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Would anyone even buy that tie?

I do loathe joining bandwagons.  I Googled ‘bandwagon’ to find out where it came from and discovered it’s an American expression, dating back to 1848.  A clown used his bandwagon to play music in order to draw attention to his…political campaign. Yes you read that right, a clown in politics. Unheard of.  It was so successful, others clowns (oops, politicians) followed suit.  And ‘jump on the bandwagon’ was born.

I’ve never liked doing things because everyone else is doing them. When my friends at school became ‘Goths’ for a year, I defiantly continued to wear my woollen hand-me-down cardigans and pleated ‘sensible’ skirts. When others were skipping lessons to smoke round the corner, I was studiously making notes on cards with felt tip pens and sticking them up around my bedroom.

So when people started talking about 50 Shades of Grey, naturally I did everything but read it.  I winced as I saw it advertised on buses and cursed its cover when a copy found its way into my possession. All I wanted to do was criticise it.  So I had an inspired idea – I’d read it first and do just that.

Note, I often end up liking things I expect not to.  I refused to read Harry Potter for four years, to be ‘different’, and well…I was young and foolish back then.  Indeed, once I’d gotten past the cringe worthy everything of The Twilight series, I did find it rather readable (as far a teenage lit goes). So the fact that I disliked 50 Shades of Grey when I started it, didn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t going to give it a chance. I was challenging it to rise above my meagre expectations.

As I look at it now, sitting next to my laptop, my hands start twitching and I feel my heart rate quicken. Not because I have joined the 79% of women who say they now find the idea of succumbing to a ‘dominant’ male (like the lead character, Grey) a ‘turn on’ (The Mail). No, the reason this book has me sweating at the temples, is because I hate it.

To those not in the know 50 Shades of Grey is loosely about a twenty something year old virgin who gets seduced by a billionaire who has a penchant for S&M. Through non-disclosure agreements and contracts he tries to get her to sign up to being his ‘Submissive’, an inferior who succumbs to the will of him, the ‘Dominant’.

Christian Grey is ‘tortured’ (groundbreaking) and eventually ends up falling for the innocent Miss Anastasia Steele (yawn). She, attracted to his good looks, his interest in her and his ‘torturedness’, falls for him as well (double yawn), in spite of the fact he fantasises about ‘punishing’ her and tells her so regularly.  The rest of it is about whether she will sign his ‘contract’ and wholly take up the role of the ‘Submissive’.

I find it frankly disturbing that the scenes described within this book have aroused so many women. Take away authoress EL James’ attempt to soften their brutality by implying Grey is in love with Steele (and would never actually hurt her) I fail to understand how a man beating a woman with a belt because she said she wanted to find out ‘how bad it could be’, would be in any way stimulating. It makes me sick.

[I’m taking deep breaths now.  Luckily the Men’s Wimbledon Final is playing in the background which is placating me somewhat]

And it’s not just the porno scenes that bother me – I’m sure many have seen/read/eek, experienced, worse.  It’s more the fact that our heroine is pathetic.  James tells us repeatedly she ‘disobeys’ the rules, to make it seem like Steele is in control.  Well if ‘rolling one’s eyes’ and forgetting to say ‘Sir’ occasionally counts as female empowerment, I’d like to ask James why Women’s Suffrage didn’t come about in, say, The Stone Age.

That asides, I do not think I have ever read anything so poorly written – well, not since I once tried to wrestle my way through Eat, Pray, Love at least (another bandwagon disaster).  In fact, if I’d have had to read the following phrases one more time, I think 50 Shades of Grey would have fast become 50 Shades of Grey Ash In My Fireplace:

My inner goddess scowls at me’

‘My inner goddess looks like someone snatched her ice cream’

In fact, ‘my inner goddess ANYTHING’ would probably have pushed me over the edge.

‘I am still panting’

‘He pushes against my sex’

‘So eager Miss Steele’…

…and so it goes on.

But what I find most horrendous of all is the hype this drivel has provoked. People are reading it everywhere – everywhere.  And why?  Because-everyone-else-is-reading-it.

Case in point, I was chatting about it to a comical legend, who I shall name here as E.  E said he never reads, so I handed him my copy and challenged him to recite a few pages.

‘He tenses underneath me as I run my mouth up and down him,’ said E, in a perfectly normal story-telling voice, which obviously made it hilarious.  ‘I’m panting like him,’ E continued.

Within seconds, a small audience had gathered.  Two men dressed in black tie and a woman wearing a ball gown had inadvertently joined our reading circle.  E stopped.

‘It’s that book,’ squeaked the woman. ‘I’m reading it – keep going!’

Baffled, E read on. ‘He really is a fine specimen of a man…

‘Sounds like me!’ chortled one of the black tie-ers.

Caflumpff.  If men join the bandwagon, it’s game over.

Maybe I’m just annoyed because like everything else in this day and age (reality TV, Jedward) the more rubbish something is, the greater its popularity.  Hats off to Ms James though, she really has struck gold and is probably now set for life.

But given the chance would I join this bandwagon?  No.

I’d rather be the clown falling off it instead.

By Beenie Langley