When I first heard of the “mommy porn” Twilight fan-fiction novel Fifty Shades of Grey, I did what most of you reading this sentence will do: scoff and roll my eyes, amused by the thought of the person who would read such a thing. And then it set in…the constant pop culture allusions, daily sightings of the books and a curiosity that grew like the reading requirements for my journalism lectures. I read Fifty Shades of Grey and I’m glad I did. Here’s why you should, too:
1. It’s educational
We’re all familiar with Northwestern’s liberal arts-style educational system, wherein we’re forced to take the course subjects we vowed to never suffer through again (looking at you, AP Physics). But since Nerdwestern is so adamant about graduating us with multiple areas of expertise, we might as well widen our horizons outside the classroom as well. For those of us who thought that “fisting” was the same thing as “fist pumping” and “submissive” was just an adjective, reading Fifty Shades of Grey is a perfect way to expand our breadths of knowledge. So pick up a copy today and learn the particulars of BDSM culture. In the least, you’ll have some mysterious allure around you. The information you attain from the book could even help you in your future studies.
2. It’s a crash course in how to hide a mysterious object
Given Northwestern’s strict and often questionable code of allowed dorm room objects, us students living on campus can employ the same skills in hiding a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey from public view as we would for our coffee pots, irons and hanging flags. In fact, I would suggest that every incoming freshman attempt to read and keep from public view the novel (seriously, guys, don’t whip that thing out in front of people. It’s just indecent). If you can keep your parents from finding a little book, you can prevent your CA from finding that stash of unapprovables.
3. It’s an advancement against the stereotype of gingers
Before I read about billionaire sex-addict Christian Grey (or should I say Irreligious Orange), I thought those of the reddish hair were soulless mouth breathers. Now I know better.
4. Decrease your functional fixedness!
I remember the days when I thought a rope was just a rope, a gray tie didn’t indicate DTF and “Laters, baby” was just a nerdy thing to say. Now I see sexual innuendos everywhere. And you will too, Fifty Shades virgins.
5. You’ll seem informed and intelligent
For all you name-droppers who can’t squeeze in a reference to “my time at Northwestern University,” within ten minutes of a cocktail party, try this new phrase: sexual politics. For example, “Fifty Shades of Grey explores the complex and [insert your own pretentious adjective] sexual politics that have become the paragon of post-feminist movements in the burgeoning 21st century.” I don’t even know what I just said. But I used a somewhat-taboo book to mention a somewhat-newly-mainstream phrase and bam! Invited to the intelligentsia.
6. It’s a great way to make friends
If you tell people that you have read Fifty Shades, they will flock to you like the Allison hot cookie bar. It’s a friend machine. Admit you’ve read something scandalous, and people instantly want to know more about you. They might even ask to borrow the novel (it's happened almost every time I’ve mentioned the book) and whether or not they actually have an interest in the book, people will have an interest in you. I constantly take advantage of this fact to pretend I’m way cooler than I am.
7. More excuses to laugh at Stephanie Meyer
Think about how many minutes it took you to get your order from Burger King at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Now multiply that number by the year in which you were born. That’s how long I could spend preaching my negative feelings for Stephanie Meyer. She has raked in millions for sloppy plot, planted the idea in young girls’ heads that without a boyfriend they have nothing and totally ruined the vampire according to Whedon. Now think about Meyer’s firmest Mormon belief that was established in her own series: no premarital sex. Well. Look at the book that made BDSM talk mainstream. And how did it begin? Online. Twilight. Fan fiction. Uh to the huh. To be clear, I totally respect one’s religious beliefs. I just feel kinda tingly inside knowing that Meyers' undeserved fame brought about something she personally disproves of.
8. There’s a lot of…um…detail
For anyone without personal experience or a daring best friend, Fifty Shades of Grey will give you all the know-how on how to do. It can be a great leisure activity (if reading erotic romance is your thing) and a handy sex dictionary for the curious, as well. However, beware of the pitfalls that come with the knowledge of such a taboo subject. Near the end of the novel, one particularly disturbing scene got me to hide the book under the largest piece of furniture I could find. It took two days for me to summon the courage and finish the story.
9. Awkward moments galore!
As a fan of the awkward and strange, I can honestly say that this is the best reason to read E.L. James’s erotic novel. Reading a book of this type for the first time is an awkward experience in itself, but the best moments come from the embarrassing interactions with others. Such as when I tried to explain to the cashier that I was buying “this best-selling book and I have no idea what it’s about” and had been convinced by my paranoia that someone in the store was going to shout, "Porn! She's buying mommy porn!”
One of my favorite Wal-Mart games is “Spot the middle-aged lady trying to put Fifty Shades of Grey in her cart without anyone noticing.” I once stood next to said stereotype, grabbed a copy of the book, and began reading it aloud for all the nearby shoppers to hear (I read the revised contract - read for yourself and you’ll see what I mean). By far the most mortifying experience, though, was when my boss pulled the book from her bag and gave it to her teenage brother to hold. I’ll never see her the same way again.
10. It’s actually a decent read
Believe it or not, this book is way more enjoyable and engaging than the story on which it was originally based. That in itself is not the highest compliment (honestly, how many books aren’t better than Twilight?), but with the exception of some slightly-terrifying moments that make you scream, “dafuq did I just read?” Fifty Shades of Grey is not that bad. It has its fair share of cliché moments and obscure pop culture references that you have to work past, but the dialogue is the best part of the book and the main character, Anastasia Steele, is sort of like a Mia Thermopolis who wound up with a darker Michael Moscovitz. That being said, if you aren’t a fan of explicit pornography or the Princess Diaries, you won’t get through this book on its prose alone.