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Is it OK to read 50 Shades of Grey in public?

30 July 2012

From the Miss Conduct column at the Boston Globe Magazine:

A few days ago, I was visiting my father in the hospital. My sister was there, reading Fifty Shades of Grey (with our father lying asleep a few feet away!). Is it old-fashioned of me to think this is probably not appropriate reading material in this situation, or really any public setting? Am I simply being too prudish?

Link to the rest,  including Miss Conduct’s answer, at the Boston Globe Magazine

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28 Comments to “Is it OK to read 50 Shades of Grey in public?”

  1. Yes, you are being too prudish!!

  2. SPOILER ALERT: I screamed with kaughter at her last line: “It’s not as though I’m immune to the appeal. Every time I see a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, I, too, am overcome with powerful desires and fantasies . . . that someday some dreck piece of fan-fiction I wrote will make me a multimillionaire. ”

    When I see someone reading Fifty Shades, and they do not have tears of laughter streaming down their cheeks, it tells me something very important about them: they are not my target audience.

  3. I can’t comment on what anyone should read in public or private–their call. But the incident the writer describes really plays into my sense that a big, big reason that Fifty Shades gained the momentum it did is its brilliant cover. That immaculate tie… Off. Socially acceptable. Smartly sexy.

    I think whoever designed it should win an award.

  4. Her answer boils down to this: “It’s socially acceptable to read erotica only in a place where you can freely masturbate.”

    This is both really funny and sad. Although the part about the girl reading it in her dad’s hospital room does strike me as kind of odd.

    • Never mind that there are many readers who don’t find Fifty Shades of Grey the least bit arousing and on the other hand may be aroused by something would be completely harmless and non-sexual to anybody else. People are not all aroused by the same things.

      On a related note, I actually like writing sex scenes, while in public places, simply because arousal (and you don’t want to become aroused while writing) won’t be a problem there.

  5. If you are worried about what people think about your choice of reading material, get a Kindle (or Nook or Kobo).

  6. Was anybody else put off by the snarky (and shallow) style of Miss Conduct? I suppose it’s “hip for the kids” but it makes her advice sound less… thoughtful. I just don’t trust the insight of that voice.

    IMHO, the appropriateness of reading 50 Shades of Gray in her father’s hospital room depends on the individuals involved. The cover is not lurid or offensive. We don’t know the relationships of the family. We don’t know how the father feels about it or if he cares. We don’t know if the sister asking the question is a prudish control-freak who is the only one disapproving (and that’s why she writes to the newspaper) or if the woman doing the reading does stuff like that to get her father’s goat all the time.

    • Camille — I was thinking the same thing. I like advice columns (great story fodder) but this one doesn’t make me want to read more, at all, ever. It sounds like she’s way too full of herself, and has her nose so high in the air she hasn’t bothered looking at normal people in a decade at least.

      I’ll admit her jab at “lurid science fiction” ticked me off too. What, does she herself only ever read the finest of literature…? [huge freaking eyeroll]

      Angie

  7. If you have an e-reader, no one will know what you’re reading.

    • Was she reading it out loud?

      Was Dad sedated, incapacitated, sleeping, or in a coma?

      I’m sorry, I think we need more information if she really wants a accurate evaluation of the situation.

  8. Mr. International

    Someone hasn’t heard of book covers (you know, frilly mommy porn hiding tea cozys with psychedelic hand sewn, LSD spawned PVC coatings.)

  9. It’s not like there’s an all out orgy on the cover. She needs to relax. Sheesh…

  10. This is pretty funny.

    I agree with William and Abel. One of the best qualities of e-books is you can read them without ANYONE KNOWING.

    In fact, it just occured to me to wonder if prior to e-books, 50 shades would have become so popular. Would anyone have dared to read it? Now, it’s mainstream, so folks can read it in their father’s hospital room, but……I have nothing to back this up whatsoever, but I wonder if 50 Shades owes its huge success in part to the e-book format.

  11. Bob guiccione should kick himself for not thinking of serializing penthouse forum letters into suburban mommy porn. He already had the husband and teen son, he missed his chance to sell the mom….

  12. I think the only inappropriate material to be reading in your father’s hospital room is Inheritance Laws for Dummies.

  13. Am I weird in being someone who wouldn’t read a romance or erotica in public? I don’t suppose it’s about what other people think so much as it is it would sort of feel like masturbating in public. Especially if it’s a book that is really racy. I don’t know. Why would you want to put yourself in that mood in public? Or by your father’s bedside? Can’t lie, it sort of squicks me out, and I love romance. Been reading it for, oh, hell, two decades now, and write it. But for me it’s just…too personal to read in public.

    • I’m with you, Lily. I also dislike writing romance in public. If I’m evoking the feelings from my readers that I’m trying to, I’ll be very… uncomfortable.

    • Mr. International

      Mr. I reads it on the train… whoops. At least it’s mostly my own. I’m’proofing’, really I am!

  14. Sixties and Seventies fantasy/sf covers. Very often they really do need a brown paper bag. And very often, when I was reading them, I kept the covers covered.

    (Especially since they often didn’t have any particular sex in them; they just put naked people on the cover for marketing, or to look arty or LSD-inspired.)

  15. OK I wouldn’t be caught dead reading 50 Shades of Grey because it is poorly written but I felt the reply was snarky and off base, especially since the complainer did not say she was relieving the sister who was obviously there for the long haul. The covers are great and I didn’t see anything in the I am glad I don’t have a sister like this sister’s question that said the woman was not using an ereader or even possibly a cover. It was just that that was what she was reading so more info would have helped.

    I agree with Maureen in respect to covers in previous decades, although I have to admit even as a kid back in the 70’s I wouldn’t have thought about covering up the 60’s reprints of Ellery Queen’s mystery novels from the 30’s and 40’s with another cover – the one that comes to mind was for their Four of Hearts novel – a naked woman (but for heels and earrings) with a very large and strategically placed four of hearts playing card. It was a mystery novel by a popular and mainstream author, even as a kid I would have thought people were over reacting.

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