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What's Behind 'Fifty Shades' Popularity? It's the Romance, Stupid.

Yes, "Fifty Shades of Grey" gets into nitty-gritty sexual details, but the secret to the book’s success is actually no secret at all: It’s not about the sex.

Headlines about the steamy three-book series that begins with Fifty Shades of Grey are so ubiquitous that even women who’d never dream of reading it know all about it. The lovely secret of today is that e-readers like Kindle, Nook and tablet computers offer a level of privacy that allow even supposedly disapproving ladies to catch every OMG with no one ever the wiser.

Even Saturday Night Live winked at the role e-readers have played in the book’s mega-sales. (To date, 15 consecutive weeks topping the NY Times bestseller lists and film rights reportedly sold for $5 million.)

Though most readers might agree with The Washington Post‘s assessment that E.L. James’ trilogy  is “atrociously written”,  Fifty Shades is a true publishing phenom.  Who would write quasi-pornography so rich with details about BDSM (Bondage/Dominance/Sadomasochism)? A British wife and mother of two. E.L. James = Erika Leonard. Perhaps that’s why so many reviewers credit it for creating a new literary sub genre: “mommy porn.”

Pish. Ain’t nothing new about turning women on with the written word, and Moms sure ain’t the only ones sizzling now. Fifty Shades wasn’t in the stores when Warner Brothers decided to produce a movie about male strippers. Surprise!  Magic Mike also encourages women to be open about their sexual fantasies, and it, too, is a runaway hit.

Am I the only one who remembers when  Elizabeth McNeill’s sex-filled book and movie Nine and a Half Weeks taught women in the 1980s new uses for honey-drenched strawberries and ice cubes?  OrCosmopolitan‘s 1972 nude centerfold of actor Burt Reynolds that was passed hand-to-hand in dormitory hallways and across secretaries’ desks? The so-called “queen of literary erotica” Anais Ain wrote Delta of Venus in 1969!

Of course, women like sex, but that’s not what took Grey to #1. The same men (and male journalists) who seem so utterly confused by the book’s success ignore the oh-so-obvious truth:  It’s not about the sex.

The allure of protagonist Christian Grey is his addictive relationship with the previously virginal Anastasia. It’s his attentiveness. The man never forgets her preference of  tea from the moment he meets her, for heaven’s sake.

Christian never lets Ana forget that her pleasure, sexual and otherwise, is always as important as his. He flirts. He’s jealous. He never tires of her. When he says he wants her, he means fully, deeply and forever.  Delete the detailed copulating and the dialogue can sound like an old-school romance novel with Fabio on the cover.

As SiriusXM host Jenny Hutt says,

“[The lovers in Fifty Shades] allegedly have this S&M relationship–but he doesn’t ever hurt her! It’s about women wanting to be adored, ravaged and respected. The book serves as a reminder to women that it’s OK to like sex, to want it. But, at its base, it’s romantic.”

As for me, I’ve just finished the first book and haven’t decided whether to move on to Books 2 and 3. But, because I’ve read some of the steamiest chapters while sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, I now give a squinty eye and questioning smile to every woman with an iPad, no matter where she may be.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sarah Skibiski July 11, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Excellent point!
AMA July 11, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Everyone thinks that Christian is controlling her,such as the list, but in fact she is controlling him by allowing/not allowing him to what pleases her. The second book is good and the third book is great! Not only is there a wonderful love story in these books, there is humor,mystery, and murder. Take out all the sex and you have great romance novels. Kudos to E L James....who struck a cord in all of us.
Karen Malone Wright July 11, 2012 at 11:53 AM
OK, OK, if you insist (tee-hee), I'm moving on to Book 2.
AMA July 11, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Karen you won't regret it..this was the first time I had ever read books like this and at first I was taken aback, but then I kept reading and I loved the chemistry between the two. I usually read historical,true,or vampire books. Lol I like reading real books opposed to iPad, Kindle,etc. although I have some downloaded for traveling. Enjoy!
A July 25, 2012 at 01:58 PM
hahahaa Nice try. And men "read" playboy for the "articles" !!!

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