Censorship – Fifty Shades of Grey

I’ve always been against censorship.  Unless something is inciting hate or harm, I feel that it should be allowed to be viewed or read, and it isn’t anyone’s place to make judgements on someone else’s behalf.

I have run smack into my own principles with Fifty Shades of Grey, and the other two books in the trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, by E.L. James.  Erotic fiction evolved from Twilight fan-fiction (shudder) to an e-book/print-on-demand that was so overwhelmingly popular, the trilogy was picked up and published in hard copy, all three releasing over the last few weeks.

I have not read the book myself yet (I am borrowing it today to read).  What I know of it, from the book jacket, blurbs, and info from those who have already read it, is that it is erotica.  BDSM (bondage/domination/sadism/masochism) erotica, to be precise.   I don’t have any issues with erotica,  But erotic books are a strange, grey area.  They are not classified as pornography, so there is no requirement that purchasers be of a certain age. Fifty Shades of Grey has an emphasis on the domination side of things, from what I understand, and I am conflicted between my need to try to be non-judgemental and not censor books, and my need to not have teenagers buying books where people don’t take “no” for an answer, and the person saying “no” is okay with that.

The book being so popular also means that people (almost exclusively women) are coming in and buying it because they’ve heard the buzz, but have no idea about the contents.  Young teenage girls are coming in and looking for it because they’ve heard it’s connected to Twilight in some fashion. One girl came in to buy it, age perhaps seventeen or eighteen, accompanied by her dad.  Eep.  When her father was some distance away, I asked her if she was aware that the book was erotica, which led to her practically throwing the book to me, and fleeing the display.

I am currently limiting myself to asking if people purchasing it are aware that it is BDSM erotica, and stopping at that.  After they know what the book is, the decision is in their hands.  But what do I do if a twelve-year-old insists on buying it?  Arg.



Filed under Books, Books in the News, Bookstore, E-Books

4 responses to “Censorship – Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. I think the issue you have encountered is not so much one of censorship but one of ratings and what is age-appropriate. I don’t think you’re saying that material like this shouldn’t be in print, but rather that young adults shouldn’t be allowed to purchase it. Although there are flaws in the movie rating system, it is in place as a kind of guidance to suggest the type of content in the movie. Unfortunately, books don’t have a rating system to provide any kind of clue as to the level of sex, violence, or suggestive material they contain. As much as I enjoyed reading _The Hunger Games_, I do find it somewhat disturbing when I hear the 3rd and 4th graders at the school where I work discussing the violent series. I suppose working at a bookstore, you can’t really limit what people purchase, but I do find it odd that twelve year-olds are purchasing books about sadomasochism without their parents’ knowledge! Do you often have kids this age come into your store to shop and purchase unaccompanied?

  2. So far no twelve year-olds have actually purchased it, but since the bookstore I work in is right next to a residential area, a lot of parents don’t object to their kids taking a quick trip to the bookstore. That, at least, makes some kind of sense. I just try to steer the kids towards age appropriate books – mostly they have just heard that a book has something to do with Twilight, and so they want to read it.
    There are also the ones who drop their kids in the children’s section and make a beeline for Starbucks, hoping for free babysitting. Those ones give me migraines.
    I agree with you about the Hunger Games – I keep telling parents that I recommend a minimum reading age of 13, generally, but you just can’t force people to have common sense.
    We also quite often have to talk to groups of young teens, who have grabbed a Kama Sutra and are sitting around having a do-it-yourself sex-ed class.
    At this point, I just have to try to talk sense in to people – you can see how that would result in frustration.

    • Absolutely! That’s great that you try to give them more appropriate suggestions; I can’t believe the audacity of the parents who seem to think your shop is a free babysitting service!

  3. Pingback: Vampires, BDSM and Strange Love: Or How I Learned to Start Worrying « …at all four corners…

Tell me what you think:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s