Unlike many of my anxiously awaiting girlfriends, I will not be going to the cinema on Valentine’s Day, or any day after that, to watch the notorious screen adaptation of every bored housewife’s favourite novel.
50 Shades of Grey became an unimaginable success and one of the most controversial pieces of mainstream literature in 2011, but after reading a few pages of what my friends recommended as ‘the good bits’, I promptly shut it forever, and resisted the urge to burn it in solidarity of my retinas, which have never quite felt the same.
The same rising bile in my throat was produced when a few of my squealing girlfriends told me last year that this book was being made into a film, and, surprise surprise, was being released on Valentine’s Day. I can’t tell if this is a bid to make single women feel lonely and unsatisfied or to make boyfriends all over the country feel inadequate, but either way I know at least one girl who has a poor, unwitting man with a pre-booked ticket as a ‘surprise’: let’s all take a moment to pray for him.
Meanwhile I found the book very offensive for a few reasons, one of which being the appalling way it is written (the grammar and creative writing skills matching that of a GCSE English paper). However, I am not offended by this book for the same reasons that many other people are, which is its graphic content and glorification of BDSM as a sexual practise. I am offended by the misrepresentation and abusive nature of its sexual content in defence of BDSM.
First of all, from what I’ve gathered from excerpts I have read, my general research of the plot and watching the trailers, this Christian Grey bloke does not harbour the real, strong, trustworthy and loving traits of a real Dominant, but apparently is cold, unloving and has suffered emotionally and perhaps physically at a previous point in his life. All of these things, I believe, are a bid to explain his sexual preference for domination and violence.
This is offensive in many ways to members of the BDSM community, as it assumes that this type of personality and patterns of behaviour are what it takes to become a dominant, or that those enjoying a healthy BDSM lifestyle are cold and damaged human beings. From my understanding in reality, Dominants are not only sexually dominant but emotionally too. There is a lot of responsibility for loving and nurturing their partners to create a healthy dynamic for all involved and this is the norm in relationships of this kind.
Secondly, it promotes the idea that this sexual behaviour is a male ideology. The book and film show that the woman, Ana, is pushed into the practise of BDSM in a bid to make this guy ‘like’ her, which then allows a serious violation of both her sexuality and her personal life by entering into (quite frankly) not a Dom/Sub dynamic but rather an abusive one. This implies that women who are involved in these types of sexual behaviours are small minded and are doing it purely for the pleasure and enjoyment of the man, which is both grossly misrepresentative and very sexist.
This is not a healthy attitude to push onto girls and women, a lot of whom probably, at the moment they shut the book for the first time, decided they needed to run out and find their own ‘Mr Grey’. Of course the liberation of women’s sexuality in the mainstream media is a wonderful thing, but implying that it’s safe for a woman with no experience of BDSM or individual preference for it to dive into a relationship as a Submissive with an ‘emotionally damaged’ and violent man is the opposite of that, even if he is super cute, super rich AND super mysterious!
It was even revealed recently that the one and only Christian Grey, actor Jamie Dornan, has even directly insulted the BDSM community with his comments regarding his preparation for the film. He was quoted by Elle magazine to have said: ‘I saw a dominant with one of his two submissives, it was an interesting evening. Then going back to my wife and new-born baby afterwards … I had a long shower before touching either one of them’. The reaction was that of outrage. If it wasn’t enough that both the book and film were misrepresenting BDSM as a culture, now even its main actor has hinted in so many words that he believes the practice to be dirty and wrong.
This opinion of mine will be unpopular with a few of my friends, who would probably call themselves fans of 50 Shades of Grey. I, of course, believe that consenting adults can enjoy whatever naughty book they choose to, although I doubt this is one you’d pull out on the tube. However, my personal opinion, and the opinion of a large number of people within the BDSM community, is that this material is offensive and damaging, not for its sexual content or its use of violent sexual imagery, but rather for its warped use of it and its insulting representation of those who enjoy this practice.
So please, if you want a cinema date on Valentine’s Day that bad, choose to watch The Theory of Everything and feed your intellect and emotional wellbeing. And avoid 50 shades of Grey, or should I say 50 shades of killing-your-grey-matter.