Fifty shades of reaction to 'mommy porn'

Fifty shades of reaction to 'mommy porn'

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Catie Briesemeister is not embarrassed — but is discreet — with her reading as it seems everyone now knows what's inside the paperback with a necktie on the cover: mommy porn.

Briesemeister, 27, of Madison, just finished the last book in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy. She passed the novel on to the women in her office who, like millions of other people including many in Madison, are devouring the series known for its adventurous sex scenes and criticized for its poor writing.

More than 1,300 people are waiting for a copy through the South Central Library System, which includes the Madison Public Library, and the trilogy's popularity has even been credited with a surge in sales for sex toys locally.

"It's such an unrealistic love story, to find a man who will do anything and be everything for you and can't live without you," said Briesemeister of why she enjoys reading the trilogy — and likely why it doesn't appeal to men.

The trilogy also has sparked national media attention as some libraries around the country, including at least one in Wisconsin, have banned it from their shelves. And while some poke fun at the series — dubbing it mommy porn for its appeal to women in their 20s and beyond — others haven't found it so amusing. Dr. Drew Pinsky, a board-certified internist and TV personality, said on the Today Show he found the novel "disturbing" and suggested the submissive sex the book depicts is essentially violence against women.

British author E L James started writing the novels as fan fiction to Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series, and they were first published as e-books. But as their popularity grew and a cult-like following emerged, Vintage Books, a division of Random House, acquired the rights and published the books in April.

Nina Lane, the pen name of an erotica writer who lives in Middleton, recently self-published an erotic novel electronically she earlier published in book form in the 1990s. As an e-book, the novel has sold 6,000 copies — far more than her books sold when distributed in print. She credits the jump in part to "Fifty Shades."

"It's been a little bit shocking to me," she said. "I'm riding the 'Fifty Shades' wave, but I feel like I've constructed a really good boat."

The Fond du Lac Public Library banned the book, saying it's "erotica masquerading as romance" and the library does not collect erotica, according to library director Ken Hall's blog.

But in Madison, the number of people waiting for the novel is on par with books such as "The Help" and the Harry Potter series.

"We chose to purchase it because there is clearly a lot of demand," said Tana Elias, media coordinator for the Madison Public Library. "Not including it at all is also censorship."

However, Madison library officials also point out the number of holds for the second book in the series drops significantly, to about 310, indicating people aren't as interested once they've read the first one.

Despite its popularity, readers won't find "Fifty Shades of Grey" among the 2,000 titles — about half of which are erotica — at A Woman's Touch on Madison's East Side.

"The sex scenes have to be compellingly well written" for erotic literature to work, said Ellen Barnard, who co-owns the store that also sells sex toys and movies in addition to offering sex education and health information.

Despite the writing, the book is bringing people through the doors to buy items such as bondage equipment.

"It is driving people to be more experimental and try this stuff," she said.

As for Briesemeister, she isn't reading "Fifty Shades" for its beautifully written prose. "You're so curious to see their relationship progress," she said.

Briesemeister also doesn't mind the book's graphic sex scenes, although she admits having to Google some of the terms.

"That was a big discussion among women at work ... what some of this stuff means," she said.

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