I feel like there’s this trend, lately, to discuss what constitutes “good” erotica vs. “smut.” And it’s starting to piss me off. Let’s be real – what constitutes “good” erotica to one person is that that person likes to read it. Maybe it turned that reader on, or maybe it made them giggle, or maybe it caused them to furrow their brow and ask “Really?! Can people really do that?” or “Is that what having sex with an octopus would feel like?” The fact that something wasn’t written with the intent of becoming high-brow literary meat for academics to discuss via well-researched papers that are still primarily bullshit they think their professors will enjoy and that will consequently gain them an “A,” regardless of a wanton display of ignorance of history, philosophy, and sometimes, common sense, does not mean that people cannot enjoy reading it.
I mean, I get that it’s fun to make fun of Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve watched and giggled at the Honest movie trailer, I’ve read Roxane Gay’s essay describing the book’s fun and foibles, and I have personally decided that this book is probably not one that will particularly interest me.
Yet, I have heard numerous people whom I respect and admire talk about how much they really enjoyed these books. And I don’t think I deserve censure for not wanting to read these books myself, yet I also don’t think any less of the people I have met or have not met who enjoyed these books. I heard that the grammar in these books isn’t particularly great, that the author embodies Anastasia’s subconscious in a way that makes me cringe, and that the similarities to Twilight are ridiculously clear… but so what? You can still enjoy them. I just don’t think that I would. That is okay. I’m cool with it, and you should be okay with it, too.
But Fifty Shades is a bit easy to point to, because of it’s popularity. We all know that a lot of people have read and enjoyed these books. We all know that a lot of people have read and not enjoyed these books. We can feel secure in our opinion on Fifty Shades, regardless of what that opinion is, because so many other people share it. What about the self-published indies that appear every day? Some of these books undoubtedly have poor grammar, ridiculous characters, etc. And it is still okay for you to like them, or not like them.
I don’t believe in making people feel ashamed of what they’re reading. So to all of the readers in the world, everywhere, I hereby proclaim: You can read whatever the fuck you want, and anyone who tries to make you feel bad about enjoying it is an asshole whom I encourage you to ignore.