50 shades of gray in conservative Turkey

50 shades of gray in conservative Turkey

This Valentine’s Day is different for some men: Tonight they will meet with women who have read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” And, I’m afraid they will be compared to “Mr. Grey.”

Mr. Grey is a character in the highest and fastest selling book of our era.

A wealthy businessman… His lustful relationship with a 22-year-old virgin literature student has been rocking the world for months.

When I enter a bookstore in any country, “Grey” is top-selling… It has been translated into 40 languages; it has sold 50 million copies; now, it is being filmed.

We have seen the same interest in Turkey also: When “Grinin Elli Tonu” (Pegasus, 2012) was out, it sold 100,000 copies in its first month.

The book is written by a woman; most of the readers are also women…

For some, it is the updated version of the 1975 model “Story of O” for our generation.

For some, it is the proof of the principle “sex sells.” There are others who also count the rich businessman captivating young girl fantasies and the “furthering of the master-slave relationship into the bed.” Some others also explain the secret of the highest selling with “cliché erotic scenes and global marketing skills.”

All of this may be true, but if in so many countries 50 million readers, most of them women, read the same daring story, then this should be scrutinized beyond the classic templates.

I guess the real success here is to put a sexually explicit book into the shopping basket of the over 35 housewives. The book has been named “Mommy Porn” for this feature of it.

As sales boosted, shyness disappeared.

I will use another novel to prove this thesis. It’s Günseli Önal’s “Sınırsız Tutku” (Unlimited Passion) (Asur, 2012). Günseli is a journalist of our generation. We have walked the corridors of Parliament together.

Now, she defines that period as “those years that I lived in male codes, when I had to suppress my femininity in the male-dominated environment. In her book, she explains her discovery of her feminineness, the transfer into her real genes, the “factory setting.”

One morning in her mid-thirties she has woken up at dusk and has seen a middle-aged woman sitting at a chair across her frantic with sorrow saying, “I have wasted my whole life.” Günseli said, “It was me. It was my old age. I was questioning myself with a deep remorse.” After that day, she has set out to discover herself.

She has pensioned off her custos morum (guardian of morals) who has been ruling her in her brain for years. She has let go off “What would others say.” She has bid farewell to the fears that grew with her desires. She has transferred into “Unlimited Passion.”

It was an overall cry for freedom, for baby boomers. In the ‘80s, their children boosted the women’s movement. Women who rebel today are the grandchildren of the baby boomers and the children of those who met feminism in the ‘80s.

They live in an era where sexuality is spread out on TV, on the Internet, in movies and on the street. They are bold. They ignore aged taboos. They are not ashamed of their clothes, ideas or their bodies.

In the middle of the life they have lived for their fathers-husbands-children, in this order, they say “Now, it’s my turn.” In the place of empathy, they put their ego, their passions. They want love and sex together.

The interesting dimension when it comes to Turkey is that this wave is now overlapping with the conservative cloud descending all over the country…

Women are reading erotic novels at a time when they feel the “neighborhood pressure” at its greatest, they watch an Ottoman sultan making love on TV and they select a husband comparing all suitors during a live broadcast.

Supreme boards, bans on clothes, disgraces, pressures and impositions fall short in reining back the woman who has discovered herself.

It is a tough period for men who were used to ruling the roost for years.

Women are coming, women who know “Mr. Grey,” who more importantly who know what they want and who can say it openly.

Good luck to the guys.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Can DÜNDAR is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published Feb. 14. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

CAN DÜNDAR - candundarada@gmail.com