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Women devour 'Fifty Shades' booksApril 22, 2012 @ 6:01 pm (Updated: 10:43 am - 4/26/12 )
"I shudder at the thought of being flogged or whipped. Spanking probably wouldn't be so bad; humiliating though. And tied up? Why am I even thinking about this?"
Anastasia Steele is confused about an unusual relationship she finds herself in. Ana, a new college graduate from WSU's Vancouver, Washington campus has an improbable meeting with a billionaire Seattle businessman. Christian Grey is "the richest, most elusive, most enigmatic bachelor" in Washington, who runs a company that employs 40,000.
Their relationship is not the stuff of typical romance novels. It involves bondage, blindfolds, domination, submission and Grey's "red room of pain." It's also about the conflicted emotions both of them feel as they negotiate a mutually beneficial association, or fall in love.
Readers, mostly women, can't get enough of this couple.
Steele and Grey are both from the imagination of E. L. James. The British woman wrote "Fifty Shades of Grey" "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" as a hobby.
"It's all my fantasies, in one thing," James recently told the Today Show. "This is my mid-life crisis, writ large. All my fantasises are out there."
James says she's as surprised as anyone that the erotic romance trilogy is a success.
"The story is a complex mix of anger and happiness and fear and courage and ultimately love," says Michelle Lucas. "I have been telling all of my girlfriends to read these books."
Word of mouth has led to huge sales.
James has three of the top five New York Times best- sellers list with her fictional "50 Shades" book series.
Her books are number 1, 2, and 3 on Amazon's sales list. More than 2 million copies of the erotic romance novels sold in one month.
"I love the dynamic between the two characters. It feels real. It feels rugged. It makes me want to be that way with my husband," says Joan Barr, a self-described Seattle soccer mom. "These are things I've never thought about, but would be willing to try. It's exciting."
Alternative sexual lifestyles might be new to many "Fifty Shades" readers, but they're not fiction for members of the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle. Director Allena Gabosch says the books give women permission to live vicariously the life they might secretly want to live.
"I think that it's so popular because more women than would ever admit, are turned on by so called kinky sex," Gabosch says.
A couple of years ago Gabosch gave me a tour of the bondage rooms and cages at her center, for the story Seattle's kinky side. She said then up to 16 percent of the population are involved in some kind of power exchange relationship.
Another reason for the popularity? E-readers. Women who might be too embarrassed to read a copy of an erotic romance novel during a lunch break or on a plane, can secretly turn the electronic pages of Kindle and smile.
The quality of the writing has been criticized, and even James doesn't think she's a good writer. That doesn't matter to Hollywood. She's signed a deal with Universal Pictures to have her books made into movies.
By LINDA THOMAS
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