Bursts of Blue vs. Shades of Grey?

I don’t get it.

I had to read Shades of Grey after my girlfriend told me how much it ramped up her sex life. Apparently, she’s not the only fan out there. The book has sold over two million copies in just one month and it’s a non-stop topic at women’s book clubs. Mommy bloggers are raving about it. I have a friend whose teen-age daughter and her friends read it. Could this book really be the 21st century equivalent of a Jane Austen novel?

My husband downloaded the book and we settled into to read it together. Sounds racy and exciting, right? NOT!

In truth, the book annoys me. Nothing in the minimal plot has anything to do with my idea of foreplay. I don’t get the whole submissive/dominant thing. It sounds so claustrophobic. All the closed spaces, the restraints, someone telling me what to do – HELP!  Makes me want to RUN away as fast as possible. Set me free on a 50-mile bike ride with my man, a country inn as our landing pad — now that’s foreplay.

But what excites us, what turns any of us on? My guess is it’s a combination of our own chemistry mixed with our fantasies. How we were raised, the media, TV shows, movies and comic book heroes, first crushes, girlfriend talk and most importantly memories of our early years.  I decided to take a gander back in time to see why Shades of Grey made my skin crawl.

I am the third of four girls. I never dealt with boys until I was 18. I played in a neighborhood full of girls until age 12 and went to an all-girls summer camp. At 13, I went to an all-girls private school. My best friend, Joanne, also one of three girls and I spent almost every weekend at her house.

Boys were foreign objects, odd, leering, and curious. I avoided them as best I could. Any time I was around boys I developed serious sharp pains in my gut and my palms would get very sweaty.

That said, I have always been a total jock. My dad raised my three sisters and me as he would have raised sons. We spent our weekends on bikes, hiking in New Hampshire, body surfing, sailing, skiing in Maine, on the tennis courts and hanging upside down on monkey bars.

I never went through the traditional girl “training.” My mom loved to shop and I didn’t. Boxes of clothes from the Taylors (Ann and Lord &) frequently appeared on my bed. I usually rejected them preferring my peasant blouses and ripped jeans. Mom loved to cook, but I was never in the kitchen. Domestic chores were not on my radar.

I left home at 17 to go to college, my new world felt limitless. I learned about men that freshman year and what I learned was that hiking up through the mountains outside Boulder Colorado got my juices flowing. My perfect date: A day trip in the mountains. The crisp fall air that first freshman fall filled my lungs, my legs aching as we scaled the rocks around a waterfall and settled in trailside for an afternoon of ecstasy. Fresh air, earth, freedom and the endless sky – my version of E.L. James’ opus would be titled “bursts of blue” rather than “shades of grey.”

When I think about the appeal of Shades of Grey, I wonder if we’re raising our daughters to be heroines in a Jane Austen novel with marriage as the overall goal? It also pains me to think we haven’t moved beyond the shameless double standard portrayed in Jane Eyre or Tess of the D’urbervilles. Do women unwittingly perpetuate images of submissive, helpless women by going gaga over Shades of Grey?

Life is rarely black and white. The world can be grey. But does it have to be this shade?

Don’t miss out on any BA50 stories!
Click here to subscribe.

Bursts of Blue vs. Shades of Grey? was last modified: by


Felice Shapiro

Felice Shapiro Felice Shapiro loves figuring out what's next. Felice writes with honesty and humor about real life events, romance, tragedy, reinvention and family not to mention — fashion, beauty & travel. As a serial entrepreneur in the publishing space, she launched Betterafter50.com to meet the needs of women entering their next phase at 50. Inspired and armed with her love of publishing, writing, start-ups and women’s issues, Shapiro launched an online magazine for 50-something women to share personal stories, successes and relevant issues. She is proud of BA50 which is in its 4th year and has over 7 million unique visitors. 

  5 comments for “Bursts of Blue vs. Shades of Grey?

  1. April 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Me too. I thought this book was insipid, base and totally UN sexy! I’m so glad you found it wanting. We seem to be the only two…

  2. April 25, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Thanks for sharing…

  3. drmss
    June 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Realtors Series by Liz Crowe was the one thing I found that was as captivating! The relationship between Jack and Sara will draw you in… and ladies Sara is a successful woman with her own career. The other characters in the book are developed over the series, it is enjoyable to watch them all interact.

    Here are the Amazon links for this highly recommended trilogy …

    Book One: Floor Time – http://amzn.to/IqDXde

    Book Two: Sweat Equity – http://amzn.to/KhcDvf

    Book Three: Closing Costs – http://amzn.to/JDXFoD

  4. September 18, 2012 at 12:24 am

    I’m late to the conversation about this book because I just couldn’t bring myself to spend ten bucks on what is arguably one of the worst written books to make the best seller list in the history of ever.

    I finally caved.

    I’m not against a little BDSM, but the character of Anastasia Steele is so revolting to me that I’m really having a hard time. She’s supposedly graduating from college with a degree in Literature, but she talks like a 7th grader. If I never read the words “crap” or “double crap” ever again in my life it’ll be too soon!

    I just cannot suspend my disbelief enough to believe that anyone can graduate with a Literature degree from a Pacific Northwest university without either a laptop (how does she write her papers?) or an email account (you can’t enroll in college without an email account!).

    It really is a terrible shame that this horrible writer has been showered with so much fame and money. Women need to demand better treatment in both the bedroom and from their sexy literature!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *