Fifty Shades of Red

Josie Leavitt - April 18, 2012

I spent much of yesterday laughing. I was laughing with the women who slunk in looking for the second and third books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. The women were all well above 18 and all, save one, were married and most had children. That these books have so captivated yet simultaneously embarrassed women is hilarious to me and them.
There were two kinds of shoppers yesterday. The bold ones who proudly strode up to the counter eagerly eying the books and thumbing through them while being rung up. The sheepish ones practically pointed mutely while turning crimson and dashing out of the store. Most calls about the books were made from garbled cell phones and went like this: “Do you have them?”
I felt a little bit like a drug dealer with fresh product. It’s nice to be popular, but I wish there was less slouching about the books. There’s nothing wrong with reading erotica. No one here cares what people read. Honestly, I’m mostly thrilled that women are so energized by these books. We’ve certainly had extremely lively conversations in the last few weeks, and that has been delightful.
I do have to share one classic story about these books. After school yesterday, a first grade teacher at the local school came in already blushing. She saw the books on the front counter and as she picked up and slid her two books toward me she muttered, “I know it’s gross, but I just have to find out what happens.” She was blushing so hard, I swear I could feel the heat coming off her face. She had hoped to dash in and dash out. Sadly for her, one of her students came in with his father. She saw him and at first actually tried to hide, but she realized she was caught, and fumbled to get the books tucked in her jacket before William saw them.
I tried not to laugh, but it had been a long day of red-faced grown women and I found the whole thing endlessly entertaining.

12 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Red

  1. Karen A. Wyle

    Our local bookstores don’t carry the books (last time I checked), so I ended up with the relative anonymity of online purchase. I did hesitate and come near to blushing before outing myself as a reader in order to post a book review (on my blog at Now that I’ve exposed myself, so to speak, I’m going to keep at it and do another post about the copyright issues the trilogy raises.

  2. Ana

    Okay, I’m only about 70% through the book (yes, reading it on the Kindle), but so far it’s standard romance novel (really? She’s 22 and no man has ever even held her hand before?) with slightly hotter sex and the tiniest little bit of BDSM. It should have Fabio on the cover carrying one of those novelty floggers made of ribbons that they sell at “sensual” stores.

    1. Steph

      That’s terrible! A school shouldn’t judge what a teacher is reading on her off hours. Although I grew up in evangelical Christian circles and I know some of those christian schools are very rigid in their behaviour expecations.

    2. Gabby

      As someone in that type of situation myself, shame on you for revealing information about her purchases on this blog! Surely that’s worse than one person seeing the cover…

      1. Josie Leavitt

        I should have mentioned that I got the teacher’s permission to use her story. She even suggested her “name”. I would never call out anyone without their permission. To her credit, she saw the humor in the whole episode.

  3. Christine

    well at least these women are coming into your store to buy them rather than buying online and saving themselves potential embarassment. although why they’re embarassed i don’t know as the covers are actually a lot more discreet than much of the genre.

  4. Kitti

    That kind of makes me sad! I hope some of those women, when it sinks in how popular this book has been, will ease up on themselves & lose the guilt.

  5. Steph

    The excerpts I read were so terribly written I’m still confused how this book became so popular! And to be fair, I am not an elitest when it comes to books. I read mass market paperbacks, Oprah book club picks and a lot of Young Adult. Bad writing is bad writing. I’d be more embarrassed by that factor than the suppsedly risque content!

  6. Barbara

    I’ve read the 50 Shades trilogy and am extremely hard put to find what Steph believes is bad writing. The accomplished plot is superbly woven, the tension in the drama is well crafted, the use of grand vocabulary sent me several times to the dictionary and the love story is almost incomparable. The two main characters are multidimensional and their story tugs at one’s heartstings at times while at other times, one is owned by the magnanamous journey. This is one phenomenal saga that does more for women than any women’s movement ever achieved. If you’ve never been awakened sexually, read these books. What happens between the sheets is a private affair that exists between two people who are in love with each other and the bonus is that their lovemaking is creative and highly fulfilling. My marriage has benefitted in many ways as a direct result of my having read this trilogy. Badly written? Bah! Humbug! To use an archaic response, “Get real.”


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