If you haven’t heard of the erotica phenomenon sweeping through PTOs and mommy meet-ups across the county, then I’d like to know what your secret is. Everywhere we turn these days soccer moms and strippers alike seem to be reading 50 Shades of Grey. (Full disclosure—none of us at Broadsheet360 have read it yet.) But the one thing we have noticed is the glaring lack of men sporting a copy of the instant bestseller.
Meet Paul Rager, the only man on the planet reading 50 Shades of Grey.
Mr. Rager is a conundrum for many reasons. A corporate sales manager by day, at first glance he appears to be a man’s man. He has a strong affinity for football and a body covered in $7,000 worth of tattoos. Tattoos like American pin-up girls, a medieval battle scene stretched across his back and an intricate voodoo design running up one arm. He recently placed 2nd in the freestyle category of the West Coast Beard & Mustache Championships. Yet, Paul admits he is more than in touch with his metro-sexual side. He buys all of his wife’s heels and is ever-eager to join in on shopping trips or spa getaways. What’s more, he’s a die-hard fan of 50 Shades of Grey and damn proud of it.
We sat down with the trilogy’s only male junkie to get his take on why men should read it.
Broadsheet360: Before we dive into Grey, tell us what you typically read?
Paul: Graphic novels. Watchmen is one of my all-time favorites. I don’t read recreationally unless it’s comic books. I do read a lot of nonfiction, particularly history and self-help for my job. Stuff like How to Win Friends and Influence People or anything by John Wooden.
Broadsheet360: What made you decide to read Grey?
Paul: Within two weeks it was everywhere—The View, Ellen, Dr. Oz, 105.1 the Buzz (the radio station I listen to.)
Broadsheet360: So really you’re saying you watch a lot of T.V.?
Paul: (laughing) No. I was curious. I wanted to read it because all these women at work were telling me it was porn. Plus, I thought if I could get my wife to read porn that would be a bonus.
Broadsheet360: Was it weird to buy a book clearly marketed towards women?
Paul: (sheepish) I bought them online.
Broadsheet360: Ah-ha. Now it’s all making sense. You wanted to read them, but didn’t want anyone to know you were reading them right?
Paul: Pretty much. I bought all three in the trilogy and they sat on my nightstand for over a week. A friend at work read them and freaked out on me. She said I had to read them, so I caved to the pressure. After reading about the first chapter I was hooked. I read the next 280 pages in one sitting and finished it the next day. It only took me a week to finish all three. That’s 1,700 pages. I’ve never read anything that fast in my life.
Broadsheet360: Come on, admit it, you must have read Twilight.
Paul: I tried. It sucked. Badly written. Teenage girl schlock.
Broadsheet360: Alright, so you breeze through the trilogy. What’s the reaction like? Are you the only guy reading them.
Paul: Yeah. I’m the only man I know who’s read them. Although I’d totally encourage other guys to read them. The reaction has been pretty funny actually. If I say I’ve read them to a woman, she won’t really make eye contact with me. She’ll blush and look away. Then say under her breath, “Oh my god those were the best books ever.” But it’s like women don’t really want you to know that they liked them.
Broadsheet360: Why do you think that is?
Paul: The sex!
Broadsheet360: Right. The sex…
Paul: That’s why I’m saying men should read these books. It’s good for men to know what your woman likes or wants when it comes to sex and sexual fantasies. As a guy sex is probably in the forefront of your relationship, but as you mature as a couple it changes. It becomes secondary. Life gets in the way. Our desire doesn’t change though.
Broadsheet360: What desire?
Paul: To have sex! Guys think about it every day. It’s genetic. But with my wife, we’ve been married for a number of years now and after reading these books I realized I don’t put the same effort into it that I used to. The books made me recognize that I need to focus more on what pleases my partner and put more work into “the event.” It’s like going back into the early years in our relationship.
Broadsheet360: I’m guessing your wife is digging that?
Paul’s wife (who pops in during the interview): You bet! I got two new pairs of shoes!
Paul: My takeaway from the books is to keep an open mind. When we stop trying to see things from another person’s point of view we stagnate our own personal growth and that’s when our relationships fall apart.
Broadsheet360: Plus, it’s reading porn.
Paul: But, it isn’t really just porn. Don’t get me wrong. There are some graphic scenes, but the sex advances the story. I think it’s labeled as “mommy porn” because the real story is about how the main character, Christian, changes and who he becomes. That’s the sexy part for women. He’s a dominant and in the first book looking for a new submissive. Over the course of the books you see how they both change. He learns how to dominate without totally controlling her; she learns how to submit without giving in all the way. It’s their journey that makes it an interesting read.
Broadsheet360: Why do you think it resonates as a man?
Paul: I can relate to the main character. He’s broken, bossy, controlling. That’s me. And, sex. It’s how I view intimacy. He does too.
Broadsheet360: Have you convinced any of your guy friends to read it?
Paul: I’m trying by telling them its porn. That should get a few reading. Here’s the thing it’s not higher learning. It’s not going to increase your knowledge base. But there’s some stuff in there that might be fun to try with your partner, and if you’re in a relationship you should talk to your partner about sex. It’s a good conversation starter.
Broadsheet360: Before we let you go, we’ve heard a rumor that the books are set here? How do they match up?
Paul: The books make us look and sound much cooler than we are. The Heathman Hotel is featured prominently and some other landmarks around the area. I think the books offer a very myopic view of Seattle. Christian lives on the 24th floor downtown. Pikes is prominently featured. Personally, I think Portland/Vancouver is much better in terms of vibe. But, we’re like the little sister of San Francisco and Seattle’s like the little sister of L.A. Pretty much they’re all arrogant bastards.