WARNING: This post will contain references to sexuality,rape culture rampant in our society, psychology, and other things sensitive readers may not want to subject themselves to, hence the jump.
Welp, shit has hit the fan. Fifty Shades of Grey has been released in movie form. To my utter amazement, so far it’s panning out pretty much the way I thought it would, with lackluster reviews and the disappointment of readers coming face to face with their hero, Christian Grey, being the choad we always knew him to be.
Author Anne Rice chimed in with her opinion in this facebook post:
Anne Rice wrote the Beauty Series, in which sexual taboo is pushed beyond boundaries. It is clearly meant to be interpreted as such.
However, as author Alys B. Cohen has pointed out, that the Beauty Series was never advertised or touted as something to emulate, unlike Fifty Shades of Grey. There were never Beauty Series sex toys and lube, nor a movie advertised as perfect date-night material. Men weren’t told that the way to a woman’s heart is to act out scenes from Ms. Rice’s fiction.
The same cannot be said for Fifty Shades of Grey.
That is where I feel Anne Rice has gone off the rails– once something has been marketed as a ‘how to,’ it nullifies the notion of it being just a fantasy or just a work of fiction. As a how to, it’s opening doors to poorly-written BDSM scenes, where the Dom has no business being a Dom, let alone calling it ‘romance’ when he strikes his sub in anger.
Whether a woman’s fantasy is to be held down and forced to submission because he desires her sooo much, or being smacked as a means to stimulate pleasure (which, well-aimed slaps can achieve), so be it and more power to them. But for an author to write of a scene and using words that conjure negative connotations, and then label that scene as being romantic and desirable, well, that’s a huge fucking fail on the author’s end. That, right there, is a fail of communication (and as an author, one should be at least somewhat adept when it comes to placing words into a string in order to bring an idea to fruition in a concise manner)
When an artist, be it a painter, sculptor, writer, or what have you, creates something for the consumption of others, they have a responsibility toward their creation. When a book series such as FSoG comes along, skipping down the daisy path of twu wuv, strewing misinformation and misogyny hither and there, it creates ripples, most especially when ardent fans try emulating disturbing behaviors.
The pervasive theme of Fifty Shades of Grey is that the male lead (I cannot call him a literary hero when I want to Hulk-smash his fictitious, douchey-face) hounds, begs, and coerces the female lead into letting him do as he want, without any emotional investment in her (as she’s the one wanting more emotional commitment, like hugs and snuggling. He wants sex. His way. Because he “fucks hard.”) until she finally gives up and lets him have at it. He uses her roughly, taunts her with public rape, breaks into her home… and all this is being passed off as being okay and permissible. Desirable, even. It feeds into rape culture, which is the expectation that No doesn’t mean No; at best it means Not Now. That wearing a woman down until she capitulates is acceptable behavior.
While many readers can see the problems inherent within the pages of FSoG, a many more do not, and it goes to show how engrained rape culture is within our society, that douche-bag hijinks are considered no more than “boys being boys” (which is a fucking cop out and enables shitty behavior. Boys should be compassionate, in my humble opinion.) and normalized, while the ideal that only a pure, virginal, empty-headed woman can attract a ‘wealthy and powerful’ man. Here’s the thing about that– the female lead, Ana Steele, is nothing more than an empty vessel in the highest sense; a placeholder for the reader, and as a spunk bucket for Christian Grey. He wants nothing from her but obedience and sex. Deviate from those and suffer.
ON THE SUBJECT OF FANTASIES:
Sexpert Laci Green has this to say– and don’t worry– rape fantasies are explored around 1:55 into the vid:
AN OPEN LETTER TO ANNE RICE:
I too, believe women should have the same sexual freedom as men, the ability to entertain and enjoy sexual fantasy without any sort of repercussion. It’s a part of what makes us human.
But when a novel is advertised in a men’s magazine as a way to get chicks into more sex, then it crossed the line from “fiction” into the land of “how to.” And while discerning readers may understand that what is read isn’t meant to be emulated in real life, there is a growing population that are using Fifty Shades of Grey as a gateway into kink– and the kink isn’t done well, which means those newbies are setting themselves to get hurt.
For instance, Google “Fifty Shades of Grey Court Case Assault” and you’ll get hits from all over the globe, where men acted like the male lead, which lead to a woman being traumatised. They are using that singular tome as a reference point with no other research, and people are getting hurt.
Imagine if Lolita got advertised as a way to bring families together in a popular men’s magazine. That’s how Fifty Shades of Grey is being used, as a way to sprinkle spice into a flagging relationship.
I am all for fantasy– but what makes it fantasy is that it’s in one’s head, not real. When real women get hurt because they enacted a poorly-researched scene from a novel, I gotta take exception. Those women wanted their fantasy to come true. Instead, they got the Ike Turner treatment. Sure, they have a responsibility for their choices, but when a tome is touted as the most fancy-romancy page turner of the decade, some of that culpability falls on the author. EL James did not do adequate research for the topic she wrote about and people are getting hurt.
You may support that, but I do not.
I am a feminist and don’t believe men or women should be hurt. That NO means NO, instead of “Not Yet,” and that when there are court cases of people who’ve been injured, physical or mental, because of that book, you can bet Lestat that as a feminist who cares about real people, I’m going to advocate against that book because it’s been marketed as a means to spice up a love life. It got dropped kicked out of “mere fiction” when advertisements like this exist:
You do see where it states it’s “What every woman wants” and “Read it and share the experience”?
If you think it’s okay to stalk someone three thousand miles, financially manipulate, isolate, rape, force on birth control, gaslight and be an asshole to everyone around you, (really the list goes on) then I don’t count you as a feminist.
Maybe, just maybe if The Story of O had it’s own lube line and there was a precedent set, maybe I’d have a different opinion.
But I don’t think so.
-Mandi Rei Serra