Laurie Penny has a spirited defense of Fifty Shades of Grey, a bestselling pornographic novel that started out as Twilight fanfic ("quite good, quite detailed descriptions of fucking written from the point of view of a woman who seemed to be really enjoying herself") and looks at the gender issues and double standards lurking in the widespread condemnation of the book:
Similarly, I can't recall Page Three of the Sun ever getting taken to pieces for its lack of artistic imagination. The point, the only point, is to show three million men some tits in the morning, and they've been happily ogling those pixellated teenage breasts on public transport for thirty years. That's understood. Exactly the same basic principle applies to the Fifty Shades series, which has the added bonus that no actual nubile, desperate postpubescents were harmed in its production – but somehow the idea that women might gobble down a poorly-written book in their tens of millions just because they've heard there might be some fucking in it is uncomfortable for the sort of snobbish commentators who have absolutely never themselves bashed out a cheeky one over FHM magazine.
When you get down to it, the problem most people seem to have with Fifty Shades of Grey is that it's for girls. Even worse - it's "mommy porn", porn for mommies, for older women to read and get excited about, and that dangerous nonsense really needs to be stopped right now. Everyone knows that the only women who are allowed to actually have sexuality are slender, high-breasted twenty-one year old virgins – rather like, it has to be said, the heroine of "Fifty Shades of Grey".
In defence of Fifty Shades of Grey
A decade ago, I published the first Madeline Ashby story to see print, “In Which Joe and Laurie Save Rock n’ Roll,” in Tesseracts 11; four years ago, I reviewed her outstanding debut novel, vN, and then revelled in its sequel a year later: but now, a decade later, Ashby is an overnight success, with a breakout novel about love, labor, shame, sex and Singularity cultists: Company Town.
Next April, Tor Books will publish Walkaway, the first novel I’ve written specifically for adults since 2009; it’s scheduled to be their lead title for the season and they’ve hired the brilliant designer Will Staehle (Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Darker Shade of Magic) for the cover, which Tor has just revealed.
In 1989, Canadian activist, engineer and thinker Ursula Franklin gave a series of extraordinary lectures on the politics of technology design and deployment called “The Real World of Technology.”
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