a publication of the sexuality and aging consortium at widener university

50 Shades of Grey Hair

© 2012 Joan Price, all rights reserved. Published here with permission

50 Shades of Grey Hair

By Joan Price, www.joanprice.com

If you’ve been awake on this planet, you’ve heard of the success of Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s the Number 1 best seller on Amazon, where it sports 5,143 reader reviews at this moment. The big deal about this book is that it’s erotica, BDSM [bondage/discipline, domination/submission, sadism/masochism] erotica at that, and it’s being read by a mainstream female audience — everyone from teens through their moms and, yes, grandmoms of our age, too. Many start reading it because everyone else seems to reading it, and we like to be shocked.

I didn’t read the whole book, but I did read quite a bit during a very long airport wait at JFK, where I found a mile-high display of all three Shades of Grey books. How did the author, E L James, come out with three books so fast? From the quality of the writing, I’d say she wrote them quickly, didn’t rewrite, and didn’t have an editor. Otherwise, how could she repeat herself all these ways, as an Amazon reviewer points out: Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian’s lips “quirk up” 16 times, Christian “cocks his head to one side” 17 times, characters “purse” their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. Add to that 80 references to Ana’s anthropomorphic “subconscious” (which also rolls its eyes and purses its lips, by the way), 58 references to Ana’s “inner goddess,” and 92 repetitions of Ana saying some form of “oh crap” (which, depending on the severity of the circumstances, can be intensified to “holy crap,” “double crap,” or the ultimate “triple crap”)…Characters “murmur” 199 times and “whisper” 195 times (doesn’t anyone just talk?), “clamber” on/in/out of things 21 times, and “smirk” 34 times. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 “grins” and 124 “frowns”… which, by the way, seems an awful lot of frowning for a woman who experiences “intense,” “body-shattering,” “delicious,” “violent,” “all-consuming,” “turbulent,” “agonizing” and “exhausting” orgasms on just about every page.

Readers recognize the bad writing — more than 1,500 reader reviews are only 1-star — but what the heck, it is sexy (of course “sexy” is in the eyes of the beholder). Anastasia gets lots of orgasms, and isn’t it a fantasy of women at any age to have an extraordinarily handsome, insanely rich lover who gives us endless orgasms — and, by the way, has inner turmoil that we’re convinced only we can fix by offering him our special brand of devotion?

Our age group is reading this book, too, and not just women. I enjoyed the reader review from “a male senior citizen, a semi-retired gynecologist,” whose “arthritis flared up just reading about Ana’s sexual gymnastics.” He had to take Viagra to stiffen his resolve to keep reading.

If you’re interested in BDSM erotica, there are plenty of well-written books you can read, with the sex you’re looking for plus skillful, non-repetitive writing and unpredictable characters and plots. For example, try the Sleeping Beauty Novels, a trilogy by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure, or check out the many BDSM erotica anthologies from Cleis Press. If it isn’t specifically BDSM but simply well-written erotica you’re looking for, both Cleis and Seal Press do a great job. Starting with an anthology can introduce you to writers whom you particularly enjoy, and from there you can explore what else these writers have written.

What would Fifty Shades of Grey look like if it featured a woman our age, instead of a college student? We could title it Fifty Shades of Grey Hair, and our heroine would be a woman of, say, 68, who has left a long, boring marriage and goes to San Francisco or New York City to discover her hitherto hidden sexual kinks. She hooks up with a dom who is maybe 72 and in the best of health and vigor, who uses plenty of lube while he introduces her to his special brands of toys, fingers, tongue, and penis, to bring her to the ultimate heights every few pages. I say “every few pages” instead of “every page,” because we need longer foreplay these days.

Or maybe she doesn’t find a dom — maybe she’s the domme, exploring her personal power in ways she has only fantasized. You see how much fun this could be? Fifty Shades of Grey Hair wouldn’t suffer in any way by being about senior sex. In fact, by featuring savvy, sexy seniors, we wouldn’t need any of the lip chewing and we could be more inventive with our reactions than “oh, crap.” What do you think?

(If you love the idea of senior erotica, I’m editing an anthology right now titled Still Naked: Erotica for Seniors, with Seal Press.)

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