No I was not particularly curious about a book that was widely panned as terrible and lacking all literary value. No I am not interested in a movie that makes lurid a woman being used to realize the sado-masochist fantasies of someone rich and powerful. The billboards, and movie stills that seem to be everywhere you look with a fully dressed man looking aloof, and an at least partially unclothed woman in various states of bondage or submission do not strike me as wildly sexy, but then again I am ‘one of those women’ who think that there is something sexy about a mutuality of affection, passion, love and partnership. I know “blech” right? I mean who wants a mutually satisfying relationship when you can have some rich dude tie you up, ignore anything that might make you feel good (that’s the point of s and m I suppose) and have his way with you? I am sure that someone, somewhere is going to say that this victim gal in the fifty shades to do is actually a feminist. I say that’s bullshit, and if you even wrinkled your nose in any kind of mild distaste with all the controversy around domestic violence and the NFL this year, but you go see that movie then you are a hypocrite and you might as well start walking around punching women in the face.
While I myself do not go in for the whole bondage thing, let me be clear – I am not judging consensual sexual practices. If that’s your thing and you are choosing it, well terrific for you it is none of my business. What I am judging (and I know it is wrong to judge so maybe I’m just opining) is the use of sexual violence and misogyny as a stand-in for what sexy is, and women’s empowerment. We are being shown, our children are being shown (because it’s all over billboards everywhere you freakin’ turn) images of a young woman tied up, blindfolded, hands behind her back, etc. A woman made vulnerable and sexualized in her vulnerability and as I understand the story goes – she thinks this is just the best ever. It’s so empowering for her. It’s fun, it’s freeing and we should all watch the movie and see not only the prurient value of the raw sex but the strength that comes in living out these kinds of fantasies.
My fantasy does not involve watching a woman, or anyone for that matter be abused on a big screen. I didn’t like the Ray Rice video and I suspect I won’t like this film (which as an aside I have read a number of reviews that say it is pretty much as awful as the book, which by the way no one said we a good book – just kinky). “Oh no,” people will say, “in the movie she chooses this, with Ray Rice she was a victim.” Well that’s not what Mrs. Rice has said for herself and we have chosen to ignore her words, cast her as someone who has been physically and psychologically scarred and have condemned the NFL for promoting a culture of violence against women. In the movie/book is she not drawn in by the wealth and power, is she not psychologically manipulated by the strength of this man, and of course let’s not pretend for even one second that she is not physically harmed.
Domestic violence, violence against women, objectifying women and saying that they gain power by allowing themselves to be used sexually – this is the same old story for women as we start to make noise about wanting to be taken seriously, to have a seat in the boardroom, to have a voice that is heard. A woman’s power, so says the media, comes from her willingness to submit to a man. If you don’t like it in one video maybe think before you go buy a ticket for that other one.