Erica Jong and Others Discuss Sexual Progressiveness of 50 Shades of Grey and Conclude It Is a “Piece of Shit”

McNally Jackson was packed full of women—many in their twenties, and a few slightly older—and even a smattering of men for Wednesday night’s 50 Shades of Grey panel, featuring Erica Jong, along with Melissa Febos, a former dominatrix and author of Whip Smart, sex counselor Ian Kerner, and Daniel Bergner, author of The Other Side of Desire. Roxane Gay, who wrote warily about 50 Shades of Grey for The Rumpus, Skyped in.

Ostensibly the panel had gathered to discuss whether E.L. James’s blockbuster book was a step forward for American sexual culture. “I just want to say right off the bat that we are not going to be discussing the book’s literary merit,” said McNally Jackson’s Amy Lee, the moderator for the event. Yet despite this disclaimer, many of the panelists seemed unable to resist taking a few cheap shots at its notoriously clumsy prose, referring to the book repeatedly as a “piece of shit.”

Ms. Jong seemed especially preoccupied with the book’s literary offenses. “What possessed the publisher to not even edit the book?” she began. “I don’t believe anyone ever said ‘holy cow’ at the moment of her first orgasm,” she said disdainfully, voicing a familiar criticism that she would repeat more than once before the end of the night.
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Erica Jong and Others Discuss Sexual Progressiveness of <em>50 Shades of Grey</em> and Conclude It Is a “Piece of Shit”