Fifty Shades of Grey has come a long way since E.L. James first wrote it as Twilight fanfiction, but its cultural impact has been just as sensational. Best known for its explicit forays into sexual power play and BDSM, the erotic romance novel has birthed two sequels, a Hollywood film and seemingly endless commentary.
Despite criticisms of its prose – and countless parodies – Fifty Shades has also brought erotic fiction a renewed profile, and broadened mainstream discourse around kink, gender dynamics and what ‘acceptable’ sex looks like.
Perhaps most tellingly of all, it seems that everyone has an opinion – but especially those who might not have read the book or watched the film.
If this is what mass erotica looks like, what does it say about us? Is it good or bad for the erotic fiction genre? What do the books (and film) symbolise or endorse – and has pop culture truly judged this book by its cover?
Join us for a frank examination of the Fifty Shades phenomenon, with speakers including critic Helen Razer, sex educator Maureen Matthews and media scholar Patricia Edgar in conversation with gender researcher Hannah McCann.
Helen Razer was a broadcaster and is now a writer. Her appointments in radio were at the Triple J national network and ABC Melbourne. Her books include A Short History of Stupid, co-authored with national affairs correspondent Bernard Keane, a 2015 work on the history of bad Western thought shortlisted for the Russell Prize; and Total Propaganda, a popular work on Marxism recently published by Allen & Unwin.
Helen has written on social and political matters for the Age and Australian. She now contributes news and cultural analysis to outlets including Crikey, the Saturday Paper, Daily Review, Frankie, SBS and Atlantic digital publication Quartz.
Patricia Edgar is a sociologist, educator, film and television producer, writer, researcher, and policy analyst. Through a career spanning four decades she has been at the forefront of media for children nationally and internationally, winning multiple awards for her achievements and programs. She is the author of In Praise of Ageing.
Dr Hannah McCann is a Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne. Her research is located within critical femininity studies and she writes on queer identity, beauty salons, queer fangirls, and more.
You can find her work in the Conversation, Feminartsy, and Overland, as well as journals including European Journal of Women’s Studies, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and Australian Feminist Studies.
Maureen Matthews grew up an English Vicar’s daughter. At 23, she was diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa, and is now legally blind. In 1996, Maureen opened Bliss for Women, Melbourne’s only adult store and bookshop for women. Next year, bliss4women.com turns 20.
For a decade, Maureen has written for Melbourne's Sunday Age. In her popular column, About Last Night, Maureen responds to a wide range of questions about sex and relationships.