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Erotic fiction needs a touch of wordplay to be foreplay

Posted by Linda | 2:56 PM

Every few years a piece of erotic fiction reinvents sex for us. What happens to women’s libidos between Melissa P’s One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed and Belle de Jour’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl is anyone’s guess (presumably we all get a huge amount of needlework done), but somehow we white-knuckle it through until the next humdinger.

The latest tale to set us all a quiver is E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey – now the fastest-selling paperback since records began. Written by British mother-of-two Erika Mitchell, the book tells the story of Anastasia Steele and her sexual awakening at the hands of ageing buffoon – sorry, handsome billionaire – Christian Grey.

Sexual awakenings are rather unusual these days. There's a reason why the heroines in “mummy porn” tend to be fully awakened raging nymphomaniacs with sadomasochistic tendencies: when you find yourself married to a paunchy banker whose idea of a "sexting" is “Don’t forget the Mr Muscle”, you probably wish you’d spent your youth being tied up by every plumber, tennis instructor and viscount you met, too.

Women are pathologically lazy creatures, though, so when Catherine Millet described in her Sexual Life how she was only able to reach orgasm after 300 men, I think we were all rather relieved that we’d left the exploits to her.

A flick through Fifty Shades of Grey tells me why it's a winner. Like Austen's Emma (on which all erotic fiction plot lines are said to be based), this bestseller features a traditional build-up and the prerequisite ripped-jeans-wearing old sleeze-bag. Still, there’s a fundamental problem: the writing.

Bad writing has the same effect on my libido as Bryan Ferry – sending every motor neuron into emergency shutdown.

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