In the future, the distant future that was promised to us long ago, where we ride hoverboards and commute via flying cars, researchers will have specific names for our time period. In particular I think researchers will divide the eras of erotic literature into Pre-50SOG (Prior to the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey) and Post-50SOG (In the period following the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey).
I riffle through the piles and piles of paraphernalia sprawled all over my bedroom floor. I’m going to be late. “Kate!” I yell frantically. Where the hell are they? I run out onto the landing and throw myself over the banister. “Kate!”
I hear the familiar sound of a wooden spoon bashing the edges of a ceramic bowl as Kate appears at the bottom of the stairs, her red hair piled high in a mass of curls. She looks up at me with a tired expression. It’s an expression that I’ve become used to recently.
“Keys!” Have you seen my car keys?”” I puff at her.
“They’re on the table under the mirror where you left them last night.” She rolls her eyes, taking herself and her cake mixture back to her workshop.
These are the opening lines to This Man, the first of a trilogy of books that tells the story of Ava O’Shea and her relationship with Jesse Ward. As you read the above, about Ava and Kate, in the first of a trilogy, presented in paperback as a black bound book with silver/white iconic imagery on the cover, it’s easy to acknowledge we’re living in a Post-50SOG society.
I’m not trying to suggest that a Post-50SOG world is indicative of a dystopian society (although the absence of hoverboards and flying cars does seem to lend itself to an idea of dystopia, There were no hoverboards or flying cars in Orwell’s 1984 and that was pretty shit). Fifty Shades sold an enormous amount copies and I’ve always maintained that 70,000,000 lemmings can’t be wrong. I’m simply trying to point out that it’s impossible to read This Man without realising the book, characters, packaging and concept do appear to have been shaped by the fact that we live in a Post-50SOG community.
Perhaps it would be easier to illustrate my point with some sex.
“Don’t stop!” I scream, flinging my hands up to grab his slippery biceps. I dig my nails in to try and find some grip, prompting him to yell more and pound harder. I throw my head back in despair. The power and control he has is beyond comprehension.
“Damn it, Ava. Look at me!”
My head falls back down and our eyes meet. His pupils are huge and glazed, nearly cancelling out the greenness of his stare, and I notice his frown deepening and sweat dripping down his temples. Shifting my hands to the back of his head I fist my hands in his saturated hair, pulling his head down so our lips collide and our tongues clash, while he continues his punishing blows.
I can’t hold back any more. “Jesse, I’m going.” I pant against his lips. The tops of my fingers are numb from my stupidly fierce grasp of him.
“Fuck! Together, okay?” he strains through his clenched teeth, driving harder a few more body-blowing, mind-numbing times, before yelling., “Now!”
I let it go – all of the pent-up heaviness in my groin, the weight in my lungs and the fire in my belly – it all comes out on a massive rush of pressure and a very loud scream.
“Jesus Christ!” he cries, thrusting one last, powerful time before stilling over me.
In the Pre-50SOG world, erotic fiction was identified by the fact that it provided innovative titillation. Books would be discussed for their inventive approach to coitus, their cruel approach to BDSM or the appeal of unfamiliar, unusual and possibly illegal practices being described. Character, as always, was consistent with the milieu of the story. In the Post-50SOG the world is filled with trilogies that are packaged to look identical, and filled with characters and sex that don’t give us anything we haven’t seen fifty times before.
I’m going to point out here that I’m not having a go at This Man. If you want to rub one out to a book, as the passage above shows, This Man is more than suitable for those purposes. This Man also contains the plot.
But the book didn’t strike me as anything particularly new. As the aforementioned sex scene demonstrates, the intercourse is presented with an inoffensive vocabulary and illustrates intimacy with anodyne terms, adjectival phrases and a text message’s worth of exclamation points. The majority of anatomical descriptions relate to aspects of the body that are not conventionally associated with sex (head, teeth, biceps and lungs) and there are some lesser suggestions of more sexually familiar component parts such as a groin and tongues. I’m not saying this is the wrong way to write erotic fiction. I’m just pointing out that, in the Post-50SOG world where we reside, this is standard.
This Man is good, but it’s no better than fifty other trilogies that are currently sitting on the shelves.What I’m trying to say is: the worst thing about the consumerist future in which we currently reside is that we’re too often treated like consumers. This book, rather than being produced for entertainment or edification, is simply produced for consumption.