Beginning in the spring semester, American University will offer “Contemporary American Culture: The Fifty Shades Trilogy,” a course examining issues ranging from female sexuality to social media marketing in relation to the BDSM-themed Fifty Shades of Grey book series.
Adjunct professor Stef Woods claims, “No other contemporary text on sexuality has transformed American culture the way that this series has.” The trilogy started out as erotic fan fiction based on characters from the Twilight books before being developed into a stand-alone series.
The course curriculum aims to tackle such topics as, “Does referring to the book as ‘mommy porn’ further belittle women's sexuality?” and, “Would E.L. James's writing have been judged to the same extent, if she wasn't a female writing an erotic trilogy?” Professor Woods stresses that “this is not a sex-shop book club.”
“We’re not doing dramatic readings, we’re not discussing personal preferences—mine or theirs,” Woods insists. She claims the books have “impacted the fields of public relations, social media marketing, health, publishing and sexuality” and are worthy of serious study in a “critical and intellectual way.”
Woods claims the course is no different than other classes that study the relevancy of pop culture phenomena like the television show “The Wire” or the Twilight series that inspired the Grey trilogy. She says the university has no objections to her planned course, but some students are questioning the relevancy of the core subject matter: “It’s not an accurate representation of American sexual culture,” School of Communication freshman Sarah Voelker said. “It does not present these things in a way that is safe and positive. It’s basically S&M porn.”
Tuition for the spring semester at American University costs $19,491 for full-time, undergraduate students.