Fifty Shades Of Gay – Review

James Bell
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Not gonna lie, I was really looking forward to this week’s review. No jaunt through the gay literary scene would be complete without a nod to the world of erotica, so merrily I pranced off to Amazon and bought the highest selling example I could find, the allusively titled Fifty Shades of Gay: The Original Gay Parody.

I was prepared (even looking forward to) it being trashy in the extreme and so was happy to ignore the odd bit of dodgy writing, a couple of plot holes or some awkward sex scenes. All part of the fun. Unfortunately, what I found was a basically dreadful book that hid behind its claims to be “edgy” and boundary breaking and was left with the question: “seriously? Is this the best we can do?”

I had so many problems with this novel that I won’t bore you with the entire litany. In summary the dialogue is stilted and unnatural, the couple of rather forced chapters about coming out are cringeworthy in the extreme and the tortured references to Oscar Wilde at times beggared belief. References to pop culture were often forced into descriptive passages and, as is only right and proper, everyone looks like a model and has an enormous cock and bulging biceps. On a more sinister level, there were some scenes I found genuinely disturbing, including one that basically amounted to a rape. All in all not a pleasant experience.

I’ll admit the book did provide a few moments of enjoyment. The description of oral sex was particularly titillating and several bizarre turns of phrase were puzzling but often quietly funny. Who, for example, could resist a man whose “movements are made of sex,” or provokes an impromptu ejaculation such as: “Holy fucking Christ on an olive oil and herb dip cracker is he a hot cracker!” There are WTF moments aplenty.

But perhaps I just didn’t get it. The point of a novel such as this is surely to break a few taboos and provide a bit of light hearted relief along the way. What puzzled me, then, was the apparent studied seriousness of the whole endeavour. The cover announced the novel as a parody, but I saw very few signs of this, or even, come to mention it, many links to the original Fifty Shades apart from the BDSM and constant references to the now iconic tie.

This strange approach was particularly apparent in the closing moments of the work. The narrator reaches the startling conclusion that “You can’t buy love. You can never buy love. Nobody can buy love.” I really can’t work out whether this is meant to be a serious revelation or a huge piss take of the whole genre of schmaltzy and sentimental romantic fiction. Really no idea, which is why I still haven’t a clue what the book is actually for.

The idea that this kind of writing is supposed to be for the average man or woman who wants to experience a mild thrill of transgression also deserves some scrutiny. The cultural theorist Anne McClintock has suggest that “S/M manipulates the signs of power in order to refuse their legitimacy as nature” or in other words is a way of refusing the dominance of normative sexual modes by subverting the way they are expressed. Novels such as these surely prove that S/M is no longer part of the sexual hinterlands but a part of a modern sexual identity (after all one of the top Google results for BDSM is a link to a Cosmo article). Again, what is this novel for?

So I repeat my first question: is this really the best we can do? Any recommendations of good erotic fiction that isn’t cashing in on a major franchise or trying to make some kind of provocative statement? Comments below please!

About James Bell

Originally from Northern Ireland, I am in my final year of a languages degree at Cambridge and intend to avoid the real world for as long as possible by studying for a Masters in Glasgow. Interests include all things Russian, theatre and as much travel as a student budget allows.