Q: How did Fifty Shades of Beige affect our sex lives?

A: not all that much. I remember when this fan-fiction-turned-bestseller came out and people told me there was contract negotiation than decent sex in it and I thought, Oh, this will disappear quickly. So young. So naive.

Immediately, attempts were made to measure its impact. Science was involved. Experts variously claimed that Fifty Shades was a sexual turn-off (among college-age women); a measure of women’s self-esteem (fans aged between 18 and 24 were more likely to binge drink, have eating disorders and end up in abusive relationships); responsible for increasing sexually transmitted diseases among the over-50s (anecdotal); and covered in herpes and cocaine (according to two Belgian professors who studied the surfaces of library copies). Sociologists predicted a boom in babies that could never be causally linked. Anecdotally, women on mum forums talked about their incumbent “Fifty Shades baby”, while retailers cashed in on knockoff “Generation Grey” onesies.

These days, with fourth-wave feminism, the ubiquity of hardcore pornography and the politics of the #MeToo movement, when millennials cheerfully joke about “eating ass” and choking has been normalised, Fifty Shades has been left looking a little naff. Yes, there are butt plugs and handcuffs, but the books feel very conservative now, with many of Grey and Steele’s simultaneous orgasms achieved in missionary as they gaze into each other’s eyes. Reading all 1,500 pages of the trilogy left me thinking, more than once: “I’ve had weirder sex than this on a Tuesday.”

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