Do Your Research Before You Insult Erotic Romance Readers Mr. Berube!

Filed in featured , The Danger Lover Posted on June 6, 2012 @ 5:12 pm 37 comments

I’ve remained, for the most part mute about Fifty Shades of Grey and the media frenzy surrounding it and the connecting novels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, mainly because the first novel of the trilogy wasn’t my cup of tea.

Why didn’t you like it? You may ask.

Well, I found Christian Grey to be a tad too stalkerish for my taste and Anastasia too forgiving of his interference in her life outside of his dominance in the bedroom. The truth is I would have charged the dude with assault and had a restraining order slapped on him quicker then you could blink an eye. The relationship crafted between the protagonists in the novel IMHO is dysfunctional and gave me the heebs. There I said it, I didn’t like the book, in fact it landed in the DNF pile. I have other criticisms of the novel but what floats one person’s boat torpedoes and sinks another’s and lord knows Fifty Shades has floated the boats of millions and millions of readers out there as evidenced by it’s strangle hold on the top of Bestseller Lists everywhere. And, I say yay! If you liked Fifty Shades and it has peaked your interest in a genre that you previously had no interest in then consult the many online lists published of what to read after E L James’ books and go forth and enjoy because I gotta tell you there is a veritable treasure trove of excellent erotic romantic fiction, BDSM themed and otherwise to choose from that has been around for a long, long time. It is also worth noting that the vast majority of said work is far better written.

In reference to the “dysfunctional” comment regarding the relationship detailed in Fifty Shades of Grey, I have read and enjoyed BDSM (acronym encompasses: Bondage & Discipline(B&D), Dominance & Submission (D/s), Sadism & Masochism (S/M)) themed erotic romance for years so it wasn’t that aspect of the story that sent my ‘ick’ meter into the red zone. And, I know, there are folks who would argue that all aspects of BDSM relationships are by nature dysfunctional and to try to convince them otherwise would be impossible because they would tell you to stop blowing smoke up their ass. But, well, whatever, I digress.

Okay, you may wonder what has caused the above noted diatribe. Well, during my morning lurk on Twitter a number of Tweets citing an article entitled How ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Is Shaking Up the Business of the Romance Genre written by Chris Berube for, annoyed me to the point of spitting hand grenades. There have been a litany of insulting articles published spawned by the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, and the awful label “mommy porn” but the idea that it is the first piece of erotic fiction to ever hit the shelves is laughable and, hello, NONSENSE!

To Quote Mr. Berube’s article:

Both writers include explicit sex scenes in their novels, the kind that would normally be excised from modern romance fiction. Reisz is getting a big marketing push for a first time novelist, which is a direct result of James’s infamy.

How ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is Shaking Up the Business of the Romance Genre © Chris Berube

“Normally be excised from modern romance fiction.” WHAT???

As any fan of erotic romance will tell you there are a plethora of books available that offer far more explicit sexuality. As well, I’ve read BDSM themed stories that make the kink in Christian and Anastasia’s story seem very light.

And what’s this about “James’ infamy”? Infamy is defined on as: “extremely bad reputation, public reproach, or strong condemnation as the result of a shameful, criminal, or outrageous act: a time that will live in infamy.” I think it can safely be argued that writing a popular erotic novel does not make someone infamous. Charles Manson is infamous, the correct adjective to describe E L James, Mr. Berube, would be FAMOUS.

There are a number of other points made in Chris Berube’s article concerning self-publishing and Harlequin that require debate by more knowledgeable folks then I but I also took exception to this:

Another way that Harlequin is adapting is through the same technology that has enabled self-publishing. Since the introduction of the Kindle, Harlequin has become one of the most successful publishers in the format, in part because the device offers some level of anonymity. Readers who might feel shame about their predilection for tawdry paperbacks can now enjoy them discreetly. One could just as easily be reading Madame Bovary on the subway as Wild Western Nights, and no one else has to be the wiser. By the end of 2011, digital accounted for 18 percent of Harlequin’s global revenue.

How ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is Shaking Up the Business of the Romance Genre © Chris Berube

You know what Mr. Berube? I’ve been reading erotic literature in paperback with sensual covers in plain view for years while riding public transit. If anyone dared comment on my choice of reading material I would tell said nosy interloper in as few words as possible to MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS. I don’t care what anyone thinks about my predilections. In fact, I freely talk with friends and colleagues who don’t read erotic stories about why I love the genre, because they are darn good, well written books.

So, don’t insult me or others who enjoy reading and talking about erotic literature Mr. Berube. Do your research, or better still talk to someone who reads and enjoys the genre, you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. Further, what one person considers tawdry, another considers tasteful, enjoyable literature and find sanctimonious, opinionated jerks like yourself uninformed and rude.

I don’t understand what it is about human sexuality that makes people so nuts! It’s part of our biological make-up, there is no reason to be ashamed if you enjoy erotic kink in the fiction you read. There is nothing dirty or tawdry about it.

In closing I’m sharing a piece from William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Eroticism permeates the Bard’s poetry and plays and he was born April 26, 1564 and died April 23, 1616, just a tad before E L James wrote Fifty Shades of Grey. Certainly there are passages that are far more erotic that can be found in Shakespeare’s work than this one, however it is one of my favorites because of the sexual tension.

Act 1 Scene V
[To JULIET] If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.
Then have my lips the sin that they have took.
Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.
You kiss by the book.


References: Berube, Chris. “How ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is Shaking Up the Business of the Romance Genre .”  June 6, 2012 <>

Shakespeare, William. “Romeo and Juliet” <>

About Lea

Lea is an animal loving, tree hugging vegetarian who lives in Toronto, Canada with her family, which includes three dogs. She is a prolific reader and has been blogging and reviewing since 2008. Lea is a contributor at the USA Today HEA Blog and an active member at Goodreads.

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  • aurian June 6, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I’ve also seen affronted tweets by authors today on Twitter, thanks for the post. And of course you are totally right. What a jerk, and what a great free publicity for 50 shades again.

    • Lea June 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm

      Hi Aurian:

      Thank you. And yes, continual publicity for this trilogy which I don’t take exception to, it’s the content of the articles providing the publicity that make me sick to my stomach.

  • Amelia June 6, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    The publicity generated by articles about 50 Shades has left me with no desire to read it!!!

    The Bible also has sensuality in the book of Solomon!!

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Hi Amelia:
      Thanks for your comment & yes the publicity has certainly been bombarding us daily!

  • Phyllis Marshall June 6, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Thank you for articulating what I have felt since the arrival of this book. I read many erotic authors of both the contemporary and paranormal genre and they far surpass this book.

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 8:37 am

      Thank you Phyllis, and I’m glad you enjoy erotic literature too! 🙂

  • Fedora June 6, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Lea, SO well said. I agree that was an incredibly poorly written and researched article, and while I have not read the trilogy, I do take exception to all he so rudely state and implied about it and its readers.

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 8:37 am

      Thank you Fedora!

  • Mary G June 6, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Brilliant Lea! Us Romance readers are pretty much sick of the condescension our genre gets heaped on it. All the articles like this have one thing in common – the person writing it didn’t do their research and is making assumptions. Thanks for calling him out on it.

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 8:40 am

      Thanks Mary, I think the people who write these articles show their biases.

  • Alisha June 6, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    I am still baffled by the 50 Shades…hoopla. Romance, in all of its levels of steaminess, has been around for some time (has Mr. Berube never heard of the term “bodice ripper”?). I’d argue that 50 Shades’ success is itself a product of the existing popularity of romance, not the other way around. And I honestly think that the mega popularity of the book/trilogy is due to a perfect storm of events surrounding the book, not by the book itself.

    But any reader of romance knows that. And clearly this Chris Berube has no clue. 🙂

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 8:40 am

      Yes! Thanks Alisha!

  • Teddyree June 7, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Eloquently written Lea, there’d be few who didn’t find his view condescending and offensive; makes him appear very small and ignorant 😉

    I loved the 50 Shades trilogy but in saying that it’s probably my 1st venture into the BDSM themed genre so I don’t really have much to compare it with. For me it was at heart a romance with a side of kink, lots of wonderful music, a guy who was a real onion and a girl who seriously needed a thesaurus.

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

      Hi Teddyree!

      I glad you loved Fifty Shades & that it has peaked your interest in novels that embrace this theme. I think this is the great thing that has come from all this furor. 🙂

  • Anachronist June 7, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Hi Lea, I hate condescending comments concerning people reading books. If you read HP they call you childish, if you read romance they call you deranged or kinky…not that I am a big romance fan but I appreciate the fact that people read books – any books – and I find it horrible that somebody tries to judge them for that. Even if I saw somebody reading 50 Shades (horrible, horrible book) I wouldn’t say anything – who am I to judge? And people use e-readers not because they are more discreet but because they are more comfortable to use and they weigh far less than an ordinary hardback or even a bigger paperback – not a feature to be ignored in times when your average bag is becoming heavier and heavier.

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 8:45 am

      We all have our opinions & likes Anachronist & that is good and your right, no matter what you read someone will have their own thoughts about it which is also good. Thank you!

  • sienny June 7, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Hi Lea!
    yes, i agree with you, whatever float your torpedoes should be respected by others. ’cause, to be frank, i still having trouble reading BDSM. erotica, i can managed, but BDSM, i’m still struggling to read the sex scene. but i know there are readers out there who love this genre and enjoy them.

    and e-readers are a more compact way to carry books, not to disguise our ‘predilections’. i usually read around more than 1 book together. if i have to haul all my currently reading, i’m gonna need a damn suitcase everywhere i go. and that’s very inconvenient.

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 8:46 am

      Hi Sienny

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Julia Rachel Barrett June 7, 2012 at 10:51 am

    I love your rant! Fist bump! 50 Shades rides in on the coattails of some fantastic erotica writers – the trilogy is so far from being the first of its kind or groundbreaking that it’s a laugh. Change the business? The business some time ago, changes which allowed 50 Shades to gain such tremendous popularity.
    A number of us have been writing erotica… very well I might add, for years.
    50 Shades is immensely popular because the Twilighters grew up and wanted more, harder, bigger, faster….

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      Hi Julia:

      Thank you! *returns fist bump* I agree regarding Twilight but I also think the notoriety the trilogy has received (good or bad) has peaked the curiosity of many. They are wondering what all the brouhaha is about.

      Thanks again,

  • Julia Rachel Barrett June 7, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Ooops – need to edit myself – “The business changed some time ago…

  • Annie Quinty June 7, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Brilliant post Lea!!!
    I have a question for you and other readers here: Have you read Bared to You by Sylvia Day and would you recommend it?

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks Annie!

      I have Sylvia Day’s book in the cue and hope to read and review it at some point here. I don’t know that any of the BLI girls have read it but I do know Mandi at Smexy Books really liked Bared to You and it has received many glowing reviews. 🙂

  • blodeuedd June 7, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Well he has certainly not been reading any books lately

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Hey B:

      I agree. Which makes me even more annoyed.

  • Laura Kaye June 7, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    That article drove me batshit crazy, too. I tweeted @chrisberube and @thedailybeast four times. He says E.L. James initially self published. She didn’t. He says Harlequin has published some of the only successful romance writers. Not true. He makes it sound like Tiffany Reisz got her book accepted because of Fifty Shades’s success, when her contracted clearly happened before the Fifty Shades phenomenon. He characterizes romance as titillating, tawdry, dirty, and all about naked pool boys, which it isn’t. Not only is sex part of the human experience, as you point out, but so too is basic emotional connection with another human being, which is at the basis of our social nature as a species. And he makes it seem like E.L. James is the first romance with explicit sex in it, but sorry, but OMG that’s not even in the neighborhood of the truth. I begrudge James nothing, because even she never could’ve predicted what this would become, and you know what? Good on her. I’d like to have that kind of success someday myself. Plus, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her through a writers’ group/loop, and never found her anything but kind and supportive. But the media can’t talk about this book without sensationalizing the hell out of everything about it. FRACK I’m riled up now! LOL

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      Hi Laura:

      Thanks so much for clarifying many of the issues with the article I didn’t address. I so agree about the emotion and that is what makes or breaks a good erotic read for me.

      I’m so sick of these patronizing journalists passing judgement on our genre when its obvious they have no clue whatsoever.

  • Hildie McQueen June 7, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Wow! Mr B is so off target. I also finally decided to read Fifty Shades, I am not into the story as much as I expected. But having invested the time, I’m going to finish book two,(not planning to read the third). People need to realize that the popularity of the books is not the sex, but the love story and how much women want to help/fix a broken man. Especially a beautiful rich one with a great bod! Yeah, so the sex is good, for the most part, but hey that’s a good thing last time I checked. Jeez, Mr. B needs to get laid!

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      Hey Hildie;

      Yeah, well, who knows re Mr. B-yuck. Interesting to hear your take on Fifty Shades.

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Sandra Dailey June 7, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I noticed in the article that the title ‘Author’ appears above Mr. Berube’s name. I immediately did an internet search to see what he’s written. This is it folks. He’s described as a media journalist, currently studying journalism at Columbia for his MA.
    I had to ask myself, why does the man feel the need to disparage other writers and the millions of people reading their books. Is it that he feels inadequate in his career? Has he not realized his dream of writing the great american novel?
    Perhaps his reasons are more personal. A good erotic romance might be just the thing he needs to teach him how to perform more effectively.
    In any case, he has exposed himself as being small minded. The only people who’d be interested in his article are not impressed.
    You really blew it Chris.
    Oh! That made me think of another possible reason. That’s covered by another type of erotic novels.

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm

      Hi Sandra:

      Thanks for doing the background research on this fellow–interesting! Appreciate you taking time to stop by and share your thoughts!

  • Amelia June 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    If he researched it before mentioning it he would know that Madame Bovary was quit titillating and scandalous for it’s time. Gustave Flaubert was even put on trial under morals charges.

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm


      You are so right! Thank you! 🙂

  • Mary G June 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Well that explains it. After reading Sandra’s comment about Chris’ status as a journalism student, it seems that he wants to get his name out there and is riding the romance genre’s coat tails. I guess we should be flattered lol.

    • Lea June 7, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Hi Mary:

      I’d rather he road the coattails of some other genre.

      Again, yuck!!

      Thanks for stopping by again. 🙂

  • Anachronist June 8, 2012 at 5:05 am

    One could just as easily be reading Madame Bovary on the subway as Wild Western Nights, and no one else has to be the wiser.

    I just wanted to add that Madame Bovary by Flaubert was considered a very scandalous a novel, really no erotica would be treated in such a way today. Imagine it or not but the novel was attacked for obscenity by public prosecutors!!!The resulting trial, held in January 1857, made the story notorious. After Flaubert’s acquittal on 7 February 1857, Madame Bovary became a bestseller when it was published as a single volume in April 1857.

    Mr Berube not only know nothing about the contemporary readers but also he is ignorant of history of literature.

  • Barbara Meyers June 8, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Well! I did not read and probably won’t read 50 Shades, even though I have friends including my daughter who read it and loved it. I am somewhat anti-bestseller because I’ve read too many overly hyped books that turned out to be poorly written. I’ve found sometimes it’s the subject matter or a new twist on an old idea that can make a so/so book into a bestseller. The DaVinci Code comes to mind as one that an author stuck some flimsy characters into research, most of which had previously been done by others, and called it fiction. I read the free excerpts of 50 Shades offered on Amazon and thought there is nothing here that would make me want to read this book if I hadn’t previously heard about it. So I’ll pass. As for Mr. Berube’s article, I often think articles like this are written on purpose to generate exactly what he’s managed to generate. He gets publicity, readers (or non-readers) get het up about what he’s said or how he wrote it and they then write about his article and discuss it. It’s all good for him.

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