Is 50 Shades of Grey Smut or Just a Guilty Pleasure?

March 19, 2012 | By | Comments (6)

I don’t know what’s more interesting about the sudden popularity of the Shades of Grey trilogy – that the self-published e-book series is taking the world by storm, or that everyone seems surprised women like to read what I often refer to on Manic Mommies as “smut.”

For those unfamiliar, 50 Shades of Grey is the first in a series of erotic e-books by E.L. James which feature a BDSM-heavy plot line. (BDSM, according to Wikipedia, stands for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism).

A USA Today article seems to sum up the sentiment best: Fifty Shades of Grey: Who knew women like erotica?!?!?


According to the Romance Writers of America’s website, in 2010 Americans spent $10.11 billion on book purchases, with romance fiction accounting for $1.358 billion of that total.  In the same year romance stories – which can range from your run-of-the-mill bodice ripper, to BDSM-themed stories like Shades of Grey – accounted for 13.4% of the consumer market, ahead of publicly popular genres including mystery and science fiction/fantasy.

So why is everyone so surprised? Because, until just recently, very few people I knew would admit that they read romance novels.

To my mom and dad – you might want to stop reading now.

On Manic Mommies I have often spoken of my fondness for smut to put me in the mood, and “get things” kick started.  With the Amazon Kindle, accessing romance novels became easier, less expensive (many are available for free, or less than $1), and more “subtle” than ever before.

Looking at a gal with her Kindle, you can’t tell if she’s reading something by Jane Austen or Jane Porter.

At $9.99, 50 Shades of Grey costs a bit more than I usually care to spend on my digital romance fiction, but in the spirit of researching before I write, I did download and read the book.

While I can understand why it has gotten readers “hot and bothered,” I also found it was not that much different, or even better, than other romance books which are readily available, and less expensive, through many booksellers. But it was also a fun read, and I did purchase the second and third books in the series.

So my question still stands – What’s all the fuss about 50 Shades of Grey?