WARNING: This post discusses sexually explicit topics.
If you’re hoping to learn something about my sex life you’re going to be disappointed by this post. All that you’re going to find out is that I do not enjoy BDSM.
What’s BDSM? Well… it’s today’s topic as it relates to Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James.
BDSM stands for a combination of Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism.
Not something I would usually discuss on here, or really anywhere else. But Fifty Shades has become such a runaway cultural and literary phenomena that I felt compelled to discuss it.
After several people asked me if I had read the first novel in the series (since apparently I have a reputation for reading everything), I bowed to the pressure and bought a copy. Prior to purchase I had read several articles about the novel, all relating to its origins as fan fiction for the Twilight series. I read articles about copyright conundrums, intellectual property, the emerging power of e-readers, female influence in popular fiction, etc.
Not once did I read about the sadistic sexual tenor of the book! NOT ONCE!
Perhaps I should have managed my expectations better before reading the book. I expected it to be an erotic novel, as Fifty Shades has been widely labeled as “mommy porn” by the media (which I take issue with, but more on that later). I was hoping it might have some kind of vampire sex scenes similar to True Blood since it was originally inspired by Twilight. Also given the romantic emotional overtures of the Bella-Edward relationship in Twilight I may have expected sex to be on the more romantic side.
I literally couldn’t have been more surprised than if I’d had no idea that this was an erotic novel at all! This is what happens when you go into something with very specific expectations. I honestly should have known better. (It reminded me of when I’d mistakenly gotten it into my head that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a young adult novel only to be shocked to my core by a very graphic sexual assault. I suppose sometimes I’m just dense? Because I have no idea how I got that in my head!)
Here’s the gist of the novel: Young, intelligent, virginal Ana meets successful, controlling business man Christian Grey. The two have some kind of instant connection. Ana agrees to see Christian and he introduces her to a BDSM sexual relationship. Prior to meeting Christian Ana has never had sex and been kissed only twice. Christian, on the other hand, has engaged in a contractual long-term BDSM relationship with 15 other women (and scores more on a short-term basis). Ana finds the sex both thrilling and frightening, as she does her deep emotional bond to this enigmatic man.
I’ll stop there. I don’t want to give too much away if you plan on reading the novel.
Here’s what I take issue with:
I find it incredibly surprising that BDSM is a fantasy of so many women that this can be called “mommy porn.” Prior to reading the novel I was thrilled about the idea of reading some passionate sexual experiences (yes, women, even moms like sex). Yet, once I began to read, my excitement quickly became distaste. I can honestly say I felt disturbed by some of the sex scenes!
Here is this girl who is supposed to be a virgin becoming excited and sexually satisfied by a sexual encounter that literally reminded me of a rape scene. The second time Ana and Christian engage in sex he completely immbolizes her. I’m not certain, but I believe a woman who was a virgin just an hour before might be terrified by this!
I understand that there is a certain pleasure to be gained by putting your sexual satisfaction completely into the hands of your partner, as well as trusting your partner to do what is best for you. Again, though, we are discussing a fictional woman who had never had sex of any kind prior to that night, with a partner she had known for a matter of days.
This rang untrue for me.
Obviously I’m dealing with my own tastes, issues, and preferences while reading this book. Since sex is such a primal instinct for humans it is only right that everyone have their own tastes, as they would in eating or socializing. I’m not going to condemn anyone for engaging in a BDSM lifestyle, nor would I condemn anyone from abstaining from anything painful during sex. To each their own.
In that vein I have to say that this book is not for me. As the novel progressed the two protagonists negotiated what BDSM Ana would and would not engage in, how much she would agree to be the submissive, etc. The often engaged in sex without weaponry, restraints, etc., but each incident had an overture of control and dominance by Christian that I still felt it to fall well outside the “normal” range of passionate, rough sex (if there is such a thing as “normal”).
The other recurrent theme I had trouble with was Christian’s stalker tendencies. I’m not joking here, Ana literally calls Christian a “stalker” at several points in the novel. Yet each time she says this I get the distinct impression she is either teasing him or finds this behavior somehow charming.
A man who would illegally trace your cell phone, research your address, the names of your parents (and their addresses), and surreptitiously fly several thousand miles to check up on you is not a romantic! This is dangerous, deeply disturbing behavior! Stalking is not a quirky or winning trait! I truly can’t wrap my brain around enjoying these actions in your sexual partner. I mean really? REALLY???
When all was said and done, the controlling nature of the protagonist, the BDSM, the stalking, the bizarre insecurities of the heroine, etc. all conspired to make this book virtually unreadable for me. I powered through the last 100 pages just so I could be forever done with this novel. I have no desire to read the rest of the trilogy. I will not be recommending this book to any friend (or enemy for that matter). And anyone who describes this book as “mommy porn” to me is going to get a tongue lashing, and not the good kind.
But that’s just my two cents…