Photo credit: Paramount Pictures
By now unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must surely have heard of 50 Shades of Grey – the book, the movie and what it’s all about. From the time it hit best-selling lists as a rags to riches story (Twilight fanfic to best-selling book) a couple of years back to the movie release on Valentine’s Day, it’s been a phenomenon boosting Kindle sales (who wanted to be caught reading a copy of 50 Shades then?), interest in BDSM and hot debates over whether it’s been good for society in general.
Why the hype? Because, as the age-old adage goes: sex sells. And in this case, BDSM with romance definitely sells. Most people seem to condemn 50 Shades as little more than a book/movie filled with sex. Increasingly, others have been stepping forward to condemn it based on its inaccurate and unhealthy portrayal of BDSM.
My contention is that there is nothing wrong with 50 Shades, as long as we acknowledge and are aware of what it really is – a fantasy. Society has long accepted vices as a part of human nature that we cannot completely eradicate – smoking, prostitution, drugs etc. Whilst we understand its existence, a number of those still remain socially unacceptable to participate in. But that is another story for another day. So why can’t we simply see 50 Shades as just another to add to the list?
Understand that I am not saying BDSM or an interest in sex is a vice. What I am saying is that 50 Shades is a book with inaccurate portrayal of the above that if taken seriously, can actually be unhealthy. To support my point, I will invite you to consider the fact that Christian Grey’s need to be a dominant & interest in BDSM to be stemming from his abusive childhood, indicating that only people of such a background will end up being involved in BDSM. Further, Christian persistently goes against Anastasia’s wishes in removing her car & breaking into her house etc. We tend to miss out on that point because we see things from Anastasia’s point of view and we know that she wanted him around but on the flipside, Christian could not have known that and therefore he did all those things without her consent. Despite there superficially being an element of consent with their contractual agreement/hard limits/safe words etc, delving deeper into the details show that their relationship doesn’t actually seem to be consensual. And from what I understand, the basis of BDSM is consent. Taking her car away might not be part of their BDSM relationship but it inevitably becomes part of their relationship because of the way EL James has linked everything together.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to read 50 Shades or watching the movie, but in the manner that we understand that life does not have fairytale endings, I think the truth of 50 Shades is that it does not happen in real life. And if it does, it is not healthy. At most, it should be a fantasy to be indulged in, & not a story to be modelled after.