Grey: Women begging E L James for a Fifty Shades novel told from a male perspective is just sad

The series was originally a huge step forward for female sexuality – but this is a step back

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The Independent Online

In case you’ve somehow managed to miss the furore, the fourth 50 Shades of Grey book, Grey, has just been released.

Rather than furthering the story of Anastasia and Christian, Grey takes us back to the beginning and retells the first novel all over again. But unlike the first three books, which are told from the point of view of 22-year-old luddite virgin Anastasia Steele, Grey is written from the point of view of Christian Grey – the 28-year-old billionaire with surprisingly flexible working hours.

Some have called this lazy, but either way there's something more worrying about Grey. Why do women really want Christian’s perspectives? 50 Shades was originally such a huge step forward in women’s sexuality (whether you can forgive its crimes against syntax or not) and yet it would seem that the female perspective wasn't satisfactory enough for readers (E L James writes in the book's dedication that Grey was a result of requests from her fans, who "asked… and asked.. and asked and asked").

Grey is a very different book from the original. Yes, the writing is still of the same calibre (make of that what you will) and yes, the turn of phrase is still occasionally eye-watering (“I’m going to make you come like a freight train, baby” is a particularly sterling example). But Christian’s point of view changes the entire tone of the series and I can’t help but wonder why women were so desperate to get inside this man’s head.

Much of the eroticism of Christian’s character comes from not being able to understand him. His bizarre behaviour (such as panicking that Ana hasn’t blow-dried her hair) is certainly easier to ignore from Ana’s perspective. Consequently, being in his consciousness strips any mystery away and replaces it with confirmation of his quite unsexy, obsessive tendencies.

In some ways the change of perspective makes sense, especially when it comes to the scaled up sexuality of the new book. Grey is considerably more explicit than its predecessors, which feels natural with the change of narrator. While Anastasia is an ingénue, who thinks about her “inner goddess”, Christian is an old hand who spends a lot of time thinking about flogging.

Consequently, there are fantasies in Grey which might shock readers, not least the moment when Christian fantasises about putting a ginger root inside Ana. I can't imagine that would have made it into the first book.

I believe E L James when she says that women begged for another instalment from Christian’s point of view. But I am saddened by it. The series revolutionised the market perspective of women as sexual consumers. And yet in spite of that, 50 Shades' readers still couldn't be completely pleasured until they'd experienced the story from the perspective of a man.