My experience with Fifty Shades of Grey was very similar to what I went through reading Twilight. I picked the first book up out of morbid curiosity, then continued to read with the kind of shocked awe one experiences when staring at a horrific car wreck. It is sort of appropriate with the book's origins as an AU Twilight smut fic.
Part of me just can't help cringing, not because the book is sexually explicit, but rather because it's often so misinformed. Part of my summer reading assignment for my volunteer job is a several hundred page manual called The Guide to Getting It On, which is a huge, awesome information resource on sex and sexuality. The whole time I was reading, I wanted to yell at Christian "Oi, that could cut off her circulation!" or "That material is NOT body safe, you moron" (this is the reason my friends don't bring me with them if they're going into Spencer's anymore).
It also brings up a lot of the same issues that I have with Twilight regarding controlling and abusive relationships. On one hand, I do appreciate that Fifty Shades is way more up-front about how abnormal Christian's behaviour is. I appreciate that Ana realizes Christian is a control freak and feels threatened by it at times, whereas Bella sees Edward dictating her every move as sweet and a sign of how much he cares. However, the way Christian's controlling tendencies are taken as a joke by Ana rather than how seriously they should be taken makes me uncomfortable.
This is not, by the way, a reflection of my feelings on regarding the BDSM community. As long as both partners' needs are met and there is no serious danger involved, everything is fine and dancy. However, in Fifty Shades, neither partners' needs are met. Christian desires dominance over a true submissive, which Ana is not. There are many people in the community who receive satisfaction from obeying a dominant, but Ana is not and probably never will be one of them. Ana desires a more traditional relationship, which Christian cannot provide. So Ana gets pressured into this contract just because she doesn't want to lose any chance of a relationship with Christian. On the other hand, the relationship that she's so desperately fighting to keep makes her uncomfortable and horribly sad, not to mention the detrimental effects it has on Christian. This is one of the most self-destructive pairings I've ever seen.
And don't even get me started on the fetishization of virginity in this book. Ugh.
That being said, is the sex hot? Sometimes. Is it amusing? Often. Is it hilarious in its awkwardness? Always. Will I continue reading? Yep.
Until next time, happy reading!