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It is Time For a New Dispensation
Sex is life’s greatest pleasure. So why have people been so hung up about it for so long? Introducing our focus on Sex In Ireland 2012.
Niall Stokes, 31 Jul 2012
The E.L. James phenomenon has taken everyone by surprise. There is scarcely a book-seller out there who would have predicted the appetite the erotic novel 50 Shades Of Grey has uncovered for what had once been considered an unmentionable kind of kinky sex.
The writer, real name Erica Leonard, certainly had no inkling that she would hit pay-dirt in such an extraordinary way. The first book in what is now a best-selling trilogy – including the sequels 50 Shades Darker and 50 Shades Freed – was originally published as an e-book. In the classic manner of freak hits, it took off on some kind of word of mouth buzz, quickly racking up hundreds of thousands of sales. The decision to go into print with it was inevitable. But even then no one sitting behind a desk in a publishing house had any sense of what would happen.
The book was snapped up by Arrow – an imprint of Random House – who paid an advance in excess of £1 million. It is big money, by any standards, but that no one trumped it is a measure of the apprehension which must have niggled at the back of every publisher’s mind: what if this is the kind of thing that people will only buy online? What if the market has already been saturated?
Well sod that, if you were the underbidder.
Truth is that they could have multiplied that advance by ten and been on safe ground. 50 Shades Of Grey has become the fastest selling book in history. It has outstripped the Harry Potter series, which made a mega multi-millionaire out of J.K. Rowling, as well as The Da Vinci Code and Stig Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and its sequels. It has sold over 20 million copies – and rising (rapidly). It is being translated into dozens of languages.
And it is mostly women who are buying it.
In addition, the movie rights have been sold for $5 million. The release of which will of course propel the book to even dizzier heights.
While it can be described as a popular romance in the Mills & Boon tradition, the USP of the book is that it deals in a very open and essentially positive way with S&M sex between two consenting adults. The majority in the God-fearing, Christian ‘west’ might have been assumed to disapprove of this kind of thing – and especially so in Ireland, where over 80% of the population say that they are Catholic. But apparently not. In the UK, sales have already run into millions. In Ireland they have kept pace, with close to a hundred thousand copies being handed across the counter in perfectly respectable bookshops. The only possible conclusion to be drawn is that there is a huge appetite out there for what had once been regarded as a thoroughly forbidden pleasure. Which, no matter how mundane the prose might be, or clichéd the story, has to be a wonderfully encouraging thought.