Fifty Shades of Anti-Feminism

WEEK THIRTEEN

BOOKS REMAINING:  33

CURRENT BOOK:  Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Of course Fifty Shades is nowhere near great literature.  Except for the setting in the Pacific northwest with a humble heroine and charismatic hero, I really don’t see how it is “Twilight” fanfic.  I do see how it’s supposed to tie into women’s fantasies, but the story line just seems improbable.  I mean, wouldn’t a normal person who comes down with the flu just reschedule an interview or send the questions by e-mail or something if rescheduling is not possible, instead of sending her roommate to fill in?  Then when Christian Grey is introduced, despite that Ana expresses a sense of his charisma and that she feels an attraction, from the way he talks to her I just don’t see it.  He’s too aloof.  He’s not real.  She pegs him from the get-go as a control freak, which he doesn’t deny, and she doesn’t like it.  Hello red flag!  Not to mention that all of a sudden this big bad billionaire who’s better than everyone else and could have a supermodel or any other woman he wanted, is obsessed with this Plain Jane student?  This man of highly particular sexual tastes desires a woman with no sexual experience as his love slave?  (Okay, I can kind of see that he might get a thrill out of having a blank canvas to write on.  I’ll give it that.  But surely a lot of guys would take the easy way and hook up with a woman who knew what she was doing.)  A woman who is on the mature side to be lacking sexual experience, almost immediately yields her virginity to a man she just met after holding out into her 20’s?  And then jumps almost right into BDSM?  Yeah right.  Anyway, putting aside the alternative sexuality the book explores — and not even accurately — I guess that’s the whole point of the book, is that it’s a fantasy and it’s NOT real.  It’s about an everyday woman receiving attention (sexual and otherwise) from a rich and powerful man.

Once the eroticism gets going, it is titillating, but it doesn’t start on page one, and I found the buildup to be lacking.  Again, it was hard for me to understand what Christian and Ana see in each other before they jump into bed, considering that they are coming from such different places.  As far as the kinky stuff, much of the sex was more “plain vanilla” as Christian would say, and not that different from romance novels.  If I recall, there were only two scenes in his “playroom.”  He restrains her wrists and uses a few toys on her.  Woo-hoo.  There is plenty of erotica out there and some of it is better.

As the relationship develops, Ana makes many mistakes by thinking she can “save” a troubled man and by allowing her sexual desire to keep her from setting appropriate boundaries (or even ending the relationship!)  And Christian makes clear with Ana from the get-go that he doesn’t want a real relationship.  Despite this, they really love each other and Ana is different from the other women he has been with.  I guess that’s how it works when it’s a fantasy.

While I’m thinking about it, isn’t it ANTI-feminist to think that a woman’s ultimate fantasy is to be the sexual plaything of a powerful man?  Just saying.

I can somewhat understand this novel’s place on The List given it’s widespread — impact.  It did get people reading and talking about it.  Some of the sexuality depicted isn’t necessarily normal or healthy (even within BDSM relationships) but perhaps the novel did do something positive by getting women to take time out and touch base with their intimate selves.  Because that IS something that has been repressed by a patriarchal society wherein women traditionally needed to be careful about sexual activity outside of marriage to ensure that the father would take responsibility and provide for any offspring. And I did appreciate that it was a page-turner, unlike other books on The List that I could mention…

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