'50 Shades of Grey'
Okay, now that I’ve started off with that line, I’ll give you a moment to either stop fan-flailing or to (more likely) stop seething. Yes, a huge number of people absolutely loathe 50 Shades, its author E.L. James, its nubile heroine Ana, and, especially, its ‘alpha male’ hero Christian. Next to Twilight (whose fanfiction it started out as), 50 Shades of Grey is probably the most widely hated book series published to date.
Everybody, it seems, has an opinion, and a lot of the negative ones are entirely correct. Yep, Ana is laughably and unrealistically inexperienced for a college student, a character with the relative depth of a cookie tray, and equipped with a beyond-irritating Inner Goddess. On Christian’s side, he’s a textbook abuser who’s somehow managed to combine a heartstrings-tuggingly miserable upbringing of near-constant abuse with a glowing present of utter wealth, luxury, and a delightful Hallmark family. But he is, of course, not happy. He hurts because he’s hurting, and the only cure is sexual healing. Seems legit. (No. No it does not). Hanging over everything is the nagging specter of the author having a terribly limited knowledge of BDSM, a trait that drives the majority of kinky sex lovers absolutely nuts upon reading.
There are a few things to moan about while reading 50 Shades, is what I'm saying.
And, biggest of all, there’s the very valid complaint that the books glorify an abusive relationship ---- which, of course, they do. Christian repeatedly commits sexual assault (from his perspective, remembering that he can’t hear Ana’s inner monologue and her actual words say ‘no’), and Ana, though she’s often terrified by and once tries to leave him, feels herself dragged back in by his wealth, charm, and dedication to stalking her. Not the world’s healthiest relationship.
Yes, 'stable' is not a word anyone would use to describe Ana and Christian's romance.
Now, if you’re a fan of the books, you’re probably getting a little ticked off right now. Don’t worry. I’m actually on your side here. Sure, all of the above is true . . . but, you know what? It shouldn’t matter, as long as 50 Shades lovers don’t start trying to seduce their own icy-hot businessmen or absurdly-innocent college students. It’s a fantasy, and, just like we shouldn’t go policing peoples’ private mental fantasies (no matter how weird they get), 50 Shades of Grey haters should just let this one go.
If folks don’t go bringing it into reality (and seriously, don’t do it, consult actual BDSM practitioners before breaking out the chains and floggers), other people shouldn’t be devoting quite so much time to criticizing exactly what gets the former group’s rocks off. Maybe it’s tales of kilted Scottish werewolves. Maybe it’s bawdy stories from Victorian brothels. Forceful cowboys. Wicked fairies. Amorous cyborgs. Implausibly-gentle velociraptors. The Pogo Stick Dildo or Mike’s Spikes. Tentacles. Or, in this case, rich-and-charming-yet-sexually-violent businessmen and too-innocent-to-live college students.
Could also be a tie fetish. Hey, we don't judge.
Whatever tickles your pickle (whether literal or figurative), the rest of us ought to refrain from judging. We’re probably into just as weird stuff behind closed doors, and how does that old saying go? People who secretly read alternate-universe Pride and Prejudice steampunk vampire fanfiction should avoid casting a stone in the direction of those who get all tingly from spanking scenes in 50 Shades of Grey? Definitely something like that.
Maybe you’re even one of the criticisers who acknowledge the serious issues in 50 Shades ---- but still get turned on by the steamier sections. That’s all right. If there’s one place where you should be able to really let go of critical analysis, that place is the realm of sexual fantasy. Heck, sometimes knowing that what you’re fantasizing about isn’t entirely kosher adds an extra layer of forbidden excitement. You might be perfectly aware that Christian’s something of a sexual predator, but also find that not a little hot . . . within the safe confines of erotic literature. If it’s pure fantasy, indulging in something you’d never experience in real life (and maybe never want to experience in real life) is more or less the name of the game.
Maybe reality doesn't always have to be considered.
So if you’re a fan of 50 Shades of Grey, let me be the first to say that your love of the series is A-okay. Yes, it’s not realistic, it’s not a great relationship model, and it’s not terribly well-researched ----- but that’s perfectly fine. It’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a fictional series that turns its readers on, and I think that most of us can agree it’s succeeded on that front. As long as nobody goes out trying to turn 50 Shades into reality, its opponents could stand to chill a little. Fiction is fiction and fantasy is fantasy, and they’ve absolutely got their place in the sexual realm.
If you happen to be stimulated by the questionable antics of Ana and Christian . . . read on, my friend, read on, and keep in mind that more than a few of the critics are probably harboring a love of something stranger.
And you know what? Their weird-ass fantasies are just as acceptable.