Fifty Shades of Subjugation

I’ll admit it:  I’m more than pleased that the Fifty Shades of Grey movie was not a blockbuster, and neither was its recent DVD release.

Let’s forego the fact that, according to more accounts than mine, it was a sadly crafted piece of fiction. Beyond that, it perpetrates something worse on women. It is another stone around our necks, making us believe our own perfectly normal and even thrillingly exciting exploits are not up to snuff.

The concept here is that a woman is reluctantly, and only under the conditions of an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), drawn into a sadomasochistic relationship straight from virginhood by an uncommonly wealthy, good-looking CEO. I get the fantasy aspect. Here’s what I don’t love, however:

Is this an expression of romantic and sexual freedom, or is it instead an admission that, even in our most daring fantasies, we must imagine it only when forced into it by a man (literally via contract in this instance), therefore relinquishing responsibility for the entire exercise? 


As the marketplace readied itself for the DVD release, I noticed various magazine articles on trends in bondage, as if it were the new, cool thing. Can’t we so much as have sex with each other now without adhering to the latest trending directives in order for the experience to be valid?

I’ll reveal something here: I recall one semi-boyfriend (in his early twenties at the time) who, despite being one of the most personable guys I had ever met, refused to engage in sex with a woman unless she inflicted pain on him. This was not some steamy fetish. His mother was bedridden for years with a debilitating disease. His older teenage siblings expelled their anger by verbally abusing her. She died by the time he was 14. He points to this as cause for his need to be physically abused by women during sex, as some distorted form of retribution.

He refused to involve me in this, saying he felt intimidated (his word, not mine) by the fact that I shadeswas expecting a “normal” relationship—no matter how emotionally sympathetic I tried to appear.

Does everyone with a sadomasochistic flair develop it in response to mental trauma? Maybe not. I’m not a psychologist or a sex therapist. I’m just a girl. But Fifty Shades glamorizes what seemed to be a tortured aspect in the life of an otherwise very gracious and funny and even affectionate human being. This leads me to think maybe it’s not so glamorous. Maybe it doesn’t come from a good place. So plucking it out of someone’s imagination and into the context of the real world is another case of warping expectations well past the recognizable limits of what we can achieve in reality.

Like Photoshopping our sexual desires, it is another brush stroke toward tainting our every encounter, making our lives and bodies and practices and surroundings seem particularly banal and unworthy in comparison.

Live it up, people. You don’t need the cat o’ nine tails. Unless it’s really what you want.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *