Fifty Shades of Subjugation, You Mean

 

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.

 

 

Gina, Lost

Noting an utterly regrettable fact:  Sometimes people who are very open-hearted and kind and nurturing of their fellow human beings have a tendency to attract the wrong people,

people in need of psychological rescue, people who are compelled to take advantage and drag those very nurturing souls into frightening places. Maybe it is cruel of me to contemplate, but I wonder if this is what happened to my classmate Gina, who was murdered this week by an ex-boyfriend, who then killed himself.  Sun Sentinel article.

There was a moment not too long ago I watched Gina stick her neck out for someone on Facebook and invite that person (not the man who killed her, BTW), who wanted to start a new life, to move into her house. I felt guilty because I wondered if I could ever be that gracious.

Longwood High School 20th Reunion: L-R  Jennifer, Lori, Gina, Theresa, Loriann, Suzanne

Longwood High School 20th Reunion: L-R Jennifer, Lori, Gina, Theresa, Loriann, Suzanne

I hate to think that her willingness to support others in need might have led to the relationship that resulted in this deplorable ending, especially when she tended to post uplifting, positive-thinking platitudes, many of which raised my spirits. I also hate to co-op someone else’s personal catastrophe, as I have plenty of other friends who were closer to her than I was.  But I see glints of a genuine, ironic tragedy here and I feel obligated to acknowledge it.

This is not the first woman I knew who has been violently killed by a boyfriend in the past five years, which is an absolutely stunning statistic. The other was a psych ward nurse who later started dating a patient she had cared for…a nurturer sucked in by someone perilously unwell.

I don’t know what the lesson is here. I am stumped. I don’t know how to counsel my children. Or how to console myself, demanding to know from the universe whether it could have been avoided … if only people weren’t so giving of themselves.  How can we come to that conclusion and go on with life?

I am perplexed and without an answer.  I am confident I’ll never be murdered by an ex-boyfriend because I’m far too self-absorbed and cynical. Sarcastically, I think, yeahyay me.  Meanwhile:

The last cover image on Gina’s page reads, “Never Stop Believing in Hope, Because Miracles Happen Every Day.”

Gina’s daughter has asked that her friends share a phone number and a link to the National Domestic Abuse hotline, 1-800-799-7233, so I’m doing so.  It’s little consolation to know that she and my other friend are now in safe harbor. It’s the rest of us who are left to wonder what to make of the world.

Feel free to share in memory of Gina Stansbury Whitfield and Denise Merhi.  Or see the “Comment” button above.