I am probably one of thousands of women around the globe who received the erotic bestseller ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ as a present at Christmas. It has now been translated into 37 languages and labelled “the fastest-selling novel for adults of all time”. I got it from an enthusiastic English girlfriend who admits to having a bit of a weight problem. Not an irrelevant fact, as you will discover later. “Ooh Vivienne,” she said. “You must read it! It’s like ‘Sex and the City’, only more so!”
Now while those skinny women in ‘Sex and the City’ are not my idea of erotic, I thought I’d better find out what all the fuss is about. Instead of being ‘unputdownable’, after reading about 100 so-called ‘erotic’ pages, this book quickly became ‘unopenable’. Nevertheless, not one to be defeated, and knowing that some of my girlfriends have read all three books by now, I struggled on until page 400, by which time it was safe to say that the only thing turned on in my bedroom was the lamp.
What puzzles me most, though, is why over 50,000 Danish women have bought this yawn (gab in Danish) of a book about an S&M contract between the heroine, an unlikely virgin in her 20s, and the hero, Mr Grey, rich, manipulative and just plain unpleasant. A kind of Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre, except Rochester is fascinating and Grey is unutterably dull and spends most of his time grasping his “essentials” and, we are told, “kneading her breasts gently, taking no prisoners”. What is she? A lump of dough. An army insurgent? No prisoners? Ultimately who cares? “Gab!” At least 50 of them.
Fifteen million American women have bought the book, but then they probably spend their weekends watching their men polishing their huge weapons – and then going out shooting with them. Four million English women have bought it, but they probably need to have something to do while their partners are clamping their mouths around pints of beer down the pub saying: “I’m taking no prisoners tonight!” French women buy the audio book and listen to it while they cook dinner for their husbands who are lounging on the chaise lounge moaning on about the TV news.
But Danish women? They are some of the most gender-equality obsessed women on the planet. They don’t just try to break through the glass ceiling, they smash it and build a lead roof in its place. So what on earth do these smart independent women make of dumb and dominant Mr Grey when he growls in his scantily-dressed girlfriend’s ear: “I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favourite and most cherished part of my body” and then later compliments her by saying: “Well done Miss Steele, you get an A in oral skills.” There is nothing even faintly erotic in this book. It takes the “tit” out of “titillating” and puts the “b” into “anal”.
There is something I did notice though, which might make sense to a lot of women, Danish or otherwise. Grey includes in the list of demands in his sexless S&M contract: “The submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and wellbeing.” There it is! The magic word! Food.
“’As much as I’d like to take you here and now, you need to eat,’ he mumurs against my lips. ‘We know what we want,’ his mouth twitches with a small sexy smile. ‘Two portions of buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and bacon on the side.’”
And so he goes on, chapter after chapter, forcing food into her. Many women would find this truly erotic and certainly a great way to become submissive. “Oh I didn’t want to, but he forced me to eat five chocolate cupcakes and lick up all the double-thick whipped cream!” And if this is the case, when better to read this fruity book than at Christmas? “Oooooh! Yes! Yes! More sauce! More caramelised potatoes! Mmm … Bring on the ris a l’amande and the marzipan and … and … I’m nearly there … YEEEES!”
Come to think of it, the authoress EL James is not exactly a skinny ‘Sex and the City’ girl. She looks like the sort of woman who, when taking a break from scribbling naughty nibbly bits about breasts and legs, shoves a chicken into a microwave oven and then sits in front of it and shouts: “ HURRY UP!”
Vivienne McKee, Denmark’s best-known English entertainer, is this country’s most beloved foreign import. Over the last 30 years, hundreds of thousands of Copenhageners have enjoyed her annual Crazy Christmas Cabaret show at Tivoli, marvelling at her unique, wry Anglo wit and charm.