Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fifty Shades of...Oh Snap

I know what you're thinking. "Cindy, what are you doing? You're a good Christian girl. Your first blog post can't be about Fifty Shades of Grey!" Well...too bad. I have some thoughts here that I'd like to hash out.

So, I was sitting in my boss's office one day recently, watching the muted television while she was reading over something. The TV was on CNN News and guess what they were talking about. No, not politics (pretty sure we have some important election coming up, right?). No, not healthcare (that was a big deal recently, right?). No, they were talking about Fifty Shades of Grey. That's right--CNN News was talking about a wildly popular bondage erotica novel during the middle of the day. How did we get here folks? When did that become appropriate to discuss on the news?

Now, let me state for the record: I have not read the book series nor do I plan to. But I have heard about it from just about every source imaginable: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, CNN News, overheard conversations around town, my hair salon...I could keep going. These books are everywhere. Women love them. Liberated, feminist women love a good ol' bondage erotica book series. Oh if Freud could get his hands on that one--I just know he'd have a ton to say, and I have a feeling these "liberated" women wouldn't like it too much.

What I find most interesting is that most women are in agreement that the books are horribly written, "with too many examples of mortifying overreaches and awkward phrases to cite ('My subconscious runs, screaming, and hides behind the sofa')." And even so, women still love them. They've taken to Pinterest to share their opinion about who should play Christian Grey, the "uber-controlling, hyperbolically handsome and spectacularly rich guy who wants her—but on his terms," in the movie. Oh yeah, they're making the book series into a movie. (Insert screachy record sound here) Doesn't that mean the movie would have to be, ya know, X-rated? So now we have a whole culture of women eagerly anticipating the making of a porno? And they're talking about it on CNN News? Sigh, seriously how did we get here folks?

On Facebook, a friend of mine posted something similar to "Ok ladies, I've finished Fifty Shades of Grey!! What should I read next??" Ok, so now not only is it acceptable to admit to all of your friends, family, and co-workers on Facebook that you read and enjoyed a bondage erotica novel but now you're asking for recommendations for similar books...on Facebook? I recently read a Psychology Today article explaining how erotica novels are the female version of picture and video pornography. Women prefer reading it, men prefer seeing it.

So what would we do if the situation were reversed? What if I saw a male friend of mine on Facebook post "So guys, I just finished watching "[Insert Inappropriate Movie Title Here]" What should I watch next?"  I'm fairly certain that if a guy posted that on Facebook his Facebook world would be in uproar. Because it's NOT APPROPRIATE for Facebook. Heck, it might even make it to the news because, apparently, that's what we talk about on the news these days. (I sound like a 70 year old right now, don't I?)

I find this whole cultural movement on Fifty Shades of Grey so fascinating. I'm not one to shy away from talking about sex so let me share some thoughts on this. First, if you aren't really sure what Fifty Shades is about, here's a quote from an article that should give you a good idea. (And for the faint of heart, don't read the below paragraph)

       "These terms involve bondage, domination, and many assorted accouterments and accessories of    S&M, including ropes, gags, crops, flogs, suspension machines and a “Submissive Contract” outlining the ways in which Miss Steele is to comport herself around Master Grey. Predictably, Anastassia changes Grey’s way of thinking, and after a bit of open-minded experimentation—spoiler alert!—realigns his libido and ego into a semblance of heterosexual normativity."

Ok, so now that we're on all on the same page let's ask some questions. Why do women, who spout the ideas of being liberated from men, not needing men, and seeing men as obstacles to success like a dominant guy? And don't tell me they don't. Twilight's leading man is dominant as well (just not in the exact way Grey is) and we all know how popular Edward is (even though he freakin' sparkles). In fact, you won't find a romance novel with a leading man who's not dominant. Why? Because women wouldn't like it; they wouldn't read it.

So why are all these women, including feminists, so enthralled with a character who is the embodied antithesis of what they proclaim to want men to be? Because deep down, women like being taken care of. And a dominant guy (pardon my french) typically knows how to keep his shit together. He'd be best able to take care of someone. Try getting a hard-core feminist to tell you that she likes being taken care of and you might have more luck beating your head against the wall. But it's truth. Women are fully capable of taking care of themselves, but that doesn't mean they/we have to like it. We, women, have been born into a generation that has great opportunity but, with that opportunity, has come the expectation that we make the most of it for the betterment of the feminist movement and at the detriment of our own personal lives. Admitting that we, as women, like being taken care of is considered slapping the feminist movement in the face. I have so many more thoughts on the feminist movement, but I'll leave it there for now.

My next question: Why this book? There are so many erotica novels out there. In fact, romance novels are the #1 bestselling fiction nowadays. This is partly due to Kindles and Nooks--no one has to know what you're reading. They can't see the cover and judge you by it. So why Fifty Shades? We've already covered the fact that most everyone agrees the writing is horrible. How did this book get to be so gosh darn popular? I may never know the answer to this question. Perhaps it was a mix of marketing and social media responsiveness--I first heard of these books on Pinterest. Perhaps seeing so many other women reading and talking about it encouraged other women to join the group--to be a part of something? Or perhaps, as Wednesday Martin stated in her Psychology Today post we are "one nation under spanking?" I suppose we'll never know for sure why this particular book made it big.

Will the popularity of this book and the openness with which our culture has talked about and accepted it lead to more? Is the Facebook post I mentioned above something that will become the norm? Will it become appropriate to talk about this type of thing on the news at prime time? What will be the cultural ramifications for the short-term and the long-term? I just have so many questions on this.

The article I quoted from above is located here at Psychology Today's website:

There are a number of other articles on PT dealing with this issue. If you're curious about the psychoanalysis of it all, I recommend you check their page.

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