Well, I wrote the article below back in 2015 and just found it sitting in my drafts. I since watched the movie and skimmed the book. I had no particular issues with either. The movie certainly wasn't more graphic or 'out there' than any number of other shows or movies I've seen.
My thoughts still stand today.. perhaps even more so in the age of 'toxic masculinity'. Some of us do look for masculine, 'take charge' men. It doesn't make us less than. In fact perhaps it makes us 'more than' in some ways.. that we can allow a protective embrace and trust the care provided to us while knowing we are also perfectly capable of caring and providing for ourselves.
The original article:
It seems that everyone is talking about 50 Shades of Grey... just like they seemed to be when the book came out. It seemed curious to me then, as it does now, that there is so much hype about it, and that it is so polarising. I haven't read the book, or seen the movie. The reason I haven't read the book is because I'd heard how poorly written it was, and whilst I love to read, I cannot push myself through material that irritates in its poor quality or lack of depth.
I have noted the concerns amongst many of my colleagues and friends about the nature of the relationship between the two main characters in the story and the comparisons made to domestic violence and abuse. I've also noted numerous comments about the depravity, sinfulness, sickness or 'disgustingness' (yes, I made that up).. of people who would participate in sexual acts involving bondage or sadomasochism.
As a health professional and a counsellor I have seen all kinds of relationships over decades and that includes the whole spectrum of sexual diversity and practices. I have seen women clinging to men who erode their confidence and self esteem to the point that they believe they deserve to be treated poorly and abused. I have seen women in lesbian relationships who face similar couple problems to those facing heterosexual couples. I have seen couples or individuals who are negotiating the inclusion of a third person in their relationship, whether the husband or wife is having an affair they refuse to give up, or one that the other partner consented to. As a professional, I seek to ensure the physical and emotional safety of my clients and if that means they will be safer to leave a relationship I will help facilitate this pathway. I do not however assume that just because someone chooses a lifestyle different from my own, that they are emotionally damaged or would be better off converted to something else.
I have also seen men and women who choose to live in relationships of power exchange whereby a woman makes a willing, informed choice to hand over control of certain aspects, or even all aspects of their relationship, including sexual practises, to a man. In fact, I have friends who live in these relationships, and about whom I have no concerns at all. They are emotionally healthy, happy women, some of whom are stay at home mums, others are professional women with high responsibility careers. When 50 Shades came out, most weren't that interested in the book, but there was some discussion about the significant popularity of the storyline and how it must be speaking to the needs of women in some way.
This article articulates well the taboo nature of talking about the truth rather than the politically correct nature of people's interior needs stating:
"I want to say this before the days when such statements are branded hate-speech worthy of re-education camp but a hell of a lot of women would, if forced to choose, prefer to be in a loving committed relationship with a dude than get successively better office jobs on the way to the corner office."
It also speaks to some of the discussion I saw amongst women who choose a submissive lifestyle:
"Some people want to control everybody and some people want to serve and submit".
"Couldn’t it be that women who like the horribly written, emotionally stunted ‘Fifty Shades’ are throwing up their hands and admitting they wish men would just take charge again? They’re just as sick of the confusing labyrinth of dating rules and sexual manipulation as men are. They want to be lost in a relationship, completely submitting to a man who is dangerous enough to need rescue but loving enough to notice what makes them beautiful."
I want to be clear again, that I have not seen the movie or read the book. My commentary is not about the content of either. I have seen comments from people in the lifestyle that the relationship between the characters is abusive. I have also asked women I know who live a submissive lifestyle, one of whom said,
"I get how the public sees it, because they would probably see my extraordinarily happy marriage in the same way... especially the first year when my heart and soul craved what I now have, but my ego and my brain that told me women had to be strong and independent, battled against it at every turn. The hype about the movie kind of makes it harder to talk about how I choose to live.. who wants to admit they crave to be controlled, or be tied, or to give up responsiblity in exchange for the enormous love and care and devotion I get in return, when people are out there calling it sick?"
I agree. In every area of my work, I see people suffering more in the silence and shame of feeling they are alone, or the only ones with their experiences because a vocal few keep them silent. 'Normal' has become such a narrow road to walk that women everywhere are remaining silent about their own fears, needs, wants, desires. Perhaps the movie does depict elements of abuse, in which case let's talk about how that is not okay. EVER. But let's tread carefully lest we also denigrate, condemn and further marginalise people who do make a choice looks different from our own, yet is consensual, happy and healthy for them.
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