So this morning I – with some girlfriends of mine – appeared on Seven’s Sunrise to discuss some highbrow literature. OK, OK, it wasn’t so much highbrow as brow raising. We were discussing the publishing phenomenon 50 Shades of Grey. Yes, again.
Click to see the clip and a few more thoughts.
Being on television is lots of fun and roping some girlfriends in with me was even more fun. But this morning’s event, which looked like (and really was) lots of girls sitting around drinking coffee and gossiping about a raunchy book, was not without its teething problems.
Sunrise Queensland correspondent the talented and truly lovely Michelle Tapper had trouble finding mums who would talk publicly about this particular book.
“People would back away as soon as I asked them to talk about it on camera,” she said. And when I canvassed my own friends I too found some shrinking violets who didn’t want to own up to the book.
OK, so the content is X rated. More than X rated, it’s sex amped up on viagra (thanks Belinda Seeney for that line!). The sex in these books features bondage, blindfolding, butt plugs, whips, chains, ropes and riding crops. Sure, there’s a titillation factor there that goes beyond the Mills & Boon Sexy range of books (that feature many explicit sex scenes, but stop a long way short of this kind of sex). And 50 Shades details a relationship between a dominant and a submissive which is a world not many middle-class Australian housewives would know (or is that just naive little me?).
But all of that notwithstanding, we’re all women ‘of a certain age’. We’re not breaking any laws by reading it. And we’re not advocating children read it! And, further, we’re obviously not in the minority – it’s a massive publishing powerhouse, outselling Harry Potter in paperback form, Michelle tells me. So privately we don’t have any issue with the content. It’s only in public that we are shrouding ourselves in coy murmurings and polite giggles.
Is it that it’s not seemly to be a mum and housewife who reads such a taboo subject? Were those mums who had read the book but didn’t want to appear on camera afraid of repercussions? And if so, what kind of repercussions?
I suspect it’s a bit more personal than that. Reading the book, I think you would have to be made of stone to not get turned on at some level. Yes, I did. I admit it.
It’s widely reported that husbands are reaping the benefits of their wives reading the books, with increased bedroom activity, and increased variety in the bedroom activity. Rope sales in the US are allegedly spiking as a result.
On a very personal level, do we mums put forward the image that we’re done with “all that sex stuff”? Once we move into motherhood territory are we supposed to be finished with our sex life? No more lingerie and raunchy bedroom gymnastics as in our 20s? That’s a bit depressing, when you think about it.
Here’s what I think. This was such a big hit for two reasons:
1. We are not done with sex but we do have busier lives and it takes a little bit more effort to get us in the mood than it did when we were in our 20s and the only laundry we had to worry about was a clean skirt and shirt for work on Monday morning.
2. We are not done with romance either. This book offers romance! We want to be wooed. And I mean, really wooed. Not sidled up to as we wipe down the benches after dinner and hit with a sly, “You look nice in those slippers and pyjamas with a hole in the knee”. 50 Shades offers a man sweeping a girl off her feet, whisking her away in a helicopter, protecting her, showering her with gifts – what’s not to love?! Mills & Boon and a gazillion other books have been sold on the age-old formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy rescues girl, boy and girl live happily ever after. Why should this be any different? In this book, living vicariously through Anastasia Steele, we get to flit around in helicopters, private jets, and bullet-proof limousines with bodyguards. Whoo!
3. Be what you want your children to become. On the subject of why we won’t admit to reading erotica, it’s simple. We live our lives desperately trying to lead by example, determined to shape our children into model citizens. We carefully monitor their food, books, television, music and movies, ensuring everything is age appropriate (with the notable exception of my playing Mumford & Sons’ Little Lion Man, which has the F-bomb liberally sprinkled throughout). Sometimes, with all that good modelling, it’s a little hard to forget they’ve gone to bed, or that they can’t read, and that the X rated stuff does not need to be hidden so carefully away from small eyes, hands, minds. but it’s a bit of a double life. And frankly, sometimes, the closeted life is just too hard. So we put it in the too hard basket and we fold the laundry, clean up the kitchen and retire to bed to read Rob Lowe’s memoirs instead.