A few days ago on twitter I confessed I quite wanted to read 50 shades of grey, a book which unless you have been living under a rock seems to be everywhere. I think I am not lying when I’ll say about 40% of my facebook friends are reading it at the moment. People who I trust dearly when it comes to things such as book or films, told me to run for the hills. The book is so badly written, and no not so bad it is good. This was last year, but now with so many people reading it and swooning over it I wanted to see what all the fuss was over.
So a kind soul gave me a copy of the book. Now you can probably quite easily finish this book in one day, unless you are distracted by real life. I wouldn’t say it is an easy read, because it is indeed badly written. But the story, ermm I have to stop, not so much of a story more descriptions and stream of words and thoughts, with some added “tricky words” that don’t really fit in with the rest of the language, anyway it makes you keep on reading. The same way a pop song comes on the radio and you think “wow this is rubbish” yet you find yourself singing along to it the rest of the day.
It reads like poorly written slash fan fiction, and after reading it I looked it up on wiki and found out it was. It started out as Twilight fan fiction. I guess this is the part that amazes me and even impresses me. E.L James is making millions from slash fiction. Something only fan girls and boys really would indulge in has been made so mainstream it is close to becoming one of the most sold books ever.
So why is this people ask? Why are people so in love with this smutty story about a CEO and a virgin jumping into a BDSM relationship? Well why wouldn’t they be? It is acceptable porn. Something everyone is reading so you don’t need to be ashamed of it. Funny thing is, even if you don’t see everyone reading smut, chances are that they mostly likely are anyway.
10 years ago I worked at Yahoo as a surfer. We went through search logs and indexed sites, looked through submissions to the website directory, i.e. we looked at and saw a lot…a LOT of websites, and a lot of smut. Heck three weeks into my training starting out I had “sex training” to understand what sex sites went into what categories, what was legal, what wasn’t. Oh I learnt a lot. Did you know what Vore * was for example? Or that there are people who has a fetish for sneezing?
I digress… what I wanted to talk about was people’s searches. Every week we produced lists of top 10 searches, for all countries that Yahoo! were in. As I worked on Yahoo Sweden, every week I ploughed through tonnes of searches of filth, porn, smut, dirt that would almost make you want to wash your eyes out. So when I produced the nice top ten list, omitting the porn searches it became rather mundane, like cars, houses, Britney Spears (leaving out the naked Brit searches). Basically people use search engines to search for sex related stuff, it is the same in all countries I dare say. It is safe to say I became a bit immune towards porn during my two and a half years there. Biggest shock was when I saw someone I knew on an “amateur” site. But again, proving the point people love smut!
So instead of opening a Google Chrome incognito window and search for smut people now go and get a copy of 50 shades of grey. The sad thing about that, which a Twitter follower pointed out to me, is that there is a lot of well written Erotica out there. And if 50 shades really floats your boat, there is lots and lots of free fan fiction out there, just Google it. First time I was introduced to fan fiction was at Y! as well. As I was Swedish I was drafted in to look at a few Yahoo! Groups that were secret and in Swedish, but that were under suspicion for maybe being a bit dodgy or illegal. I didn’t see anything illegal, but I did come across a group of English housewives dedicated to writing smutty stories about Boyzone. And I can tell you now, those stories were far raunchier than 50 shades. There really is fan fiction out there about most things.
Meanwhile back in the analogue world, when I was about 12 I was playing in a summer house owned by some friends of my parents. The man and wife had separate bedrooms next to each other, identical rooms apart from the fact that next to the man’s bed was a pile of the Swedish equivalent to Playboy, next to the woman’s was a huge pile of Barbara Cartland books. Even back then I found this rather amusing. Again smut galore kept privately away from prying eyes.
So who knows, maybe the huge success that is 50 shades of Grey could result in people admitting to the fact that they like to read smut, and some of the better written ones will get a chance to go mainstream too?
* Short for “voraphilia” or “vorarephilia”: a fetish in which one fantasizes about being eaten alive or eating another creature alive