Fifty Shades of Grey, Girls And The Whips That Bind Them
By Alex Cranz
I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey. I thought about it because I wanted to be able to communicate with other ladies and either bitch about it for hours or whisper about my secret and ashamed love of it. But if I really wanted to read some S&M porn I’d rather go back to that epic series of novels about Scully in an S&M relationship with Mulder and his many clones and their baby Moose….because that happened internet and in 1998 I read all of it and then printed it out and took it to school and read it some more.
Seriously. Whatever floats your boat. I may mock the material itself but I’m not going to mock you’re love of it. More power to you internet denizens. Get your milquetoast bondage on!
I have, however, seen Girls. I’ve seen three episodes of it now. I loved it. Besides the core relationships between the women of the show whom love and hate and love each other again there’s also a couple of really aggressive tools and in this recent article over at Newsweek Katie Rolphe characterizes the men and their relationships with the women as dom/sub relationships and sort of side eyes the women and writer Lena Dunham for her potentially very unfeminist approach to female/male relationships among twentysomethings.
I’m guessing she’s missed the interviews where Dunham talks about these male characters and how awful they are and how unhealthy a choice they represent. Not because of the kink they provide during sex, but because they’re wildly awful guys in the personal sphere.
Notice how I didn’t equate personal and sexual? That’s because personal relationships are very different from sexual relationships.
Let me repeat that for Rolphe and others in her camp: personal relationships are very different from sexual relationships.
The show isn’t glorifying these jerks or using them as examples of “hot men” for a generation. It doesn’t romanticize them. It doesn’t paint them as torturous Wang-archetypes. It paints them as awful human beings and it paints the women as idiot twentysomethings making life choices that some idiot twentysomethings make.
Not a societal trend!
Her article then includes the characters of Fifty Shades of Grey which is actually just some Twilight fanfiction with the names changed. This isn’t a new thing. Basically the entire lesbian romance market is just Xena and Law and Order: SVU fanfic with some names changed. Have I blown your mind? You’re welcome.
In Fifty Shades of Grey Christian and Ana enter into a contract in which he’s allowed to lightly spank her and she’s allowed to slowly mend his broken heart (someone touched him or spanked him or something as a child). It’s a very vanilla (S&M terminology!) take on a dom/sub relationship.
And the crux of Rolphe’s article is that those relationships are about the power of the dom, and that they’re becoming more popular as women gain more power (we graduate college more often than men preach it!).
Only I guess she missed that episode of CSI where they talked about dom/sub relationships and how because 99% of kink is theatrical the sub usually has the power. Oh yeah Christian can spank her, but if she was ready to leave? If she’d had enough she could say the word and it would all be over. That’s power and if you want to get all psychoanalytical you could even note how that could be one reason most subs in the bedroom are doms in the public sphere.
More importantly (because trying to subscribe social relevance to the goings on of peoples’ bedrooms seems mindbogglingly stupid to me) is her assumption that this is all some sort of backlash to women “gaining power.”
No. The backlash to women growing more prominent in certain professional fields is that Congress is trying to destroy any chance we have at affordable healthcare, abolish our right to govern our own bodies and, oh yeah, repeal the Violence Against Women Act. Not to mention the state by state war on our salaries. Wisconsin? Doing away with an equal pay law!
So yes, let us navel gaze on how women are picking up a load of smut on their Kindles and Nooks and how it is of social import. I mean, the reason Fifty Shades of Grey is so popular certainly couldn’t have anything to do with the concurrent rise of e-readers that allow you to read silly and embarrassing fiction without repercussion. Nooooo it has to be women rebelling against all the power we’ve earned.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to being excited about the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. I can only hope it’s as accurate as the last adaptation of an extremely popular S&M novel.