By now you've heard of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy. You know, it's the trio of erotic books by E.L. James that has swept into suburbia and cities across the globe, and adored by many (not just suburban moms). I am a fan. In the spirit of full disclosure, I read all three books in less than 48 hours. All of my closest friends and many of my female relatives have, too.
Yesterday I appeared on The Today Show to talk about the BDSM love story. What should have been a segment on women's fantasies and why they are an essential part of our lives (similar to a piece I have written here before) segued into a larger (and more inappropriate) discussion on violence against women. Now I am not suggesting that it is inappropriate to talk about violence against women; I am stating that "Fifty Shades of Grey" and other types of non-vanilla erotica have nothing to do with violence against women. And I'm not the only one who feels that way. If you look at "Fifty Shades" fan pages or online book clubs, people are pissed. And they have the right to be. (Though the book did shoot up to #1 on Amazon afterwards, so "Fifty Shades" has secured its best-selling status.)
When you are on television, you get a short amount of time to answer some pretty big questions. It is absolutely impossible to do justice to a subject (especially a potentially controversial one) in four minutes, so I will use this forum instead. Now I don't find anything about "Fifty Shades of Grey" controversial, but if yesterday's media hype has got you questioning all of this, consider the following:
1. In our culture, it is politically incorrect for women to become aroused by something that makes us appear/seem/act submissive. However, we don't control how and if we turn on to something or someone. We may not desire to have fantasies about losing control, but many of us do. It doesn't make us bad women or bad people. It doesn't even say anything about our psyche or whether or not we want to "lose control" in our own lives. We may not have even known that we could turn on to a particular scene or experience until reading about it. And in the case of "Fifty Shades," if it got you hot and bothered, it got you hot and bothered. That's about it; there's no underlying psychological issue here. This is not about feminism or the demise of the women's movement, which is what I fear may have come up during the Today Show segment.
2. You cannot read three books and attempt to understand the BDSM and kink communities at large. This is one author's perspective, and it's fiction. BDSM is not as simple as "pleasure from pain," which is how it is often described. BDSM is about exploring different power dynamics, sensations, restraint and control. If you are part of that scene, it is highly negotiated and orchestrated; submissives have a great deal of power. And by the way, submissives are not always women. "Fifty Shades" is one story but not representative of an entire community. (I wonder how the television segment would have changed if we talked about the many women dominants or the many men who submit willingly and lovingly.) But quite honestly, I am not the expert on BDSM and kink. However, I certainly know enough to tell you that its portrayal in mass media (think "CSI" and "Law & Order") is inaccurate and dangerous, and in turn, keeps the real community fairly closeted because of all of our incorrect preconceived notions. ...
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