happening too much in the 21st century.

29. But know that it is in many places.

30. It certainly has reared its ugly head in national politics and television pseudo-news.

31. And among certain public leaders, religious and secular.

32. So, I won’t apologize for getting on my soapbox here because I think we become what we tell ourselves we are.

33. Or what others tell us we are.

34. Having said all this, I would never tell anybody they can’t read this book.

35. I will tell people that I don’t like this book. That it makes me angry. That it makes me see my own weaknesses.

36. I did read the entire first book. Even bought the second one. But I won’t read that one.

37. Not because it’s beneath me to read it. Clearly, I fell victim to its powers in the first book.

38. I’m not reading it because I am ashamed that I am not as evolved as I’d like to think I am.

39. Sometimes I go for the easy over the hard (sorry that joke was too easy not to make.)

40. Sometimes I stop thinking about what it all means and just let myself follow the words of others, even if the big picture makes my skin crawl.

41. And I get that a lot of us read for escape.

42. I love novels because they allow me to escape to other worlds, other lives, other experiences unlike my own.

43. I wonder if I would feel differently if another book explored the same S&M theme but in a believable world with real, fully developed people that think for themselves.

44. I wonder if I would feel differently if another book explored the same S&M theme but told through the voice of somebody who learned something valuable through her experiences or grew or changed.

45. I’m doubtful I’d pick up the book even if it were different, simply because there are so many amazing worlds out there that I can escape into that would satisfy my needs better.

46. Those are the books I’d like to read.

47. I’m back to taking book recommendations from my small trusted group of family/friends, a few reviews written by authors whose view I respect, and suggestions from bookstore workers who know what I like to read, even though they are becoming a dying breed.

48. Which makes me sad because part of what makes the world of books so important to me is that I make connections with other people based on what books we love and hate.

49. So do you think that I am full of it? That I need to lighten up and just enjoy books like the one that shall not be named because it does have a certain thrill that has proven to draw me in, in spite of myself?

50. Or are you more selective in your book choices? Wouldn’t even have considered the book that shall not be named because of it’s subject matter or the way it portrays girls/women? Or something else altogether?

The main thing I don’t like about getting on my soapbox and shouting out my thoughts is that I often don’t get to hear about the things I haven’t considered in my diatribe, the things that might make me reconsider my opinion, or grow to see the world a little differently. And that is really what I want to do. Not just pour out the words but take some new ones in as well.

So let me know what you think. Pretty please.


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38 thoughts on “50 Shades of Are You F-ing Kidding Me

  1. You are spot-on! I read the first book and have no desire to move to the second. All sexual references and activities aside, I thought the characters were flat and boring. I didn’t see the appeal in either one of them…he’s dull and she’s naive. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had found them to be a more realistic couple. FYI–on the front page of today’s Baltimore Sun is an article about the book being banned by the director of the Harford County Public Library…not from a personal perspective, but as an administrative decision (i.e., the county library’s policy not to buy pornography).

    1. Thanks Ellen for the validation. I think having daughters makes me even more sensitive to how girls/women are portrayed. I have to say that book banning kind of freaks me out though even if the book doesn’t in my mind have redeeming value. Although I may draw the line at propaganda that rallies people to hate others. But that’s for another post on an angry-Sara day. 🙂

      1. I do too. Book banning scares the daylights out of me, but I don’t think I’d like to find what I consider pornography in a library and am not sure I am against a policy that doesn’t include it as part of it’s selection.

        1. Back in our day, it was Forever by Judy Blume, although not banned. I never did get a chance to read that…. 🙂

          1. That’s a book I might reread just to remember. I’m guessing it’ll be a three-hour and I’m done read.

    1. Thanks for the link Cora. I Decided to write about this while responding to your last post so I’m fascinated that this is leading back to more discussion. This is what it is all about for me: conversation, differing opinions,etc.


  3. I have been contemplating reading the book that shall not be named but have held back mostly because of all the hype around it. After reading your post, I’ve decided to not read it for all of the reasons you said you didn’t like it. Maybe someday I will, but I don’t want to use up my valuable reading time on something like this now. So THANK YOU for getting on your soap box and telling us what you thought. Totally appreciate it!

    1. I’m glad, Tami. We really do only have so much time to read and for those of us who love it, we have to use it as wisely as we’re able. As you can see, I’m not always skilled at doing that, but day by day, I’m learning to trust my instincts. I certainly am not trying to tell people they shouldn’t read it if they want; I’m just saying that I wish I’d put my time toward something else.

  4. First, I love the title of this post. Love it. It’s perfect. Second, I finished the book which shall not be named (the first one only) a couple weeks ago. I had heard about it from a lot of people, but had no intention of reading it. Until it was selected by this month’s book club host. Well, that ought to be an interesting conversation!

    Anyhow, the beginning of the book was overly simplistic in its writing style so that was the first thing that turned me off. The characters annoyed me next. I was pulled into the will-she-or-won’t-she-sign-the-dotted-line story enough to get through the book. At certain parts I even really wanted to know what would happen next. By the end of the book, though, I was bored and annoyed again, this time because of the repetitive phrasing of (ahem) certain scenes. I told my husband “if I have to read ‘until he finds his release’ one more time, I think I’m going to punch something.”

    I won’t be reading the next two books. I do have a couple questions about how it all turns out, but I’ll just ask someone else. I’m sure I can find people who have or will read them all. Book club is next week. Can’t wait to hear what my fellow moms have to say.

    1. Report back please. I am fascinated by the hoards of people who are LOVING this book since I had a similar experience to yours. When I finished the book, I finally found my release. 🙂

  5. I haven’t read the book(s), but I did download the sample because of all the hype.

    The thing about this type of book and the content that you’re talking about is that it’s taboo and people are curiously about it. So, it’s like a safe way to explore an often unexplored (by most people) topic.

    My sister is reading the second book and read the first ~ I didn’t ask her details because I didn’t really want to know (and not sure she would tell me, lol), but what she’s seeing is the love story. Apparently, the woman grows a set in the 2nd book and the man’s past is explored which explains his dark tendencies.

    Being that I haven’t read it, I can’t really speak intelligently about the portrayal of the characters, but I will say that I don’t like it when women (or men for that matter) are portrayed as blank slates with no thoughts or feelings of their own. Mainly because I don’t want my children to think that’s how they should be or that’s how most people are.

    Maybe the 1st book wouldn’t have worked if she had chutzpah..

    LOVE it how you broke the post into 50 parts!

    1. I’m glad to hear that the girl grows a set in book 2. I have to say that I found the love story so unbelievable (and insulting to both men and women due to the flatness and lack of imagination of the relationship – yes lack of imagination in spite of the S&M) in book 1 that I can’t imagine it getting better. But to each her own. While worrying the whole time how this post would be received, I did have fun writing it, especially because I gave myself the framework of 50 points/shades in which to write my review.

  6. When all the hoopla found it’s release on the internet about the book that shall not be named, I went to amazon.com to read an excerpt. I think it took about 4 sentences for me to realize I’d read 4 sentences too many. Not my cuppa!

    1. A woman who knows her own mind. Exactly what I’m talking about. Real women do. And I love the word cuppa. I was so thrilled to get to use it in this post. Now to see it in your comment makes me very happy.

    1. I wish I’d thought to capitalize The Book That Must Not Be Named. Much more impact. Next time I’ll pass my post by you first, if you don’t mind. If you do read it, I’m sure we’d love your review.

          1. Give things capitalized names that are evocative of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, such as The Book That Must Not Be Named, or The Burrito That Should Not Be Eaten, etc.

  7. How I love the honesty of this post and the view up there on your soapbox, Sara. I’m sure it would be impossible at this point to find even a single reader who hasn’t heard something about this unnamed book. It blazed across my radar when I caught increasing tidbits through overheard conversations–most recently from a clutch of nurses during a loved ones medical treatment. All the talk is attention getting, and yet the main thread in all this talk has been about the sexual fireworks and NEVER anything meaty (come on seriously, people, I’m of course referring to plot, structure, characterization!). If the only recommendation for a book is the assurance of steam on the windows of your brain…well, maybe someday, if I’m ever on a desert island and my preferred pile of waiting to be read books is back at home.

    Thanks for your very spot-on 50 🙂

    1. Thanks Barbara. I suppose sometimes steam on the window of the brain is good. On a desert island for example. If I had a choice of what reading material to bring, though, I can assure you it wouldn’t be The Book That Shall Not Be Named. 🙂

  8. Loved this post, Sara! I haven’t read The Book That Must Not Be Named either, have considered it because of all the hype, but have to say I didn’t much like the sound of it… so now I probably won’t bother. (Although I completely understand how you can be sucked into a book that is wrong on so many levels.)

    However, I have read some wonderful books that include a bit of bondage… they are Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Choice and Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey. They are fantasy and told first person by a very strong, intelligent and amazing woman. Sensitive handling of the topic… and yes, some guilty pleasure. The characters are amazing.

    1. I’m definitely curious about the J. Carey books, mainly because I think that The Book That Must Not Be Named got all that hype because of the S&M stuff in a somehow socially acceptable form. Why wouldn’t the books you speak of get the same type of hype, especially if they handle the bondage stuff sensitively and are told by a strong, intelligent woman? I find the whole machine of book marketing confounding.

  9. I have had no desire to read this book! Even though as you say it may pose some excitement, I have to agree the story line from what I have heard is very demeaning to women. I don ‘t have a lot of time to read, so when I do, I want to read books I can learn from, get inspired by, or just read a wonderful well written piece of fiction and get lost. Thank you for this blog, I definitely will not make f a kindle mistake and download it!

    1. It showed up despite your IPad’s message. I know you would not love this book. Good choice for you not to spend any time on it. When am I going to see you again???? I miss you.

  10. I love this soapbox extravaganza! I laughed my a** off and I completely agree! I honestly only read bits and pieces of this book while I was in the bookstore the other day and had NO desire whatsoever to buy it. I get the whole “oh-I-want-a-thrill” aspect of it but JESUS enough already! I can’t believe this turmoil goes on for 2 more books! If I want to read about people inflicting pain on each other, all I have to do is turn on the news. Or read the paper. I don’t need to write about it and disguise it as some kind of pleasure-seeking journey. Good lord!
    Okay enough of my rant but high-five to you, Sara!

    1. Thanks Melissa. Glad I got you laughing. THe book is, IMHO, very easy to make fun of. And I had a good time doing it. 🙂

  11. Chuckles…I followed the breadcrumbs to your site and loved it. Thanks for you blog comments. Loved the title. Among the D/s community it’s coming to be known as 50 Shades of Stupid. What upset me most wasn’t the childish dialogue but that the author didn’t do her research. She perpetuated the misconceptions that individuals only seek to engage in Dominance and submission because they’ve experienced trauma in their past. If that was really true, approximately 90% of the world would be into BDSM and the other 10% would be in denial. Remember the spankings, the bullies, the scary monsters under the bed?—trauma, trauma, trauma.

    As a BDSM Expert and Sex Educator, I’d love to see them sell non-fiction BDSM books alongside hers, or other D/s fiction that’s more realistic and not judgmental like works from: Sasha White, Dakota Trace, and Joey W. Hill just to name a few.

    Live with passion,

    Dr. Charley Ferrer
    Author: BDSM The Naked Truth
    BDSM for Writers

    1. Thanks for stopping by and clarifying that the idiocy of this book goes beyond the character development and writing style. I’ve heard now of a few novels that deal with this subject in a much more realistic way.

  12. I hate to admit but I read all three books (hangs head.) It was only because I wanted to see what the fascination was. All 3 books were a disappointment. The writing is childish, the characters are not fully developed, the plot is very thin and I knew what was happening before the characters put it together.

    Great blog I love all your reasons and I don’t blame you for not reading more of the books.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I don’t think you are the only one who read all three books to find out what all the hoopla was about. I never feel ashamed about having read something even if it is tasteless or poorly done. That is, as long as I acknowledge either to myself or others what I found to be tasteless or poorly done. Sometimes you can’t really know how you feel until you’ve processed and that can come long after you’ve turned the final page.

So what do you think?