Here is the article I’m going to be talking about.
Did you know they are making a 50 Shades movie?
Probably, because everyone is talking about it. And as someone who could not get through the first chapter of the book, I’m going to say, that is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing because with the chatter about the books, people are also talking about the activities in the book – specifically BDSM. And with that talk, they are turning to experts.
No, not psychiatrists and health experts.
So far, I have enjoyed reading an article by a submissive and another by a professional Dominatrix. And before you wave that off as whatever, consider this. The former, not very long ago, would have been told to sit down and shut up by anyone not in the scene having to listen to her talk down about something they enjoy. After all, that’s what you do to submissives. Tell them to sit down and shut up. Because that’s the kink of every submissive.
The latter, if she worked in the states at least, would likely have at least one police officer a week attempting entrapment. That was actually very common with the Domme I worked for. Police officers would call, all undercover-like, to ask about what work was done and attempt to set up appointments. I learned to identify when a police officer was calling pretty quickly. The Dominatrix I worked for never engaged in illegal activity. Professional Dominatrix does not equal prostitute. And while there is nothing wrong with sexual activity as part of BDSM play, and vice versa, due to laws and other complications, sexual acts were not part of the sessions.
That main-stream publications are turning to people who not very long ago would have been marginalized, mocked, or entrapped is a good thing. And they are not merely making sensation-pieces about them. They are getting their opinions and views on something that has entered pop-culture. 50 Shades seems to have drawn out that need for commentary in ways that previous BDSM-related works have not done.
So it has that going for it.
By the way, that is pretty much all that 50 Shades has going for it.
But that’s not actually what got me wanting to write. The comments section stirred me, actually. Hopefully the Guardian won’t mind me quoting from the comments. A nom-de-plume – no really. Check it out – decided to share this thought:
It is interesting that many of the scenes in 50 Shades were not fully consensual.
In fact many of the most popular works of fiction amongst women display a lack of consent.
Internet discussion groups often allow us men an insight into what women really think when discussing issues with each other.
The good looking sexy rapist (eg Rhett Butler, Christian Grey or Damon Salvatore) tend to be defended by most female contributors when accused of being rapists.
I won’t quote 50 Shades here for obvious reasons but here is a quote from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind:
“He had humbled her, hurt her, used her brutally through a wild mad night and she had gloried in it.”
Are sexy bad boys above the rules stated by feminists?
Nom-nom does have a valid point in his post, which is what struck me about it. He’s aiming some of his comments in the wrong direction, but that’s okay. Now, I’m not going to try to suppose what his interpretation of internet discussions and women’s literary interests are, and how he acts on those interpretations. He could be MRA. Or he could be someone trying to point out a problem that he is seeing, something people are doing.
And those people are not men.
So when we discuss rape culture, we tend to focus on what men do and how men react and respond to things. Good reasons exist for that, the most prominent being that men are the favored group when it comes to male-female dynamics. We are just coming into something like equilibrium after centuries of patriarchy. When most sexual violence is committed by men on women, the focus is going to be on men.
I think another reason exists, however. When looking to women and rape culture, a very slippery slope exists between examining their roles and contributions and blaming women for being assaulted. So, I think that I’m just going to get one thing out of the way right now.
When it comes to sexual violence itself, the only person responsible for it is the perpetrator. This idea that women have to stop dressing a certain way, stop acting a certain way, or stop doing certain things in order to keep from being assaulted – that is flawed reasoning. Rapists, no matter how they commit their crime, look for opportunity. Do not think for a moment that a predator who seeks out drunk women would not seek out other opportunities if women stopped drinking. Men who would never rape don’t suddenly become rapists just because a girl gets drunk. They are predators and decide to target a specific subset of women.
So when I say something like the role of women in rape culture, I am not talking about the actions of a victim. I am talking about what women in society do and enjoy – conversations they have, media they absorb, etc. These things do not cause an individual action. Suzy did not get attacked at a club because Julie reads 50 Shades or thinks Rhet Butler is the hottest thing since sliced cheese.. Nor did Suzy get assaulted because she decided to read de Sade. The responsibility for the action lies with the person who committed it: the rapist.
We cannot talk about male privileged and sexual entitlement without examining how we as women feed into that. The comment I quote, it illustrates what we do very well. Women love 50 Shades. Here’s the citation. Here are the figures. Only 20% of people purchasing the book are male. Since the study was looking at pretty strict male/female dynamics and not researching gender-spectrum, it’s pretty safe to assume that the other 80% are female. This is a book that presents a weak female protagonist. The idea of consent in the book is questionable and extremely problematic – is consent under duress still consent? Nom-nom brings up Gone With the Wind and he is right. It is not much better.
Imagine being a young teenage girl watching Rhett Butler take Scarlet in his arms against her protests, kiss her, then as she is still protesting lay her down for what you know will be sex after. Then by the end of the movie, have Scarlet realize just how in love she is with Rhett Butler.
Is there any wonder why young women often have conflicting views about their own sexuality? In fact, think about any contentious romance story. What happens? Man meets woman. Man likes woman. Woman either dislikes man or does not want to admit interest in man. Things happen. Man and woman get to moment of kiss. Woman does something that in the real world would indicate that no kissing or sex should follow. This may include slaps. Man aggressively kisses woman. Woman acquiesces to the kiss.
This is not a healthy view of romance, yet as a society we eat it up: in movies marketed to women, viewed by women, and lauded by women. I will freely admit to being part of the problem in that. As I have become more sophisticated about my own sexuality, I’ve come to understand just how bad these images of romance can be, especially when they are so ingrained in the media we consume. We don’t examine them the way they should, so they become a trope. As a trope, they feed into the social atmosphere that feminist have dubbed “rape culture” by adding to the dialogue about male/female sexual relations.
Eventually, we get comments by Nom-nom.
It is why I don’t include these things in my erotica. I have women empowered by their sexuality. If consent is given up, it is very clear that it has been done willingly, by someone who understands the power they hand over. When lines of consent are crossed, I have my characters address it, and it is clearly unacceptable.
I may revisit this again, because Nom-nom begs an interesting question comparing GWtW to 50 Shades. But mostly, I wanted to talk about considering what we consume as women. Just because it is offered to us does not mean we have to accept it. And when we do accept it, that does not mean we have to accept it quietly, without discussion of what is taking place and an analysis of what is good and bad. We can, as women enjoy these things, but we have to make sure that the distinction is clear that what we are partaking in is a fantasy, and that the fantasy is a way for us to enjoy the things we’re told by society we’re not supposed to enjoy.
We can also demand better. We can demand romance that is more equalized, where female sexuality is not something to be dominated but explored and celebrated. We can also start demanding that society accept that we are sexual and sensual creatures. The ravishment fantasy exists because if you are a woman, sexual enjoyment is shameful. The fantasy allows a woman to get around the shame.
Reality is completely different and we need to make sure we make that very clear. So no Nom-nom, the rules, in this feminist’s mind, do not change for a sexy bad-boy.
But that’s why I write what I write.