I’m getting tired of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Not because of its wincingly bad depiction of a hetero BDSM relationship. Not because of its two million fans across the Internet who suddenly think they’re kinky because they like reading about kink.
Honestly, my only reason is because I want to write a book someday, and it’s disparaging to see how brilliantly bad writing sells.
E L James is making bank. Like millions of people, I paid fifteen bucks to read Fifty Shades in old-fashioned book form. The first gem of a terrible sentence hits you on page four. “I’m not sure Wanda, my old VW Beetle, would make the journey in time. Oh, the Merc [Mercedes] is a fun drive, and the miles slip away as I hit the pedal to the metal.”
Newcomer Dakota Johnson plays the soft-spoken hero, Ana.
The story is groundbreaking — a doe-eyed and inexperienced female protagonist falls in love with a dark and dangerous man.
Ms. James threw us back into an archaic time of female submission and male worship, and not just within the confines of BDSM, which is truly about power, power exchange, submission and dominance, and roleplay. No, Anastasia truly and sincerely feels weaker and inferior to wealthy business tycoon Mr. Grey. Intimidated by him, scared of him, and in awe of him. No thanks, James.
Mrs. James decided to involve the kink community — a demographic she clearly knows nothing about — and we don’t particularly like the inclusion.
E L James
I started reading the series late in the game to gear up for the movie, after reading Buzzfeed articles and angry Facebook posts about how it purportedly gives people the wrong idea about BDSM. I went into it expecting to be pissed off, so I can’t sit here and say I gave it a fair shot.
There are, in fact, live-in submissives who do sign contracts like the one Mr. Grey repeatedly asks Anastasia to sign. These slaves enjoy getting punished for talking back, disobeying, etc. The problem is that Ms. Steele is not one such person.
When I play, the role stops when the scene stops. I’ve never wanted to stay in sub mode for more than a few hours. But some people prefer to live in their roleplay and stay “in the scene” for months at a time, and that’s what Christian Grey is looking for. I would just tell him, “Bud, it’s just not going to happen with her. Try Fetlife.com.”
However, I will admit that Jamie Dornan is cute, especially with some scruff. Click on the image to read the recent Details article on the emerging star.
One common criticism from kinksters and vanilla folks alike is that the series romanticizes an abusive relationship under the guise of BDSM.
This may be true, but I would like to remind kinksters that BDSM is miles wide, and within that spectrum there are extreme relationships that I myself would consider abusive, but that some hardcore players enjoy.
Forgive me for this, but it’s a shade of grey. Would I consider being caged and collared for six months and fed in a doggy bowl abusive and psychologically damaging? Absolutely. But some people spend years searching for a master who will do just that.
In the real world, where people’s kinky limits can be clearly listed on a website profile or discussed at a few casual sit-downs, Anastasia and Christian would have realized quickly that they don’t want the same things or the same kind of relationship, and they would have parted ways. Their biggest problem is that they try to force a relationship that they aren’t suited for.
Christian Grey wants a weekend submissive into hard S&M, who likes being punished, controlled, and ordered around. Anastasia Steele doesn’t know what she wants, and as a virgin to sex has no business getting into kink before she explores the vanilla stuff first.
You should not be pressured into kink, as Grey pressures Ana into it. You should enter into it willingly and with a spirit of curiosity. Anastasia is urged into it by a guy she doesn’t know and thinks is hot, and she keeps doing it because “she’s fallen in love with him” or something like that. Girl, please.
What’s more offensive about the series is the sustained “mystery” around the origin of Mr. Grey’s sexual interests. We get the clear idea is that Grey’s kinkiness comes from an abusive childhood and some kind of early trauma. I don’t want to give too much away for someone who hasn’t read the books, but this suggests that an interest in kink comes as a result of trauma — in other words, that there is something inherently wrong with people into BDSM.
(Check out my recent piece in GC Magazine where I tell my own story of how I came into kink. It doesn’t involve any kind of childhood abuse.)
So what if he was traumatized as a boy? Does that make the kinky practices themselves inherently bad, and by extension, self-destructive? Far from it. I would argue that kink acts for many people as a necessary release of pent-up stress and other emotions that can come out in ugly ways if left bottled up. Kink can be a very healthy practice.
Many things we do, regardless if they come from bad experiences, are healthy. I don’t have the best history with my dad, and yet I’m crazy into older men and “daddy porn.” A psychotherapist would probably link the two things together, but who cares? Daddy porn hasn’t disrupted my life at all, and I’ve had a host of great times with sexy older men. My relationship with my dad is still shitty, and I’ve never once fantasized about having sex with him. Even if one stems from the other, where’s the problem in my life? How is liking gay, burly daddies wrong?
I watched two hours of straight people getting it on and was treated to plentiful breast but not one cock shot. The performances are bad, and the soundtrack is awesome — check out Beyonce’s remix of “Crazy In Love” below. But in the end, the kink just wasn’t that good.
With all that buildup, I expected something hardcore, but Christian and Ana’s playtime ended up being what I call “vanilla kink” — the most basic stuff to make a completely inexperienced straight person gasp.
I’m not worried that the franchise will damage the kink community. People will do whatever they want in the bedroom, regardless of how it’s depicted in pop culture, and the people who are prejudiced will remain prejudiced even if Focus On The Family endorsed the next kinky hetero franchise (unlikely).
The only thing I am worried about is what’s happening to literature when books by modern day greats like Karl Ove Knausgaard and Dave Eggers can’t be found in the airport bookshop, but at least there’s a pyramid of Fifty Shades of Grey books in the entrance.