“Fifty Shades of Grey,” the erotic novel by E L James, features cliche characters, highly implausible plot turns and dialogue that alternately induces cringes and giggles. (Sample line: “ ‘Look at me,’ he breathes, and I stare into his smoldering gaze . . . cold, hard and sexy as hell, seven shades of sin in one enticing look.”) But many of my friends — and, judging by the bestseller lists, millions of women across the country — can’t put the book down. Even I will admit to ignoring my children to read what’s being called “mommy porn,” which details the titillating adventures of the young, innocent Anastasia Steele, who is initiated into the world of kinky pleasures by one Christian Grey, a sexy older billionaire who woos her into a dominant-submissive relationship.
Literary demerits aside, experts contend that the novel and its two equally racy sequels, authored by a British woman, are having a positive impact on women’s sexual health and wellness. “ ‘Fifty Shades’ is getting a lot of people thinking and talking more openly about sex, sexuality, desire and interest,” says Debby Herbenick, a research scientist at Indiana University and author of “Sex Made Easy.” “It’s helping many women to feel comfortable enjoying something about sexual fantasy and arousal. . . . Not only is it okay to fantasize, not only is it okay to read really explicit info about sex, but right now, it’s the cool thing to do.”