The 'C' Word
E L James' Fifty Shade of Grey is the year's most-talked-about book event. Impressive stuff in a year which has seen a boom in women's erotica and when the V word was in almost every other book title. It's the year of Vaginagate, but is it time to uncensor the C? 
The author E L James 
E L James on the erotica boom FILM
 Steven Soderbergh's film Magic Mike
Sheila Heti author of How Should a Person Be?

When literature student, Anastasia Steele, goes to interview hunky young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she falls for him big time and since he kinda likes her too, if on his own terms, they get it on. Ana discovers her lover is haunted by demons, many of which manifest in sexual themes, thus allowing the reader to explore through our lead female protagonist the consumption of lightly dark desires hitherto the perogative of lead male protagonists ... well, in polite circles.

The publisher has more on its website but that's a bit slick. The Guardian have done a usefu digest. But if you want the real dirt, the triology has become a cause celebre of women who do (shades of) porn ... well, according to the sex shops that are suddenly so popular with hordes of tabloid journalists.

But then there's the feminist backlash which could be a feminist backlash-backlash depending on whether your feminism is of the lipstick-wearing kind or not, or it could be a feminist back being lashed (but, oh, I flagged that joke didn't I?).  The contribution of feminism to fiction is something of a hot subject with claims that the glut of historical fiction about women is taking the place of authentic feminist history. Meanwhile Naomi Wolf's Vagina book has been slammed by feminists as being both passe and a kind of pornography. 'It’s not about hot sex, it’s about not being taken for granted,' she argues. 'These things are related. I now understand why I don’t want to make love if the house is messy.'
Vagina is a word with shock power if little cultural capital. Evangelical blogger Rachel Held Evans has spent the past year following the Bible's instructions to the letter for her book, Year of Biblical Womanhood. It meant nothing to American bookstore chain LifeWay, who have refused to carry the book because Held made a reference to her vagina.
Vaginagate rumbles on. Jack Halberstam, whose latest book Gaga Feminism reports on how gender is rapidly changing, says that to be offended by the use of the word vagina is not just quaint or old-fashioned but signals 'a deep ignorance about the world we live in and the enormous changes that have taken place within it in the last two decades'.
E L James' book is credited with starting a boom in erotica, but a lot of this is simply publishers realising the marketing potential of aligning their lists to Fifty Shades. The book has also kick-started a debate about women, popular culture and the positions women are meant to take in regard to issues of sexual power and submission. Suddently a lot of books and movies (see Magic Mike, Girls, How Should a Person Be?) are claiming these issues, dealing with issues of darker grey  sexual complexities, and some even directly asking if women fantasize about things they don’t desire in real life.

It's no surprise then that the writer, E L James, is a bit of a draw, making the Times 100 List  but word is the type of flashmob that turns out to greet her public appearances isn't too shy to express an un-inhibition or two.
All this has left other literature students -- the ones who work Saturdays at your local book emporium rather than hook up with moneyed hunks -- just a little non-plussed. It's not The Hunger Games, so there have been a few ordering bloops, all of which has helped the sales of Ruta Sepetys's Between Shades of Gray, altogether a different kind of unknown animal.
Chick-lit isn't standard student fayre, apparently, but this chick-lit refuses to be just for female chicks; men, both straight and gay according to the Daily Mail, are also turning on (their e-readers).
So now the triology has aquired an aura of critical respect, otherwise known as cool, only the critical bit is more about lampooning 'Shades' on clever blogs. And because it's been successful, both in sales and popular discourse, the spoofs were already materialising on bookshelves in the first few weeks. Andrew Shaffer's Fifty Shames of Earl Grey took just 10 days to write, apparently. Or could it be a case of getting ready for the mainstreaming of blue romance? Publishers may be digging up the reject pile as we speak. In retrospect, we may be at a lightly dark erotic zeitgeist -- and that may be why PayPal was so publically chastened after attempting to censor a small press over its blue content. Time for bed!
We used to celebrate it, so why has the vagina has become taboo? [ARTICLE]
Naomi Wolf, the author of The Beauty Myth makes the case that the vagina is much more than an organ [FILM]
Ariel Levy, Judith Thurman and Sasha Weiss on how Naomi Wolf's Vagina: A New Biography is similar to Fifty Shades of Grey [AUDIO]