For some time, there was a war on my Facebook newsfeed. There were soldiers on both sides in my friends list, and thus I was confronted with both sides of the argument. I read all the comments, looked at the articles provided as evidence for each side, and in the end, I still didn’t feel like I could properly choose a side. So I’ve embarked on a strange, often boring, usually repetitive journey to enlighten myself so that I might be able to make a rational and constructive opinion about this war, so that maybe I can choose a side. And what have I found so far? I don’t really agree with either side. I do agree with bullet points from each side, but not the entire argument. And what battle am I referring to? Why, none other than the legendary battle of 50 Shades of Grey, the ones who love it versus the ones crying “abuse!”.
Before I read the first book, I read the articles online that vehemently protested the book, claiming it was no dreamy fantasy, but instead a disgusting portrayal of abuse and violence that painted the BDSM lifestyle in ugly and untrue colors. I read the statuses of friends who know a thing or two about the BDSM lifestyle saying the same things the articles were saying, and begging their friends not to go see it or read the books, but instead to find better literature about BDSM. I learned from my few explorations into these lists of “better literature” that I’m not entirely sure there has ever been an “accurate portrayal” of BDSM in the media… At least, not in the general sense of it and not a portrayal that seems to go to the extreme side of the Master/slave end of the spectrum. This includes (so far) the first book of The Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice and the movie The Secretary. I may yet do a short review on those, but that is still to be decided.
Now then, 50 Shades of Grey. I read the book with a keen eye set out for any funny activities that I could yell, “A-ha! Christian Grey, you abusive scum!”, at. Weirdly enough, that never happened. And I had to wonder, who was claiming these books portrayed abuse? Was it the masses of hyper-sensitive people our generation has seemed to breed? Did my friends even read the book, or just listen to the articles with their carefully selected sentences and short excerpts from the book? It’s actually taken me a minute to get this review finally typed up because I was nervous to put my actual thoughts on this book out there. It seemed I was a lone grey area (ha!) in a sea of black and white. But then musician, poet, writer, artist, Dominant William Francis, aka William Control, himself went to see the movie and came up with a similar response to mine.
I’m sure everyone has heard by now that 50 Shades started out as Twilight fanfiction online. For anyone who has read Twilight (I admit, I read about 2 1/2 of those books. That’s another conversation for another day), it’s easy to see the influence Stephanie Meyer had on E.L. James and the reason they same women who loved Twilight have become smitten with Mr. Grey. The writing in the books is childish, in my opinion. It’s basic, though she does try to throw in some big words here and there. The leading female character is immature in generally all aspects, no matter how hard the writer tried to make her seem strong. I suppose the reason for this is to make her more “relatable”, but I can’t relate to a woman who mentally refers to her self conscious as a seperate entity from herself and has an “inner goddess” who is seperate from both herself and her subconcsious. I also cannot relate to a woman who refers to her vagina as “… there“. Pussy, cunt, vagina, sex, gaping fuck hole. I don’t care what you want to call it, just please, anything but “… there“!
I admit, from the first chapter where I was convinced that the reason Anastasia Steele was a virgin was because she was secretly a lesbian in love with her best friend/roommate, I was mentally chastising myself for allowing myself to feel obligated to read this rubbish just to have an opinion. It’s rough, obviously, living in a world where we need to feel relevant. Most of the time I don’t care. But for some god awful reason, I just had to have a relevent opinion on this… Damn it.
So, klutzy girl next door Miss Steele has to interview mysterious sexy billionaire Mr. Grey because her best friend/roommate is sick. And basically the next day he shows up at the hardware store she works at wanting to buy rope and cable ties, after not being told where she works. “Oh, Christian, fancy meeting you here in Portland at this little locally owned hardware store that I just so happen to work at. What ever made you come here from Seattle basically the day after we met?” Gag me, please, and in exactly the way Ana later decides she doesn’t want to be gagged. Ya know, cuz I’m actually into that shit. But, this turns out to be a regular occurence. And this is the start of where some people start calling out abuse the way you might yell “fire!”. Because, yeah, it’s a little stalkerish. Especially when he starts doing stuff like that a lot. Like, tracking her cell phone. And it’s true that if this were being said about some middle-lower class guy living in a trailer, we’d be freaking out. But, since this is the uber sex god and inconceivably rich CEO and self made hunk Christian Grey, it sets mouths and other things to watering.
But, is it abuse? It’s a little odd, yes. However, it just doesn’t scream abusive to me. I realize that some people who are involved in the kink scene are afraid of people being inspired by these books and not taking proper precautions before attempting their own kinky fuckery, getting hurt, and then shining bad light on the lifestyle. But, Mr. William Control said it best himself when he said that, “The sanctimonious, whining interpretation of this mild BDSM as a cover for domestic abuse is absurd. The notion this is a complete or accurate example of BDSM is shallow… Maybe you’re new and want to find out more about these things you feel hidden within your heart. Ask questions, there are answers to be found. Here’s a little piece of advice: Don’t Google search ‘Submissive’ and expect a full picture of what that actually looks like, because the meaning and achievement of that role is quite different for everyone.”
Ideally I wanted to make this review a little more in depth, with nice littler excerpts from the book and page numbers so you folks could follow along. But I ended up sending the book back to the library before I found time and motivation to get into this. What I can say is that I read through the entire first book, and not once did I see him do anything abusive to her. “But, didn’t you see where she said no and he didn’t lsiten to her?!” Ummm, not really. I saw her say no, and him not do anything to her until he finally got the yes that she didn’t at first say because she was just innocently nervous, not because she didn’t actually want to do the things he wanted to do. Another excerpt from WIlliam Control’s review sums up my thoughts on this nicely: “...Christian spends nearly the whole film politely requesting Anastasia’s consent, trust and devotion. This gesture is probably the most realistic portrayal of a BDSM relationship in the whole placid plotline.”
I’ve heard more negative uproar from the feminist extremist community (not the feminist community in general. Don’t start giving me lip, mother fuckers.) and kinksters who themselves are maybe a little more sensitive to rape and abuse than others. And I can see the whole thing from their point of view. I just don’t agree with it. The few portrayals of BDSM in the media I’ve seen seem to focus on a Master/slave dynamic and fall into more extreme places on the spectrum. And this is not an unknown occurrence. But you know what? Floggers and restraints and nipple clamps have been sold in sex stores forever. Putting a 50 Shades of Grey tag on them suddenly has everyone scooping them up, yes, but that’s okay. This is the tamest BDSM portrayal I’ve ever seen, some of the softest of the soft core erotica I’ve ever been subjected to, and if it shines a little more public attention on kinky fuckery, then more power to it, no matter how poorly written it may be. Because the ones who are serious about it will find their way.