Fifty Shades of Embarrassment, Guilt and Regret

Popular book draws attention and some level of shame to many who read it. More importantly, what impact does it have on today’s youth?

All I can say is thank goodness for eReaders.

As part of a monthly book club, it was inevitable that the ever-so-popular “Fifty Shades of Grey” was destined to be a book of selection. After all, it’s the talk of the town these days.

My great-aunt has even told me she’s read it. Awkward!

I had mixed feelings on this, much as I did when the Harry Potter wave hit. I had no interest in Harry or his sorcery, but felt intrigued by all the commotion. I suppose that’s how books become best sellers.

People talk. People gawk. People read. Only the "Fifty" series has actually surpassed the "Harry" series and is now the world's fastest-selling paperback of all time, currently at 40 million copies, per Wikipedia.

Only a few chapters into this book does one realize that it has nothing to do with a color and everything to do with emotional and physical abuse, money and power. I knew it was controversial, but I never imagined the level of profanity, abuse and S&M that would be involved.

A friend of mine told me she skipped borrowing a free copy at the library and decided to invest in the eBook simply for the sake of being able to read it during her daughter’s dance class.

There was no WAY she was going to be seen with that book in her hand in public, she confessed.

As it seems, holding a copy of this book could be compared to flipping through a Playboy magazine in many senses. Although Playboy might not be quite as graphic.

Middle school students have been seen walking the halls and passing a heavily duct-taped version of it around. This is disturbing in so many ways.

Gee, and some thought “Catcher in the Rye” was risqué.

Here I am, a full-fledged adult, a parent, a wife, a woman, and I’m having feelings of embarrassment and guilt at the fact that I’ve read such smut.

What on earth is the effect it has on a seventh grader?

If a teachers sees this, what is their responsibility? Should they be held accountable for contacting the parents? Perhaps some parents are OK with their child reading this sort of thing. Whose job is it?

I contacted a local bookstore and asked if there were any policies regarding books of this nature. Video games and music have ratings and restrictions. Surely a book so raw, so explicit, so pornographic would have restrictions. Minors can't purchase a Playboy, right?

“Well,” the anonymous employee clarified, “We don’t display it near the children’s section.” … Well, thank goodness for THAT!

However, a person of any age has the legal right to make this purchase. Mind-boggling.

These naive adolescents are just beginning to learn about relationships, life, and love. They are so impressionable.

Could a book like this start a new generation of sexually confused adults? Will young women find it enthralling to become involved in controlling and abusive relationships? Or is it just one of those things that will slip in and out of their innocent minds without any true effect?

As a parent I have major concerns about the direction in which our society is going and the acceptance of such immorality.

After reading this book, I feel like I’m in need of a good spanking … oh wait. 

See what I mean?

Gail D Reichard September 12, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Do kids that read today understand library classification of books? F - stands for fiction - make-believe. NF - stands for real/true. Since the Fifty Shades of Grey series is FICTION - they should know the stories are not true - even though everything that is in the stories - is out there in the real world. Our children don't live in bubbles. As a parent of 4 grown adults - the way our children survive when they grow up depends on how we as their parents raise/teach them.
B.C. September 12, 2012 at 04:39 PM
This book is the story of man who is damaged from the abuse he suffered as a child. The woman he meets, is the only person who has been able to help him break away from this sadness. He can be happy and participate in family activities with some joy for the first time in his life. He marries, has a family and a beautiful life that his adopted parents never thought he would have, no matter how much they loved him. It is unfortunate that you were too busy being embarrassed about the sex to enjoy the story!
Concerned September 12, 2012 at 04:56 PM
That's exactly what I thought this morning when I read this judgmental article. This trilogy showed the transformation of a man shaded with his abusive childhood from one with psychological issues to develop into a loving, caring husband and father with the insightful help of his loving partner, Ana. The story was captivating and well written. I look forward to watching the movie!
Jenae Holtzhafer September 12, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I was hoping for MORE about his troubled past but in all the chapters I read, it was hard to understand anything more than the fact that he was adopted, his mom was a crack whore and that the pimp left her dead body in the apartment with him for four days. I'm quite interested in the psychology behind his issues, but the author failed to elaborate to any degree that would have allowed us to truly understand. I agree that reading the trilogy would probably help me see the bigger picture, but I also feel the shock value of the S&M was the author's primary goal. Even in the interviews I've seen with her, she rarely elaborates on the depth of Grey's emotional issues and talks more about the research she did on S&M. Also, how can one NOT be overshadowed by the sex? It's on every third page!
Keri Cwiak September 12, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I found a copy of The Happy Hooker when I was maybe 10 years old and would sneak pages when my parents were not around. I did not become a hooker nor did I ever contemplate it. Also, this book is not about an abusive relationship. It is about two people who fall in love and navigate through a relationship and their bedroom. It is shocking to some solely because the female character was not involved in BDSM when she met Mr. Grey. I am not embarrassed I read them. I thought the writing was worse than any sexual thing written in the books. If the book is in the schools (which it should not be allowed), the teachers should contact the parents and the parents should deal with it.
Jenae Holtzhafer September 12, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Not sure if it's my 'deep dark fantasies' or my strong religious foundation but I was just writing about how I felt. I did feel guilty. This is not the kind of abusive relationship I would ever want for a young girl. I'm not trying to be 'judgmental,' but I do have an opinion of it based on my beliefs. I also have sincere concerns for the young children who are reading this ... and I actually had originally written 'naive children' which I probably should have kept rather than changing it to 'adolescents.' 10 and 11-year-olds have easy access to this book which is most concerning. I understand adolescents today have a broader knowledge of such things than perhaps we did at that age, but having a 10-year-old son I can only hope his mind is protected from as much of this sort of information as possible until he's emotionally and mentally mature enough to handle it. Whips? Zip ties? Spanking? When he does encounter it, I'm happy to have discussions with him, but is this something I need to bring up? I never imagined it would go this far. At what age do we have the 'whips' and 'chains' talk? And yes, I had access to my grandmother's Harlequin novels when I was about 11. I read them in secret and had no understanding of what was going on. I never told my parents I had read it so they never knew enough to talk to me in further detail than the general birds and bees conversation. Those books were very sexual, but not to this degree.
AnnaMarie Zeravsky September 12, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I read all 3 and got many comments from people. Most of them were wondering why I would want to read "Porn". I must first say, that I read all 3 books and LOVED them. Yes, the books are filled with sex but the love story is amazing! Second, No child should read them. Third, No one should be embarrassed to have read them. I read the books any chance I got and didnt care who saw. I was so "involved" in these books and felt as though I personally knew the characters. Jenae, you said that you wanted to know more about Christian's past. The author did reveal A LOT about his past, it was just in bits and pieces. By the end of the trilogy, the reader knew just about everything they wanted/needed to know. I think that most people are not open and comfortable with their sexuality and that is why many people are embarrassed to read it. Being very comfortable with yourself sexually and emotionally (which go hand in hand) is very healthy for yourself and your relationship and I think this book will actually help more couples than harm them!
Jackie Romig September 12, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I too have read all three without embarrassment. I enjoyed the story exactly how B.C. above describes. I found the sexual part of the story to be monotonous, after all, how can a man be a billionaire and have time for all that sex? Literally and physically it would be exhausting and time-consuming.
WRVinovskis September 12, 2012 at 06:26 PM
As a parent, I have some of the same concerns as you, Jenae. I DO believe there is an age of innocence in children, a time before adolescence when they are not fully capable of processing and dealing with not only the subject matter of books like "50 Shades...", but also the implications and consequences of these kinds of things in the lives. (Frankly, I know adults, who aren't fully emotionally equipped to deal with some of these more intense subjects in a mature fashion.) This discussion, as well as the parallel going on at the East Penn School Board, affirms to me the importance of parental involvement in the lives of their children and adolescents. Nobody is going to chaperone your children's media consumption (books, TV, movies, music, internet, games, etc.) unless YOU do. We try to be involved, talk with and supervise what our children are reading and watching. It is really difficult sometimes. As Christians, we live in a world where not everyone shares our values. It's not that we don't believe that they will see or experience these kinds of sexual images or language in their life, they surely will. We just want to work to make sure they are at a maturity level where they can best process them and make thoughtful decisions about them. We live in a world in which media is often driven by what stimulates the hypothalmus (i.e. hormonal responses). We're trying to raise children who can also use their frontal lobe (i.e. think, process and make moral decisions).
AnnaMarie Zeravsky September 12, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Thats funny Jackie Romig, while reading the books, I always thought, "Man, who has the time for that much sex?!"
WRVinovskis September 12, 2012 at 06:59 PM
You also raise the point about people "at any age" being allowed to buy this book. I would recommend to you "The Disappearance of Childhood" by Neil Postman. I believe it speaks to our situation today. He makes the argument that the idea of "childhood" as something distinct from adulthood came about with the advent of the printing press and "books". I think his point is well made. Consequently, he posits that with the advent of television, in 1950, we have the end of childhood. If this was true with TV, it is even more so the case with computers and the internet. In the age of electronic media there are no longer adult realities and secrets. He says childhood's innocence was lost and the idea of shame became "diluted and demystified". His evidence for the disappearance of childhood includes: the rise of crime perpetrated by and against children; the increase in sexual activity and drug/alcohol abuse in children; children and adults sharing musical tastes, language, literature, and movies (think of all the recent comic book/superhero movies); the lack of differentiated clothing styles (little girls in high heels, grown men in sneakers). Even childhood games have been replaced by organized sports (Leagues, Travel teams, etc.) which are more like adult sports. To the point, my wife and I will go to a PG-13 movie and be surprised to see parents who have brought their elementary aged children along. One wonders the long-term impact of this on our children and society.
Jenae Holtzhafer September 12, 2012 at 07:08 PM
THANK YOU! This is the point I was trying to make ... my concern is for the children. I suppose my idealistic view of what childhood 'should' be is fading as the media wave continues to crash over these innocent little people. I vow to stay connected with my boys so they can process these mature themes as they come upon them. I only wish everyone would make that vow. It sure isn't Mayberry anymore, is it? Such a shame.
Jessica G. September 12, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Parents today are too worried. My mom let me read whatever I wanted. Since it didn't matter, did I pick up "bad books?" Nope. I read some maturer books, but nothing that would give my mom a heart attack. I was talking about 50 Shades to my sister, who also reads whatever she wants. She doesn't want to read it. No interest. She'll even pass on certain books at the bookstore, telling me they are just too mature for her. I just shrug and let her pick out what she wants. Don't you remember when you were a kid, and your parents told you not to do something? What was the first thing you did? Kids are smarter than we give them credit for though, let them make their own decisions. They're just books anyway. Also, in regards to the East Penn ridiculousness, I've read "Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld and it was not a very good book at all. That should be the scandal, there's really nothing going for it.
Concerned September 12, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Ok...I understand your concerns about your children's innocence. My children are grown and gone and I raised them "sheltered"... limited TV, they played outside, no cell phones or computers and we went to church 3 times a week. However, I found the most frustrating part of keeping my children's innocence was in the school system where the children were introduced to "alternative households" in elementary school and "same sex relationships" in middle school. That being said, it's a parents responsibility to guide and direct their children which is becoming more and more difficult in this day and age. Getting back to these books...they are meant for adults not children. It is a parental obligation to be aware of what your children are doing. Personally I found far more undesirable influences from our school system than I did when my children were under my roof. All I can say is good luck to the parents today!
Larry September 12, 2012 at 08:01 PM
yo, when I was in school 25 years ago, it was hard core sex and drugs everywhere, you could smoke basically anywhere at springhouse and the high school, nothing has changed except now kids can hook up and party in minutes via phones and the internet, back then we had to drive around and look for each other for the most part
WRVinovskis September 12, 2012 at 08:10 PM
"They're just books anyway." ?? -- Don't ever say that to a librarian!
Jenae Holtzhafer September 12, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Concern, I agree. We're trying very hard to do what's healthy for the kids. I was also raised that way - lots of church, limited outside influences (no school dances, no secular music, etc.), and I like to think I have a pretty strong moral compass as a result. At the time I HATED my parents for making my life miserable, but I also respected them enough to not rebel. Once, I skipped school and I was scared to death that my parents would find out and what would happen if they did! Guess what - I got caught. My dad always told me that the truth will be known. Very quickly, I learned this to be true. Our children should be our world. We should do everything in our adult power to give them a chance despite these negative outside influences. It just saddens me that a book like "Fifty" has become so popular and so sought after that our youngsters are tempted to read what's inside. They should be focusing on POSITIVE reading, learning how to help others, focusing on what's good in life. Books like this are reality in some cases, but why do we continue to glamorize them? You're right ... we need all the luck we can get.
Jessica G. September 12, 2012 at 09:11 PM
@WRV - considering I'm on a library board, I'm sure I'll he flack for that comment :) In all seriousness, I meant it more like, they're books, there are worse things in the world that kids could be doing.
Concerned September 13, 2012 at 12:24 AM
I still thought the books were the best books I ever read. I skipped over most of the sex to the incredible story. I think we have two issues going here. Our children being influenced by adult material and therefore casting the blame on the Fifty Shades Trilogy. Maybe someone should explore having social media/facebook for over and under 18. PERIOD. Adult conversations should be just that...Adult.
Emmaus Mom September 13, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Parents are allowing their elementary children, yes, 2nd graders, to read the Twilight series and The Hunger Games...what is going on?? There is a reason the movies are rated PG-13...because they are not appropriate for children. Fifty Shades will certainly be R so therefore it is not appropriate for those under 17. Personally, I did not like the Fifty series one bit...poor writing and monotonous. I was bored to tears.
Tracie L. Lovett September 13, 2012 at 04:20 AM
What is wrong with the Hunger games trilogy? I read those books as well and its SCIENCE FICTION...Fiction being the operative word here...censoring books is just ridiculous. Period!!
Valerie Viles September 13, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Very explicit and addicting!! Have read the trilogy several times each. Found it to be a great love story!! Period.
Tracie L. Lovett September 13, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Yes Valerie I agree the Hunger Games trilogy.is addicting..I've read them several times myself :-)
Gramma24 September 14, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Thank you Pamela. I was sitting here thinking about how 'tame' Peyton Place was compared to this book and what a hurricane of censorship that came from it and it had an 'illegitimate' child (gasp) and very limited sexual connotations.
Gramma24 September 14, 2012 at 02:52 AM
You can keep your Grey, your Twilight, and your Hunger Games....go with the classics...while not as graphic, you still get sex, mayhem, murder and mystique. The Greeks did it well before there was a printing press.
Haley September 14, 2012 at 02:57 AM
we need to realize that children these days know more then parents. most that stuff doesnt shock them so if you cant protect your children from all the influiences in life unless you lock them up for good then i suggest we discuss the topics and let them read the book based on the maturity of that kid in time. We may think our kids are not mature but its pretty bad when you got 9th graders and some younger knowing how give oral and anal and so forth. Its sad yes so only thing we can do is talk to our kids and let them make there own choices in life cause we all were younf and know what its like when parents tell us whats bad like drinking and partying. We all went out and did that stuff or rebeled here and there for some of us. So maybe if we accept that the world is this way now with social media and tv and books we can be more open and more involved in our children and guide them.
WRVinovskis September 14, 2012 at 10:38 AM
So, you are saying that you agree, there is really now no difference between children and adults today. They already know all that "adult stuff".
Pamela Porter September 14, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Gramma: You said it. "Titus Andronicus" has as much gore and mayhem as an Eli Roth film, and no one would dare criticize you for reading it :D
Haley September 14, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Well as sad as it may be you have 6 graders having sex and when I was in school kids knew about things and how to do what fast forward to today with how much information is going into our kids heads I feel the old way isn't the right way with kids. You have hs kids that have kids so much Ehs has its own daycare and girls that are doing anal to stay a virgin and all that stuff you can read on the news and crap. So maybe since kids are so grown up and in some cases know more about sex and topics alike that since we can't stop that information from influencing are kids then maybe we should except it and get more involved in it and if my kid wants to read that book ok chances are they know everything in it. So least I can discuss the book with them so they know right from wrong.
Haley September 14, 2012 at 08:00 PM
So to answer your question I would say to an extent there really is hardly a difference in it, maybe a small one but with kids and information and peers it's tough to think are kids are getting more grown up faster and doing stuff more then in the past. Some parents throw a blind eye to it an think oh I know my so and so doesn't do this or that. I'm not sayin they do or don't. Just kids these days are not stupid you know and we all were young and know they tell the parents what they want to hear. Maybe with the times changing we all can be more open minded I guess least the younger generation will be since they are living in the society where more skin and sex is becoming mainstream that it doesn't shock them as it does to parents. Your only option is to cut out there eyes and ears to maybe completely protect them from it lol.


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