The five stages of reading Fifty Shades of Grey

The road from Fifty Shades virgin to EL James super-fan and beyond is a bumpy one…


Stage One: Denial


You see Fifty Shades of Grey wherever you go. Your fellow commuters are reading it on the tube, the bus, as they walk down the street, unable to tear their gaze away. It’s all people are talking about. Everyone is flushed of face and enjoying an alarming new found freedom to discuss the details of their own intimate encounters. But you’re not paying it any attention. You’re sure Fifty Shades fever will pass soon enough. This book just isn’t for you. You like good books. Literary books. Words which stimulate your brain, not your reproductive organs. You don’t know what an inner goddess is and you couldn’t care less about finding out, thank you very much. 

Stage Two: Guilt

You’ve started reading it. You don’t know what’s come over you. The social pressure must have got too much. Being out of the loop made you feel old, out of touch and ever so slightly prudish. So you picked it up. Just to see what the fuss was all about. You feel like you’re cheating on Margaret Atwood, JK Rowling and Shakespeare. But the important thing is, you’re not enjoying it. You’re just reading it every night before you go to bed so you’ll finish it quicker. Promise. 

Stage Three: Anger

You see the world entirely in shades of grey. You don’t know how you became so caught up in a piece of fan fiction originally written under the pseudonym Snowqueen’s Icedragon, or why your heart starts racing when you spy a rogue cable tie. Now you know what an inner goddess is and you really wish you didn’t. Worst of all? You actually care about stupid Christian Grey and silly Anastasia Steele. Which makes you angry. You’re also angry that people are so judgemental about your new found passion. What’s wrong with enjoying a naughty novel every now and again? It doesn’t say anything about you. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost brain cells. You’ve still got good taste, okay? OKAY.  

Stage Four: Despair 

What does it say about you, really, that you’re reading something like this? Everyone’s always biting their bottom lip, lowering their gaze in a supposedly suggestive way, gasping and going commando. You can’t believe you’re reading about a girl who gives a voice to her inner goddess. And that her inner goddess does things like “sway in a gentle, victorious samba.” Ana’s “all deer/headlights, moth/flame, bird/snake” or “coming apart at the seams, like the spin cycle on a washing machine.” You don’t know who you are any more…

Stage Five: Acceptance 

Ok, it’s not the best book you’ve ever read. It didn’t make you question anything especially, asides from whether all those couples in B&Q at the weekend are really redecorating. But it’s a worldwide bestseller. Fifty Shades has been translated into over 50 languages and sold more than 100 million copies. 100 million people can’t be wrong… right? Plus there’s a film version coming out on Friday which you may as well go and watch. You know, just to see what all that fuss is about.


Fifty Shades of Grey is in UK cinemas 13th February