50 shades of misogyny

Seriously, if you want to read a 50 Shades type book but without the controlling creepiness of Christian Grey, the Bella Swan-ness of Ana Steele, and with hotter sex, then read The Boss by Abigail Barnette. The author set out to see if she could write a 50 Shades type book but without all the gross misogyny and adherence to rape culture.

Best of all it’s free as an ebook on Kindle and the next two books in the series are only .99 which I think is worth it since each book is at least 350 pages.

there’s a literal movie about a controlling sexual relationship advertised on tv all the time that’s going to be a hit in the box office probably but the second somebody makes a movie about 2 men or women in a healthy relationship the world explodes and screams “THINK OF THE CHILDREN” like are you for fucking real

Oh fuck, guys. I’m reading 50 Shades of Grey.


This book actually involves more physical and psychological abuse than the series it was based on, Twilight. The only difference is people are under the assumption that because they’re in a kinky relationship, that it’s okay (in opposition to Twilight, in which it was just blatant abuse). 


“Kinky relationships” are based off of trust, which is absolutely necessary for them to function. Ever heard of a safe word? Yes? Why do you think they exist? You’re giving your body over to someone to play with, with the understanding that you can trust them to stop when you are no longer okay with it.

These kinds of interactions cannot exist without trust, and serve (in my opinion) to strengthen the trust and communication within relationships.

ABUSE is about pure destruction, and control. In a BDSM situation, the person who is being submissive (or the bottom) is the one who has true control. This is because they hold the power of the magical word that stops everything. In an abusive relationship, the one inflicting the torture is the one in control.


The relationships in Twilight and Grey are both abusive relationships. Calling something kinky doesn’t make it so. This was clearly written by someone who isn’t aware of how these kinds of interactions are supposed to work.

This is probably the spot to say that for the sake of this assignment I made a good faith effort to read these books at my city library, but I wasn’t self-punishing enough actually to finish them and had to stop the agony halfway into the second volume. Dreck of this stupendous caliber has a particular advantage over literature in that one doesn’t have to read all of it to surmise, accurately and eternally, that it is all uniformly awful and awfully uniform—romance novels, like racists, tend to be the same wherever you turn. It’s pointless to spend much time impugning these books as writing because they really aren’t meant to be considered as actual writing, the same way a Twinkie wasn’t meant to be considered as actual food. Books ejaculated this easily have the inverse effect of being extremely difficult to read. Leonard’s creations are the cartoonishly erotic suppurations of a hamstrung, not terribly bright adult trying to navigate a midlife crisis, and you get the feeling that the sentences arrived on the page as if by osmosis, unaided by even a sub-literate serf.

William Giraldi in The New Republic, in what is one of the most loathsome texts I have read in some time. It’s a review of Hardcore Romance, a book about the Fifty Shades phenomenon.

If anyone ever wonders why I don’t tend to engage in “value criticism”–especially of culturally marginalized or devalued texts–this is the answer, right here. When I do, it tends to be in the service of positive judgments, explaining why I think something is good rather than the opposite. I also try to explicitly define and explain my criteria for making these judgments. 

It’s not that I’m incapable of being nasty and acerbic on the subject of writing (I’m reining it in quite a bit here) or that I don’t somewhere believe my own judgments to be absolute (I think this article is absolutely valueless). I think I know what good writing is–and I can explain what I think it is, I do that for a living. But I also am grown up enough to know my judgments aren’t, actually, absolute, and that somewhere, someone else is judging by different criteria. 

If I think a text is “bad” writing, then people who think like me are likely to see it that way already. What do we imagine to be the critical project of a piece like Giraldi’s if not to lead a kind of orgiastic circle jerk of disdain around an already devalued work? Is it going to persuade any 50 Shades fans they were wrong? No, though it might shame them for their enjoyment, and indeed, that seems to be a major goal of Giraldi’s piece. But it’s not going to change any minds or point out anything anyone has missed, which is my preferred role as a critic.

There’s more to it than that, though. If you ever wonder why feminist scholars are skeptical or even antagonistic towards discussions of literary value or “quality”–this piece could act like a crash course. It’s like an extreme limit case of the kinds of misogyny that are usually more veiled or occulted in discussions of literary value that substitute hyperbolic scorn or praise for any kind of specific textual or rhetorical analysis.