LIST OF LINKS REFERENCED/FOR YOU TO CHECK OUT:
1.) Perhaps you’ve heard of the relatively recent #1 New York Times Bestselling book by the name of Fifty Shades of Grey, following suit with Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed to complete an allegedly titillating (not to mention popular) trilogy. I first caught wind of the erotic literary phenomenon a couple years back when someone I worked with asked me what I was reading. I handed her my copy of Story of the Eye, a pornographic novella written by the French author Georges Bataille in 1928. My coworker opened to a random page where the narrator is jerking himself off, and then proceeds to have sex with his lover beside the corpse of a girl who was previously the teenage couple’s concubine. “Have you ever heard of Fifty Shades of Grey?” She asked, “It’s like, huge right now.”
I hadn’t heard of it. She said I should read it.
To this day I still have not read Fifty Shades of Grey or any of the other books in the series. It’s not because I think I’m too cool or anything like that, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I haven’t taken the initiative. Because of my ignorance, all I know about the trilogy is what I’ve heard by word-of-mouth, YouTube videos, and online articles/reviews. My interest in the novels from a censorship standpoint, I confess, began a couple months back during spring semester when I was taking a Self Defense class for women. A lot of people in that class (including the instructor) always seemed to be up in arms about these damn books. In fact, it dominated much of the class discussion—and it was heated discussion! They kept saying things like, “It’s a horrible influence on girls and women alike”, “The writing sucks”, and “It ought to be banned everywhere”. They also unanimously expressed that they believed the author, E.L. James, was nothing short of a monster that will be responsible for an influx of both emotionally and sexually abusive relationships over the course of the next decade. The instructor of the class seemed to endorse this viewpoint and invited everyone to attend a lecture/discussion that was being peddled around campuses to raise awareness about the evils of Fifty Shades of Grey. The following email was sent to the entire class one day:
Here is the information about the Brown Bag lecture/discussion/talk (?) tomorrow. You can attend this session as a make-up for missing a class. Just let me know if you attend so I can give you credit.
Wednesday 2/13/13 11:30am -1:00pm (Campbell Hall Room 230)
Amy Bonomi, MPH, PhD, Lauren Altenburger, Nicole Walton
“Double Crap!” Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey
(I was unable to attend the discussion due to a schedule conflict, but truth be told, I was a bit conflicted as to whether or not I would’ve wanted to attend anyway. ) ???
As I read over this week’s blog prompt, I was reminded of the whole anti-Fifty Shades of Grey attitude espoused by the majority of my Self Defense class, and I wondered to myself, “Has the series faced any other back-lash?”
Turns out it has! As you can see, I found a whole slew of video clips and articles chronicling the enormous demand for the books, as well as the bans that have taken place at certain libraries in the United States. According to one very informative (and very recent) article by the Huffington Post, “Libraries in Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida have all either declined to order the book or pulled it from shelves. Other states may soon follow.” (Lush)
That’s right, in 2013.
Interestingly enough, the banning of the series has been most notorious in Florida libraries, occurring in more than a few counties, including Collier in the southwest portion of the state. I’m perhaps more disappointed than I am surprised.
So why is this trilogy, which apparently has everyone and their mom drooling after it, being banned?
Fifty Shades has, by and large, been labeled as pornographic and deviant. It graphically chronicles the sexual relationship between a young woman recently graduated from college and a suave, money-bags business man of sorts with an affinity for *BDSM activity. Apparently there is lots of sex. Lots of kinky sex, at that.
2.) Because I have not personally read the Fifty Shades of Grey series, I feel that I can evaluate this situation somewhat objectively:
-Censorship of these books is justified when you consider the fact that it is very feasible one could wind up in the hands of an adolescent, or worse—a young child. I mean, I know I encountered a pornographic novel or two at my public library before I turned 18. I’m not a parent myself so it’s hard for me to say how I really feel on the issue, but I can imagine I’d feel a little uncomfortable if my 8-year-old came home clutching a copy with their bookmark stuck in the middle. Oh, the awkward questions that might ensue! Another issue I’ve heard my peers express concern over is the possible negative impact the books could have on young women and their self-esteem. The heroine of the series has been accused of being hopelessly passive and allowing a man to control her life in an unhealthy way. Some readers may not be able to discern this for themselves, meaning they might perceive it as normal behavior and seek to emulate this behavior (including the sexual behavior) in their own lives/intimate relations.
-Censorship of the Fifty Shades series is not justified because it infringes on the rights of citizens who wish to read the novels as well as the artistic rights of E.L. James, the author. Although I came close, ironically I never actually spoke out in my Self-defense class about how their agenda to put an end to these books bothered me. I guess I felt my opinion would be unpopular, and in turn, I might be resented for it. I didn’t want a classmate to *accidentally* punch me in the face when I held their target for them, you know? But seriously, if I had felt a little more comfortable, I would have raised my hand and said something of this nature:
“Okay, I’ll admit, I’ve never read Fifty Shades of Grey so I’m probably not as informed as you all are, but my instinct is that it’s not my place, and it’s not right to tell E.L. James what topics she can or cannot write about. She obviously wrote these books for a reason, and for some reason a lot of people are devouring them. I can take your guys’ word that they’re poorly written, and that there may be some criticisms to be made of the material, but just because I disagree does not necessarily mean it should be banned entirely”.
Yeah, I probably would not have put it exactly like that as we were in the process of doing planks, but you get the gist.
-I believe that all artists and/or performers have the right to express themselves in such a way that is not influenced, moderated, or infringed upon by some outside force other than the muse, the inspiration, or the idea itself. My one condition is that, in the process of this expression, others are not physically harmed. Which is to say that I don’t think it is okay for a painter to sacrifice his neighbors in order to paint with their fresh blood (he could just as easily use his own blood). I realize that’s a really bad example.
– I believe that all artists and/or performers have the responsibility to tell the truth. When I say the truth, I don’t mean that their work has to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It doesn’t even have to be the truth (in the literal sense of the word) at all. I just mean that the truth needs to be true to the artist’s intent…and that’s it’s everything the artist did or (in some cases) didn’t want it to be.
QUESTIONS FOR Y’ALL:
Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey? If so, what input can you give, and did you like the book(s)? Do you find it offensive? If you haven’t read the book(s), what is your perception of the series? Like, specifically, what words come to mind? In your opinion, are libraries in Florida and others states justified in banning the book? Are you surprised by it? Also, what flaws do you find in my personal definitions of an artist’s rights/responsibilities? Do you disagree with me?
Now that I have written this blog post, I think I am going to go ahead and read the books. All this controversy has got me straight up curious!