For the past few months, my Facebook newsfeed has been dominated by everything 50 Shades of Grey (obvious pun, anyone?). Not just of the movie promotion, but posts of Grey inspired lingerie, nail polish, music, getaways, plus BDSM sex tips that “you can *actually* do at home!”. All this is sprinkled through nonchalant movie reviews (mostly claiming that the movie, and books, are terrible) through to damning think pieces of Grey being domestic violence dressed up as erotica.
I have not read the books, nor seen the movie– and I have no intention of doing so. After my sister read the first book, I asked her what she thought and her first response to me was, “don’t read it, you’ll hate it”, and left it at that. She probably knew I wouldn’t appreciate the way it was written (fairly poorly from what I’ve since been told), not to mention the big issue that I’d have with it – the reason for this post.
With this advice in the back of my mind as I see all the cross promotions and articles, I find myself intrigued, but confused by the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. My issue with Grey and what I truly don’t understand, is the obsession – the obsession that the two main characters have with each other and, the obsession that fans have with that obsession, or rather the obsession they’ve had no choice but to have through clever promotion and marketing.
But, I do understand the passionate advocates for and against it – I’ll get to that later. This has nothing to do with the sex that is central to the “mummy porn” label it’s fallen into. The BDSM-themed sex is the least of my concerns, and from what I’m gathering the least of everyone else’s, which is surprising, but great – sexual activity and fantasy is to each his or her own. However, I’m told that the reason why Christian is “into” BDSM is that he was abused as a young man – which is a whole other concerning issue: why can’t Christian like BDSM because that’s his sexual choice? Why link something that’s not considered to be sexually mainstream to something so horrific? A major, major fail on the author’s part.
I digress. With my earlier preface in mind, the plot is about the rich, handsome and emotionally stunted Christian Grey entering into a contract with the innocent, virginal and emotionally stunted Anastasia Steele – a contract that binds them into one of a dominant-submissive relationship dynamic. The natural reaction, or rather my expected natural reaction is to climb on my soapbox and demand to know why this dynamic is being glamorised and normalised – again not the sexual dynamic, but the interpersonal dynamic. Yet I also find myself siding with those that love Grey – this isn’t real, it’s fantasy for the masses, and as I’m reminded Anastasia entered into this contract with her full agreement, something that is conveniently left out of the other side’s accusations, from what I’ve seen.
So, I understand the passion with which both sets of advocates are coming from. Though the issue remains: obsession. The dominant-submissive imbalance aside, Christian and Anastasia are equally obsessed with each to the point of being psychotically damaging to their sense of self and identity: Christian offering up a contract of domination to please her and Anastasia accepting it to please him. What starts as a curious venture of signing on the dotted line grows into alarming and damaging behaviours, such as: Christian letting himself into Anastasia’s bedroom unannounced and uninvited to Anastasia’s repeated attempts to sensually touch him despite his repeated requests not to do so.
They are both invading and violating each other in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with whips and sex dungeons (is that a thing? I’m not educated on BDSM, and it’s my sexual choice not to be). Christian and Anastasia are just characters in a book and movie. However, the way in which their obsession underlines the narrative and the way that it’s being played out for the masses – masses that are in the midst of craving previously taboo fantasy as entertainment a la Twilight (where, incidentally, obsession is central to the narrative) – is something I find to be alarming, and beyond my understanding.