My Big Mouth: Is it acceptable to read Fifty Shades of Grey on the Tube?


Love it or hate it, Fifty Shades of Grey is a hotly controversial topic at the moment.


By Khaleda Rahman

Love it or hate it, Fifty Shades of Grey is a hotly controversial topic at the moment.

But when did it become acceptable for (mostly) women to brazenly read a paperback copy of erotic fiction in public? Everyone knows what it’s about!

Universally panned by critics, anyone with the faintest grasp of the English language will agree that it is awful literature.

It is also the UK’s biggest selling book of all time, having sold more than 5.5 million copies. Now what does that say about British readers?

Originally Twilight fan-fiction, reincarnations of Bella and Edward with added BDSM, quickly became a global phenomenon, making author EL James a household name.

The fact that Stephanie Meyer has yet to file a lawsuit is astonishing.

I first read about Fifty Shades in an article maybe a year ago, which stated the novel’s e-book sales were remarkable because, apparently, women felt comfortable reading it in public on an e-book reader as their fellow commuters wouldn’t judge.

Fast forward a year and the trilogy consistently occupies the top three spots on almost every bestseller list and many unashamedly whip it out on the morning commute.

Many will agree it is socially frowned upon, but people do it every day.

On any given Tube journey, I see at least a few women, of all ages, reading Fifty Shades without the slightest hint of embarrassment.

Personally, it would mortify me for anyone, even a complete stranger, to catch me reading a notoriously sexually explicit book, dubbed “mommy porn.”

Erotic fiction is not my cup of tea, so I steered clear, but as its popularity grew and grew, my curiosity got the better of me.

Terrible is putting it lightly, but what is it about this particular book that appeals to the female readership of the UK, from teens to housewives?

It is not the sex, although that may be a big factor. No, I think it’s the fantasy element. Basically a very far-fetched love story which women can live vicariously through – a super-rich businessman with a dark side falls in love with an fairly ordinary girl, liberates her sexually and spoils her rotten.

Author EL James told the Telegraph recently that “it’s just an old fashioned love story.” If  that’s the case, what a sad reflection of the dumbing down of our generation.

Read Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or Ian McEwan’s Atonement if you want something more contemporary. They all contain sexual references, except they can also be considered literature.

So when will the hype die down?

Never, if Hollywood has anything to do with it, which it does – there’s a blockbuster in the works. Not an independent pornographic film, a mainstream movie for the masses. Bizarre.

Casting is yet to be confirmed, but the coveted roles of billionaire Christian Grey and student Anastasia Steele are highly sought after, despite the involvement of hardcore nudity.

Harry Potter star Emma Watson has been touted as a potential Anastasia, while The Vampire Diaries’ Ian Somerhalder has taken to Twitter to express his enthusiasm for the role of Grey. According to EL James’ husband, Niall Leonard, the prolific Ryan Gosling is the frontrunner for the role.

Now, for Ryan Gosling, I could be persuaded to take a trip to the cinema.

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