U.K. Charity to Burn “Fifty Shades” Books

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Fifty Shades

August 23, 2012; Source: BBC

Best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey has drawn the wrath of U.K. anti-domestic violence charity Wearside Women in Need, whose director, Clare Phillipson, plans to host a book burning bonfire. The sexually explicit novel, the first of a three-part trilogy, became the fastest-selling paperback in history, and deals with a sado-masochistic relationship between a woman and a man. Phillipson says that the book sends the message that “domestic violence is sexy,” and her concerns go beyond the novel’s depictions of sex.

“This is an abusive relationship presented as a love story,” says Phillipson. “It normalizes abuse, degrades women and encourages sexual violence…There is lots of abuse in the book, not just sexual abuse. Do millions and millions of women suffer from secret self-loathing? Do they all want to be treated this badly? Some of what happens in the book, [serial killer and rapist] Fred West did to his victims in his cellar. I fail to see what is erotic about that.”

The book’s publisher, Random House, has responded to the criticism by stating that “the sex scenes are entirely consensual” in the book.

Phillipson plans to hold the book burning bonfire on November 5, and she says that, “There’s an assumption that Nazis are the only people who burn books. What we are saying is, this book is rubbish and we would like to reduce it to ashes. We are not burning the Bible or a political philosophy, we are burning the depiction of an abusive man as a romantic hero.”

Not having read Fifty Shades of Grey, we are in no position to comment on the novel’s content, but even if it is “rubbish,” is a book burning session really a good form of nonprofit advocacy? Can we hear a big “NO” on the book burnings please? –Mike Keefe-Feldman

  • John O. Harney

    And you know where they burn books
    People are next

  • San

    Adolf Hitler burnt the books he didn’t like and I remember Salman Rushdie’s book ‘the Satanic Verses’ also being burnt publicly at the time by some Muslim groups and he then had a fatwa placed on him. Book burnings have no place in a civilised society. Show me the proof between this book and an increase in or tolerance of domestic violence.

  • Sue

    I think its a valid point. Sometimes not all book burning is bad. Just because you can write something doesn’t mean you should, this is why there are laws in place banning convicted felons for writing about their crimes and profiting from it. Also, her point in book burning is to create awareness around the issue of domestic violence — its seems she has done this as your article proves. Its a brilliant public relations and marketing stunt. I haven’t read the book, nor do I have any desire too — it sounds pretty tragic.

  • Deborah

    “NO:, burning books. There are better ways to say the book is rubbish. I have not read the book yet; but I intend to because we are having an event to discuss this book. I think you would be better served also to sponsor group discussions of the book to bring out your concerns of the content.

  • R. Ruth Linden, Ph.D.

    As someone who took a rather public stand against sadomasochism some 30 years ago, I concur that book burning under all circumstances I can think of is totally unacceptable. I am the editor of the lesbian feminist classic, Against Sadomasochism: A Radical Feminist Analysis (Frog in the Well, 1982). Ray Bradbury would roll over in his grave.

  • Julie

    I haven’t read it either but look, it’s got people talking about something very disturbing -violence masquerading as romance.

    Are they hurting anything by burning it? Are they saying it can’t or shouldn’t be sold as a sort of fundamentalism usually associated with book burning? No, they’re doing something different but equally relevant, burning the book as emblematic of rejecting the perpetration of human violence therein. Kudos to them for this creative and well-articulated move. It got my attention.

    In response to the comments below: There’s a relevant logical fallacy of extrapolating a part to the whole. In other words, just because some bad people have burnt books, doesn’t mean that burning a book everywhere and always is bad.

  • John Hoffman

    Burning books makes you look like a fascist, no matter who you are and what your intentions.