So, I’m going back on a promise I made to myself that I wouldn’t deign to write a blog post on 50 Shades of Grey. However, there is so much Internet chatter on the subject and I find myself trying to justify the hate for this story that I figure… why not post my complaint here and then just reference it when I want to respond.
There’s a lot of shade being thrown at 50 Shades the movie, which currently is thrusting upwards towards the climactic $100 million mark at the box office. The movie has received mix reviews (the book was universally spanked by critics), but in both cases the public has spoken with their hard… earned dollars. This leads to the utterly predictable twifaceblr-frenzy as we stare at the wet spot on the sheets and ask ourselves: What does it all mean?
I don’t need to answer that question, because Leslie Bennetts already has. In an article that is more shocking for the publication in which it appears (Entertainment Weekly, taking a rest break apparently between sessions of celebrity stroking to put an actual piece of journalism roughly where the centerfold should go) than the rhetorical response it gives to the above question. Read it and feel your blood pressure go down like the end of a four-hour erection.
As Ms. Bennetts notes, extrapolating what women think about sex just because they’re throwing their panties at a watered down version of Jamie Dornan’s Christian Grey is a dangerous pursuit. Undoing millennia of teaching about sexual mores will not happen in a single sordid Valentine’s Weekend, no matter how many movie seat cushions are spoiled as a result (word to the wise… you might want to avoid all the theaters with retractable armrests for the next little while).
The women (and, let’s face it, mostly the people in love with this book and/or movie are female) defending 50 Shades are of two types: (1) The “I get it, it’s harmless drivel, so leave me alone” variety; to them I demur; and (2) The “This is all about women taking control; Anastasia is the one who is turning the tables on Christian; it’s a story of female sexual empowerment.” To this second group (by far the loudest in the Twitterverse), I say, lots of women relate to rape-culture and being chattel. “Relating” to being oppressed/abused is not about empowering women, sexually or otherwise.
As a submissive woman in the kink scene, I refuse to see this book/movie an endorsement of my lifestyle choice (whether that “choice” is of my own making or society, well, I’m almost 50; I’ll own it regardless of how I got here). But just as horny women who cannot grasp why 50 Shades appeals to them cannot speak for all women’s sexuality, nor can I speak for all haters of this story.
What I can do is attempt to answer the question, “Why do people hate 50 Shades of Grey?” IMHO, the haters are of several folds in society:
- QUALITY erotic writers, who have been toiling at their work for decades and not making 1/100 of what E.L. James has made, are chief among those with a grievance; I was pissed as hell that her drivel was picked up by major media when I can’t even get a publisher to look at my thoughtful (and, yes, kinky) exploration into sexual awakening, The Truth. Call it sour grapes on the part of myself and other writers if you want, but James has made almost $100 million so far; adding an additional $100 million for this movie is a travesty to all the amazing films out there struggling to find distribution or an audience. Whenever shit sticks culturally and the sheep rise up and tell me it’s art, I call it what it is! (Oh, and I’m a-okay with entertainment as distraction… hell, go see Jupiter Ascending if you really want to laugh at the movies!)
- Kinksters are mad. We’re mad because people are coming onto our social media websites with a warped idea of what kink is based on this rudimentary “education.” E.L. James did zero research (she admitted as much) into the kink scene before writing her fan fiction, and the kink she writes about is a pretty extreme variety (I would argue that Christian is not a kinkster; he’s a sadist, which is not the same thing). And let’s talk about how kinksters—especially kinkster women—have worked very hard to get consent in our community. There are kinksters in the political arena working to decriminalize and de-pathologize BDSM; keep in mind that there’s a lot of (excuse the pun) grey area in what gets defined as “consensual” and what is considered abuse. Kinksters see the depiction of BDSM in 50 Shades as everything we’ve been fighting against these past five years (or more). Keep in mind that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) still has many kink practices down as pathologies, and Christian Grey is depicted as a mentally ill person, not a kinkster. 50 Shades is our stereotypical caricature, and we don’t like having to defend ourselves… again.
- Finally, feminists (both female and male) are sick and tired of the perpetuation of the princess narrative as gospel. This story is not about sex; it’s not about kinky sex. It is a kinked up fairy tale, pure and simple and an unoriginal one at that. This works against both women AND men, regardless of fetish or orientation. Men are basically being fed the line, “Treat her like shit… just be sure you drive a sports car and can buy her nice presents after you beat her.” Women are being fed the line, “Be submissive and you’ll get the guy.” Neither narrative is conducive to individual satisfaction in a relationship setting. It’s just Cinderella in a new gown; or—you know—tied up and getting her pumpkin flogged.
Regardless of my feelings about 50 Shades, I’m happy for the book and the film because we’re talking about sex. I truly believe that most of what is wrong with sex between couples (or triples or groups) is a lack of communication. This is true for both genders regardless of how much society has permanently altered our opinions on what we like/want from a sexual relationship.
So talk about 50 Shades; talk about kink; talk about what you want from a partner (both in and out of the bedroom). I am a kinkster, and I approve this message!