I’m so excited to have my friend Meg guest posting here today and tomorrow! Meg is a thoughtful, compassionate, and gutsy woman with incredible insights. I hope you get as much out of them as I do!
Bio: Meg lives in Orange County, California with her one husband and four children. She worked for more than 6 years in the sex industry and, ironically enough, even interviewed for a position as a dominatrix once. Apparently, she was “too nice” and was sent home. She is passionate about caring for women in the sex industry and is a big believer in the scandal of grace and healing power of love.
“Fifty shades of fucked up.”
Those aren’t my words, but those of protagonist Christian Grey, describing himself to love interest Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey. By now, I’ve little doubt that everyone and their grandmother has heard of the series, and if you haven’t, get ready for round two of the media blitz now that the movies are in the works.
Not wanting to risk the stifled laughter of my local librarian, and in the hopes of better understanding a few things, I borrowed the book from a friend and dove into James’ highly-hyped world of bondage and submission, master and servant.
Despite the lack of depth, originality, creativity, and depth of character, I will be completely honest, and admit that I was compelled by the Fifty Shades trilogy. I was unfazed by the bondage, submission, begging, discipline, whips, handcuffs, or spankings. In the end, what consenting adults do shouldn’t really concern us–children, abuse, and slavery being the exceptions. I was moved less by the plot, and more by the deep realizations that came along with it.
Not having read any other erotica to compare it to, Fifty Shades is quite simplistic, and in it a VERY “vanilla” or tame world of possession and ownership is laid out for the reader. Though there is more focus on the relationship between Christian and Anastasia, it is nonetheless a world where Christian Grey dominates, and decides who gives and takes with little, if any, mutuality. Even when he’s giving, it’s because it will ultimately pleasure him or provide him the power, control, and security he’s become accustomed to and needs.
But there are a few things that set Fifty Shades apart from your average Harlequin. I understand the world we live in, and I genuinely read it with no offense, but there were terms in this book that prompted me to wonder why this felt “different” on more than one occasion. As a survivor of rape, physical, and emotional abuse, terms like “punishment fuck” and “resistance” (in reference to simulated rape) don’t generally produce a warm and fuzzy feeling within me.
In my eyes, there’s a bigger issue within the Fifty Shades trilogy. It’s not just the assertion that women WANT this (because reasons vary, and though you may find it hard to believe, some do), but the subtle assumption that it has become normal, and somewhat expected, for women to want this. Struck over and over again by how easily Christian Grey’s behavior was favored in a romantic, protective, passionate, and affectionate light, I couldn’t help but notice that his character’s personality had traits that fit the classic profile of an abuser. Much like Christian’s twitchy palms prior to “discipline,” those red flags went up in my head almost immediately, flooding my mind with questions.
Why are women okay with being characterized as wanting to be controlled, dominated, and left choiceless?
I can’t be the only one to notice that this seems to be arousing more women than it would have 20, 30, 40 years ago. WHY? We all take part in shaping and contributing to our culture, but it’s clear to me that a subtle shifting of the winds has taken place. As women, in what is still very much a society set up for and constructed by men, what’s a woman (or man) to think when your sisters start defecting? In my own lifetime, I feel as if I’ve watched the gradual and unconscious adoption of an “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude by so many of my sisters. This is a defeat my heart cannot bear, at times.
If the emotional and physical subtleties alluded to within the Fifty Shades trilogy have become exciting to much of the female population, I’m led to conclude that we’ve become more conditioned and desensitized to not only that mindset, but the abuse, dehumanization, emotional disengagement, overt sexualization, and devaluation of our gender that comes with it. I fear that we’ve raised an entire generation of female misogynists, who not only think this is a normal and healthy way of thinking, but believe it was their idea and are loving every minute of it.
In the end, we can only hold ourselves to the kind of standard that we long to see our daughters, sisters, and friends raised in. With that being said, I have a few questions for you to ponder. I know this topic is messy, layered, and systemic in its origins, but I believe these are questions worth asking ourselves and the men in our lives. Here goes …
-Where and how were your attitudes, ideas, and assumptions about women shaped? In a society that is still not able or willing to view women equally and apart from their sexuality, how have you contributed to the reinforcement of current social norms?
-How has the Church adopted and helped continue to encourage and reinforce a system that prevents women from reaching equality and full participation in all arenas?( I respect everyone’s right to an opinion on this, but please don’t email me and and argue. If you must, read this, watch this, then we can talk.)
Tomorrow, revelations on Christian Grey and happy endings…