Why 50 Shades of Grey Isn’t As Sexually Revolutionary As Everyone Thinks

50 Shades of Grey, the 2011 erotica trilogy that stormed our book shelves and was then turned into a soft porn film on Valentines Day in 2015. The film was received in one of three ways;

  1. I love it and it’s great for feminism, sexual expression and the modern relationship,
  2. I have no opinion because I don’t want to get involved, or
  3. This is twisted and a step back for feminism as it glorifies domestic and sexual violence and is disgraceful.

‘Suddenly, he sits up and tugs my panties off and throws them on the floor. Pulling off his boxer briefs, his erection springs free. Holy cow! … He kneels up and pulls a condom onto his considerable length. Oh no … Will it? How?’ – 50 Shades of Grey

Whatever your view of the phenomenon, what is quite surprising is that the whole concept of love, sex and desire is nothing new and has in fact been written about for hundreds of years.

Nearly 100 years ago, the world was having the same reaction to D.H Lawrence’s 1928 novel ‘Lady Chatterly’s Lover.’ The book tells the tale of Lady Chatterly (Constance) having a passionate affair with her gardener (Oliver) and emphasis is placed on Constance’s need for physical awakening. This book being released in a time where a flash of the knee was considered unacceptable was quite incredible. Extreme censorship and suppression of this book occurred due to worries that it would greatly impact society. Which is exactly what happened, contributing to the sexual revolution of the 1920’s.


‘His body was urgent against her, and she didn’t have the heart anymore to fight…She saw his eyes, tense and brilliant, fierce, not loving. But her will had left her. A strange weight was on her limbs. She was giving way. She was giving up…she had to lie down there under the boughs of the tree, like an animal, while he waited, standing there in his shirt and breeches, watching her with haunted eyes…He too had bared the front part of his body and she felt his naked flesh against her as he came into her.’ – Lady Chatterly’s Lover

It is personally surprising that an audience in the 21st Century was sent into such a state of shock when 50 Shades is nothing more than poorly written fan fiction based off of Twilight! Whilst their was definitely rejection occurring in the 1920’s to Miss Chatterly, it overall inspired a sexual revolution and contributed positively to women’s rights and sexual expression. Whereas I’m not too sure if 50 Shades of Grey made as big of a contribution to society.

This comparison demonstrates the direct effect that media and communications can have on society and even influence and promote change. It is this importance which allows us to acknowledge the immense power of the media and why we should be active in consuming it and why the study of the media should be continued.

Further Readings

50 Shades of Grey compared to Lady Chatterly’s Lover: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9453636/Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-It-wouldnt-make-Lady-Chatterley-blush.html


Garica, J. 2012, ‘Sexual Hookup Culture: A Review’, Review of general psychology : journal of Division 1, of the American Psychological Association16.2 (2012): 161–176. PMC, accessed 16 April 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3613286/

9 thoughts on “Why 50 Shades of Grey Isn’t As Sexually Revolutionary As Everyone Thinks

  1. 50 shades of grey is so grossly overrated i agree, and it never even occurred to me with what you raised about previously controversial texts like that novel that it definitely isn’t a new phenomenon. Why is it that this one film gained so much traction?? Especially for something so poorly written too, i’ve read fanfiction that was saucier than that. I can’t fit myself into one of the three options because i really have no idea which one applied to me. On one hand, I wanted to watch it to form my own opinions of it and not rely on what i’ve been told about it; but the other hand I was revolted at the thought of even considering watching it from what I had seen on social media and all the discussions on rape, abuse and misrepresentation. An effective parallel with the scandalous texts of the past, will the hype of 50 shades die down or will it be fuel on a fire now that they are doing the rest of the novels into movies or will be simple become desensitized or more accepting of its controversy?

    1. I know what you mean about wanting to see it to form your own opinions. That’s exactly what I did. After reading the books which yes I agree are poorly written, I did want to see the film because it was something that I had followed for nearly 4 years.
      As for the continuation of scandalous texts continuing to ‘shock us’ I think there will always be something new to talk about, I’m sure Kim Kardashian will make sure of that.
      Glad to know that others share my views about the film being overrated!

  2. Such an insightful way of examining the bizarre phenomenom that is 50 shades of grey, sexual deviancy is hardly anything knew however with the monster that is the media such things are now blown epically out of proportion. Even books such as the Scarlett Letter where miles more scandalous then 50 shades, breaching so many social and religious conventions but it made quite an impact and stands still as a great work of literature. Shock value certainly seems to be a great contributor to the uproar things like this caus ein the media, and is a fascinating area of study

    1. I think what’s even more interesting is the impact that a book has had on society! Everyone always says that books will die out and everything will move online, yet some of the most thought provoking, inspirational and ‘shocking’ work has taken place in the form of novels. Which I personally think is pretty amazing in such a technologically driven world.
      Shock value will always stick around but will be presented in different forms, just to keep us on our toes.

  3. I agree with you. I read 50 shades and was really disappointed. The language, the way the story is told, the story line.. Everything! Even if one thinks Twilight is not a masterpiece, at least the language of the author there was enjoyable to read. And 50 Shades, in my opinion, was just another chic flick, which borrowed heavily from Twilight and tried to come across as shocking and adventurous.

  4. Such a great post! 50 shades was such a reflection on society just as “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” was at the time, but it wasn’t even the film that was the reflection it was societies reaction to it. You’re right that nothing in it was new but the thing I think was revealed the most in 50 shades of grey is how much of an affect pornography has had on society and gender roles and how little it is actually spoken about and how much it needs to be spoken about!. Porn has completely warped the idea of sexuality and the act of sex and 50 shades was a great representation of its negative influence.

  5. I loved the blog, I’ve read a lot of different view points about the issue (admittedly because most of them were featured in my news feed) I think this blog presents a fresh combination of ideas about the nature of the books and the movie that I myself hadn’t personally considered. It re-shaped my pre-defined assumptions about historical sexuality in books and I love that you’ve included a link for further reading to expand the mind of the reader even further. Great job 🙂

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