Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Saturday, February 28, 2015

50 Shades of Grey - Women Expressing Sexual Fantasies

Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.


I read "50 Shades of Grey" when the book first came out since the feminist e-zine ON THE ISSUES had wanted me to review it. I felt the same way lots of people felt about it. I thought it was poorly written. It started out as "Twilight" fan fiction so it wasn't even an original idea. It was not a realistic depiction of BDSM, and I had read better erotic books with BDSM as a major theme. Although some disagreed with me, I thought the relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele was abusive and stalkerish. This is a very polarizing series of books. You either hate them or you love them. There seems to be little middle ground.

Now that the movie has become a huge box office hit, "50 Shades of Grey" is back in the news again – with a vengeance. The books and movie are a cultural phenomenon that has brought erotic fiction and talk about sex into the forefront. Make no mistake – women have been reading erotic fiction for aeons, but they read furtively. The Kindle helped bring about increases in sales of erotic fiction in part because of the privacy the device gives the reader. Woman no longer worried about getting the hairy eyeball from strangers (or friends or family) who saw a strapping, shirtless man on the front cover of the book. "50 Shades of Grey" expanded on this. Sexologist Dr. Patti Britton wrote on her blog that the book series "normalized the discussion about sex and especially about the holy grail of BDSM: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sado Masochism. It allowed kinksters to come out of the closet and claim their orientation."

What "50 Shades of Grey" also did was bring the average straight woman out of the closet. Women aren't hiding their love for the series and movie as if they are ashamed of it. It's wonderful women feel comfortable enough thanks to "50 Shades of Grey" to be so open about the sexual needs and wants. It has also introduced an entirely new population to BDSM, despite critics accurate assertions that the books and movie are not accurate depictions of the lifestyle. When the first book initially exploded into public consciousness, sex toys sales skyrocketed by 400%. According to an article in Cosmopolitan, ben wa balls (sex balls) in particular became popular because Christian Grey gave a pair to Anastasia Steele. Check out this description from the book: "He holds out his hand, and in his palm are two shiny silver balls linked with a thick black thread … Inside me! I gasp, and all the muscles deep in my belly clench. My inner goddess is doing the dance of the seven veils … Oh my … It's a curious feeling. Once they're inside me, I can't really feel them—but then again I know they're there … Oh my … I may have to keep these. They make me needy, needy for sex." Both men and woman wanted to re-enact the sexy scenes the women read in the book.

Women online have talked about the effect "50 Shades of Grey" has had on their sex lives. They're enjoying sex toys more often. Some have found new and creative uses for household items such as chip bag clips in place of nipple clamps. They've discovered the joy of bondage tape, including humorous astonishment at the fact that the tape sticks only to itself, not to skin and hair. That stuff isn't electrical tape, which sticks to everything. Keep in mind most of these women are very vanilla, and this book series and movie are their first exposure to BDSM. Two subscribers to the kink website Fetlife hand-crafted a paddle and flogger. Other fans described their favorite scenes in the books.

Readers have even felt compelled to re-enact scenes from the book. One man on Fetlife who is new to the BDSM lifestyle with his wife talked about how his wife has introduced a wide variety of sex toys to their play since reading the book, including dildos, vibrators, hot wax, and ben wa balls. He and his wife planned to see the movie, and he wanted to prepare a sexy surprise for her once they returned home. He asked for advice on how to proceed. One person recommended acting out a scene where Christian tied Ana to the headboard and blindfolded her. He put headphones on her ears so she couldn't hear – opening her to expand her horizons through using her other senses.

Another Fetlife subscriber described enjoying being spanked. Like Ana, she enjoyed the sting but leaving marks was not okay. One thread discussed songs that reminded fans of the book, including Lucinda Williams' "Sweet Side", "Dark Side" by Kelly Clarkson, "Love Is A Battlefield" by Pat Benatar, and "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. The books and movie have introduced the general public to BDSM, and Fetlife offers tips on exploring the lifestyle to anyone who's interested.

Women are writing "50 Shades of Grey" fan fiction, which is ironic since the first book started out as "Twilight" fan fiction. Storylines range from pure sex to loving relationship to even marriage between Anastasia and Christian, complete with a baby. Here's an excerpt from one of the stories at
I know she loves it when I tell her how much I lover her and need her, it gets her all riled up and she will do anything "You're so ready Ana. I love it when you're so ready for me." I slide two fingers into her as my thumb strikes her clitoris and I can see her building. "Not yet Ana. Not yet." She moans and I can't help but let out a little giggle "be patient. Not long now." I move my fingers in a rotating motion to build her up even more and she arches her back to push her breast in to my hand and lets out a cry "oh. Please Christian. I. Need. You!"
Women are openly discussing what they want from their partners when it comes to sex. This book series and movie have fired up imaginations, resulting in an uptick in purchases of sex toys and erotic fiction as well as the creation of fan fiction. Despite criticism, "50 Shades of Grey" must be recognized for the positive effect it has had on women's expression of their sexual likes and dislikes.


  1. Elizabeth, this looks like a thoughtful and generous approach to the FSOG tidal wave. I hope it helps fans to find their groove. :)

  2. I just wish it could have been a better-written, more polished book that caught the general zeitgeist like this. Why is it so often that truly talented writers labor in obscurity, while unedited fan fiction sets the world on fire? A question for the ages.

  3. Thanks, Jean. I've seen some of the same approaches to FSoG all over the internet, and I wanted to try something different and positive. I hope fans find their groove, too, and also find other erotic books to read. I want them to stay fans.

  4. Fiona, if I had the answer to that question, I'd be rich. LOL

  5. Fan fiction based on fan fiction... sigh.

    However, I do agree that getting women to be more open about their sexual desires is a Good Thing, regardless of the mechanism. Good for both women AND their partners.


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