Fifty Shades of Grey, Best-Sellers, and Society
University of Chicago Press 2014
Eva Illouz is professor of sociology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and president of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her book Hard-Core Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, Best Sellers, and Society (University of Chicago Press, 2014), provides a feminist-sociological analysis of the soft pornographic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The book, and its two sequels written by E.L. James, began as fan fiction and subsequently reached record-breaking sales as an e-book. With two central characters, a sexual ingenue and a powerful enigmatic anti-hero, the novel is poorly written and formulaic, yet managed to capture the imagination of millions of women. Illouz tells us how the novel was the perfect combination of fantasy and self-help delivered to an audience increasingly confuse and uncertain in negotiating their heterosexual relationships. With its sadomasochistic sex and images of female submission and male dominance, Fifty Shades of Grey, is a gothic romance adapted to modern sexual dilemmas and emotional confusion. Combining the romantic fantasy and self-help genres, it acts a catalyst for renegotiating heterosexual relationships. By placing the novel within the history of the commodification of the book, the dynamics of the sexual marketplace, and the sociology of sexuality, Illouz locates Fifty Shades of Grey in the contemporary context. The reader of Hard-Core Romance will find an intriguing argument for why after feminism and the sexual revolution dominance and submission, resistance and surrender, remain as enigmas of modern relationships.