Conversation #2: Too Young for Fifty Shades of Grey?

16:11 Cilla P 12 Comments



Conversations is a new meme created by Geraldine and Joan  to encourage more discussions in the book blogging community. Every fortnight, they post a question to respond to. I thought it would be fun and I'm looking forward to read everyone's response!

This week's question: Is Fifteen Years Old Too Young To Read Fifty Shades of Grey?



True story: I taught English as a Second Language last year, and one of my classes consisted of fifteen-year-olds. Once, I asked one of them about the last book she read. Someone piped up jokingly, "Fifty Shades of Grey!" and the class burst into laughter. The girl looked straight at me, however, and said, "Fifty Shades Darker, actually."

My automatic (but very much mental) reaction was, "The hell are you doing reading that?"

Now, I would probably think that whenever someone tells me they're reading Fifty Shades, which may be unfair of me given I have never read the book myself, and my judgment of it is largely based on snippets posted online and the dozens of articles written about it. Still, I am aware that I was largely aghast about my student's revelation because she was fifteen.

My reflexive answer to this question is yes, I think fifteen is too young to read Fifty Shades. It may depend on the teenager and how knowledgeable they are about sex, how likely they are to discuss what they're reading with a trusted adult. How many fifteen year olds are like that though? I wasn't. If they are like my fifteen year old self - who was only starting to wrap my mind around the idea of sex, whose sex ed didn't include discussions of consent - I don't think they should. If they want to read about sex, there are other romance books that do a better job.

It's not just the sex, it's the portrayal of a relationship. That student told me she liked Fifty Shades because it's romantic. This unsettled me even more. Again, my knowledge of Christian Grey is minimal, though the general impression I get is that he's controlling and deeply troubled. He meets this innocent girl, and their relationship 'fixes' him. I'm highly uncomfortable with that kind of message, particularly when it's conveyed to teenage girls.

All in all, in general I wouldn't give a fifteen-year-old Fifty Shades. If they do read it, however, and they are able to openly discuss its content with an adult, then I'm a little bit more okay with that. Just a little bit.

12 comments:

  1. Fair points! It's probably not a great plan to take relationship advice from 50 Shades... ;)

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  2. The fact that they'd think it's romantic is worrying. I'm definitely the same - my knowledge on Fifty Shades is quite minimal and I prefer it that way. And it does make me uncomfortable that 15 year-olds read it. But if the adults are reading it and seem so fascinated, what's a 15-year-old to think? I don't know, it's upsetting to me that as a society we've made Fifty Shades into something awesome and movie-worthy. Of course kids are going to think it's something special.
    I definitely agree with you though, Cilla! I wish kids could talk about these issues with parents or other adults but it does seem like that wouldn't work out in most cases. It's awkward.
    This is such a difficult topic! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. I think it's inevitable that 15-year-olds would be curious since it is such a huge thing in our society. It's definitely worrying that Fifty Shades has become the phenomenon that it is, though it's also a good thing that it's started a lot of conversations in the media? I hope teenagers see the controversy as much as the hype if they do read it! Thanks for stopping by, Annika! :D

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  3. I don't think a fifteen-year-old should read this book. A lot of teens think they're a lot more mature than they really are, and I worry that they will think that this book depicts a healthy relationship and that they, being so young, will also be impressionable and believe that they can be in abusive relationship and find happiness. I've not read the book, and I never will, but I understand it's not a romance at all. But will young readers understand that? Twilight already made stalking "romantic." I hate to think what this book could do. --Krysta

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    1. You hit the nail on the head about the maturity. As a teenager I definitely didn't know exactly what I was able to handle, and I might have thought I was ready for an adult book when I wasn't. I wish I could've told my student exactly what you've said, that this book shouldn't be seen as romantic at all.

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  4. I definitely have to agree with you on this one. I haven't read the book either, but I don't have to read it to know that I don't think it's appropriate for a fifteen-year-old. I know lots of people would argue that kids know a lot more about sex than we admit, but I also think that exposure to this sort of book that glorifies an argumentally unhealthy relationship is NOT the type of exposure they should have.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Exactly! Yes, teenagers know about sex, but for me it's about the relationship. If teenagers were going to read about sex, they should read it depicted in a healthy relationship.

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  5. Awesome response, Cilla! I loved how you had your own personal experiences and led in with that - I completely get what youre saying based on that! I think my reflexive response would be the same too - but reading so many other peoples opinions... I'm a lot more conflicted about it. Because there is mix of idealism and realism - a lot of people believe its fine, so long as the teenager talks to parents. That's idealistic imo - because yeah, I know my sisters and I would never openly discuss sex with our parents when we could. XD Realistically - hard for teenagers to be mature enough to take Fifty Shades of Grey seriously xD

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    1. Thanks, Geraldine! Haha I would never openly discuss sex with my parents either, not even know that I'm 25. xD Hopefully teenagers would just be horrified by Fifty Shades if they read it?

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  6. Great post Cilla! I'm actually 15 years old myself, the same age as one of those girls in that class you mentioned. I have NEVER read nor will I ever read erotica books such as Fifty Shades. Maybe it's just me, but I'm easily irked and disgusted by relationships that go beyond "romantic." Because the way I see it, the Fifty Shades trilogy doesn't really portray what you call a "healthy relationship." I've actually read an article somewhere that it features an abusive relationship instead with hints of BDSM :(

    I'm a hopeless romantic who easily falls for cute YA romance novels, but I think the trilogy shapes abusive romance and relationships into something that readers would learn to accept as something "normal" or "okay." Which is not :(

    Jillian @ Jillian's Books

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    1. Thanks Jillian! I think it's great that you prefer cute YA romance over erotica! Yeah, I've read so many articles criticising the portrayal of the relationship, which is my biggest issue with it should 15 year olds read it. Scary when it can shape a young person's perception about what's a good relationship!

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Thanks for reading! It makes my day to hear your thoughts and I will respond asap. :)