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Fifty Shades of Grey has not only been written in paper, but in every woman’s mouth. This piece of literature has received praises from so many people, with the little voices of the critics being ignored due to the overwhelming praise. But have you ever thought that this book may not only be a great read but also a great gateway drug? The results of a recent study conducted by an associate professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada might give you answers to questions you have never thought of asking.

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Introduction

Before the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, inspired by the book itself, there were reports that the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an anti-porn organization, was protesting against the book and the movie. Well, according to a recent study conducted by Diana Parry, an associate professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Fifty Shades of Grey might be the book to point fingers to for the increase in female traffic in porn sites all over the internet. This conclusion was arrived at after different testimonials from women who have read the book overwhelmingly indicated that the book lured them to look for sexually explicit content online. Diana Parry categorically states in her study that Fifty Shades of Grey is not entirely to blame for the luring of women into porn sites but a reading encounter with the book seemed to be a catalyst to online pornography among women. In the search for sexually explicit content online, a large number of these women were surprisingly searching for content which targeted them and their sexuality. In her study and findings, Diana also stages an argument on why there should be no line separating erotica from pornography, which for a very long time have been regarded as two completely different terminologies.

What inspired the study?

In an interview, Diana Parry stated that her first encounter with Fifty Shades of Grey came as a result of influence. She had heard of the book from several women but it was not until her sister encouraged her to read the book that she finally considered going through it, together with her collaborator, Tracy Penny Light. As feminist scholars, it was only natural that they would put the book under heavy scrutiny, something that gave them insight on the possibilities of this famed book being not only great but also potentially hazardous. During the interview, Diana stated that after reading Fifty Shades of Grey, she and her collaborator could not place the book as great or really bad but rather complex. On one side, they saw the book as very liberal in matters concerning women sexuality. The book got women talking and thinking about their sexuality and the women also got engaged in conversations about sexual practices that were pegged on their own desires. However, the script in the book didn’t seem to give women a clear understanding of their sexuality. Diana described the script as very patriarchal which is hazardous to a woman’s understanding of her sexuality. With these findings, she and her collaborator published a paper, where they scrutinized the book, highlighting its liberal and constrictive qualities.

First time encounter

A large number of the women who Diana interviewed during the first study confessed to being exposed to pornography or sexually explicit material for the first time through Fifty Shades of Grey. These women further confessed to a build in curiosity that led them to look for more literature having sexually explicit content by women for women, with the internet being one of their viable options. With these findings, Diana embarked on a second study where she sampled 28 women, aged between twenties and fifties, to see how their pornography consumption patterns had changed after reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

The connection that exists

According to the study, Fifty Shades of Grey is a book that motivates. Being a sexually charged book, it is no surprise that its motivation is sexual. After reading Fifty Shades of Grey, women tend to get curious. This drives them online where they sought for more sexually explicit content to satisfy their curiosity thus explaining the rise in female traffic in porn sites. Furthermore, being a first time encounter among many, the curiosity is more charged as this is a new genre and new content that the reader is exposed to.

Is the content erotica or x-rated?

The study places the book and the online material in the sexually explicit bracket. There is a lot of debate surrounding the term erotica and pornography and where each terminology applies. In the study, these two terms have been reconciled by a common term; sexually explicit, which describes the book Fifty Shades of Grey and the online material readers influenced by the book search for. However, there are x-rated videos which according to some, do not fit in the sexually explicit bracket. The study carried out did not establish a connection between Fifty Shades of Grey and the x-rated videos, but Diana Parry argued that terming a video as x-rated is purely opinion based thus the sexually explicit bracket that encompasses the erotica and pornography terminologies would serve well for x-rated videos. Generally, the study had revealed that women are going online to search for all types of sexually explicit content in sites such as Good For Her (where some participants in the study were recruited), PornHub and other sites which they learnt about through heterosexual male partners.

Emerging Feminism in the porn industry

Diana in her study mentions the aspect of rising feminism in porn where according to the study women have started producing, consuming and discussing porn that has been created by them according to their desires. Diana also mentions the Feminist Porn Awards which is held in April, where female porn actors are recognized and awarded based on their work. Clearly, women are now taking their sexuality into their own hands where apart from the normal content made for heterosexual males, feminist porn is also being offered for consumption by the female audience.

Women also have a liking for visual pornography

It is a common myth that women prefer written explicit content over visual content. The study conducted however, busts this myth as most women admitted to watching explicit content apart from reading them in books. This is the major reason why they are going online. Furthermore, the Fifty Shades of Grey movie a sexually explicit movie that surprisingly many women have watched and are going to watch. In some way, the movie itself actually busts the myth about women liking literary porn only. However, Diana explained that for the Fifty Shades of Grey context, several women did not like the categorization of the book as porn, others as erotica. This boils down to the erotica-pornography debate where the use of each terminology is entirely dependent on one’s own view. During the study, some women were not comfortable with the term porn, some preferring erotica, thus the term sexually explicit was used.

More emphasis from the media on female sexuality

Women sexuality is being emphasized on more by the pop culture and TV shows such as the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. There is an emerging situation where women are putting their own sexuality in their own hands. This is an interesting situation which should be treated with caution, since many of the scripts being reproduced are patriarchal around the sexuality of women. Clearly, there is some complexity in the consumption of sexually explicit material by women and caution should be taken.