E.L. James’ bestselling erotic novel, 50 Shades of Grey (2011), has been removed from public libraries in Brevard County, Florida. The county’s libraries have cited the novel as being “too pornographic” for local residents.
50 Shades of Grey focuses on a sadomasochistic relationship between a college student and a wealthy businessman. Brevard’s Director of Library Services, Cathy Schweinsberg, explained in an interview that the novel fails to meet the county libraries’ selection criteria. She explains that “nobody asked us to take it off the shelves. But we bought some copies before we realized what it was. We looked at it, because it’s been called ‘mommy porn’ and ‘soft porn’. We don’t collect porn”.
Brevard County is under scrutiny for this action because local libraries stock other sexually graphic novels, such as Fanny Hill (1749), Tropic of Cancer (1934), Lolita (1955), Fear of Flying (2003), etc. But Schweinsberg defends these novels because of the quality of their writing and their categorizations as literary classics.
Though 50 Shades of Grey has sold over three million copies in the United States alone, Schweinsberg remains steadfast in the decision to ban the novel. E.L. James’ novel “is not a classic,” Schweinsberg claims.
The ban has outraged local residents and has even inspired a campaign to return the book to library shelves on the basis that the novel’s lack of “classic” status is not in question but rather that book banning is wrong, regardless of how the material may be perceived.