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Wednesday, 12 February 2014 19:04

FIFTY SHADES OF WRONG, A Criticism of the 50 Shades Trilogy

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  1. In which Anastasia Steele is a twenty-two-year-old virgin with no purported religious ties.

When we, the readers, meet Anastasia Steele, the heroine in the FIFTY SHADES series, she is a twenty-two-year-old about to graduate from college. She has never dated, nor has she ever experienced any type of sexual longing or lust. According to her, she just hasn’t been interested. Anastasia is a twenty-two-year-old virgin. Not impossible, but a most unlikely situation as there is no mention of any baggage in the form of organized religion or any other philosophical or moral belief systems. Seventeen is the average age that an American female loses her virginity.

It is repeated constantly that Anastasia lacks physical flaws and that every male with whom she has contact falls madly and hopelessly in love with her. Yet she is unmoved or unnoticing. Until! Mysterious and ultra good-looking twenty-eight-year old billionaire business magnate Christian Grey starts stalking her after a chance meeting during which she begrudgingly interviewed him for the school newspaper as a favor for her ailing roommate.

The kicker is that Anastasia is an English Lit. major obsessed with British novels in the vein of Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters. I, dear reader, was an English Lit. major, and I, too, found great satisfaction escaping into other places and other times through immersion in these texts. I was also a complete romantic; my own unrequited love issues manifested themselves in the form of horn-dog slut behavior. Nearly every English Lit. major I have ever known has suffered from similar tendencies best described as sexual promiscuity. It comes with the territory.

Case in point, when I was an English major at the University of Wisconsin, during Shakespeare class, there was a couple, Paul and Amy, so beautiful and elegant and urban cool – she in a long taffeta tutu and cowboy boots, he with slicked back hair and loose-fitting second hand suits –that I could not take my eyes off them during class. In their side-by-side seats with pull-down desktops their hands were busy under the protective boards. Dusty sun filtered through the windows in the old fashioned classroom in Bascom Hall. Instead of taking notes while our verbose arrogant professor, deathly pale and boring, rambled on endlessly, they took turns laying their heads down on the desk top, heads cradled by folded arms, while the one manually sexually serviced the other. They were discreet enough that if you were not focused on them, you would be none the wiser. If you, like half of us in the room, were watching closely, you would shift in your seat whenever Paul or Amy experienced an orgasm, she by sighing daintily, he by audibly inhaling, holding his breath, and finally exhaling like a gasp.

So fevered by these exchanges was I that I had sexual relations with not one, but two members of that highly charged classroom. The first one, Willie, had me over to his rented house on Franklin Street to rehearse a scene from Macbeth that we chose to perform in lieu of a paper. Willie was an adorable scenester/jock combo platter from Iowa City and I was excited to be “studying” at his house because he had the foxiest flower child roommate, Lars, on whom I had an enormous crush. Lars was there clad in a stocking cap and long johns peeking out beneath cut off shorts and he hung out with us. For some reason, probably because I foolishly smoked their very strong pot for which I had a very low tolerance, I found myself in Willie’s bed in what would be a one-week affair that didn’t get off the ground. He was all wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am with little focus on the fair maiden beneath him. That tryst erased any chances I may have had with gentle Lars. The other guy from Shakespeare class, Guy, would become my on-again, off-again equally mixed-up, extremely non-monogamous boyfriend for the next couple of years, and though we looked all right together, he in a beret and pierced ear, I in my neon tights and vintage wardrobe, tried as we may have, we were no Paul and Amy.

Most English majors past and present that I have ever encountered --and there are many as I am now a creative writing instructor and there’s a lot of cross-over --are extremely interested in sex. Maybe it’s our escapist natures, our love of projection, escapism, and the weight of words, but, seriously, we’re as worked up as the wife of Bath. It was difficult for me to buy Anastasia Steele as a virgin English major who has nothing physically, socially, or morally blocking her young natural instincts unless she had something else, deeply hidden and never revealed, wrong with her. As my neighbor Deb, a reader of Books, wondered, “What the hell was wrong with her?”

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