So … you guys consider yourselves a “mature audience,”  right, Dear Readers?

Just checking!  Okay, then, here we go …

Part 1: My Experience (Or Lack Thereof) With “Sexy” Books

If you know anything about my reading habits, you’ll know that I usually avoid romance novels like the plague.  I’ll read books with romantic elements in them, especially if they’re geared towards young adults.  If there’s a book out there about a romance between a girl and a vampire, a boy and a werewolf, etc., I’m all for it.  But in terms of a romance novel from the romance section … well, the only romance novel I’ve EVER managed to finish reading was Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker by Syrie James.  And that’s just because it was really a Dracula-centric story.

Other than that, I’ve never managed to read a romance novel all the way through.  I get five, or ten, or twenty pages in and I just collapse into fits of giggling.  And then I go off to read something else instead.

HOWEVER.

When I was still living with my family, I did read a few of the racier books from my mother’s collection.  These included Fear of Flying by Erica Jong and Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill (which, I must confess, I read in one sitting).  So while I consider myself to be immune to the siren song of romance novels, there are sexual books I’ve read that I’ve found remarkably compelling.  I think what makes them compelling to me is if they are (or if they feel) realistic.  Which brings me to …

Part 2: The Most Formative Book of My Teenage Years

When I was in my late teens, I had one of my more miserable summer jobs.  I was working a minimum-wage job as a foot messenger in Manhattan.  The plus side of the job is that I got to explore different parts of New York, and I had an excuse to check out the Flatiron Building, Rockefeller Center, and more.  But unfortunately, the negative side of the job far outweighed the good.  On the list of cons: very little money, lots and LOTS of walking, lots of down time I had no idea how to fill, sarcastic expectations from the customers (“You don’t LOOK like a messenger!”), plus I had absolutely nothing in common with my bosses or coworkers.

And then one day a piece of luck came my way.  A local company that needed messengers, rather than hiring messengers themselves, would periodically get messengers from MY company to work for them for several weeks.  I was picked to work for this new company for the rest of the summer, and that’s when everything changed.  This company specialized in books.  They weren’t a publishing company, but they did something else related to books.  Distribution?  Marketing?  Honestly, I have no idea.  The point is, my miserable messenger job suddenly improved.  I got to rub elbows with smart people.  My pickups and dropoffs became a regular route of publishers’ offices and other literary locales.  And I was invited to take anything I wanted from the bookcase of free books that was in the mail room (most of the messengers didn’t care about taking them up on this offer, so there were a LOT of books to choose from).

Every day I would stop by the mail room to see what books had been added, and I would take books home for my mother and me.  And then one day I found a book that would change my life: How to Make Love to A Man by Alexandra Penney.

Imagine finding the holy grail.

Now imagine finding FIVE OF THEM.

That’s right.  As I explored the bookcase further, I discovered that there were multiple copies of this “how-to” book that included exactly the information that my friends and I needed!  You see, we were all virgins with varying levels of experience, but we were definitely interested in knowing what to do when … you know.  We met the right guys.  Which was bound to happen SOMETIME!

Up to this point, the only preparations that my best friend and I had made for losing our virginity was … don’t laugh … creating mix tapes of songs that we wanted to have playing in the background on that special night.

Hey, I said no laughing!!!

I’ll have you know that ELO and Journey made some VERY romantic songs!

*SIGH*

Okay, are you finished laughing?  Because I’m going back to my story now.

ANYWAY, to find these books that explained what to do when the moment came, and how to do … um … everything … was really really helpful.  I interpreted the fact that I found these books as a sign of divine intervention that my next sexual encounters were going to be good ones, or at least a lot less confusing.  And I also took it as a sign that I had to share my knowledge with my friends.

The next several months were filled with phone calls with my friends as we studied these books carefully and methodically like the honor students we were.  Our conversations would go something like this:

Me: Hello?

Girl Friend: Hi!  I have a question … look at the top of page 23.

Me: Hang on.  [Takes book out of hiding, turns to page 23, and reads].  Hmmmm.  Uh-huh …

Girl Friend: So, how does THAT work?

Me: Um … well … maybe … well, I’ve never … I mean, I would GUESS that …

[My mother comes into the room, and I hide the book again]

Me: So, how did you get 48 as the answer?

Girl Friend: (laughs) Let me guess.  You mom just came in the room?

Me: Mmm-hmmm.

So let me tell you why that book was important to me. It was helpful, and practical, and explained WHAT TO DO in fairly simple language.  It also explained that you should be honest and upfront in telling your sexual partner what you’re willing to do, what you’d like to try, and what you absolutely will not do.  Because of that book, I’ve had conversations with several partners over the years along the lines of …

Me: So, according to the book How to Make Love to a Man

[Partner raises an eyebrow, coughs nervously, or does a spit take of the coffee he was in the process of drinking]

Partner: Mmmm-hmmm?

Me: … I should let you know in advance if I have any interest in [random sex act]

[Partner’s blood pressure suddenly spikes, and he starts feeling light-headed]

Partner (weakly): Mmmmm-hmmm?

Me: Well, I just wanted to let you know that I have absolutely positively no interest in doing that.  EVER.

Partner: Ah.  Um … okay.  No problem!

I will also tell you that I held on to that book for DECADES.  So while it was definitely a formative book of my teenage years, I also found it helpful to consult it many times into adulthood.

Part 3: An Ordeal of a Book

One of my college boyfriends introduced me to a book that he found incredibly compelling.  I read it once and never needed or wanted to read it again, but it has stayed with me to this day.  That book was Ordeal by Linda Lovelace.

Yes, it was the story of the woman who was best-known for starring in the porno film Deep Throat.  But more importantly, it was the story of a woman with a poor self-image who allowed a domineering man to wear down her identity until he was in complete control of her life.  There was one scene in that book that had incredible resonance for me.  Chuck Traynor is already dominating her life.  They encounter another woman who reacts to Chuck treating her roughly by essentially saying “that’s enough” and walking away from him.  Linda watches the other woman leaving and wonders how things might have been different if she had stood up for herself from the very beginning.  What would have happened if she left him the first time he was emotionally abusive?  What would have happened if she left him the first time he hit her?

That book had such a strong impact on me that for years after I read it that I actually told several guys I dated something along the lines of, “If you ever want to end our relationship, all you have to do is hit me.”

Yeah … if you thought the conversation about sexual acts was awkward, just multiply that awkwardness exponentially and you’ll get a sense of what the resounding silence felt like in the moments after I made that statement.

It took me a while to understand that an abusive relationship doesn’t start with the first slap, and that I needed to rethink my understanding of the emotional abuse that leads up to the physical abuse.  And that if I didn’t want to be in an abusive relationship, I needed to stand up for myself from day one.

And tangentially related to abusive relationships, the last part of this post is going to be about the book you probably expected when you saw the title of this post …

Part 4: That Damned Fifty Shades of Grey Book That’s Driving All the Ladies Mad

Okay, Dear Readers.  You can start thanking me now.  I took a bullet for you people.

Even though romance novels make me giggle and roll my eyes in disgust, I read Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.

I read this book because EVERYBODY was reading it, because people who know I’m a librarian (like my chiropractor) kept asking me about it, and so that I could blog about it.

You’re welcome.

Okay, first thing’s first.  There’s been a lot of buzz about this book and the entire trilogy lately.  To sum up: it’s being called “Mommy Porn,” it was originally written as fan fiction tied into the characters of the Twilight series, and it’s not going to be winning a Pulitzer prize any time soon.

The first of my many laugh-out-loud moments came when I got to the copyright page:

The author published an earlier serialized version of this story online

with different characters as “Master of the Universe” under the

pseudonym Snowqueen’s Icedragon

I continued to laugh throughout this book, mostly at the beginning (before the sex happened), sometimes in the middle (when the sex started happening), and sometimes during the scenes in between the sex scenes in which the characters spend a LOT of time talking and discussing the details of the dominant/submissive contract that Christian (“Mr. Grey”) wants Anastasia (“Miss Steele”) to sign.

Basically, this book is like a soap opera in book form.  If you find soap operas and romance novels funny, then you’ll find this book HILARIOUS.  I couldn’t stop laughing when Christian goes to the hardware store where Ana works to purchase … wait for it … cable ties, masking tape, and rope.  Hmmm …. I wonder when we’ll be seeing THOSE again!

Ana spends half of this book as a literal damsel in distress – tripping, almost getting run over, or passing out. She has an inner godess and a subconscious, both of whom are personified as females that are constantly reacting to what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Christian has some deep psychological issues.  Apparently, he sees a therapist, but I think he needs to increase the frequency of his appointments.  Christian gives Ana a nondisclosure agreement for her to sign, and later gives her the rules of his dominant/submissive contract.  Reading these rules, it occurs to me that if someone ever gave me a contract like this I would roll my eyes, laugh, tell him to go screw himself, and walk out.  But I guess that’s proof that I’m just not cut out for this sort of thing.

This book was educational in several surprising ways.  For example, apparently a woman’s orgasm is like shattering into a thousand pieces, or (two pages later) splintering into a million pieces. Who knew?

I will also point out that people have lots of trouble breathing in this book.  There’s more gasping and hitching of breath than at an asthmatics convention.

And now, for your entertainment, I will conclude my discussion of this literary masterpiece with some of the lines from Fifty Shades of Grey that made me laugh the most.  And before you ask, I’m telling you right now that one book was more than enough.  I am NOT reading the rest of the trilogy.  If you want to find out the thrilling conclusion to this story, you’re going to have to read the books yourself.  I believe in self-sacrifice, but let’s not get ridiculous!

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE LINES FROM FIFTY SHADES OF GREY:

  • Why does he have such an unnerving effect on me?  His overwhelming good looks maybe?  The way his eyes blaze at me?  The way he strokes his index finger against his lower lip?  I wish he’d stop doing that.
  • He really is very, very good-looking.
  • His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel … or something.
  • He’s not merely good-looking — he’s the epitome of male beauty, breathtaking, and he’s here.
  • I could watch him all day … he’s tall, broad shouldered, and slim, and the way those pants hang from his hips … Oh my.
  • He’s staring into my eyes, and I hold his anxious, burning gaze for a moment, or maybe it’s forever …
  • “I’d like to bite that lip,” he whispers darkly.  I gasp, completely unaware that I am chewing my bottom lip and my mouth pops open.  That has to be the sexiest thing anybody has ever said to me.
  • “You are one brave young woman,” he whispers.  “I am in awe of you.”
  • No one’s ever said no to me before.  And it’s so — hot.
  • He rolls the condom down over his impressive length.
  • This is for pleasure, Anastasia, mine and yours.
  • “Wake up, baby,” he whispers, and the effect of his sweet voice spreads like warm melted caramel through my veins.
Advertisements