'Shades of Grey,' the erotic novel that has started a new literary trend called "mommy porn," has caused many Irish women to throw caution to the wind and go out and grab a copy as well to sex up their lives.
“It is bananas,” says David O’Callaghan, a buyer for Easons, Ireland’s largest bookseller, told the Irish Times. “We had a delivery of 400 at the O’Connell Street branch at the start of the week. The manager went on her break at noon, and when she came back every copy was gone. It isn’t available anywhere at the moment. I’ve ordered 26,000 copies to be delivered next week, and 20,000 of those have been presold, pretty much all to women.”
The novel, which was originally published as an ebook last year, came out in print in Ireland 12 weeks ago, where it already sold 85,000 copies. According to the Irish Times, in the week up to June 30th, the sexually explicit trilogy – there are two more Fifty Shades books – sold almost a million copies in Britain, and the trilogy’s total global sales have reached 20 million copies.
Irish women are giving the books a big thumbs up. Sinéad, a 32-year-old single woman from Cork, borrowed the book from a friend and has since read the other two in the series as well.
“It’s pure filth,” she says with a laugh. “It’s a bit disturbing; so much of it is completely unrealistic, and the ending was disappointing.”
However, when asked if she enjoyed it, she said, “Yes.”
She added that an older man she works with had bought it for his wife. “I have definitely heard the book is helping sex lives, with wives suddenly hopping on their husbands.”
“For me, primarily, it is a romance, an extended Mills Boon,” Patricia Murphy, a woman in her 50s who lives in Ranelagh, in Dublin, told The Times.
“The S&M [sadomasochism] is really just the classic obstacle in the relationship. He is closed and distant, and feels he can’t be in a conventional relationship, and they negotiate their way through that.”
Although the plot involves a virgin literature student, Anastasia Steele, who gets involved an S&M relationship with a cold, wealthy businessman, Christian Grey, Murphy says that to her there is nothing demeaning about the relationship.
“As the book goes on, [Anastasia] is really calling the shots. I don’t think the fact so many people are reading it says anything about their sexuality. It’s just a great piece of escapism. It’s a straightforward romance with some graphic sex.”
Thirty-three-year-old Karen Mulreid, who lives in Celbridge, Co Kildare, has read the entire trilogy. “I used to like the Mills Boon and the Black Lace books, and I thought it would be something like that. It is drivel, nonsense and hilariously badly written, like Twilight for grown-ups but without a good story. There’s no mutual respect between Christian and Anastasia. I read all three just to see what happens. Christian has a dark secret that keeps getting hinted at, and you do want to see where they are going with it.”
No one appears embarrassed to buy the books, which have non-descript covers.
Eoin Stephens, a psychotherapist and the president of the Personal Counselling Institute at the National College of Ireland, sees sales of the books and their being read, openly and unashamedly, as healthy. “Why shouldn’t Irish women read it? The only thing that strikes me about the phenomenon is that it’s popular, open. If people are reading it and enjoying it, it reflects a positive change, an openness in sexuality. It’s a good thing.”
The series is written, under the pseudonym EL James, by Erica Leonard, a 48-year-old British former TV producer and a married mother of two-- her husband is Irish. She has called the book her "midlife crisis writ large," saying that she had "put all (her) fantasies in there."