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Julie Gerstenblatt Headshot

Pornography for Mommies

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Let me get one thing straight here, Oh Moms In Desperate Need of Erotica: I am not joking. This is not about getting hot and bothered by watching your husband clean the kitchen. It's not even about getting turned on by hiring a sexy electrician to boss around your kitchen.

I have done both of these things in the name of love, but I no longer need to, thanks to E. L. James and her erotic romance novel, 50 Shades of Grey.

I heard about this book from a friend, who spoke in hushed tones over the tops of her children's heads as we waited in line for tables one Sunday at the local diner. That's how you know a book is really dirty, by the way, because of the hushed tones. That's how I found out about Judy Blume and Francine Pascal and V. C. Andrews, the holy trinity of early 1980's soft porn. Granted, I was 11 at the time, and I didn't know squat about sex, so I thought reading about it was amazing. I turned down pages where Something Happened (He put his hand into her pants! Shit, he's her brother!) and re-read them over and over, just enjoying the feelings these words created in me.

"Everyone in Armonk is reading 50 Shades of Grey," my friend Deena insisted, her hushed tones becoming less hush and more hysterical. "Moms are forgetting to pick up their kids at school! You can't even get it! It's sold out at bookstores everywhere!"

Since when are there bookstores everywhere, I wondered? I haven't seen one for two years. This book is making people cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. And it's not like this is the first time erotica has infiltrated the suburbs. What about Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty series? Or Blume's Wifey? Or every Harlequin Romance since the beginning of Fabio?

And, since when is the phrase "everyone in Armonk" an endorsement for anything, except perhaps... Armonk?

So, naturally, after leaving the diner, I downloaded the book on my Kindle and began having virtual sex in under a minute.

(That's an exaggeration because it doesn't really get good until 20 percent in. But after that, the sex doesn't stop. Sorry about the ridiculous Kindle math -- I have no idea what this equals in real-time pages.)

Is the book cheesy and awful? Yes. In order to get to the good stuff, you will have to sit through a British author who sometimes forgets her characters are American ("marquee," by the way, means "tent") and who likes her adjectives in triplicate, since the author couldn't trust us (or herself) to think we could picture the image with only one descriptor. Therefore, Grey's personal office is "palatial, swanky, sterile," while the rest of the office space is "cold, clean AND clinical." (Now that I've pointed this out, it's going to drive you crazy.) And I've never read about a character that moves his features quite so much. In one scene alone, Grey's mouth "quirks up," "his lips curl in a wry smile," and "a ghost of a smile touches his lips." His grey eyes "alight with curiosity" or turn "dark" and "distant" within seconds.

As one would expect from a good romp, there's a lot of overtly suggestive writing to laugh at. I mean, this guy "cocks his head" five times in the first few scenes of the book. Gee, I wonder what that means? Oh, naturally, that he'll end up showing us his penis! (Excuse me, I mean his "impressive length.") Duh. And, for the record, Christian Grey has the longest index finger of any character in the history of literature. It starts out as a "long-fingered" handshake when they meet, but follow it as you read, because eventually, that long finger is literally everywhere. And you will admire him all the more for it.

What is Anastasia doing in this pre-sex dance of theirs? "Squirming uncomfortably under his penetrating gaze," of course. And tripping, and blushing nonstop. It's hard not to blush when a man (hot, long-fingered, fictional or otherwise) says, "First I'm going to spank you and then I'm going to have my way with you." Oh, sorry. Did I give too much away?

Here's the fun (funny? strange? uncomfortable to admit?) part: When you put the book down, you will actually want to have sex with your husband. Like, a lot.

After 13 years of marriage, it's a damned revelation.

"Matt's exhausted," my friend, Sarah, told me.

"Jim's excited that there's a sequel!" another friend said.

"It's actually a trilogy," Sarah said, slightly awe-struck. With over 900 pages of E. L. James on our bedside tables, we could all be having sex with our husbands... indefinitely.

"Jeff and I are going away this weekend - should I bring this book?" Amy asked.

"Yes!" We told her.

Yes, I tell you. Yes, and yes, and oh, baby, yes.