Unless you’ve been wearing a blindfold while living in a sex dungeon for the past few weeks you may have noticed that the 50 Shades film is coming out soon.
Is there any book that has been analysed to the extent that this book has? I just read someone’s blog where they listed 50 things in it that indicate what a wicked book it is. Jeez, for a book you absolutely hate with a passion (passion, get it?) you’re spending a lot of time in it. And the irony is that considering most of the complaints are about how manipulative and abusive it is, its haters are being pretty manipulative and abusive about, and towards, people who stick up for it. So we’re swapping one set of manipulation for another, and that winds me up and brings out my stubborn side. Because what I hate more than ever is being told what I should and shouldn’t think about something.
I read the books, mainly out of curiosity, but then I carried on because I actually did want to know what happened in the end. It wasn’t too bad. I actually ended up flicking through the sex scenes, which hasn’t happened with me and a book since…well since never. And no, I’m not a ‘bored, frustrated housewife’ as someone very offensively described its readers but you know, even if I was, what’s it to you anyway? Why shouldn’t a bored, frustrated woman read something like that? A bit of pure escapism. Bored, frustrated men get away with all kinds of things. It’s not as socially acceptable for women to talk or read about their sexuality so if this is what it takes to give someone a taste of erotic fiction, what’s the problem? A lot of women like that kind of story, the ‘plain, shy girl meets a glamorous man and turns into a beautiful swan’ type thing. And in the end it’s the main female character who manipulates him in to doing exactly what she wants.
There’s a lot of talk about the BDSM aspect. Some BDSM fans have complained, others haven’t, there’s no surprise there, not all BDSM fans think exactly the same. Like not all feminists think the same, (not that I’m comparing being a feminist to being into BDSM although jeez, sometimes you might as well have a ball gag in for all the notice people take of you) and actually, not all people think the same.
I witnessed a very smug discussion amongst women who should know better in which they were saying that if you need to tie someone up to have sex then you’re not doing it right, which completely misses the point of it. Sexual snobbery, like genre snobbery, is still snobbery and it should stop. It made me feel uncomfortable, like those conversations where women complain about their husbands wanting sex, ‘oh I’d rather have a cup of tea and a biscuit’ they chortle as they perpetuate the ‘sex is for men’ myth that we’re trying so hard to lose. You can never anticipate what might turn someone else on, so if the tampon scene in 50 Shades isn’t your thing, don’t dismiss it as weird, just accept it and move on.
I’ve been told I’m not a ‘proper’ feminist if I stick up for this book but seriously, it’s a story, someone’s fantasy and as I’ve ranted about before, who are we to tell someone else what they can and can’t fantasise about. And unless you’re really into it I don’t think there’s any way that the consent issues surrounding BDSM can be explained logically to someone who’s not, so if it’s not for you, don’t read it. Put it down, walk away and find another book, there are quite a few out there, some much worse than this one in terms of quality of writing and the depiction of spanking. But actually a lot of women have read this book, and will go and see the film, so it’s obviously doing something for quite a lot of people.
50 shades was in no way the best book I’ve ever read but it definitely wasn’t the worst. There are many more books out there that describe male domination over women in a much more subtle way, but nobody complains about those. Is it really the sex people have a problem with? A lot of the discussions about this book have been by women who seem to be sneering at the kind of women who might read it, it all feels a bit misogynistic to me and misogyny by other women makes me sad.
The things that happen in 50 Shades happen in films and books that are released every week, each with their own cunning marketing ploys, the difference is that this doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. There’s no chance of anyone wandering into this film and being surprised. If you’re not comfortable with seeing it, you don’t have to. That’s much simpler than going to see an everyday popular film only to find that yet again the main character is male and the female character is dumbed down and sexualised. Look at all the fuss Frozen caused because for the first time ever there was a female lead character who was saved by another female. It was like Beauty and the Beast never happened, with its story of a shy, innocent girl being abused by a powerful older man. Oh wait…that sounds familiar.
So here’s a tip. If you want to go and see it, go and see it and ignore the sneery comments. And if you don’t, then don’t.