liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
[personal profile] liv
My current guilty pleasure: compulsively reading lots and lots of think pieces about Fifty Shades of Grey, even though I already know what I think about it, and have no more intention of watching the film than I had of reading the book. I really don't think the release of the film brings much new to the debate, I mean, wow, off-the-charts popular sexy book gets made into a blockbuster film, not exactly earth-shattering news.

Anyway, [personal profile] metaphortunate has the platonic ideal summary of all the FSoG opinions, and some really interesting meta-meta in reaction to it. I mean, there's a story I and lots of the commenters want to read, where an innocent woman discovers her kinky side with a caring, respectful dom who negotiates and establishes really meaningful consent before hurting her in ways that really work for her, and then they live happily ever after. FSoG is really, really, really not that story, but that story pretty much doesn't exist in mainstream media; as [personal profile] metaphortunate points out, all the kink classics are, um, problematic, and all the mainstream romances that get made into Hollywood films are also problematic; you merge the two and you don't magically get something healthy and wholesome.

A kinky romance is exactly what FSoG is not. It's a conventional romance, where the smouldering billionaire's Tragic Flaw is that he gets off on tying women up and hitting them when they don't enjoy that. He's also a controlling, abusive stalker, but that's a genre convention, there are loads of controlling abusive stalker love interests in all kinds of romance, not just cheap books with hearts on the spine, but rom-coms, and romances targeted at male audiences too, lit-fic, the romance arc in a huge proportion of action films, adverts, everywhere. [personal profile] metaphortunate disapproves of Pervocracy's disapproval more than I do; I think Cliff has a really interesting insight when he points out that FSoG is a romance based on the premise of, what if one of those kinky perverted sadists had a romance with a ~normal human being~ instead of a submissive? And of course that's offensive to kinky people. But it's also an effective source of narrative tension.

Is it hot? Not to me, but what's that to do with the price of fish? Is it completely incomprehensible that it could be hot? No, of course not. I think [personal profile] metaphortunate is absolutely right that there's an awful lot of policing women's desires and fantasies going on here. And yes, it's all about protecting some other people over there, who might be confused between fantasy and what's actually desirable IRL, just like the thing of not wanting one's servants to read Lady Chatterley's lover, or people wringing their hands over girls finding Heathcliff dreamy instead of disturbing in Wuthering Heights. Same old same old. I did like Erica Moen's (very NSFW) comic which admits that FSoG has appeal even if it isn't Great Literature ™ or fully on board with sex-positive feminist thought.

I'm reminded of Clarisse Thorn's insight that a lot of scene BDSM is really only sexy if you're kind of geeky about these things. It's very possible that a reader who was submissive would find something to relate to and enjoy about Ana's experiences, even though Ana herself, well, maybe likes rough sex but really isn't into pain or power exchange. Lots of people would rather fantasize about actually being kidnapped and ravished than about carefully negotiating a pretend game of simulated non-consent. So yes, Christian Grey is pretty evil, but that's sort of the point.

Another thought I had sparked off [personal profile] metaphortunate's post is to do with what women have the right to expect in relationships. I think it's a Dilbert cartoon I'm thinking of, where one character poses the conundrum, would you rather have a well-paid but soul-destroying and meaningless job, or a poorly paid job with a great workplace culture that really valued your unique skills? And the poor cube monkeys are like, either of those sounds a lot better than this job, where can I sign up?! Maybe if a massive swathe of popular culture tells women that sex is all about women doing things they find disgusting and unpleasant so that they can "get" and "keep" a man who receives sexual pleasure from these degrading things, the alternative of a man who forces you to do disgusting and painful things but also gives you lots of intense orgasms and buys you expensive presents and adores you to the point of worship seems not so unappealing.

Leslie Bennetts' response piece is absolutely all over the place, quoting both Gail Dines and Esther Perel as if they somehow had a unified message, jumping from platitudes about the low quality of the writing to horrifying lists of all the sexual violence suffered by women and girls she knows. But I think there's the kernel of a point there, that we're only just now coming to the beginning of an era where women have the freedom to actually express what they do want sexually. And of course there's backlash against that, how would there not be?

I very much agree with [personal profile] metaphortunate that true equality includes high-budget glossy trash marketed at women. And when the first few glimmerings of that start to exist, there's no real value in spilling ink about how trashy and non-uplifting said trash is.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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