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British charity calls for ’50 Shades of Grey’ book burning

British charity calls for ’50 Shades of Grey’ book burning
E.L. James, author of the erotic bestseller “50 Shades of Grey,” signs books at Comic-Con in San Diego.
(Kirk McKoy)

A British charity has called for a burning of the book “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James. Wearside Women in Need, which focuses on domestic violence, has asked readers to drop off books for a planned bonfire on Nov. 5.

“I do not think I can put into words how vile I think this book is,” Wearside Women’s Clare Phillipson told the BBC, “and how dangerous I think the idea is that you get a sophisticated but naive, young women and a much richer, abusive older man who beats her up and does some dreadful things to her sexually.”

A mega-bestseller, “50 Shades of Grey” features Anastasia, a naive college student who has an affair with a handsome billionaire who introduces her to sado-masochistic sex. Random House, which published the book in Britain, insists the sex in the book is not abusive but “entirely consensual.”

That story has been a hit in the U.S., where the 50 Shades trilogy -- “50 Shades of Grey,” “50 Shades Darker” and “50 Shades Freed” -- has sold more than 20 million copies. That was in a matter of months; it took three years for Steig Larsons’ “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series to sell as many books.

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“My main objection is that at a time when local authorities are making cuts to outreach and refuge services for women experiencing domestic violence, we have libraries wasting and grossly misusing public to buy a book which says: ‘domestic violence is sexy.’ ”

Not everyone things the books are particularly sexy. In New York this summer, a panel of literary writers known for writing about sex were, for the most part, unimpressed. During the discussion, Erica Jong, whose 1973 novel “Fear of Flying” became a sensation for its frank treatment of female sexual desire, said, “I couldn’t find anything that turned me on, other than the fact that he gives her a rare copy of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles.’ ”

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