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How I (And Others Like Me) Discovered Fifty Shades of Grey

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There are only a couple of things I pride myself of being an expert on, and hunting out smutty books is one of them. I'm like a French pig burrowing for my little black truffle. They're my go-to when it comes to stress relief. Some people choose to drink their worries away, others go to chocolate, and then there are the really twisted people who use exercise to "work it all out."

But not me. I choose to get my blood pumping in an entirely different way.

Last October, while trolling through the erotica archives at my humble online retailer, I stumbled upon this little book called Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. The book was twice as long as other books, part of an eventual trilogy, and had a virgin for a heroine! Just one of these things can spell disaster for a hot book. My thoughts are that erotica should be like an amazing one-night stand. You know the one where you remember the tricks, the positions, and the overall experience, but maybe not the person's name. (No need to thank me for that trip down memory lane.)

The fact that this series defies all that, and made its way onto my reading device anyway, isn't what I found interesting. No, I was shocked by what happened during and most importantly after I read FSoG. (And no, not that. Let's try to keep our minds out of my bedroom.) Even with the negative points I mentioned, I was completely and utterly hooked on the book. The minute I finished FSoG, I rushed back to said retailer and downloaded the second book right away. Never mind that the first book had consumed every ounce of my free time over the past three days, or that I thought it was horribly edited. I signed up for more. And without a second thought.

So naturally, as soon as I finished Fifty Shades Darker (book two), I started talking. I told my editor at the site I write for, Heroes and Heartbreakers, I told my book friends, blogger friends, the authors I'm friendly with. I mentioned it in a piece I was writing. I cast the girl and guy in my head (myself and Michael Fassbender, naturally!) and even went so far as to make both books repeaters! I had turned into that girl that just wouldn't let go.

The books were stuck on me. I was so curious if I was alone in my attachment that my editor and I created an article that tasked six different readers with six very different points of view to weigh in. The ambitious post is the site's second-most-viewed of all time -- behind the one about Fassy's full frontal (naturally!).

I clearly wasn't the only one addicted. Book sales of FSoG were already steady at this point, but after the posts went live, and after the national media got a hold of it, the author snatched up a movie deal from Universal Pictures and Focus Features, and has reportedly received a seven-figure check from Vintage Books for book rights. Pretty good for an erotica book without man nipples on the cover!

I can't help but feel partially responsible. I think every book blogger who talked about James' trilogy, and sites like Heroes and Heartbreakers, should too. Book blogs and sites like the one I'm lucky enough to write for have created an engaging and safe place for women to talk openly and honestly about the things that turn them on, turn them off, and pique their interests. There's a certain justice in that. Men have been getting their kicks via the Internet for a while, so why not create places that cater to a woman's emotional interests?

You can take the argument further, and say that because women internalize their sexual appetites, it becomes more of a part of them -- even when it's not real -- and therefore give a BDSM-themed book (taboo!) like FSoG enough cultural force to get the reactions it has over the past few weeks.

Should I start making "Women Have Power!" buttons?

Even though the book has jumped the shark -- have you seen that Newsweek cover? -- I will still keep FSoG on my bootycall list for a while. And if this is what is being classified as "mommy porn" I'd hate to think of what they'd call the books I read on my really bad days.