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Fifty Shades of Grey: Spicing up the Sex Lives of Readers Everywhere with “Kinky Fuckery.”

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February 22, 2013

Over the last two weeks, I began to read the highly publicized novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, and it really gave me a lot I wanted to discuss. I know many feminists everywhere were having a field day discussing the book and all the ways that it’s problematic , but all I could think about when I finished reading Fifty Shades was how freely sex is discussed in such detail;  it’s so much more than “the sum of the structural, functional, and behavioral characteristics of organisms that are involved in reproduction marked by the union of gametes and that distinguish males and females,” or “sexually motivated phenomena or behavior,” as defined in the Webster’s Dictionary. Kink is a vast world that operates in society, but it has remained taboo to discuss this world of different types of alternative sex and sexual experiences; using props and devices and things not directly related for sex and sexual play to engage in intense encounters. So instead of critiquing Fifty Shades, I want to focus my energy on how the novel promotes alternative sexual experiences and opens up the public to have a platform for speaking about eroticism and the world of Bondage Discipline/ Dominance, submission/sadism, and masochism (BDSM).

As I dove into the first few chapters, I didn’t see what the hype was about. To me Fifty Shades read like any other mediocre Harlequin Romance novel, but once I got into the meat of the novel, that is, the “kinky fuckery,” I could definitely see why this book had become such an overnight sensation. The amount of sex throughout the book is only rivaled by Anastasia Steele’s own deeply emotional and conflicted descriptions of each new sexual experience as she discovers her identity as a submissive. Whips, floggers, handcuffs, heightened sensitivity; as I read I could feel the intensity. For many, the book served as an introduction to BDSM, not only giving the readers a look into this alternative lifestyle and type of intimacy, but actually enabling readers to place themselves, either literally or imaginatively, into “the scene.” (Members of the kink community refer to their active participation as being in “the scene.”) Much of the sex in the book is just “vanilla,” that is, it doesn’t even involve restraints, or pain, or any other aspects of kink. But it’s the passion, freedom, and sexual liberation displayed throughout the book that plays into the readers curiosity and day dreams, making Ana Steele and Christian Grey household names.

By page seven of the book I met the ridiculously rich Christian Grey and from then on I was launched into the intense sexual escapades of its main characters at least every 10 pages. Each chapter provides something new in terms of sexual play. It gives the reader the ability to imagine themselves as Ana Steele, that’s why it has so many people captivated. It also makes the readers really take a look at their sexual desires, opening up windows for sexual exploration, acknowledgement of hard and soft limits, and ceasing to oppress desires that are otherwise stigmatized in our society.
It isn’t a coincidence that Fifty Shades became such a success among married moms and older women first. I believe this phenomenon is because people relish in the ability to day dream, talk about, read about, and fantasize about sexual experiences that may be closer or polar opposites of their own. This novel doesn’t just provide good descriptions of sex between two dreamlike figures, but allows the reader to be able to open up their minds and finally put alternative forms of sexual pleasure in the forefront.

Christian Grey, Ana’s self-described “Fifty Shades of Fucked Up” love interest is controlling, troubled, and some would say shallow. What makes him the Christian Grey that can make anyone swoon is his familiarity with BDSM practices, his impressive skills as a Dominant. The attention the BDSM lifestyle has received from the book hasn’t been overly negative but rather cautiously curious. Most people are wary of what they don’t know, but very curious to be informed.

What I think makes this book worth looking into is the capacity to captivate its readers so much that these wives , mothers, husbands, college students, and the like are going home and experimenting. That is, having allowing their own sexual experiences to better reflect the sexual desires that they had never even opened up their minds to before. What I encourage others to keep in mind when reading this book is not all the problematic incidences (although worth discussing,) but rather, how this book has gotten so many people re-interested in sex and multiple forms of sexual experiences like bondage behavior. For the future I believe that this book and books like it will provide a fantasy outlet for its readers that in their daily lives many never get to experience. Through reading this I’ve rediscovered how powerful words can be and specifically word of mouth, and how there are a lot more ways of talking about sex. Maybe having an open mind can help make the discussion easier, and stop sex from being so taboo to so many when it permeates through our media culture. Now that’s what I call sexual liberation.

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2 Responses to “Fifty Shades of Grey: Spicing up the Sex Lives of Readers Everywhere with “Kinky Fuckery.””

  1. Bess Neumeister

    The problem with 50 Shades of Gray is that it is a completely inaccurate introduction to the BDSM community. What occurs in this book is not safe, sane, or consensual, three things that members of the BDSM community put high value on. Saying 50 Shades is ‘sex positive’ is saying that abuse, coercion, and assault are sex positive. It’s not a positive portrayal of anything BDSM related and is only contributing to a the already skewed view the outside world has of the BDSM community.

  2. Amanda Schulze

    I get the feminist argument but I also get how 50 shades is sex positive. It inspired me to be more open with my sexuality and even talk about sex with my mom (regrettably ha). I don’t believe the differences in opinion are mutually exclusive. Books can be read at different levels. For instance with Harry potter one of the take away points is to be courageous and fight for what you believe in. The presence of mystical characters doesn’t suggest that we as a society support the idea that these are real, but just a point in the story. Yes I totally agree that the controlling relationship presented in the novel is problematic, by no means do we place high value on it, but honestly, look how much it got us talking about these issues! And for that I am thankful.