When I was on vacation, I saw a lot of women reading the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m guessing it was also on a lot of the gray Kindles around the pool. It’s about a young woman, her bondage-loving boyfriend, and his sex toys.

The original book, two sequels, and the the 3-volume boxed set hold the top four spots on the New York Times bestseller list.

The author, E.L. James,  (who has been described as “modest”) has signed a licensing deal for a line of cosmetics, lingerie, apparel, and fragrances, mostly targeted at adult women.

There’s a movie in the works.

A summary of  Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One: Anastasia Steele, a soon-to-be graduate of Washington State University meets Christian Grey, a handsome young Seattle business tycoon, when she interviews him for the university newspaper. The inexperienced Steele, who has just spent four years reading and listening to the love exploits of her roommate’s love life, is drawn to Grey who is drawn to particular sexual tastes. She shouldn’t be with him but she can’t help herself.

According to Wikipedia, The Fifty Shades trilogy was developed from a Twilight fan fiction originally titled Master of the Universe that was published episodically on fan-fiction websites under the pen name “Snowqueens Icedragon.” The piece featured characters named after Stephenie Meyer’s characters in Twilight, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. After comments concerning the sexual nature of the material, James removed the story from the fan-fiction websites and published it on her own website, FiftyShades.com. Later she rewrote Master of the Universe as an original piece.

The strange part to me is that the sexual stuff centers around BDSM. I had to look it up. It’s a preference around activities that are erotic but may not be sexual. Consensual use of restraint, intense sensory stimulation, and fantasy power role play, light bondage, hot wax, blindfolds etc. The term BDSM was coined as a condensed acronym in the 1990s to combine communities and practices that had a significant amount of crossover – bondage and discipline (B&D or B/D), dominance and submission (D&S or D/s), and sadomasochism or sadism and masochism (S&M or S/M).

This is what women today find erotic?

In book 2, Fifty Shades Darker “Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.”

And in book 3 – Freed “Now, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past. Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality. While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.”

No, I have not read any of the books. Should I? Should guys be checking this out in order to understand women’s erotic tastes today?

Racy, disturbing novel ‘50 Shades of Grey‘ gains cult following

50 Shades of Grey‘: What is the appeal? Christian Science Monitor

Erotic novel ‘50 Shades of Grey‘ unites gals, unnerves some guys‎ Fox News

It’s all porn to me: One man’s review of ‘50 Shades of Grey‎ New York Daily News and a response  Man Proclaims 50 Shades of Grey ‘Deeply Unappealing to Men’