Over the past few weeks I must have done a dozen interviews on the phenonemon that is 50 Shades of Grey. I'll admit I have not read it and I doubt I ever will. I'd like to say that I will wait for the movie. But if a film that accurately depicted the book was made, it would be banned in Australia. You see the Australian government bans all depictions of bondage. The classifications guidelines state that:
Fetishes such as body piercing, application of substances such as candle wax, ‘golden showers’, bondage, spanking or fisting are not permitted.
So if someone does make a film of 50 Shades of Grey, which they undoubtably will, it will have to be a sanitised sex-free Hollywood version for Australia.
As far as the more general term 'shades of grey' is concerned, it's a phrase that current policy-makers don't seem to be able to come to terms with.
Whether it's planning, censorship, drug use or sexuality the current 'black and white' style of decision-making no longer works. Even dying is no longer a 'black and white' affair. So many Australian laws and political policies do not meet the way the world is in the 21st century. Purists from both sides of politics still haven't realised that there are no issues these days that are black and white.
Portugal has recognised this reality in its drug policy. They have decriminalised the personal possession and use of all drugs. That doesn't mean that they condone drug use but they recognise that treating it as a crime does not work. They also look at drug use on a case by case basis. When someone is found using or possessing a small amount of drugs they are assessed as to whether their drug use is a problem that the person needs help with or a symptom of some other part of their life that they need help with. Or just something that the person does from time to time because they enjoy it.
Censorship laws are incredibly subjective and when governments try to make 'black and white' rules around content, ridiculous decisions are made. For example, sexually explicit adult films that are imported or sold in Australia are subject to a 'black and white' prohibition on violence. Not just sexual violence but no violence at all. So now we have the stupid situation where hundreds of high production films that are produced in the US and around the world have to be severely edited prior to being imported or sold in Australia. One famous example is a film called Pirates. It was a very high production sex spoof of Pirates of the Carribean. It featured similar CGI (computer generatd images) scenes of skeleton ghosts fighting. They weren't raping anyone, they were just cartoon skeletons having a sword fight. These scenes had to be removed from the X 18+ version of the film before it could be legally sold in or even imported into Australia.
Obviously these hard and fast rules seem quaint in the internet age. But any form of regulation cannot be black and white it must be nuanced, shaded.
Sexuality is a broad spectrum that labels like straight, hetero or even GLBTIQ do not accurately describe. There are more than '50 Shades of Grey' on this spectrum but many legislators only recognise one in their bigoted and myopic approach to morality laws.
Dying is another part of life that has many shades. Of course many people die a natural death which just comes when their time is up but many have a much more complicated affair with an option to go before their body gives up. Politicians who are not and have never been in that position, legislate to say that the only option these people can have is to hold on through trauma, pain and terrible suffering. Two shades only. Natural death or death preceded by pain and suffering.
Hard and fast, black and white rules regarding planning often don't work especially when it comes to business. We need to encourage diversity and often that means a case by case approach. Small businesses in residential zones, late night venues, etc etc.
But back to the book 50 Shades of Grey. Its impact on the regular adult industry has been pretty astounding. XBIZ, the US adult industry bible, reports that retail businesses have seen a 29% increase in trade which they attribute directly to the book. Apparently sales of crops, handcuffs and blindfolds have increased substantially. Anecdotally, I am hearing many cases of men being quite amazed when their partners ask to bring the 50 Shades of Grey into their own sex lives. I'd say there is a market out there for "50 Shades of Grey for Dummies".
While it may not be in the same literary class as Delta of Venus or Lolita, if it gets people reading erotica again, it is a very good thing.