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50 Shades of Sexist Crap
The time has come for me to write about erotic fiction, thanks to the (I’m writing this trying not to pull my hair out) international bestselling erotic fiction novel, 50…Shades…Of…Grey. There, I did it. I can move on now… I think.
To clarify, I am not referring to the 5SOG debacle as a revolution. It is far from it. I have not read the novel as a whole, but I have been subjected to various excerpts from it by friends, family, articles, blogs, reviews and even YouTube videos, and, from what I have gathered, the novel, on the whole, has halted what little progress of feminism there has been in recent years. The romance novel has long been an enemy of the feminist, as it focuses mainly upon passive female protagonists dressed in lace and bows with the sum total personality of a garden salad, who usually orgasm during a first kiss which usually involves the male’s lips exerting an electrical current. And 5SOG seems to be no different, except the kisses and the dancing have been replaced by f—ing. Oh, and sexual blackmail and BDSM. (This became apparent in the opening sentence of the novel, where James uses insultingly bad foreshadowing involving Steele trying to comb her hair ‘into submission’ because it simply will ‘not behave.’ It’s embarrassing to read.)
When I first discovered that the sexual relationship between Mr Grey and Ana Steele revolves around some weird sexual contract that requires Steele to be subjected to BDSM, my eyebrows furrowed and I hmmmm’d. An international bestselling (and badly written) novel based upon sexual subjection and humiliation? Surely not. But it is. I’ve read articles in magazines where various celebrities (including Kerry Katona) claim to want to marry My Grey, and say they simply yearn for a man like him. What?! Have any of these women, and men, ever experienced true sexual humiliation and blackmail? Have any of these women been raped? Has Kerry Katona ever been trafficked? I highly doubt it. And the women who have experienced genuine horrors such as sexual blackmail and rape will certainly find this book, and others of the same ilk, an insult and a disgusting glamourisation of crimes against women.
Novels like 50 Shades Of Grey are hindering the progress, if any, to feminism and the fight against crimes against women because they are conforming to (perhaps exaggerated, but there nonetheless) stereotypes set out by romantic fiction. Stereotypes that dictate women are prudish, stereotypes that dictate women are to be wooed and not to woo, stereotypes that dictate men must be wealthy and powerful in order to be attractive to women, and stereotypes that dictate women must be passive lovers.
The only possible benefit of this travesty of a book becoming an international bestseller is that it reminds the patriarchy that women actually have a sexual appetite. We are not simply objects for men to masturbate into, we women enjoy and want sex. I have also noticed some celebrity gossip magazines have started erotic fiction columns. Whether they are worth reading or not remains a mystery, but if they are anything like 5SOG I’ll remain a safe distance away. It is, however, evidence that the female sexual appetite sells. But is it worth reminding the patriarchy of this with a novel that conforms to and exaggerates negative stereotyping? Will novels like 5SOG work against women by sending the impression that women apparently enjoy being sexually blackmailed, and are only impressed by rich entrepreneurs? No to the first, yes to the second. Unequivocally. You would have to have one hell of an argument to persuade me otherwise.
What women could really do with is an international bestselling erotic novel where the female protagonist is intelligent and independent – far from being some dull, insipid, passive lover, but an avid, passionate lover who can take charge, and is not somehow aroused by the amount of money in her lover’s bank account. Perhaps Jeanette Winterson could deploy her talent for passionate and imaginative prose to write an erotic novel that will be praised by feminists? Perhaps E.L. James could use her success and develop a novel based around a feminist role model instead of a banal idiot?
5SOG has simply strengthened the need for a feminist revolt, whether it is within the pages of erotic fiction or not.Tweet Share0
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