I have an odd relationship with pop culture. I tend to ignore it when it's current, submersing myself instead in years old tv shows, decades old movies and centuries old books, and then become obsessed with them long after everyone else has moved on. But every now and again, I have a sudden urge to rejoin the zeitgeist. Which is why I have watched all four Twilight movies in the last week. (I was prepared for the interminable wait for them to make with the sex. I was not prepared to sit through eight hours of film without anyone making a single facial expression.)
Which is also why I have, despite all my wisdom and politics and love of well-written pornography, read Fifty Shades of Grey.
I was pretty solid in my disgust for the entire trilogy until reading this Laurie Penny article, which points out, quite rightly, that the level of vitriol aimed at the series can only be explained by misogyny: it's written for girls, therefore it must be crap. And worse - women who might be old are having sexy feelings because of it! Like, eeeuwww!
But in the same way that it gets exhausting using your feminism to defend Ann Widdecombe and Sarah Palin (funnily enough no one's so bothered when it comes to left-wing female politicians), I have better things to do with my time, energy, and misogyny-smashing hammer than defend this steaming crock of shit.
You know what bothered me most? I can believe in a woman who hasn't had any of the sex by the time she's 22. I can believe that she's never had a boyfriend, never held someone's hand, never heard of BDSM. But what I find frankly laughable is the idea that she has never, in two decades of life on this planet, felt a single frisson of desire - not the tiniest minge-twinge - but within twenty minutes of meeting Captain Shagpants instantly mutates into a six-times-a-day quivering lust bomb.
And while I'm sure there are women in the world who come from penetrative sex the very first time they get naked with someone, I have never met any of them.
Yes, I am aware it's porn, and therefore can suspend some of the laws of sexual physics for the purposes of wish fulfilment. But to be honest, these departures from reality detract from my arousal rather than heighten it: good sex writing is about good sex, preposterously good sex, the best sex you could ever imagine having - not sex that is basically a physical impossibility.
And damn, can you tell that the books started life as fanfic. Which is not to diss fanfic itself - I've whiled away many happy hours alone with my laptop and Buffy/Faith hate!slash - but Fifty Shades epitomises the worst aspects of it; the writing is deeply amateurish, desperately crying out for a ruthless editor with a big red pen. (My first comment, had I had that job, would have been: okay, a sex scene every two pages - great idea. But do they all have to be exactly the same sex scene in slightly different outfits? Surely there is more than one way to describe an orgasm.) Thing is, for every ten shoddy, uninspiring, unoriginal and unarousing fanfics you skim through, there will be one that is fucking fantastic. Make you laugh, make you cry, make you come. There's no reason porn has to be this abominably dire. No, we're not reading it because it's great literature - but it's hard to be whisked away on the Sex Train to Happy Town if your concentration is broken every other sentence by cringing at the unbearably cliched prose.
So no, I'm not dissing it because it's porn (but for girls!). I'm dissing it because it's such spectacularly bad porn.
And please, for the love of all that is wonderful and sticky and deliciously filthy about sex, STOP REFERRING TO YOUR VULVA AS 'THERE'. There are a plethora of delightful terms to choose from, spanning the spectrum from 'cunt' to 'lady garden', so IF YOU'RE GROWN UP ENOUGH TO HAVE SOMEONE'S MOUTH ON YOUR CLITORIS, YOU ARE GROWN UP TO REFER TO IT BY ITS NAME.
So I will end this with a plea: is there any contemporary popular culture that will not make me want to tear my hair out in furious despair? Recommendations sought urgently. Until then I will be spending some quality time with Susie Bright and my On Our Backs compendium.