The other day my friend’s fifteen year old daughter asked me if I have read ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’. When I said no, she went on to wonder whether it is like the Harlequin books or erotica, or porn. I said I don’t know. I told her I watched the Ellen DeGeneres show the other day where she tried to create the sound effects of the scenes. It was kind of funny. I was at a loss for words, I honestly didn’t know what else I could tell her about the series. I told her that someone had tweeted that the book sold ten million copies in just six weeks, and the film rights were sold for five million dollars.
“Are the films X-rated? Three or four films of the same thing? That would be weird!”
For the first time in my life I didn’t know what to say to her. Best-sellers, Harlequins all have sex scenes in them. There’s always one steamy scene. What was once taboo in fiction and literature is being treated with such openness today. In the old days, when the hero went into the bedroom with a woman, the door closed. But even though in some of today’s bestsellers, the bedroom door stays open, like in Nicholas Sparks’ books, the sex scene is not explicit. It is subtle and romantic. Whatever happened to “less is more”?
In the book ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert, when Emma Bovary meets Léon, the younger clerk, their first sexual encounter after a long period of longing for each other takes place in a cab. There’s no description of deep kissing, nor is any other sexual reference made throughout the whole scene. Only two lovers, in a cab, and the cab racing through the streets of Paris. And yet the scene itself is perhaps the most erotic scene in all literature, where all is left to the imagination and by the power of suggestion. A year after the publication of ‘Madame Bovary’ cabs in Hamburg, Germany, could be rented for sexual encounters. They were known as ‘Bovaries’.
Barnaby Conrad told the following story:
“Viola, a wonderful cleaning woman I had years ago, once asked to borrow ‘Lady Chatterly’s Lover’. The next day I found the book on my desk with this note: “Thanks! Missus Chatterly didn’t know what she wanted but she sure’n hell knew what she needed!”
Just possibly the most incisive review ever given of that controversial book.”
Mario Vargas Llosa wrote:
“The treatment of sex constitutes one of the most delicate problems in fiction; along with politics it is perhaps the most difficult subject of all to deal with.”
Has ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ changed that? What do you think?