I know I’m a bit behind the eight ball with my two cents on 50 Shades of Grey, but with everyone from the country’s political leaders to friends of mine who haven’t voluntarily picked up a book since year 8 engaging in the banter, I don’t want to feel left out. So here goes…
I’ve read the book— in a moment of insanity I paid nearly $30 for it and would dissuade anyone from doing this for a number of reasons (if your interest is piqued apparently you can download the e-book for donuts).
I was left feeling simultanoeusly confused, uncomfortable, intrigued and disappointed by what I found. At first I couldn’t quite pinpoint why. It wasn’t E.L. James’s widely critiqued grasp of the English language, the grating over use of “holy cow” and “holy crap” for want of a phrase that actually means something or the constant references to Anastasia’s “inner goddess” and her post-coital dancing. I wasn’t expecting War and Peace, after all.
My discomfort came down to the uneasy sense that I was reading about a member of The Babysitter’s Club having butt plugs inserted into her. Before she meets Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele is basically a 12 year old girl—she’s never had sexual feelings, never masturbated and despite wanting to work in publishing she doesn’t own a computer so she’s obviously never watched porn or Googled what sex looks like before. If she had, she may not have been so overwhelmed by having access to her “very own Christian Grey flavoured popsicle”. Clumsy writing could have been forgivingly skimmed over for the greater good of getting one’s rocks off, but experiencing BDSM from the vantage point of a little girl who is doing something she’s not sure she wants to do in order to get what she wants (Christian’s love, of course) left me much like Ana—a starfish without a pulse.
At some point on her quest to save Christian Grey’s soul from its own deviancy (because anyone whose sexual tastes lie outside of the vanilla variety must be deeply scarred) Ana remarks that her Fabio is so hard to figure out that that even “Freud would have a field day—and then he’d probably die trying to deal with Fifty Shades”. Actually, I think Freud and Grey would get on like a house on fire. They both believe that at its crux femininity can be equated to servitude, a belief popularised by the psychoanalyst and brought to mind by Christian Grey’s insistence that Steele “be courteous, follow the set of rules I’ve given you and not defy me”. They both share the underlying wish that women, Ana in Christian’s case and patients such as Dora in Freud’s, must inevitably submit to their naturally fated passivity. They both perceive normal sexuality as centred around what Freud termed “the desire to be desired by a man”.
Although it’s been argued that 50 Shades is empowering a new generation of women by way of an introduction to the BDSM lifestyle, the book basically suggests that it’s okay to engage in “abnormal” sex involving whips and pain, as long as you do so with the end goal of gaining someone’s good old fashioned love firmly in mind. According to Ana, “The BDSM is a distraction from the real issue…meaningless without love”—this statement allows her to partake in BDSM without claiming any ownership over her own sexual desires, because if she wanted the kinky stuff without the love, she’d be a big old weirdo, right?
That’s all. Go read Story of O now.