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U.K. women’s charity plans book burning of Fifty Shades of Grey

Nadine Bells
Shine On
August 24, 2012

Wearside Women in Need, a British organization dedicated to tackling domestic abuse, is proposing a mass book-burning of E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, BBC News reports.

The "mummy porn" novel has become the best-selling book of all time in Britain, with 5.3 million books sold thus far.

While some critics dismiss the books as trashy, the charity's main objection to the novels is that the power dynamic of the leads' relationship borders on being abusive.

"I do not think I can put into words how vile I think this book is 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," organizer Clare Phillipson tells the BBC, adding, "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.'"

Publisher Random House responds, "The sex scenes are entirely consensual."

Also see: Fifty Shades of Grey predicted to start mini-baby boom

The Fifty Shades of Grey bonfire is currently scheduled for November 5th.

While not calling for a book-burning, other critics have voiced similar pro-abuse concerns.

"The problem is that ever since I read James's first novel, I've been troubled. Is anyone else out there wondering what I am: Do middle-aged women, the main audience for this book, really view the threat of violence as an aphrodisiac? And isn't it dangerous to turn a BDSM-addict into a romantic hero? Would we want our daughters dating Christian Grey?" writes Kathryn Casey for Forbes.

Relationship expert Dr. Drew Pinsky agrees.

"I can't emphasize enough the disturbing quality of this," Pinsky says. "This is a woman who is naïve to these issues, and then is manipulated and exploited by a man who has a severe personality disorder and a sex addiction who is violent with her, it is just too much to be understood."

Still, the call to burn these books is a bold move — and has its own critics.

"If Ms. Phillipson is going to burn Fifty Shades, then she is going to have to burn Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho; and John Fowles's The Collector; and DH Lawrence's The Rainbow, and hundreds and hundreds of other masterpieces," Melissa Kite writes in the Daily Mail.

Also see: British hotel replaces Bible with Fifty Shades of Grey

It's hard to talk about book-burning without bringing Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 into the conversation. The famous 1953 novel presents a dystopian future in which books are outlawed — and all homes containing them are burned to the ground.

CBC News mentions significant book burnings over the past 75 years here.

Creating an awareness about a potentially dangerous subject matter is one thing, radical censorship is another.

"The horrific history of exterminating books, sometimes exterminating the authors at the same time, is as much a part of current history as it was of earlier times," Haig Bosmajian writes in his book entitled Burning Books.

"Century after century, the book burners have lit the fearful, powerful, magical fire to reduce to ashes the fearful, powerful, magical books."

In 1948, a book-burning in New York targeted comic books because residents "feared they would spread moral depravity among American youth," CBC News reports.

At least six book burnings in the U.S. have targeted "Harry Potter" books.

And last year, a group in the Netherlands stages a public burning of the cover of Canadian author Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes. (Only the cover was torched as the title was the aspect the group found most offensive.)

Also see: Erotic e-books are outselling their hardcover counterparts

While Canada doesn't have much of a book-burning history, it has banned books for various reasons. Droll Stories, Lolita, and Peyton Place were all banned for a time due to material of an obscene sexual mature. Hate literature has also been banned throughout Canada's history.

Freedomtoread.ca lists books and magazines that have been challenged by Canadians — often requesting that they be removed from school curriculum or public libraries — in the last few decades.

Most would agree that book-burning is not the most strategic way to address questionable subject matter. Should banning still be an option? Warning stickers on book covers? Limited access to obscene novels in public libraries? Or should readers use their own discernment? Sound off in the comments.

Check out the video below talking about how 'mommy porn' has gone mainstream with Fifty Shades of Grey.

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