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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

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In Arts & Entertainment

Some claim their faces turn 50 shades of red while reading this book.

"50 Shades of Grey" invents "mommy porn" genre


The term "MILF" (Mothers I'd Like To...) is totally out. Don't even use it. It's the sexist equivalent of describing something as "the bomb" or when square adults in the '60s used the word "groovy." However, if you want to drop a contemporary, mom-flavored meme, give "mommy porn" a whirl.

"Mommy porn" is a relatively new concept that's redefining "tying the knot." Thanks to E.L. James and her erotic novel / bestselling e-book called "50 Shades of Grey," millions of mommies – and non-mommies – are devouring detailed accounts of a BDSM (bondage and discipline; sadism and masochism) relationship that takes place between an inexperienced female college student and a dashingly dominating and disgustingly rich dude.

So far, the book has sold 2,000,000 copies to date and the Kindle version is selling even better. Currently, there are 357 holds on it at the Milwaukee Public Library. Women are passing it around in social groups like high school students passed around Judy Blume's "Wifey" and "Forever" a few decades ago.

"Fifty Shades of Grey" is the first in a trilogy and was originally written as "Twilight" fanfiction. James took the Stephanie Meyer's G-rated characters of Edward and Bella to X-rated places, but later, decided to write the book with her own characters.

Like with the "Twilight" series, some readers complain that the "50 Shades" series is poorly written, and yet others, well aware of the flaws, continue to enjoy it for what it is.

"It's completely crack-like in its addictive properties," says Laura Hoffmann Stratte, a Whitefish Bay-based mother of two school-aged kids who is currently reading the second book.

Kelly Hoglund, 31, says she could tell it was her first novel, but it didn't bother her either. She read it in about a week after receiving it on April 15.

"I feel that she's honestly portraying how women feel and react in emotional or sexually charged situations, as well as during sexual intercourse itself. Because of that I find it's easy to overlook any simplistic writing," says Hoglund. "Also, the author does not take herself too seriously. There are no horrid metaphorical pitfalls like, 'He had hair as black as a raven's wing . . .' and for that I am very grateful."

The series is believed to be particularly popular with mainstream moms because it offers such an extreme break from their daily diaper-changing lives. Of course, this phenomenon is nothing new and the "Fifty Shades" series could be seen as modern-day Harlequin romances born from bondage fantasies. Ladies have been hiding smuts in apron pockets for generations.

But maybe there's more to it.

These books could represent the backlash of educated moms who are privileged enough to make the decision to stay at home and care for their children, but once there, long for the excitement of youth, freedom, work and the sex they had many years ago or never experienced when they had the chance.

James admitted writing the series was a part of her "midlife crisis." And indeed, they appeal to many women undergoing, or on the brink of, one of their own. Some women, even though they love their partners, secretly struggle with the finality and lack of bedroom adventure that sometimes comes along with long-term relationships.

Despite the alleged sexual revolution, there is still a belief among many women that sex beyond a few positions is just not something most people do. Not only does the Anastasia character give permission for kinky sex, the book also serves as a how-to guide for anyone considering such stylings in the sack.

Of course, "Shades Of Grey" is not everyone's cup of tea. Tammy Kolbe, a mother of two young children living in suburban Milwaukee, read the first book but has no intention to read the second.

"Although it certainly was erotic, the girl annoyed me too much to consider reading the next two," she says.

The overabundance of sexual content is what's both raising skeptical eyebrows and recruiting readers who don't have to read very far to get to the "good parts."

"I don't typically read romance novels because the few that I have bought, I hoped for a lovely romp in every chapter and ended up having to drag myself through one dull character-building chapter after another just wishing for a juicy sex scene," says Hoglund. "Nothing like a good BDSM novel to take your mind off of the worries of your day!"

Wanna read the juicy parts? Go here.

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