One of my first reviews compared my book to 50 Shades of Grey. I was impressed at the time because it was such a well selling book. I figured that if it was so popular it had to be a good book. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to sit down then and read it. With all the hype from the movie and the various blog posts about it, a lot of them being negative, I decided it was time to sit down and actually read it for myself before making a judgement call.
Now I really wish I hadn't. I just finished reading it and I want to go take a hot shower because I feel so unclean. Deliverance wasn't this unsettling, but then that movie about rape and torture wasn't touted as a love story either. And it had a happy ending with the bad guys getting what they deserved. There is no happy ending with 50 Shades.
Normally I am a fast reader. I read about a page a minute. But this book, a little over 500 pages, has taken me weeks to finish. It's stilted and not very descriptive. The first half of the book has confusing wording and I had to reread some lines multiple times to figure it out. The pace isn't constant and jumps around, leading to even more confusion. It's just not good writing. The main characters are introduced and they have no redeeming qualities. They are rude, thoughtless, immature, and selfish.
He is abrupt, shallow and condescending. Grey wants a Master/slave relationship but he never explains that fully. What he does explain shows that the author has no understanding of BDSM in any of it's forms. He thinks his constant brain washing and rape techniques will shape her into the emotionless object he wants to enjoy fucking and beating.
She is stupid, spineless, and bizarrely insulated. Steele wants a high school romance but never really asks for it. She seems to think the magic of her vagina and inner goddess will win him over "into the light" and out of his darkness. And then
They both try to settle for a relationship where neither one of them gets even close to what they want. What. The. Hell?
Just that is enough to make me want to never read the next book. But the ick factor doesn't stop there. Grey is also a victim of abuse/neglect (from his biological mother) and sexual assault from the friend of his adoptive mother. He has serious Stockholm syndrome and still cares for the woman that raped, beat, and enslaved him when he was a teenager. He sees nothing wrong with it and is thankful to the woman. She allowed him to love in a way he was comfortable with, he says.
Steele is told repeatedly that Grey is no good for her. She even tells herself that he is no good for her. She acknowledges that his actions (the stalking, coercive sex, fucking her into submission, the over the top gifts, the physical pain and emotional manipulation) are all bad. But he makes her inner goddess happy. In other words he gave her orgasms. So she keeps agreeing to see him. She tries to make him happy, so he won't be so abusive. But she can't. So he stalks her, threatens her, rapes her, embarrasses her, and keeps her confused. All while constantly demeaning her and telling her it is for her own good and explaining how she hurts him when she doesn't go along with what he wants. So in order to not hurt him, because he has been hurt so much in his dark past, she agrees to things she does not like and does not want to do.
That is not a bdsm relationship. Uninformed consent is not consent. Steele does not know what she is getting into, what is going to happen to her, or what is expected of her. Grey doesn't care, at least not enough to slow down and introduce these things to her slowly so she can understand them. He tells her to accept it and be willing to enjoy it. Because that is the only way he knows how to get off, and he really wants to get off with her. His erection demands it and he does not like to be denied. But then she does deny him. She closes her legs so he can't play with her pussy while at the dinner table with his family. So he takes her outside, jerks her around, yells at her, throws her over his shoulder and carries her to the boathouse. Then he fucks her and threatens her with punishment if she orgasms. She doesn't know what she has done to merit the abuse, he doesn't bother to explain. He even tells her that it was hot the way she defied him. But he still punishes her for it.
And that is the sum of their "relationship". He decides when she has broken a rule that she doesn't understand and then punishes her in ways she does not like. Any time she tries to end things or slow them down, he coerces her into trying again. And again. And again. That is the definition of an abusive relationship.
A bdsm relationship is about trust and respect. Trust is built on communication and time. The dom has to trust that sub knows what they want and how much they can take. The sub has to trust the dom to abide by the agreement and not to go farther than agreed but to still go as far as they want. Being a dom entails a ton of responsibility, especially when the sub is new to it. You must have good communication in order to establish those bounds. And both parties have to understand what they are talking about and what everything entails. Those things take weeks and many long talks and probably a few demonstrations. A single strike so they know what it feels like. A slow build up, with comforting words and open talks. Making sure your sub is in the right head space to enjoy what is happening. And constantly making certain, every step of the way, that the sub understands what is happening and what is expected.
Grey can not communicate, or is completely unwilling to. Steele does not understand any of it and is apparently too stupid to do more than read a wiki article about it. (Which still puts her one step up from the author, who it seems didn't even bother doing that much research.) So they both go in, flogs swinging, and they both get hurt. And it's being called an erotic bdsm romance, except it's not bdsm or a romance. It's rape porn with a fantastic PR campaign.