It taps into a neglected audience.
Even though the Internet Is For Adult Videos, those videos aren’t always for women. The book fills a void for a lot of women who largely felt neglected or not a part of our society’s growing acceptance of male sexual fantasy. It’s an outlet, more than anything, not all that different from our mother and grandmother’s love of dime store pulp novels and Harlequin romances. Those weren’t all that well written either, but they filled an escapist need. Often in the “sex industry” everything is geared towards men and the male gaze which gives women the obvious impression that sexual fantasy (and by virtue — actual sexual intercourse) was not designed with them in mind. But women – as I stated earlier – fantasize, desire and enjoy sex pretty much as much as men do, but most deal with this extra level of emotional guilt and expectation, whereas men pretty much break their arms patting each other on the back for enjoying orgasms.
“Fifty Shades” is a gateway to a world that had been closed off to them — crappy Adult Videos with a slightly more interesting script. If you’ve ever watched Adult Videos, the most popular variety today is devoid of storyline or intrigue. Most are certainly not geared to women. Even so-called “lesbian” Adult Videos are still just Adult Videos involving women made for men. If women had better written, better produced alternatives to explore sexual fantasy in a low-impact, “safe” way (i.e. their Kindles and computer monitors), or at least alternatives that took their desires, fantasies and interests to mind, “Fifty Shades” wouldn’t be so popular. So this is kind of like how in historically undeserved markets something crappy gets a lot of play because AT LEAST someone understood there was a market there, made something for it — unironically — and set it out for consumption.
Women – despite popular belief – are not a “niche” market. We’re half of the U.S. population.
I have a good friend who is a hardcore Twilight fan who I think would probably actually LIKE “Fifty Shades” if she read it. She’s the classic example of someone who enjoys something when someone finally recognizes that she — as a woman and an African American — likes movies and sex as much as men do. This is why she loves Spike Lee and Tyler Perry. Toni Morrison and Zane. She loves the classics and art house films, but also saw ALL of the Twilight Saga and Hunger Games and loved every minute of it even though, as a nearly 50 year old woman, she’s not the target market. She’s the definition of “high low brow” since she only cares that whatever she’s watching represents her interests. Whether it’s well-executed or not is irrelevant. She just wants some escapist action. If she was entertained that’s all that ever mattered. And she’s not alone.
Even though I absolutely hated this book I would recommend it in that I think reading is great — even the reading of things that are crappy — because you’re still learning something about yourself. In this case, the book gives some people pleasure, it can be amusing (even in a trainwrecky way), but also opens the door to real conversation between women about sex and what they like and don’t like. I can’t tell you how many women experience crappy sex lives because you’re taught that the man is “just supposed to know” when 99 percent of the time he’s just as clueless as you are and you both end up having an unsatisfying experience.