To start things off, Happy Galentine’s Day. What’s that, you say, you’re not familiar with the term? Well, I’m sure Pawnee’s very own Leslie Knope could, as Gordon says, “break it down for you”:
That was a lot less specific than I had hoped, but the point of that was to a) reference a sitcom, the last season of which you should all be watching right now, b) bring attention to a day that is for “celebrating special lady friends”, and c) start things off on a lighter note before I have to tackle what has been all over all of your social media feeds for the past two weeks now.
Now what I don’t want to do, and this may surprise you, is talk about how this is a novel which glorifies an abusive sexual relationship. Honestly, if you haven’t tuned into that by now that would legitimately surprise me. Just searching for the above gif I noticed that tumblr had suggested another tag when searching for 50 Shades. At this point I want to say that the focal point of both the novel and film is known across the board to be some fairly messed up stuff.
Here’s another thing I hope we’ve all realized by now: 50 Shades of Grey is pornography. Hopefully a moot point by now given that Saturday Night Live riffed on this two years ago [for any Americans or tech savvy non-Americans who want better quality, it’s also on Hulu]:
It’s the same thing that one of my favourite bloggers, Neil Sharpson AKA Unshaved Mouse, spells out very clearly in his post, cleverly titled “The Fault in Our Shades”. I should also mention, before I frame him and his opinions within the context of this novel and film, that he has reviewed every movie in the Disney animated canon in an entertaining and educational fashion and you should go read said reviews. Carrying on, Sharpson takes umbrage with how this work is defined on Wikipedia [and, I suppose, in many other places]:
He reiterates a story told to him by a friend who hid the fact that she read the novel from her husband because, and I quote, he’d be “furious”. It’s this, Sharpson states, that is the real problem here-
“Because women should just be able to enjoy some guilt-free porn without hiding it from their husbands, or having to justify it either to themselves or to society. The fact is that the only way we allow women to enjoy this book is if we disguise it as something it has absolutely no business being. This should not be treated as a romance novel. It should not be read, marketed, consumed or interpreted as any kind of reflection on love or how men and women should treat each other.
The fact that so many women get off on this book is neither sick nor twisted.
The fact that the only way they feel they can do it is to pretend that Deep Throat is Pride and Prejudice is what’s truly perverse.”
Which I agree with, to a point. It’s calling a spade a shovel, consciously
categorizing this work in a way that is more palatable to the public. To further the illustration he makes in his concluding sentence no one anywhere would ever take, say, Threesome Fantasies Fulfilled and package it as a guide to successful human resource management. There’s a clear double standard here,
At the same time I don’t think, to quote a Howard Porter musical number I had to sing in choir back in high school, that just “anything goes.”
The last time I wrote about pornography in any thorough capacity focused on adult film star Danny Wylde engaging in yellowface to portray Asian character Glenn in a porn parody of The Walking Dead. I used that as a springboard to discuss the overt racism found in the industry, one that’s made extremely apparent in a slew of porn titles I quoted someone listing [and that I don’t feel like retyping or rereading, check out the other post if you really want to know what they are]. My concluding paragraph began with the sentence: “Regardless of the setting, racism and racial stereotypes should never get a “free pass.”
That doesn’t even begin to touch on the sheer amount of pornography that emphasizes the degradation of human beings for the titillation of others. 50 Shades of Grey very clumsily attempts to paint a picture of a relationship, and I use that term loosely, between its two central characters. It has absolutely nothing on straight-up rape porn which is in most cases explicitly non-consensual.
To return to Sharpson’s assertion that women [insert: people] “should just be able to enjoy some guilt-free porn without [. . .] having to justify it either to themselves or to society,” I must respectfully disagree. If what you get off to is people who are being hurt or cheapened or forced against their own will then at the very, very, very least you need to justify it to yourself. I’m not going so far as to say you can’t view such things if you choose to, but your enjoyment of it should absolutely come into question.