'Fifty Shades of Grey' Books Banned From Libraries In Florida

'Fifty Shades of Grey' Banned In Florida

via Florida Today:

So, wait, maybe censorship is a good thing now? 

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, the BDSM fantasy books that began as Twilight fan fiction, have proven to be too steamy for the Brevard County Public Libraries system in Florida, where they've been yanked from the shelves.  

Residents have started an online petition to bring them back, and have gotten more than 280 signatures. Though I think that's not very impressive, considering the Fifty Shades books are topping every bestseller list in the country right now. 

Anyway, residents shouldn't be too worried. There's plenty of smut in The Complete Kama Sutra, Fanny Hill, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Fear of Flying, Tropic of Cancer and Lolita, all of which are still available for rental. 

When asked to defend removing Fifty Shades while keeping copies of books like The Complete Kama Sutra, Cathy Schweinsberg, library services director, said: 

“I think because those other books were written years ago and became classics because of the quality of the writing. This is not a classic.”

Fifty Shades of Grey is so poorly written I believe it sets a dangerous standard for fiction; that writing this ridiculously bad is worthy of reward and mass acclaim. Then there's the criticism of its potentially dangerous portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle.

But censorship is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing.

I'm with E.L. James and her dumb book on this one. Banning books is never the right answer.

What do you folks think? Are they just being a bunch of prudes in Florida? Or are they defending the world from shitty writing? Does the relative age of a novel give it a pass on the content? 

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Dave Reuss's picture
Dave Reuss from Bozeman is reading Now is the Hour May 9, 2012 - 10:36am

It should be banned solely because it's a terrible book. I'm no expert, but I don't think losing my lady virginity would feel like a "strange pinching sensation."

Larry Hill's picture
Larry Hill May 9, 2012 - 10:41am

It should be left alone - regarldess of quality. It sits up a terrible precedence.

Stacy_R_Haynes's picture
Stacy_R_Haynes from North Charleston, SC is reading Coffee Break Screenwriter May 9, 2012 - 10:51am

It should not be banned because it's bad fiction and eroticsim. There's just bad books that are out there, and didn't the library order the book?  

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 9, 2012 - 11:02am

Sigh. I think that this is going to boast her sales, especially in that area. "Oh they banned it, now I have to read it!"

Face palm.

Renee Miller's picture
Renee Miller from Tweed, Ontario is reading The Wolf Gift May 9, 2012 - 11:49am

@Dave R: I am a lady and it does NOT feel like a strange pinching sensation. Ugh. What a nightmare.

It makes me nauseous to side with the author and publisher on this one too, but banning is not okay, even if the book is shitty. If that were a legitimate reason to ban a book, we'd have some pretty bare shelves, wouldn't we? As was already mentioned, this just guarantees more readers will check it out, boosting sales again.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks May 9, 2012 - 11:58am

I wouldn't say the contents of Lolita or Tropic of Cancer are "smut." The reason they stay on the shelf isn't because of their age -- it's about the fact that they're literature. You can't even call FSOG a book, let alone literature; it's a crap piece of writing based on some woman's pathetic fantasy. To compare the contents of FSOG with Lolita is one of the worst analogies you can make -- and The Kama Sutra? It's a sex manual for a religion. It's not Playboy or Cosmo. There's plenty of sex in the Bible, too. Can you compare the Bible to FSOG?

Sorry, but I don't see this being a bad thing at all. It's not going to open the gateway to banning Lolita or Tropic of Cancer, that hurdle has been jumped a hell of a long time ago. What are we supposed to be worried about, kids not being able to find a copy of poorly written BDSM fanfiction?

Paradox Hoax's picture
Paradox Hoax May 9, 2012 - 3:29pm

Should it be banned based on the fact it is BDSM, smut or in poor taste? No. Should it be banned for being a horrible book? Again, no, that job belongs to publishers and consumers. But should it be banned based on the fact that the book is borderline plagiarized fanfiction? In that argument, I can be see the real reason to possibly ban such literary afterbirth.

.'s picture
. May 9, 2012 - 3:54pm

jacks_username "likes" this.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. May 9, 2012 - 4:30pm

No books should be banned unless it hurts people (the incitement to imminent lawlessness type of speech thingy).  There is an argument to be made about it being a dangerous book because of its BDSM inaccuracies.  But if anyone takes her advice about how to do BDSM and hurts themselves because of it, I guess that's a civil case, not a criminal case.


JamieMarriage's picture
JamieMarriage from Sydney, Australia is reading Spider, Spin Me a Web - Lawrence Block May 9, 2012 - 4:39pm

I'm more in favour of having the author locked up for bad writing than for banning the book. But if I can't get that I'll happily settle for a "BDSM, how not to do it" sticker on every copy.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading May 9, 2012 - 7:13pm

It's fun to watch how quickly people get snooty about books when it's safe to do so.

Twilight-bashing, 50 Shades of Grey-bashing. Easy stuff. And nobody's going to call anyone out on it, either.

Meanwhile, sales of books you'd think these little just-add-water snobs would have purchased by now remain low.

So we're all in agreement that EL James is a shitty writer, but damned if we're going to crack open the "better" books.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 9, 2012 - 7:16pm

I'm never afraid to say I hate/disagree with something, even if it upsets people. Promise.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading May 9, 2012 - 7:18pm

I know Dwayne, and you get my respect for that.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this May 9, 2012 - 7:27pm

Fylh, I'm not sure about the point you're trying to make. People who bash bad writers are at fault that good writers aren't selling better? Is that it? If so, how exactly does that work? 

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading May 9, 2012 - 7:42pm

Not at all, Rob. I have no problem with your article, anyway. My problem is with the cultural prepackaging that allows a very good number of people on the internet and off it, many of whom would possibly have a very, very difficult time explaining what "good writing" is, to become distinguished critics and say that the book should be banned because of the "bad writing".

It's not a zero-sum game. If someone's winning, that doesn't mean you're losing. And just calling something "bad" and "ridiculous" (we all do it) doesn't make anybody sound like they could do better, which I often feel is the implicit message.

We've all seen the Tumblr about how bad EL James is. We all agree.

But what have we learned? That we're all such gifts to literature that it's a shame idiots like EL James come along and bring our average down?

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this May 9, 2012 - 7:45pm

Fair enough. I can't disagree with that. And I wasn't being combative, just curious to see where you were taking it. 

Also, I did not know about that Tumblr! Thanks for the link.

.'s picture
. May 9, 2012 - 8:03pm

It is strange though, that this book gets banned before something like...oh I don't know, let's say 120 Days of Sodom. 

Wayne Rutherford's picture
Wayne Rutherford from Columbus, Ohio is reading NOS4A2 May 9, 2012 - 8:14pm

I'm really intrigued by your question of which books are ok to ban and which are allowed to be on shelves and what the criteria for those categories should be...you know, if you're going to do such a thing. (Looking at you, Florida Public Libraries)


So, "50 Shades of Grey" = ok to ban for whatever reasons it's choosing. What about "Mein Kampf"? Ban it? Allow it? The case can be made either way...

TommySalami's picture
TommySalami from New Jersey is reading Killing Floor, by Lee Child May 10, 2012 - 7:31am

Snarky jealous writers are all for censorship? You make me sick.

Do you think the establishment considered Henry Miller "literature" when they banned him? It survived because it was great. 

I know the FSOG books are badly written. I've read the tumblrs. I suppose if the Catholic church managed to get the shittily written DaVinci Code banned in public libraries, we'd all cheer because Dan Brown writes like an 8 year old?

There's always been a market for crap. The pulps could have been banned the same way, and much of the writing in pulp rags- be it crime, SF, erotica, whatever- was crap. But great writing blossomed from it.

James may write crap, but someone who cut their teeth on sleazy fan fic may rise to greatness. So let the floundering publishing industry make billions on their work. At least until Snooki writes about her baby. Then we can complain about that instead of writing.




Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this May 10, 2012 - 7:35am

Tommy--I know there's been a lot of snark in this column, but I don't think anyone here has advocated that the book be outright banned. I'm sorry that we've made you sick, but if anything, our crime is that we've come across as bitter; not that we've openly and actively called for a book to be removed from a library. 

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine May 10, 2012 - 8:27am

re: advocating censorship

Doesn't anyone remember our old pal, irony? Let's not be obtuse, people.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated May 10, 2012 - 8:54am

Hey peole have got rich off a lot worse things then badly written, thinly disgused fan-fiction, S&M overtoned smut. Good for her, she didn't pull a ponzie sceam or sell crack.

@Rob - I'm not for banning books this book in libary in a take-it-off-the-shelves way (or almost any form of cencorship), but if it's an issue of how to spend limited resourses I'll admit I think the plan of "spend it on almost anything else" seems reasonable. So maybe I'm the one making him sick.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks May 12, 2012 - 6:33pm

@Rob My comment could easily be construed as supporting censorship, so I'll assume it was directed at me since I also pointed out the Tropic of Cancer analogy.

@Tommy First, you have to define "establishment." Is it the literature community or is it censorship advocates? If it's the former, then yes, the "establishment" did consider it literature -- if you've read Henry & June by Anais Nin, she discussed in her diary his novel-in-progress and talked about how excited the writing community was for its publication. If it's the latter, then yes, you're correct. The only reason Tropic of Cancer lasted is because it was promoted by people like Nin.

However, that's not the point. My comment didn't argue for censorship of all poorly written novels. Rather, it took offense with the comparison between spiritual texts like The Kama Sutra and classic literature like Tropic of Cancer because of the consequences. Had TKS or TOC been successfully banned, there would have been repurcussions for the literature community as a whole. The genre would have been undermined, sexuality would have been shoved further into the closet, and we would have a lack of discourse about sexuality. I do not advocate for that -- I'm a healthy, sexual being and I promote the responsible use of sexuality to deepen relationships and, to go even further, deepen understanding of human nature.

Does FSOG do either of those? Tropic of Cancer helped create a world in which sexuality came to light. The Kama Sutra is a guidebook for reaching enlightenment through monogamous, creative sex. Fifty Shades, on the other hand, creates a sense of sexuality which is harmful. Let's put that aside for the sake of argument -- let's say it's Twilight, even. If Twilight were banned, would the canon of literature be diminshed or damaged? I'm willing to argue no. It's not because it's poorly written or because it's irresponsible in sexuality (reverting back to FSOG for argument's sake, again) but because there's nothing significant in the novel to create a need for it.

To continue the argument, not all literature needs to be significant or even "good." There's "fluff" novels like Gossip Girl and Twilight because it fills a need. If Gossip Girl and Twilight were both banned, though, it wouldn't damage the canon of literature because it doesn't contribute.

Finally, I take offense to the fact that you'd consider anyone who fights back against popular novels like FSOG "snarky" and "jealous." Fhyl does have a point when he says that bashing these books is easy, but that doesn't make it less important. When I have children, I won't expect them to pick up a Hemingway novel at age eight, but I hope that I'll do well enough as a parent to teach them the difference between smut and literature. Even in YA novels, there's a difference between Sarah Dessen and Robert Cormier.

As a writer, I take offense to poorly written novels. I don't do it because I'm mad that they're more successful than me -- I know that what I write isn't as marketable as this, and there are plenty of novelists who were great (Dickens comes to mind) who wrote what they could to garner a paycheck. That's fine. But don't ruin the fucking genre (this is a little bitterness on my part because of my advocating for healthy sexuality) with your poorly written smut that blights the concept and turns the genre into something regrettable and nasty. When books like FSOG gets the headline for erotica, I have a fucking problem with it.

.'s picture
. May 10, 2012 - 4:07pm

I love it when the word "snarky" pops up anywhere. It's such a cool sounding word.

Sarah DiBi's picture
Sarah DiBi July 23, 2012 - 2:00pm

I may not agree that this book should be banned, but I absolutely agree that something should be done about it. Not only is it terribly written, but it portrays this idea that controlling relationships are "sexy" and that abuse is acceptable as long as its "done because of love". Abuse is not love, nor is it something that should be publicized as a norm or ideal. This book makes me sick on a number of levels.