’50 Shades’ of inaccuracy; popular trilogy harms more than it helps

There have been rumors for months about the literary toilet paper that is 50 Shades of Grey turning into a movie, and now the rumors are truth — last week, “Sons of Anarchy’s” Charlie Hunnam was announced in the role of Christian Grey, the BDSM-obsessed billionaire who lures protagonist Anastasia Steele into his trap.

Ugh, is this a nightmare? I thought as I saw the news blow up all over social media. First off, Charlie Hunnam’s way too hot — er, talented… to be involved with this, and second… why?!

I’ll be honest, I’ve never read any of the books — just a couple of pages into E.L. James’s original fanfiction piece that became 50 Shades and I stopped, unable to get past the doormat of a protagonist and the complete lack of plot. I do know enough, though, to know that Hollywood’s jumped the shark on this one.

Aside from being the worst-written piece of literature in a while — even worse than Twilight, which is saying something — 50 Shades provides a completely unrealistic portrait of the BDSM community. This would be fine if it hadn’t taken off into the mainstream like it has, but instead it’s spawned a tremendous number of copycats and even brought older erotica (like Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy) into the forefront again. This is problematic in many ways.

I spoke with Tashia Juhlin, a Washington-based sex educator who actually practices BDSM, about the trilogy (which she’s read). She professed to have mixed feelings about it due to the reasons listed above.

“I like that it’s giving people who are normally afraid of taboos the courage to explore their sexuality,” she said. “That’s about all.”

Aside from that, she confirmed much of what I already knew — that 50 Shades got a lot of things wrong, and moreover, it portrayed those who engage in this activity as emotionally disturbed and abusive. This stereotype only harms the real participants, who come from all walks of life.

“(50 Shades) has brought many people to my work with questions where I have been able to guide them to real educational materials and teach them how to safely use their new equipment,” Juhlin said. “On the other hand, it also strengthens the conservative taboos to those not courageous enough to look into things further.”

So basically, if you think every guy who likes it a little rough is a tortured soul like Christian Grey, you’re doing yourself and him a disservice; also, if all you know about this topic is what you learned reading the trilogy, you may want to do some more research.

“There needs to be something to bridge the gap (between taboo and exploration), and give accurate knowledge to the masses in a way that will both shock, educate and entertain,” Juhlin said.

Let’s hope that if there is something else in the way of literature, that it at least has less purple prose and better main characters.

Angelica Rodriguez can be reached by email at [email protected].