50 Shades of Grey Hair

If you’ve been awake on this planet, you’ve heard of the success of Fifty Shades of GreyIt’s the Number 1 best seller on Amazon, where it sports 3,639 reader reviews at this moment.*

The big deal about this book is that it’s erotica, BDSM erotica at that, and it’s being read by a mainstream female audience — everyone from teens through their moms and, yes, grandmoms of our age, too. Many start reading it because everyone else seems to reading it, and we like to be shocked.

I didn’t read the whole book, but I did read quite a bit during a very long airport wait at JFK, where I found a mile-high display of all three Shades of Grey books. How did the author, E L James, come out with three books so fast? From the quality of the writing, I’d say she wrote them quickly, didn’t rewrite, and didn’t have an editor. Otherwise, how could she repeat herself all these ways, as an Amazon reviewer points out:

Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian’s lips “quirk up” 16 times, Christian “cocks his head to one side” 17 times, characters “purse” their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. Add to that 80 references to Ana’s anthropomorphic “subconscious” (which also rolls its eyes and purses its lips, by the way), 58 references to Ana’s “inner goddess,” and 92 repetitions of Ana saying some form of “oh crap” (which, depending on the severity of the circumstances, can be intensified to “holy crap,” “double crap,” or the ultimate “triple crap”)…Characters “murmur” 199 times and “whisper” 195 times (doesn’t anyone just talk?), “clamber” on/in/out of things 21 times, and “smirk” 34 times. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 “grins” and 124 “frowns”… which, by the way, seems an awful lot of frowning for a woman who experiences “intense,” “body-shattering,” “delicious,” “violent,” “all-consuming,” “turbulent,” “agonizing” and “exhausting” orgasms on just about every page.

Readers recognize the bad writing — more than 1,000 reader reviews are only 1-star — but what the heck, it is sexy (of course “sexy” is in the eyes of the beholder). Anastasia gets lots of orgasms, and isn’t it a fantasy of women at any age to have an extraordinarily handsome, insanely rich lover who gives us endless orgasms — and, by the way, has inner turmoil that we’re convinced only we can fix by offering him our special brand of devotion?

Our age group is reading this book, too, and not just women. I enjoyed the reader review from “a male senior citizen, a semi-retired gynecologist,” whose “arthritis flared up just reading about Ana’s sexual gymnastics.” He had to take Viagra to stiffen his resolve to keep reading.

If you’re interested in BDSM erotica, there are plenty of well-written books you can read, with the sex you’re looking for plus skillful, non-repetetive writing and unpredictable characters and plots. For example, try the Sleeping Beauty Novels, a trilogy by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure, or check out the many BDSM erotica anthologies from Cleis Press. If it isn’t specifically BDSM but simply well-written erotica you’re looking for, both Cleis and Seal Press do a great job. Starting with an anthology can introduce you to writers whom you particularly enjoy, and from there you can explore what else these writers have written.

What would Fifty Shades of Grey look like if it featured a woman our age, instead of a college student? We could title it Fifty Shades of Grey Hair, and our heroine would be a woman of, say, 68, who has left a long, boring marriage and goes to San Francisco or New York City to discover her hitherto hidden sexual kinks. She hooks up with a dom who is maybe 72 and in the best of health and vigor, who uses plenty of lube while he introduces her to his special brands of toys, fingers, tongue, and penis, to bring her to the ultimate heights every few pages. I say “every few pages” instead of “every page,” because we need longer foreplay these days.

Or maybe she doesn’t find a dom — maybe she’s the domme, exploring her personal power in ways she has only fantasized.

You see how much fun this could be? Fifty Shades of Grey Hair wouldn’t suffer in any way by being about senior sex. In fact, by featuring savvy, sexy seniors, we wouldn’t need any of the lip chewing and we could be more inventive with our reactions than “oh, crap.” What do you think?

(If you love the idea of senior erotica, I’m editing a senior sex erotica anthology right now with Seal Press. I’ll let you know when it’s published!) Update: Ageless Erotica is available for your reading pleasure!

*I can’t help comparing: my Naked at Our Age has  20 Amazon reviews–all raves except for one that found it offensive because too much of it is “about how to give yourself an orgasm.” Here I thought that would be a useful part of a senior sex self-help sex guide….


  1. Dan on July 1, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    @annon July 17, 2012
    "How about discovering those hidden kinks with her husband so the marriage can remain long but not boring?"

    Joan, you answered then:

    Even better, Anonymous! Thanks for that great idea.
    Well, I'm the July 19, 2012 poster above, two years later. Hmmm, and the 50 Shades movie is due out the next six months. Much to my surprise for the reasons mentioned, my spouse and I are exploring a power exchange relationship which is at the root of most kink, having moved deeper than 2%.

    Yes, "discovering the hidden kinks so the marriage can remain long and not boring", ie., stay hot. At 66/64 spanking class has helped! We are too old to grow cold, no?

  2. Anonymous on July 19, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    My wife and I just pulled out Easton and Hardy's "Radical Ecstasy" this morning for a spiritual side re-look at what's all the hub bub about BDSM of late. I reviewed this insightful ecstasy book on Amazon, saying there that I was surprised to like it so much…as I'm a 2% kinkster at best.
    Is it possible the 50 Shades phenom is a spiritual side inquiry into mystical sexuality? Is this the allure we are feeling here in the whole pain/pleasure nexus; the old Eros and Thanatos thing? I can't bring myself to read "50 Shades" as most agree it is just such bad writing. But you can't ignore 8594 reviews, even if 2,760 are one star. Gives "struck a nerve" a whole new BDSM meaning!

  3. Sally Wendkos Olds on July 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I love your review — love even more your thoughts about "50 Shades of Gray Hair" — atta girl, Joan!

  4. StrawberryBlushes on July 18, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    People have always loved reading this sort of hot and trashy literature. If anything 50 Shades has come under criticism purely from it's success.

    It's not like the Harry Potter books were criticised any less…although they were accused of plagiarism as well.

  5. Anonymous on July 18, 2012 at 7:09 am

    If I were to read badly written trash like this book, I would prefer well-written Euro-trash like "The Story of O" which I have read. That book more likely influenced people our age rather than the 50 Shades book.

  6. Joan Price on July 18, 2012 at 3:29 am

    "How about discovering those hidden kinks with her husband so the marriage can remain long but not boring?"

    Even better, Anonymous! Thanks for that great idea.

  7. Anonymous on July 17, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    "heroine would be a woman of, say, 68, who has left a long, boring marriage and goes to San Francisco or New York City to discover her hitherto hidden sexual kinks. She hooks up with a dom who is maybe 72"

    How about discovering those hidden kinks with her husband so the marriage can remain long but not boring? Or am I just too much a romantic???

  8. Bonnie on July 17, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    I haven't read it and don't intend to. Poorly written, over-hyped and as far as the kink community is concerned, not at all a true picture of a D/s relationship.

  9. Anonymous on May 31, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    "heroine would be a woman of, say, 68, who has left a long, boring marriage and goes to San Francisco or New York City to discover her hitherto hidden sexual kinks. She hooks up with a dom who is maybe 72"

    Being a 40 year olf guy myself I'd like to have her leave a long boring marriage and get kinky with a much younger man or a series of younger men or two or three younger men at a time

  10. Anonymous on May 27, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Nodding emphatically – –

  11. Joan Price on May 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Terri, Still Naked:Erotica for Seniors will be inclusive of GLBT seniors. The stories I've collected include women + men, women + women, men + men, women + vibrators, and woman + a jaguar! Some tenderness, some kink, many surprises!

  12. terri clark on May 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    senior erotica anthology? Fabo–look forward to reading it! The sexier the better! it will make good reference material for the Silver SAR too!

    Let's read stories about GLBT seniors too!

  13. Dr.David on May 18, 2012 at 1:50 am

    OMG, you are good. You really hit this one. Nailed it good. (Oh. I know that's supposed to be my job 😉

    I wish you had a simpler "captcha". Sixteen characters strains my mental capability. LOL

  14. Anonymous on May 17, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Joan, my friend Dan told me about you. Love your review…since I am reading the book right now and am finding these repetitive words rather annoying at this point. I am engaged otherwise by the erotic nature and exploring a darker side of the relationship (always intriguing to me). I wonder, would I, could I ever consent to such a relationship? It certainly makes you think!

  15. Debbie on May 17, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Thank you, Joan, for such a candid review….you just saved me the price of the book! I'll admit that after having read your books, I've been curious about Fifty Shades. I've been looking for feedback that wasn't just "going with the flow" of the Best Seller's List.

    Anxiously awaiting your anthology.

    BTW, have you thought of writing a novel based on the brief outline you laid out here????

  16. Joan Price on May 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I love it when I can make you laugh, Ellen! Hope you'll tell your friends about my blog. (It doesn't always make you laugh, but I'll bet it never bores you!)

  17. Ellen on May 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Joan, you are hilarious! I love your review – it's by far the best thing I've read on the subject of "Fifty shades". Ironically, I saw "the View" program where they discussed the book…and no one ever said what it Was, like you did. Erotica. BDSM Erotica. Fifty Shades of Grey Hair – I'm still chuckling.

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