QotD: “Why are Women Devouring Fifty Shades of Grey?”

While much of the sex in Fifty Shades is as cruel and sadistic as in mainstream porn, it is expertly packaged for women who want a “fairy tale” ending. In male-targeted porn, the woman is interesting only for as long as the sex lasts. Once done with her, the man is onto the next, and the next, and the next. … She is disposable, interchangeable, and easily replaced. No happy ending here for women.

In Fifty Shades, however, the naïve, immature, bland Anastasia is, for some unfathomable reason, the most compelling woman our rich, sadistic, narcissistic hero has ever met, and he not only kisses her during sex (something you rarely see in Internet hardcore porn) but he doesn’t move on to the next conquest once he has had his wicked way with her. In fact, he actually marries her and confesses undying love. As one of the female fans I interviewed said, this is like Pretty Woman all over again.

Indeed, Fifty Shades is about as realistic as Pretty Woman. How many prostitutes do you know who end up living in marital bliss with a former john? I would guess about the same number of women who live happily ever after with a man who dictates, in a written contract, what to eat and wear, and when to exercise, wax, and sleep. In my work, I meet many women who started out like our heroine, only to end up, a few years later, not in luxury homes, but running for their lives to a battered women’s shelter with a couple of equally terrified kids in tow. No happy ending here, either.

In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Mr. Grey is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.

And yet women of all ages are swooning over this guy and misreading his obsessive, cruel behavior as evidence of love and romance. Part of the reason for this is that his wealth acts as a kind of up-market cleansing cream for his abuse, and his pathological attachment to Anastasia is reframed as devotion, since he showers luxury items on her. This is a very retrograde and dangerous world for our daughters to buy into, and speaks to the appalling lack of any public consciousness as to the reality of violence against women.

Fifty Shades also reveals just how pornographic our culture has become over the last decade or so. While the old Harlequin romance novels had narcissistic heroes who toyed, sexually and psychologically, with their much younger prey, however remote and emotionally challenged he was, the hero did not have a torture chamber tucked away in his basement. Fifty Shades of Grey is Harlequin on steroids, a kind of romance novel for the porn age in which overt sexual sadism masquerades as adoration and love. New as this is, the ending remains depressingly the same for real women who end up falling for the Mr. Greys of the world.

Gail Dines in Counterpunch (from 2012, but as relevant as ever given the movie being released on Valentines Day).

(Found via The Bewilderness)


4 responses

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this. I am disgusted at what I have heard about this harrowing film, and I am no prude, believe me! This film glamourizes domestic violence-and thats the truth. I’m not into s&m (anymore), but from what I understand, the scenes are all consensual, and are discussed before the s&m session actually takes place. (Of course when people’s limits are pushed, not respected, and disregarded, literally anything goes, if your handcuffed to a bed and cannot move!). This film is bullshit because it shows that material gifts are more important than a woman’s well being. Sure, shower her with gifts, keep her in a beautiful home, give her anything she wants materialistically, then its okay for some man to sexually abuse and exploit her. Think about the trade off here. Is it really worth it in the end? I have known girls who have had “sugar daddies,” only to end up in a domestic violence shelter in the end, just like you said. What a farce that lifestyle is. All the woman ends up in the end with is emotional scars, ptsd, and who knows what else. The best thing for us women to do is to be independent, and get OUR OWN things in life, and don’t depend on a man to “provide” for us. Most likely, in the end, he will PROVIDE his victim with a broken nose, black eyes, and a broken spirit as well..

  2. Reblogged this on The Brain Science Critic and commented:
    What’so up with this 50 Shades of Grey crap? (Not to mention the repellent but also incompetently written Outlander.) I think this post hits the nail on the depressing head.

  3. Yep. Pornography is normalized. And large numbers of women love Prince Charming stories. It just boggles my brain that they are reading scenes of torture and not seeing it/pretending it’s not there. How callous are these people in the rest of their lives?
    Excellent, useful post.

  4. Jennie,

    Please read through the Anti-BDSM tag, you will find a lot of evidence for ‘safe, sane and consensual’ being a white-wash for abuse.

    Conn Suits,

    Women are fed this stuff from birth, FSoG follows on directly from Beauty and the Beast.

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