Rona Dougall: Reading ‘mummy porn’ a grey area

Love it or loathe it Fifty Shades of Grey is the book everyone is talking about.

So much so, that we decided to have a discussion about the “mummy porn” phenomenon on Scotland Tonight last week. During the production meeting there was an embarrassed silence among my colleagues as I confessed that I had read not only Fifty Shades of Grey but also the other two books in the trilogy, which is taking the publishing world by storm.

They were astonished that a seemingly-intelligent person like me would do so. But most of the females I know have read them, and although most of them scoffed at the poorly written soft porn modern-day Mills and Boons, they all raced through them.

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I had read them in a professional capacity of course, to find out what all the fuss was about.

Last time I went to my hairdressers, before she’d even picked up the scissors, she had gripped my shoulders and breathlessly asked if I’d heard about these books. “They’re filth, pure filth,” she said. The other women in the salon nodded agreement.

They are pretty smutty, but they are also pure escapism. The hero, Christian Grey, is fantastically rich, extremely handsome and very, ahem, masterful in the bedroom department. The Red Room of Pain where he has his wicked way with Anastasia may be kinky as hell, but it has tasteful fixtures and fittings and the furniture is always freshly polished. He smells of expensive aftershave and fresh linen.

On their second date he gives her first editions of her favourite novels. And when the 21-year-old publishing assistant is sick on her jeans after drinking two glasses of wine he sends them to the laundry. No walk of shame for this heroine the next morning, with vomit-encrusted trousers.

For the millions of women who’re devouring these books this life of privilege, unimaginable wealth and sexual shenanigans is miles away from their normal existence.

Being a mother, especially of young children, can be a gruelling existence. Perhaps Fifty Shades of Grey offers a welcome respite from the unrelenting hard work and boring routine of motherhood.

For a few brief hours women can live the fantasy life Anastasia has – whisked off on impromptu “mini breaks” by helicopter (Grey flies it of course), being presented with an entire new wardrobe of designer clothes (in the right size) and swigging endless glasses of chilled champagne.

The downside to all this is when you start comparing her existence to yours. He folds his clothes before sex, most men wouldn’t even a week after. And he’s always offering to make her cups of tea. I think my husband has made me two hot beverages in 13 years of marriage.

A friend of mine was a bit depressed after reading it, remembering the time she was sitting in the living room just hours after giving birth to her third child when the doorbell went. During a stand-off several minutes long, eventually her partner went to answer it, not before shouting over his shoulder “Have you lost the use of your legs?” “And Christian Grey runs her baths,” she wailed.

Another complained that far from the top of the range sports car the heroine in the novel is given, her husband picked up her winter coat from the dry cleaners one Christmas, wrapped it up and gave it to her as a present.

You can imagine why the bestselling book, although adored by many females, is already being widely mocked and has sparked a number of hilarious spoof twitter feeds.

More than 20,000 people are following @50shedsofgrey, which contains saucy-sounding quotes about sheds and gardening.

“My whole body shuddered as she entered my Man Cave,” reads one, “I really must get a padlock for the shed door.” And from another feed, which began back on 21 June – “So this was it – it was really going to happen. Every man’s ultimate fantasy…Three in a shed.”

Feminists are complaining that the trilogy has set the cause back 70 years, because of the submissive role the female character plays. The dedication to her husband at the front of E L James’s book says “For Niall, the master of my universe”.

In my house my husband is master of the fridge and that’s about it, and despite that saccharine dedication, with the millions she’s made, I suspect Erika Leonard, aka E L James, is very much mistress of her universe as well.