So I read a fairy tale the other day.  Actually, three fairy tales. A trilogy about a young girl who meets a handsome stranger with a dark secret. They fall in love (you knew that was coming, right?), overcome a variety of obstacles, banish inner demons, get married, and have babies.  Happily ever after and all that.

No. It’s not Twilight but rumor has it that this trilogy started as “fan fiction” inspired by the Twilight story.

I’m talking about the Fifty Shades trilogy and while these books may have started as Twilight-esque, they are not intended for the pre-teen audience. Or the teen audience. Or even the audience of twenty-somethings.

Because you know what? These books? They’re porn. Or maybe we should call it “erotica,” which is sort of porn dressed up in a love story and decorated with a little psychodrama about a man (the love interest) overcoming a childhood of abuse and abandonment.

Twitter has been all aflutter about these books.  Women (maybe men, too, but I didn’t see any visibly male names in the twitter feeds) feel as passionate about #fifty as they did about #twilight, and perhaps even more so.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Twilight, particularly the first book, because I think it exactly captured that high school feeling of being “in crush.”  After the first book, though, the series jumped the ol’sharkaroo pretty quickly–and the final book with its incisor-performed C-section, is enough to make anyone who hasn’t already had kids consider getting her tubes tied.  And that’s without the whole werewolf-falls-in-love-with-your-baby thing.  (Is the werewolf-baby subplot the twenty-first century version of “the dingo ate my baby,” do you think?)

Twilight books, as many people have observed, are about virginity, chastity, and not giving it up till you’re married.  The entire series is rife with implicit (and explicit) warnings about sexing it up before marriage, and even the wedding night scene, despite Bella’s pleasure in (finally) receiving Edward’s conjugal attentions, results in bruises, contusions, shredded pillows, and a splintered bedframe.  Sounds like fun, right?

The Fifty books, on the other hand, are for your more…experienced reader. Maybe for the reader whose relationship has faded into a please-pass-the-remote-honey routine, or the reader who is dazed by the sleeplessness of early parenthood, or the reader who is between companions and would like a little something-something to while away the time.

The Fifty series begins when our young heroine, Anastasia—dewy-skinned and sassy—meets Christian Gray, a mysterious, brilliant, gorgeous gazillionaire. He, of course, falls passionately in love with her and pitches woo in the shape of private jets, helicopters, expensive cars, and priceless gems.   There are a few glitches, of course, which I shan’t divulge here, but let’s just say that Christian’s idea of a “playroom” does not involve foosball, legos, pingpong, or any other sort of toy purchasable at Toys R Us.

It will come as no surprise to learn that Ana tames Christian’s more unorthodox desires, although as she tames him, she herself comes to enjoy some of his milder “games.”

The happy ending of this trilogy isn’t what makes this a fairy tale, though. Nor is the fact that Christian buys Ana a publishing company so that she can have a job (as the CEO, despite never having been more than the publisher’s assistant), or that after several hundred pages of being something of a geek,  Ana drives a sports car through crowded city streets with the panache of a Formula One veteran.

Nope, the real fairy tale has to do with appetite. Christian constantly urges Ana to eat; he plies her with all manner of fattening deliciousness.  It’s as if the author has married food porn to porn-porn, and therein is the real magic.  Ana never gains weight. She remains effortlessly skinny, despite never exercising and rarely moving faster than a gentle stroll.

I mean, who cares about the gorgeous rich husband or the kinky private “games” Ana and Christian play, when you can read about thighs that stay thin and tummies that stay flat, despite breakfasts of fresh brioche and homemade jam?

That’s a story that could get a gal all hot and bothered…but I’m not sure that’s what all the book groups are chatting about when they choose these books for their discussions. In fact, I’m not sure what they’re talking about but I’ll bet it’s a very animated discussion.


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I’m not addicted to the games that Ana and Christian play but I *am* addicted to yeahwrite…and you should be too. Some of the best short essays on the web. Link up, or read up, then come back and vote ’em up. No tie or paraphernalia required.