What's the [ahem] way in, to a piece about the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey? Rewind back to 2012 and I recall the tube littered with eyes down women all rightfully proud and out that their modern day equivalent of the Mills & Boon franchise had created a liberation movement where BDSM (that's bondage, domination sadomasochism, as if you didn't know) became the water cooler topic of choice.
Men from Highbury to Harrogate were huphing and puffing at the unprecedented athletic sexual demands and desires of their wives and significant others; women of all ages all now seemingly up for a bit of the old 'in-out' whilst shackled to the bedposts with a bit of gaffer tape.
For those of you that are not party to the basic construct of the book - it goes a bit like this...young student girl falls for slightly older successful, confident alpha did I say successful businessman, who is successful and that has a helicopter which girls love...man gets girl, NDA gets signed, girl and man-boy revel in much tie-up hanky panky, girl realizes that Mr. Grey despite his many 'shades' is not the long term bet she is really after. They break up.
That third summer of 'love' left much open-ended debate; women do want dominating, don't want dominating, do, don't? Women desire domination but on their terms -with a permissive nod and a plethora of safe words? Men want to dominate women? They do, they don't? Who really knows?
What saddens me is that in a world where we are in the pursuit of equality, respect across the gender divide, empowerment for women of all ages in all countries and issues around FGM, access to education, child exposure to pornography and general moral decay - the theme of Fifty Shades dominating the headlines surely shines a light away from topics of genuine importance fundamental to our human progression.
Every clichéd theme it throws up deals a blow to a greater movement towards respect and empowerment, packaging up every taboo in a marketers dream as slick as Mr. Grey himself.
If one thing is proven it is that sex sells and one thing is undeniable, the Fifty Shades franchise knows no shame in its ability to sell via the co-brand and franchise model. From baby grows stating that 'Mummy read Fifty Shades nine months ago' to Fifty Shades wine through to my favorite - the Fifty Shades mug!
The dream weavers at Random House though have much to celebrate. Operating profit rose 75% at Random House in the year to 2013, a figure sure to be further fuelled by the film release this week. Sex indeed sells and sells.
While the book will pass and the film will be resigned to the dusty fad cabinet very soon, if we look back to the original erotic romance title, Delta of Venus, this book was respected by feminists and the sexually liberated alike, but with a headline on the front page stating EROTICA and an accompanying visual of a woman with her bloomers hitched up the Fifty Shades skill has been to package up erotica in a Maeve Binchyesque wrapper so clean, tidy and run of the mill that it sits happily alongside Shaun the Sheep on the bill.
Done, clichéd, unoriginal and it saddens me that empowerment of women must force its way onto the agenda, yet Fifty Shades effortlessly takes the headlines without a conscious nod to the importance of empowerment and equality. If I'm wrong tie me down and take a paddle to my rear.