STICKY POST: Citizens of Trout Nation! We need your domestic violence and rape support donation links!

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2/9/2015: Some links were lost over the weekend due to problems with my email account. If you don’t see your link here, please leave it in the comments.

Hey everybody out there in Trout Nation! With the 50 Shades of Grey movie barreling down on us like an out-of-control ostrich armed with dynamite and a thirst for vengeance, we need to make a plan. A big, awesome plan.

We’ve talked before about donating the price of a movie ticket to an anti-domestic violence organization instead of paying to see 50 Shades of Grey. Or, donating it in penance for the ticket you’re going to buy. It’s time to put our money where our mouths are. We need to make a list of places that provide resources (food, shelter, counseling, etc.) for victims of domestic violence and/or rape, by state/province/country whatever. That way, people can give locally! Suggestions for national charities is good, also!

Some of these links will take you straight to organizations you can donate to. Others will take you to coalition sites where you can find a local organization.

You can email me your links at jenny@jennytrout.com (please don’t tweet or facebook message them, there’s too big a chance they’ll get overlooked) and I’ll keep listing them until February 28th.

Hit the read more link to see the list, and please also check the comments for links people have added there. Continue reading

Merlin Club S05E06: “The Dark Tower” or “This explains so much…”

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Merlin club is a weekly feature in which Jessica Jarman, Bronwyn Green, and myself gather at 8pm EST to watch an episode of the amazing BBC series Merlin, starring Colin Morgan and literally nobody else I care about except Colin Morgan.

Okay, I lie. A lot of other really cool people are in it, too.

Anyway, we watch the show, we tweet to the hashtag #MerlinClub, and on Fridays we share our thoughts about the episode we watched earlier in the week.

Continue reading

Paying my respects to Bertrice Small

When I was twelve years old, I found a book at a garage sale that would forever change my life. The book was called All The Sweet Tomorrows, and it told the tale of Skye O’Malley, a beautiful raven-haired widow on a mission to find her not-so-dead-after-all husband in Algiers. This book introduced me to dildos, dubcon, anal sex, foot torture, and pony play. No, I’m not kidding, this book, which was originally published in 1986, had all of that.

That book set in stone my destiny as a romance reader and writer. It also really helped hone my reading skills; as a child with learning disabilities, I was supposed to practice my reading. Nothing makes you want to practice reading more than learning about the seedy sorts of things adults are getting up to with their private parts.

Since that book, I’ve read many, but not all, of Ms. Small’s novels. I say not all because she wrote over fifty in her career, each one a grand, sweeping saga that helped define old school romance, as well as evolve the historical genre. When I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Romantic Times convention in 2008, I asked her to sign my favorite.

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When I handed it to her, she smiled fondly at the cover and said, “Oh! I love this book.” There is nothing quite as fantastic as hearing the creator of something you love express how much they also love it. It’s a feeling I will never forget.

I also told her my story about finding All The Sweet Tomorrows and how her work had shaped my career. “And now,” I told her proudly, “I’m a USA Today bestselling romance author, and I never would have been if I hadn’t read your book.” I had tears in my eyes. So did she.

That was the one and only time I ever met Ms. Small, who wrote “God bless!” in her kink-tastic novels and dotted the “i” in her name with a heart. She passed away on Tuesday at age seventy-seven, leaving behind a legacy that will live on for as long as the romance genre endures. I won’t say that we lost one of the greats, because that phrase doesn’t cover it. I will say instead that we were lucky enough that she shared her ingenuity, her boundless talent, and her fantastically wicked imagination with us all.

Rest in peace, Ms. Small.

CandyJar.com review and unboxing photos

So, a few weeks ago someone on Facebook signed my death warrant by posting a link to CandyJar.com, a website that sells bulk candy by the jar. You pick a small, medium, or large “jar” and fill it by selecting “scoops” of the candy you want.

Since candy is my writing fuel and I’m also a shut-in, I decided to give it a shot. No one at CandyJar.com asked me to do this, and I’m not receiving anything in trade for this review, but just heads up, CandyJar.com, I’m really the perfect spokesperson. Email me.

The “jars” come in three sizes, and none of them have cutesy names, which I appreciate. They’re just small (32 oz), medium (64 oz), and large (128 oz). Standard, normal, no “Vente” or “Gotta Have It!” or anything like that.

ron swanson seal of approval

I ordered the large jar. And yes, I was aware at the time that the large is basically one gallon of candy. It says so in the little window where you select your jar size, almost as if in a warning. I did it anyway. It’s not like it showed up and I was surprised by the amount of candy I had ordered. I did this to myself.

The shipping was fairly quick. I think from order to delivery it was something like a week. But I’ll be honest, for me, that was too long. Once I start thinking about candy, I want the candy like, now. So, the shipping is speedy, but if you’re like me, even an Amazon drone wouldn’t be able to deliver sweet, sweet lady sugar faster enough.

When it did arrive, it came like this:

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I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the details when I ordered, probably because I was so focused on the whole “I’m buying an actual gallon of candy” thing. I didn’t know if I was just going to get a box of candy at the approximate weight, or if there would be an physical jar. The answer was both:

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Some of the candy came on top, and the rest came like this:

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It’s all wrapped up in neat little bundles inside the jar, which is made out of slightly flexible plastic, like a peanut butter jar, and has a metal screw-top lid. You have the option of keeping it all separate, if you’re too good for candy that’s all mixed together, you snob.

Having ordered candy through the mail before, I know that things can go wrong (for example, I can tell the difference between a broken Zotz and a whole Zotz by feel alone these days). I am happy to report that only one type of candy didn’t quite make the journey in pristine condition:

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I don’t know how candy corn manages to shatter, but it totally did. The outside was dry and crumbled into pieces, the inside was oddly moist and stuck together. It was really strange, considering the rock candy, the one I was most concerned about, came so perfect that not even a single crystal had broken off:

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One of the things that confused me about the site was that on some items, I couldn’t tell what, exactly, constituted a “scoop.” For example, I ordered three “scoops” of rock candy, which ended up being equal to three of these bundles (that either had four or five sticks in it, I should have counted). But I ordered five scoops of Chupa Chups and got nine of these:

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which each had four pieces inside. I mean, I’m not complaining, because I love these (they were absolutely huge in the ’90′s, if you don’t remember. Celebrities were being photographed with them. They were the PinkBerry or Ugg Boots of 1996). But it’s just nice info to have for next time.

I wanted to see if I could indeed fit all of this candy:

  • three different assortments of salt water taffy
  • gummy cola bottles
  • gummy cherries
  • sour cherry rings
  • gummy raspberries and blackberries
  • sour peach slices
  • Chupa Chups
  • rock candy sticks
  • candy corn
  • Pixy Stix
  • Smarties

into the jar. I’m sure that if I’d bought all gummies or all taffy they would have fit with no problem, but the Pixy Stix threw off the whole groove. Even the Chupa Chups didn’t have a problem playing nice with the other candy, but the Pixy Stix and Smarties just couldn’t fit in with the rest.

I wondered if the price would be worth it ($49.99 USD for the large… I’m not sure what sounds worse, “I bought a gallon of candy,” or “I bought fifty dollars worth of candy.”), and to be honest, I haven’t really researched the prices of these individual items. They definitely don’t have as wide a selection as some bulk candy websites, but you have more control over the amount you can order, so you can get more variety. Most bulk sites are fine if you want to buy 5 lbs. of, say, Zotz, but this gives you a chance to make a customized mix without having to shell out for huge amounts. They do carry chocolate candies, but I didn’t buy those, because I like candy, not chocolate. Get out of here with that chocolate business (although I will eat it occasionally).

All in all, I’m happy with my experience with CandyJar.com. Two thumbs up, will be ordering again. Probably next month. Because I have a real impulse control problem.

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A few more 50 Shades related items

Hey everybody! Just a few more 50 Shades of Grey related things for all of us to shake our heads about this lovely Saturday evening.

50 Shades of Grey fan has doxed an anti-fifty blogger. @Kaydeelex has had to choose between her professional career or her blog, which points out the abuse in 50 Shades of Grey. You can read more here. I am not at all surprised to see a 50 Shades of Grey stan behave so abusively, for obvious reasons.

Miss Quin and I talked about 50 Shades of Grey…for like almost an hour. If you’re interested in hearing our somewhat bewildered take on the movie we watched the night before, you’re in luck!

The images in the 50 Shades of Grey posts will soon be fixed! There is a crack team ready to roll on this. They are not unlike the Avengers. PS. I was in this total state of crushing anxiety, like, how am I going to meet my deadline and fix this and I’m letting everybody down, etc. and then so many of you emailed me to help out with this. When I told Mr. Jen, he said, “I knew they would have your back.” So thank you, thank you, thank you for having my back.

E.L. James is fixin’ to tank her sequels.  Variety reports that James is demanding more control over the sequels (including writing the screenplays, despite having no experience), and Vanity Fair reports that Universal is actually entertaining the idea. Meanwhile, notoriously accurate Hollywood gossip peddler @EntyLawyer had this to say (thanks, @Katiebabs, for bringing this to my attention)

No matter what happens, it’s surely not great news for the franchise if the sequels are in this much trouble just a week after the first movie opened.

Trout Nation, I need help!

THANK YOU FOR YOUR OVERWHELMING AND SPEEDY RESPONSE, GUYS! I THINK I’VE GOT WHAT I NEED, BUT IF THE CRACK TEAM THAT SIGNED ON NEEDS MORE HELP, I’LL LET YOU ALL KNOW! AGAIN, THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE OVERWHELMING SUPPORT!

Hey everybody! You may have noticed that suddenly, there are no images on most of this blog? Why is that? Let me tell you a tale.

Back when I moved from my old wordpress site to my own domain, I exported the blog using WordPress’s export tool. It tells you that your posts, pages, and comments will export. The comments part is hit-or-miss; most of my comments didn’t follow me over here, which is a shame. My pictures all did, thank goodness. Eventually, I didn’t need the old blog anymore, so I deleted it.

And suddenly, all my pictures were gone. See, one thing that was never brought up during the export process was that the images don’t export, just the source URLs do. So all of my content was linking to where the old files were. And when I deleted the old blog, all of those pictures went up in smoke.

There’s a way I can fix this. I can go through archive.org and my old blogspot blogs, grab all the pictures from my old blog, and painstakingly slot them back in. That’s all my Buffy recaps, 50 Shades posts, and basically any blog post since before January, 2014. As a bonus, this is the only way it can be done; the hard drive that contained the bulk of those photos had to be wiped due to some technical thing that I’m just calling “hard drive no workey.”

This is where you guys come in. I don’t know anyone I can hire for this job, but that’s what I’m looking to do. I don’t even know what the job title of a person who does this would be, or what they would charge to do it. I don’t even know if I can afford to do it, but I know for a fact that I can’t do it. It’s too much work and I’m already spread too thin. So, if you know anyone who does this type of work, or you yourself would be willing to do this type of work, please let me know. We’ll hash out the details of how many posts you’d be willing to do and what you want to be paid. At this point, I’m fucking desperate (not a great way to open a negotiation of fees, I know, but I’m being honest) and I’m feeling so incredibly hopeless in the face of having years of work damaged.

If you or anyone you know can help, please contact me at jenny@jennytrout.com, and thank you for your patience if this is bumming you out as you try to read through Buffy and 50 Shades recaps.

Merlin Club S0505, “The Disir” or “Nah, you probably shouldn’t worry about prophecies and shit, Merlin, I’m sure it will all work out just fine.”

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Merlin club is a weekly feature in which Jessica Jarman, Bronwyn Green, and myself gather at 8pm EST to watch an episode of the amazing BBC series Merlin, starring Colin Morgan and literally nobody else I care about except Colin Morgan.

Okay, I lie. A lot of other really cool people are in it, too.

Anyway, we watch the show, we tweet to the hashtag #MerlinClub, and on Fridays we share our thoughts about the episode we watched earlier in the week.

Continue reading

Jenny’s 50 Shades of Grey movie review.

I know a lot of you have been waiting for me to go see 50 Shades of Grey and come roaring back to the blog in a blaze of righteous fury, but it’s a little difficult for me to do. The film is bad. And not bad in a fun, Showgirls kind of way. Bad in the way that feels like you’d be doing the actors a service by turning away from the screen and sparing all of you a lot of embarrassment.

In her role, Dakota Johnson did the impossible: she made me like Anastasia Rose Steele. Every annoying quirk and simper of her book counterpart is washed away, in part because the audience is spared the litany of complaints and absurdly antiquated expletives that made up her internal monologue in the book . Although she still bites her lip–my guess is that at least $500,000 of the film’s $60M budget was spent on chapstick–and trips over her own feet, movie Ana is funny and endearing. She has a backbone that book Ana lacked, and more sexual agency than E.L. James afforded her. There were places in the film where her delivery seemed to suggest that she was as bewildered by the actions of Christian Grey as the audience should have been.

The best that can be said about Jamie Dornan is that he showed up to the set and stood in the correct lighting. I can’t even say that he did the best he could with what he had to work with. It has to be difficult to perform in a role where the character’s singular personality trait is “sexy weirdo,” but Dornan doesn’t even appear to be trying. There’s a sense throughout that he knows he’s too good for the material, but rather than coming off with the same oh-jeez charm that Johnson exudes, Dornan flounders, seemingly unwilling or unable to find a workable angle to slip more than one dimension into the character. It’s as though the leads are aware that they’re in a bad movie, but only one of them is trying to make the most of it.

The rest of the cast is hit-or-miss. Marcia Gay Harden breezes through her scenes as Christian’s mother in a bad impression of Lucille Bluth, while Jennifer Ehle infuses the role of Ana’s hopelessly romantic mom with effortless maternal sweetness. The fathers might as well be wallpaper, and Rita Ora, whose casting was touted as the second coming when it was announced, is reduced to uttering a handful of earnestly delivered, but forgettable lines. She shows a lot of promise for the sequels; though the script keeps her effectively silent, she steals the attention from the rest of the supporting cast in her scenes.

Screenwriter  Kelly Marcel and director Sam Taylor-Johnson managed to trim many of the most ridiculous and creepy bits from the novel. Not only did they do away with the infamous tampon interlude, but they mercifully shortened the fingering-under-the-dinner-table scene at Grey’s parents’ house, and we were spared Ana’s forced gynecological consultation. References to the helicopter were reduced by at least 90%, and when Christian fails to kiss Ana outside of the coffee shop, she doesn’t crumble to the ground weeping in a parking garage. Gone too is any mention of Ana’s sexual non-history. Though she tells Christian that she’s a virgin, the script doesn’t bring up her startlingly absent pre-Grey sexuality.

But even without the melodrama, 50 Shades of Grey is destined for absurdity. The on-set fights between the director and author are well-documented. It’s fun to guess at which lines remained at the author’s insistence; when Dornan mournfully tells Johnson, “I’m fifty shades of fucked up,” you can almost hear the screenwriter’s resumé revising itself. It’s no surprise that in moments when the dialogue skews to the side of clunky, it’s almost always on lines that appeared in the book. “I don’t make love. I fuck, hard,” and “Laters, baby,” both statements that fans of the novel swooned for, fall flat when spoken aloud, and more than a few bursts of laughter punctuated the showing I attended, usually at moments where the audience was clearly meant to engage emotionally. The soundtrack does no favors, either. As Christian took care of Ana’s virginity “situation,” Sia warbled the lyrics, “You can do it,” in the background, as though the soundtrack was unintentionally cheering him on thrust for thrust.

And oh, the thrusting. The only real disservice the movie does to the book is not deviating from the sex scenes as written. The novel contained endless pages of repetitive sensuality; he ties her up, he goes down on her, they introduce a prop of some sort, he mounts her and she “detonates around him.” As mind-numbingly copy-pasted as those scenes read, the hastened pace of filmmaking renders them more unbearable. Viewers are given a tantalizing glimpse into a room with far too many and far too similar sex toys: my friend Quinn remarked that Grey’s Red Room sported no less than five identical canes, and he appeared to have enough multiples of the same type of cuff to bind a sub with seven arms. Yet a blindfold, some dangerously represented bondage, and a few timid slaps with a riding crop and a flogger is the only kink the audience sees. Yes, the visual is more tantalizing than reading vague descriptions of touches down there and ellipses-heavy orgasms, but we never actually see the culmination of all their breathy passion, either. Instead, we’re treated to various angles of vigorously flexing buttocks and some extremely light sensation play, none of which seems to back up Grey’s deep need to cause Ana pain. I’ve been on connecting flights that were more painful than any of the BDSM in this movie.

A common theme in reviews I’ve seen from other bloggers was a sense of relief that Grey doesn’t come off as abusive. This makes me wonder if I didn’t accidentally wander into the wrong theatre and see something else entirely. Christian still tracks Ana’s cell phone to find her and take her away to undress her and sleep beside her in his hotel room. When Ana sends him a message giving him the brush off, he enters her apartment uninvited in the name of  seducing her. He steals her car and sells it, replacing it with a more expensive one without asking her, and when she objects, he spanks her and leaves her without aftercare. Another spanking incident takes place at his parents’ house, where he hoists her over his shoulder and slaps her behind out of anger at her failure to clear her vacation plans with him. Perhaps the most disturbing example of his abuse comes at the end of the movie, when, at Ana’s request, he lets loose on her with with a braided belt. Though she doesn’t safe word, the sight of her lying there, openly weeping and clearly not enjoying herself, isn’t enough to stop him. Without Ana’s inner monologue describing how terrified and intimidated she is by Grey’s behavior, his abusive tendencies and exertion of total control over her really are lessened in comparison, much in the same way that having a cavity filled is less unpleasant than having a root canal. The abuse is still there in full force, and though Ana comes off as spunky, she doesn’t object to Christian’s actions until the very end of the movie. No matter how much agency the script gives Ana, her simply not minding or being able to excuse Grey’s stalking and possessiveness doesn’t absolve him of it.

The run time, a bloated 125 minutes, caused one gentleman in the theatre to stand up and shout, “Thank God!” the moment the credits rolled. Considering that E.L. James is rumored to have demanded to write the sequel’s screenplay, maybe we should all just be thankful that this first movie wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I did wear a little something special to meet Mr. Grey:

IMG_20150217_204700230(For those who’ve asked, I made the t-shirt on Zazzle, and it’s available here)

 

Yes, I did see 50 Shades of Grey, thanks for asking.

Last night, I went and saw 50 Shades of Grey. I have feelings. Feelings that are going to be explored more in-depth in some vlogs I’ve done with @ThatMissQuin (her feed is NSFW), and with a review I’ll be posting tomorrow or Friday, if I can’t handle my emotions.

In the meantime, I did live tweet the movie, and I’ve Storifyed (Storified?) it to tide you over until I can deliver more Shades shade.

 

Don’t Do This Ever: “Giant piece of human garbage” edition

When a rape survivor confronted E.L. James on Twitter, this was how the author responded:

trash ass bitch

Screen shot added in case she tries to delete her bullshit.

The link she sent?

read the book

Because clearly the best way to respond to someone who has experience violence is by sending them a .gif of violence.

E.L. James is the pinnacle of the Badly Behaving Author. Was the original tweet scolding in tone? Yes. Was her response warranted? Hell. No. When someone comes at you about your book, you know what you do? NOTHING BECAUSE THAT’S HOW IT WORKS. This shouldn’t be news to a “professional.”

I don’t care if you like it. I don’t care if Anne Rice likes it. You just ignore and move on. I’m sorry that your piece of rape and abuse apologist, plagiarized trash isn’t as universally loved as you believe it should be. I really am. It must suck for an author who’s been spoiled by her faithful legion of fawning idiot sycophants to hear an outside opinion that doesn’t directly kiss your ass. I bet that’s really hard for you. But you’re the person who tried to write a love story and turned it into a horror story. You’re the “author” who can’t write well enough to make your “LOVE story” (as she has aggressively asserted in her bio) come across as romantic to millions of abuse and rape survivors. That’s your fault. Nobody is interrogating this text from the wrong perspective.

So let me say once again:

  • 50 Shades of Grey promotes abuse and rape through the actions of its “romantic” hero.
  • 50 Shades of Grey was ripped off from Twilight, the author of which is too classy to run over to E.L. James’s house, take her earrings off, and throw down the way she is totally entitled to.
  • E.L. James is now and forever shall be a badly behaving author.

angry dome

 

“Get Over It!” How not to respond to critics of 50 Shades of Grey

You liked 50 Shades of Grey and its sequels. You enjoyed the movie. You log onto Facebook to tell people how much you liked it, and BAM! You’re slapped in the face with shared articles about how it promotes abuse, about how Christian Grey is a stalker, about why the books aren’t a good example of a healthy D/s relationship. It almost feels like you, personally, are being called into question. You get defensive. You type, “It’s just a movie! Get over it!”

I’d need both my hands, my feet, and someone else’s hands and feet (preferably not severed) to count the number of times “Get over it!” has appeared on my Facebook timeline this week. The same for “It’s just fiction!” I understand where the impulse is coming from; 50 Shades of Grey has caused some women to have a “sexual awakening,” or began their interest in reading altogether. Maybe you read the books and thought they were the most gripping, well-written pieces of fiction ever. Maybe you were shocked at how closely they resembled your own fantasies. For whatever reason, these books captured your imagination and brought you a large amount of enjoyment. They became special to you–possibly the most important books you’ve read in your entire life–and now it seems that the world is against them.

I never thought 50 Shades of Grey would receive the kind of whiplash reactions in movie form as it did when the books were first published. I clearly underestimated the mass appeal of the film medium and the ticking time bomb that was set to explode the moment anyone showed any small amount of excitement or derision over the franchise. There’s so much frustration on both sides, but I can really only speak from one viewpoint. So that’s what I’m doing today. I want to give you, the 50 Shades of Grey fan, a primer on how not to argue with a 50 Shades of Grey critic.

 Don’t assume that critics haven’t read the books or seen the movie. I’m consistently amazed when people tell me that because I don’t share their opinion, I must not have read the books. “You probably just read the first book! You didn’t read the others, or you’d see that he changes!” But I did read the book, so now your argument is… well, it’s over. If you assume ignorance of or unfamiliarity with the material is the sole cause of criticism, I have bad news for you. A lot of critics have read all three books, specifically so that we’re armed with knowledge to back up our opinions. And we still think the relationship is abusive, warped, and chock full o’ rape.

Don’t tell us that the books created new readers. Whenever any book sells the way 50 Shades of Grey sold, obviously it’s not selling only to “career readers.” It’s absolutely selling to people who weren’t readers before, and we all know this already. But having readers come to the genre because they like one specific book doesn’t improve anything for readers or authors. These readers don’t want romance novels. They want one specific romance novel. They are going to read and buy any copycat of 50 Shades of Grey they can get their hands on, but that’s all they’re going to buy. Which is good news for those authors who were already writing D/s romance with über-possessive Dom heroes, but bad news for anyone writing in any other genre. Ditto for the readers; when the demand is for books that are exactly like 50 Shades of Grey, publishers are going to be all too happy to supply them, until the market is saturated and it’s hard to find anything that isn’t about a sexually inexperienced college student and her abusive billionaire boyfriend. How does that benefit readers or authors? It just doesn’t.

If you’re engaging with an author who is critical of 50 Shades of Grey, don’t tell them to be thankful for the money they’re going to make. I’ve never made it a secret that my current financial success wouldn’t have been possible without 50 Shades of Grey. But you know what? I’m sure the funeral director who has an unusually successful quarter isn’t thankful for that train derailment. 50 Shades of Grey existing isn’t something authors can magically undo. We weren’t asked, “Would you like to make more money? Here’s the catch: a horrible, copyright infringing, abuse and rape glorifying train wreck of a novel is going to become a runaway bestseller and everyone is going to fight about it endlessly on all forms of social media. Still game?” We didn’t have that choice. I’m sure there are some people who would have said, “Yes, I’m comfortable with that. But as it stands, if authors are making money hand over fist because of 50 Shades of Grey, they never asked to. They don’t have to give thanks if they morally object to the content of the book or the plagiarism controversy surrounding it. We don’t owe E.L. James anything, and it’s insulting to tell someone that they should be thankful for a favor they never asked for. “Thank you” is not an obligation.

 Don’t assume that the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand what BDSM is. I know that 50 Shades of Grey makes it seem like BDSM is this dark, secret thing that not many people are aware of, but it’s been out there for centuries and it’s more common than you’d think. Make sure that the person you’re discussing the books/film with is actually confusing BDSM with abuse before you try to educate them on the fact that BDSM isn’t abuse. Also, don’t assume that because you have experience with BDSM and you enjoyed the books that your experiences are being called into question. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy the book, but from a factual standpoint the BDSM practices are poorly represented. You may have twenty-five years of experience paddling asses, but that doesn’t make the kink in 50 Shades of Grey any more accurate.

It doesn’t matter that it’s “just fiction.” Before Jaws hit theaters in 1975, great white sharks weren’t the villains we now believe them to be. But when the movie–which was purely fiction–became a blockbuster, it directly caused humans to seek out and kill sharks, causing widespread population drops in shark species across the board. The influence of that piece of fiction (coincidentally also based on a novel) even coined its own name: The Jaws Effect. When Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was published, it was perceived by the public to be an erotic novel, despite the fact that it told the story of child sexual abuse through the viewpoint of an unreliable narrator. The result? To this day, we refer to sexually precocious teen girls as “Lolitas,” despite the author’s intent. Yes, 50 Shades of Grey is fiction, but fiction isn’t created or consumed in a vacuum. It is influenced by our culture, and influences our culture, and 50 Shades of Grey isn’t an exception. Even though something is “just fiction,” it can still have detrimental effects on society or expose problems that already exist in our perceptions. So when someone says “50 Shades of Grey promotes abuse as romance,” they’re not saying, “50 Shades of Grey is a totally real thing that happened and is a cautionary tale.” They’re saying that this work of fiction is having, or has the potential to create, real world effects.

Don’t assume that people can only care about one thing. “Why are you worried about 50 Shades of Grey? There are homeless people dying in the streets! There are people in Africa who are starving! There are child molesters and drug dealers and terrorism and you’re complaining about a harmless fantasy!” You know what’s interesting about all of that? Me liking 50 Shades of Grey, or even just me not talking about 50 Shades of Grey, would not solve any of those problems. I could go for an entire day not talking about 50 Shades of Grey and there would still be starving people and abused children in the world. You know what’s another interesting fact? I care about all of those issues, as well. I’m sure you’re capable of caring about all of those issues while simultaneously enjoying and defending 50 Shades of Grey, right? Are we operating under the assumption that people who don’t like 50 Shades of Grey are incapable of being informed about and sympathetic to more than one cause at a time? If your demand is that I change all the ills of the world before I express an opinion about 50 Shades of Grey, then I’m going to have to ask you, respectfully, to fulfill the same quota before you express yours.

 Don’t say, “If you don’t like it, don’t read/see it!” It’s not like there’s some commune somewhere that we can escape to in order to not be aware of 50 Shades of Grey. It’s in the news, magazines, on the internet, everyone is talking about it. There is no escape. Some people (like me) read the books out of curiosity because everyone was talking about them. And we didn’t know we wouldn’t like them until we read them. Like Harry Potter or Twilight, everyone is forced to know about them.

Don’t call into question the feminism of someone who dislikes 50 Shades of Grey. Yes, E.L. James is a woman. Yes, she is a successful woman. But so is Sarah Palin, and, like Sarah Palin, E.L. James has said and written some things that are pretty damaging to women. It’s not anti-feminist to criticize the actions of a woman if those actions are harmful to other women. If someone says they believe that 50 Shades of Grey is harmful to women, the answer is not to tell them they’re not being a good feminist. They’re being great feminists; they’re questioning our cultural perceptions of relationships, gender roles, and heteronormativity, and how they affect all women.

Comrade Twerk brings up a good point. You may feel patronized by women wanting to protect other women from the messages in 50 Shades of Grey, because you already know that the behaviors depicted in the books are unhealthy. But that doesn’t mean all women know that the behaviors in the books are unhealthy, and their ignorance could be exploited. In the same vein, you might know not to mix chlorine bleach and ammonia, but someone else might not know that. Do you find the warnings “DO NOT MIX WITH BLEACH” on your household cleaning products patronizing? To the point that you would be willing to risk someone killing themselves with mustard gas by accident, just so you never had to see those warnings in the future?

 When someone is pointing out the problematic content, don’t tell them to “get over it.” So many people who have taken issue with the themes of abuse and rape in 50 Shades of Grey are speaking from personal experiences of abuse and/or rape. When you tell them to “get over” their problems with the books, you’re telling them to “get over” the abuse they experienced. Is this true of every critic? No. But even if the person you’re talking to didn’t experience intimate partner abuse, you’re still telling them to “get over” caring about the prevention of rape and intimate partner abuse. Yes, even if you didn’t see that element present in the novels. You’re still trying to silence discussion of some very serious issues.

We know you’re tired of seeing people complain about 50 Shades of Grey. We’re tired of seeing you sing its praises. You know how you just posted a wall of text status update about how great 50 Shades of Grey is and how haters need to get a life? People who don’t care for 50 Shades of Grey, or who don’t want to see anything about it because they’re plain disinterested, had to see it. If you don’t want to hear people complain about 50 Shades of Grey, then you need to stop talking about it, and we wouldn’t have to hear your side, either. Or, you could simply accept that when millions of people discuss a world-wide phenomenon, they’re not all going to agree with you. The people who don’t agree aren’t attacking you by not enjoying something that you enjoy. They’re not calling into question whether or not you’re a good person. They’re exercising their right to voice concerns that, like it or not, are shared by millions of people.

If you truly believe that fiction cannot shape or be shaped by our culture, find a piece of fiction that is wholly devoid of culture context, commentary, or influence and use it to back up your point. If you find a tender love story at the core of 50 Shades of Grey, try to present it to us without accusing us of misunderstanding BDSM or not reading the material. If you can’t defend the books without dancing around the criticism by invoking larger issues, guilting critics, or silencing the conversation all together, then you can’t effectively defend the books or movie at all.

And if you don’t like that… “get over it.”