Thursday, 27 September 2012

50 shades of Grey... Sexy or cringy, liberating or demoralising?

Well, I suppose it seems fitting that I move from a young adult fiction to a VERY adult fan fiction of a young adult fiction series.

Now, I have tried to numerous times to write this blog, as let's be honest it's quite personal, so I am drinking several disgustingly strong margaritas and going for it!

I believe it is crucial for me to begin by discussing the inspiration of this novel, Twilight, which I have not read. Now I have read around twilight to have a good enough impression of it. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have strong objections to twilight, because it is telling a generation of young girls that this obsessive, controlling kind of love is ok, that 'real love' is tortuous and pained and intense-- NO, no it's not! However where 50 shades differ here is the target audience, adult women, who can differentiate between fiction and reality. Perhaps I will read Twilight (or Twishite as I fondly know it) as I do believe that it is wrong for me to be so disparaging of a book I have not read!

So let's begin! It is certainly clear that James wrote this series with a thesaurus at hand, or at least 'right click=> synonyms' as the vocabulary is often strange and disjointed, in addition there are certain words that she fixates on, ‘mercurial’, being a prime example. In addition there is an extended metaphor throughout of 'the inner goddess and subconscious' which truth be told is heavily tedious. So when reading 50 shades you really do have to except it for what it is, fan fiction; which, typical of it's genre is not particularly well written, actual it's pretty poor- but this adds to the hilarity of the series. I can’t deny I heavily enjoyed reading this series primarily because I found it really funny in a way that it was not intended to be!

The subject matter of the series has been pretty contentious, some argue that it is a novel of sexual liberation, others argue it is abusive. Truth be told I have not made up my mind. Now to claim that BDSM is wrong or abusive is a heavily reductive view of BDSM, however these novels don't necessarily show a representative view of BDSM, it is an extreme, but then it is fiction. The idea of someone who, until very recently, was a virgin and to launch them into such an extreme ‘whips and chains’ relationship is truth be told, ridiculous. The novels display a power struggle between Christian and Ana, it initially seems that Christian has all the power, but actually it really is Anastasia. Christian's love is absolute and he would do anything for her, so Christian too has to compromise, not just Ana, Ana changes him and heals him from his difficult and disturbing past, yet Ana does submit, she does end up in a relationship and does often allow him to control her. Ana is a very submissive character it seems, initially she is controlled by her roommate Kate and then by Christian, however it is all consensual and all on her own terms which in itself is pretty liberating.

Let’s get to the sex. Is it a turn on? In part yes it is! I can’t help but admit that—however as it progresses it becomes somewhat arduous and repetitive and I found myself skipping through the sex scenes. As someone who considers herself a feminist I still don’t think there is anything wrong with enjoying submission if that is what one enjoys- no one should feel ashamed by their own sexual desire, even if that is to be submissive, as long as it is confined to the bedroom! Is it realistic? NO, no man can have sex so many times in immediate succession, and no women do not orgasm on demand, however real sex, with awkward moments, awkward noises and often clumsy position change etc is, quite sadly, not really conducive to a bestselling novel, erotica is clean, sanitised and sans embarrassing moments and noises, but let’s be honest they are selling a fantasy, where a man can ejaculate 5 times a night and woman can orgasm on demand every single time she has sex.
Now the punishment, the very idea of a man punishing his woman when she does something that he deems unacceptable seems barbaric. Yet this is consensual and seemingly enjoyed by both parties so let’s not confuse a woman who enjoys being spanked with someone who is genuinely being subjected to systematic domestic abuse. The physical punishment within the series is actually and surprisingly pretty mild, it is generally only spanking, something that may feature in many non BDSM or ‘vanilla’ relationships so as a result it is very appealing to a vast amount of women who would perhaps be put off by a more instance form of BDSM, it only branches into the more extreme on maybe 2 occasions, both of which are addressed with seriousness and is deeply analysed.

Now, it must be said, I enjoyed this novel immensely not just because it is a turn on, but actually because it is hilarious, often for the wrong reasons, the appalling writing, and tenuous metaphors and hysterically funny euphemisms for ones genitals. Perhaps my favourite quote is ‘you should see what I can do with a whip or a cat’ I hope she means a cat-o- nine tails. But who could know?!
I did thoroughly enjoy the story, which is a very old one, it truly is Pamela, or Jane Eyre with whips and chains, in every sense of the story. It follows a young virtuous woman who falls for an older, more worldly and salacious man. Like Pamela, Ana signs a contract agreeing to so things according to her ‘masters’ wishes, yet much more like Jane, Ana in fact demands things on her own terms and by the conclusion is actually the master and the person who holds all the power.