What does ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ teach young women?

I have three daughters. The oldest is married and thirty-something (she’ll kill me if I quantify the “something”). The next in line is twenty and still relatively new to western civilisation although adapting remarkably well. The youngest is twelve.

Click on the image for the best worst reviews of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’


I remember some discussion when ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ first came out. Now the movie is out. I thought it was one book – I learnt today it is actually three books. The hype surrounding the books seems to be exceeded by the hype surrounding the movie.

“…  the film has already been a hit in Australia for Universal, becoming the studio’s “second-biggest opening day of all time“, with more box office records expected to be broken this opening weekend.”

WOW! For a movie made from a book that is frequently given a review rating of one (yes, 1) that is some opening.

Lisa Wilkinson is not impressed and has said so in strong enough terms to have her review picked up by Jezebel and Huffington Post.

Yes, Fifty Shades Of Grey is more appalling than appealing. It’s domestic violence dressed up as erotica. And if there’s one thing this movie is not, it’s erotic.”

Source: Daily Life

Mia Freedman has a rather different view, although Mia seems to want to have her cake and eat it too in her review.  Seems she disagrees but respects the views that oppose hers, because they haven’t read the books. All three books are necessary, it seems, to comprehend the nuances of the deep and meaningful story.

What’s fascinating to me is that I honestly feel like I saw a different film to the one they described. Having read all the books, I brought a level of knowledge and understanding and context and familiarity to the movie that non book readers just couldn’t.

Source: Mamamia

Madonna, who we believe knows a little about sexy stuff, has described the book in less than glowing phrases.

“It’s pulp fiction,” she said. “It’s not very sexy, maybe for someone who has never had sex before. I kept waiting for something exciting and crazy to happen in that red room thing, and I was like, ‘Hmm, a lot of spanking.’ I also thought, ‘This is so unrealistic because no guy goes down on a girl that much.’ I’m sorry, but no one eats p—-y as much as the guy in that book.”

Source: E!

All women with a public profile, Madonna’s profile not likely to be eclipsed for some time.

What about a woman without such a public profile? Let me introduce Kaye Deeley. This is a collaborative article, as here I present Kaye’s view on ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.

* * * * * * * * *

Yet another reason why I can’t stand Mia Freedman or understand why she gets so much traction with so little substance. Just the paragraph:

” Oh, and another thing I’ve heard said by non-book reading viewers of the film is that they hated the way Christian used a condom in one of the sex scenes. I LOVED THAT. Thought it was one of the best things in the whole film. If you read the books you’d know that condoms are mentioned and their application described in EVERY SINGLE SEX SCENE until she goes on the pill. I think that is tremendous and I love the way it’s done in a pretty casual, off-hand way that normalises condoms. As they should be.”

Goes to show Freedman missed the fucking point completely. The use of condoms in the story wasn’t about “safe sex”. It was about a controlling misogynist making sure that his slapbait didn’t get pregnant and have any control over him. Freedman misses the whole part where “Christian” then organises his own doctor, who prescribes for all his abuse victims, to take control of Ana’s body etc etc. Freedman needs to read some Friedan then perhaps she’d understand why EL James was incapable of writing anything other than “mummy porn” that plays into the whole myth of domination by consent. Feedman no doubt wouldn’t even understand why she wears lipstick and high heels.

I was talking to a male friend yesterday about a female friend who is looking for permanent work so she can qualify for a tiny little mortgage to build a house on land she owns outright. He was perplexed by the fact that she can’t get a loan that is probably less than what some people pay for their cars and said “well she should talk to my bank manager cause I don’t have a permanent job and I get loans”. I had to make a quick decision about whether or not to bother to educate him on the entrenched systemic sexism in the banking system but decided I didn’t have half a day to waste.

 * * * * * * * * *

Kaye’s field of expertise is Social Science.

I haven’t read the books. I have no intention of seeing the movie – or movies as is bound to be the case. There are far better and more important things with which to occupy my mind, such as climate change. Or what our government are planning with Medicare. Helping the kids with homework. Children in detention. Yes, all work and no play makes Jill a dull woman. I can think of far better entertainment for my daughters and I. Something that is exciting, fun and not a psychological mine field. With a strong female character. Yes, I see Mia believes the female character in Fifty Shades of Grey is the one in control, but that might be a bit deep for many of the audience who will see it – is that the message most will get? What of the young males who will go for the titillation factor and completely miss any deep psychological message detected by Mia? What message are they going to get?

OK, it IS just fiction. Badly written fiction from all accounts. The hype surrounding both the books and the movie tells us something: what is it telling us? I’d like to hear the views of young women such as Caitlin, who sings a great parody song asking Tony Abbott “Why you gotta be so rude?”. I wonder if Tony and Margie have read Fifty Shades of Grey?

Author Kristen Lamb has written a very comprehensive piece, Is Romance Devolving?—50 Shades vs. No One Puts Baby in a Corner. Highly recommended reading!

There are absolutely hilarious reviews of the books on Goodreads.

23 comments on “What does ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ teach young women?

  1. I read a sample of the first book on Amazon and it was awful. I wondered how it got past an editor, too. But then, it was riding the Twilight wave but with kinky sex (gasp) and it was obviously going to make tons of money, so maybe it’s not all that surprising. Honestly, I’m not sure about the abusive aspect of the relationship (since I haven’t read the books) but from what I’ve read about it, it doesn’t sit well with me. I personally don’t care what two consenting adults do in their bedrooms but the fact that Christian is psychologically damaged and exacts so much control over the women in his life and that Anastasia willingly enters a relationship with this man because she thinks she can change him (and does) is wrong on so many levels and definitely sends the wrong message. This is just my opinion and it’s an uninformed one, at that, since I haven’t read the books or seen the movies and never will.

    I suppose it really depends on who is reading and watching. I, or another older adult woman, can probably do so without being influenced one way or the other. When it comes to young women, well, that’s a completely different story.


    • Thanks for your input Erin. It seems many of us agree – it is the negative influence on young impressionable people, male and female, that is the worry.

      I never forget that article I wrote about female genitalia (link in a reply to Brooksy on this page) because so many were having cosmetic surgery to look like the porn stars their boyfriends were accustomed to seeing on screens.

      That was physical, this is psychological.


  2. […] article was originally submitted as a comment on What does ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ teach young women? I felt the Caitlin Mary’s words deserved a solo performance. I am publishing this as Caitlin […]


  3. Editor’s Note: I felt Caitlin’s comment so important I have given her a guest post spot! So to read Caitlin’s comment, please click HERE!

    I asked what young women felt about Fifty Shades of Grey and Caitlin came to the party!


  4. I haven’t read the books but have I read the Edward and Bella fanfiction and as far as erotic fan fictions go it was pretty typical. I’ve read a few fanfics and most of them are very badly written and contain lot’s of unrealistic sexual situations. That’s what fanfics are all about, just letting yourself go with your favourite actors, pop stars, anime characters, etc, without worrying about reality or any literary rules. Even though it seems the characters are not in control, the writer is. A fanfic is all about fantasising about the person or people you are obsessed with and writing that fantasy down.

    What I think is really interesting and quite disturbing to some extent, is how this story went from being a silly erotic fan fiction, that was actually banned from fan fiction sites because it was too racy, to being rewritten and becoming a bestseller!

    It’s one thing to write silly stories and keep them on a website specifically for that purpose; one that makes you declare you’re over eighteen for certain pages; but to take one of these silly stories and turn it into a novel that anyone can read is
    in my opinion, all part of the dumbing down process.
    I think Twilight got the ball rolling with a girl being co-dependant on a monster that could kill her and it seems Fifty Shades of Grey is just an extension of that.

    I could be wrong. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bronwyn, we all could be wrong, but there seems to be a few of us if we are.

      I don’t read fanfiction, so I’m probably a bit out of the loop as to the genre. Totally out of the loop in fact!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts – you have a valuable perspective I can’t provide.


  5. I never understood the ‘excitement’ when these books were published. I’ve never read them either! If what many who bought the book couldn’t get past the first chapter or first book, to me, that says something. What on earth does this book contribute? The hyperbole around this book and movie is so over the top. Thanks for writing this Robyn. Some sanity at last.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Annie. I’ve in the past persevered with a book or two when the first chapter hasn’t gripped me, but in this case I am concerned about the impact on young impressionable minds. We already have enough of a date rape problem, we don’t need to add to it.


  6. Oh and I forgot to add, which I probably may as well, since I already have my claws out 😉

    All of my workmates friends who were ‘thrilled’ with 50 Shakes – yes type on purpose – are also massive mamamia fans who all subscribe to the cult of Mia #JustSaying

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Morning Robyn 🙂 Caitlin went down to Brisbane yesterday and won’t be back until today so I have emailed your piece to her & asked her to put her view on here?

    I have to admit and this is pretty crook considering we talk, discuss, debate a shipload in this house that 50 shades I don’t think has ever been raised by any of us LOL! Maybe once a couple of years ago I think Caitlin referred to how there is an awful lot of really good stuff on Fan Fiction so unfair that this piece of crap got picked up, or something along those lines…. So not sure it was big in that young adult age group?

    Personally, I only know one person who read it and considering she loves Mills & Boon and any other soppy story going around, was surprised she didn’t read further than first book, though she was not a fan either. Though a woman who works in our office had a heap read it.

    At the risk of generalising, which of course I will LOL They are all the Facebook Barbies, Aspirational Bogan types that do Tennis on Tuesday, Lunch on Wednesday, the sky is falling in if the manicurist has to cancel appointment AND their precious Johnny or Jill is the just the smartest, most intelligent, best at [insert whatever the parent has paid for as an extra-curricular activity] ever!!! Oh and of course they all brag to each other about that stuff on Facebook as they quietly ‘solo chat’ about how shocking that colour is looking on so & so’s hair 😉

    hehe xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I CLEARLY don’t fit that set. I work full-time, no Tennis on Tuesdays, and I can’t afford extra-curricular activities for the kids at the moment.

      You and I must be a different “breed”, Noely!


  8. My daughter bought the first book, then rang me to say she’d read the first chapter & wasn’t going to bother reading the rest & for me not to bother buying it! Not that I had intended to do so anyway! I was reading a report some time ago that young men are being heavily influenced by rough porn into thinking that’s what sex is all about & then being horribly confused when they become sexually active & their girlfriends object. Books & movies like this will do nothing to help the situation by confusing both sexes!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hells bells, this bloody book and it grubby rot. Its twighlight on steroids. Boy meets girl, boy gives a lot of crap disclaimer reasons why hes a jerk, why he will hurt her and then the reader / viewer watches nice girl voluntarily get degraded, humiliated and generally treated like crap. So that makes it ok, he warned her didn’t he. The amount of women I heard carrying on about it staggered me, fun part was explaining they were full of crap because if anyone actually did that to them they would run screaming from the room. Kristen hammered it nicely when she said Its confusing men more than ever”. As a single guy I have basically given up, whats now wanted by women isn’t even known to far too man women let alone us guys trying to make them happy. These days I just stay home and talk to my dog, at least he isn’t full of phony pretence and bullshit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What sort of dog? I love German Shepherds. Specialist, not All Breeds.

      Thank you so much for an honest male perspective Brooksy. I also found a Huffington review that was interesting, will relocate link for you. May explain the popularity of the book!


      I’ve not seen the movie and I won’t.

      I’ve read strange stuff about “Gone Girl” too.

      I’m pretty simple really. Just want to be treated as a fellow human being!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Big idiot crossbreed, Mastiff cross, hes hopeless but hes easy to understand…LOL

        I particularly hate the books because I had a partner who rabbited on about it to the extent I gave her the flick over demands I be more like “Christian” … well I think Christian is a selfish and sadistic son of a bitch so that ended that romance pretty neatly. But your very right, the books tell women its ok to be taken into places that have nothing to do with them & everything to do with male aggression and dominance. Safe words..if those are needed its time to stop and ask what the hell your doing.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Only thing I can think of is the woman seems to be the focus of the sexual events in the book and MAYBE that is what women see as attractive, rather than the S&M aspects. I don’t know, but S&M doesn’t appeal to me and I can’t see why it appears to appeal to so many as to make these books SO popular! The only erotica I ever wrote had a woman killing a big cat with a spear to save her future lover…. no S&M at all!!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thats what I think too, mine confused his dominance, control and degradation as her being so desirable he lost control. Hell he did, the only one without any real controls was his target. I told her to read up on Stockholm syndrome. But I dont think she got it.

        Liked by 3 people

      • They often don’t. Many women are very confused about female sexuality. As if history has taught them they are only allowed to enjoy sex if they are not openly enjoying it, for that would be “slutty”.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I haven’t read the books and have no intention of doing so or seeing the film. If the subject matter is even close to what I’ve heard I have no wish to read something that glorifies and normalises abuse. I am not a prude. I feel the same about books and films with violence.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I read the the first chapter and found the writing to be so bad it hurt so I had to stop. How it got past an editor then pushed upon a general public as a great book that will make your life lack if not read I have no idea.

    Liked by 2 people

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