So the first big movie event of the year is coming tomorrow, coincidentally in time for Valentine’s Day. For those 2 or 3 of you who have been living under a rock for the last few years, but inexplicably found your way to my blog, Fifty Shades of Grey is the first book of a trilogy written by E.L James, which was originally written as Twilight fanfiction.
Yes, that’s right. This erotic tour de force was moulded on what might be the worst written series of all time. Yikes. Its lineage is definitely not good. But I’m not going to talk about how good or bad the books are from a literary standpoint, because I haven’t read them. And even if I have, I’m sure I wouldn’t like them because I’m obviously not the target audience. (For what it’s worth, the passages I have read are cringeworthy bad). That’s not important.
What I’m referring to specifically is the chorus of people who are horrified by the prospect that women are getting off on this stuff, shocking in this day and age of the enlightened woman. Christian Grey is abusive! He’s a stalker! He’s controlling! And women are attracted to him?
Apparently, according to book sales, many of them are.
Now, Carey Purcell is absolutely correct in her takedown of Christian Grey as a person. He is an utterly indefensible scary asshole. What Purcell fails to realize however is
- Fifty Shades of Grey is pure fantasy
- What women (or anyone else for that matter) fantasize about may not necessarily be what they want in their real life.
And I think this is important to reiterate, because it’s our often confused understanding of what turns us on in our imaginations that is a source of a lot of our guilt and shame toward sex and fantasy and pleasure.
Let’s flip the script. Look at any porn movie made for men. (My experience is with straight porn, but from the few gay porn movies I’ve seen, it’s probably the same). Apart from how the starlet looks, what is the allure? The answer varies from person to person, but I suspect a lot of porn’s appeal comes from the fact that the woman’s libido is so torrential, that merely being in her presence makes her want to suck your dick. Normal courtship rules, getting you know you chit-chat, wooing, wining and dining are thrown out the window. She needs you. NOW. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never laid eyes on her before. And when you penetrate her, she is so hot for you she instantly orgasms and then begs you to come on her face.
This is obvious fantasy and it’s easy to see why it may be popular. But let’s be realistic. If a woman were that sexually aggressive in real life, many guys, despite what they would tell you in the locker room would probably be intimidated and back off. What we want in our porn starlet isn’t really what we want in our wife (especially if the next scene involved her banging the mailman and milkman in a threesome). And for the millions of bored middle-aged wives who lapped up 50 Shades, I suspect it’s the same.
We want the porn starlet to be so into us that she would simply drop to her knees at the sight of us. The women who read 50 Shades want their fantasy of Christian Grey to be so into them he would fly across the country or buy a whole company because he’s obsessed with the very idea of having them. The creepiness or outright absurdity of either scenario doesn’t enter into it, because the whole point is we’re trying to get off. In our sexual fantasy universe, the laws of physics don’t apply. They aren’t supposed to. That’s why it’s fantasy.
While I don’t think 50 Shades of Grey is good by any metric you measure it by, I think it’s more than a little condescending to tell women what turns them on erotically is dangerous and bad. It’s another round of ‘porn is bad because of unrealistic expectations’ argument peppered liberally with ‘women can’t make responsible use of their fantasies’. Please.
Judging by the very public infighting between author E.L James and 50 Shades movie director Sam Taylor-Johnson, I’m guessing the movie won’t be what the fans want it to be. For my money, on Valentine’s Day, I’ll probably be watching Godzilla or Killer Klowns from Outer Space and wishing there was a woman out there that would think cuddling under the blankets and watching either movie with a bowl of popcorn between us would be the height of romantic fantasy.
Hey, a nerd can dream.