I Spy

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While much of the sex in Fifty Shades is as cruel and sadistic as in mainstream porn, it is expertly packaged for women who want a “fairy tale” ending. In male-targeted porn, the woman is interesting only for as long as the sex lasts. Once done with her, the man is onto the next, and the next, and the next. … She is disposable, interchangeable, and easily replaced. No happy ending here for women.

In Fifty Shades, however, the naïve, immature, bland Anastasia is, for some unfathomable reason, the most compelling woman our rich, sadistic, narcissistic hero has ever met, and he not only kisses her during sex (something you rarely see in Internet hardcore porn) but he doesn’t move on to the next conquest once he has had his wicked way with her. In fact, he actually marries her and confesses undying love. As one of the female fans I interviewed said, this is like Pretty Woman all over again.

Indeed, Fifty Shades is about as realistic as Pretty Woman. How many prostitutes do you know who end up living in marital bliss with a former john? I would guess about the same number of women who live happily ever after with a man who dictates, in a written contract, what to eat and wear, and when to exercise, wax, and sleep. In my work, I meet many women who started out like our heroine, only to end up, a few years later, not in luxury homes, but running for their lives to a battered women’s shelter with a couple of equally terrified kids in tow. No happy ending here, either.

In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Mr. Grey is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.

And yet women of all ages are swooning over this guy and misreading his obsessive, cruel behavior as evidence of love and romance. Part of the reason for this is that his wealth acts as a kind of up-market cleansing cream for his abuse, and his pathological attachment to Anastasia is reframed as devotion, since he showers luxury items on her. This is a very retrograde and dangerous world for our daughters to buy into, and speaks to the appalling lack of any public consciousness as to the reality of violence against women.

Fifty Shades also reveals just how pornographic our culture has become over the last decade or so. While the old Harlequin romance novels had narcissistic heroes who toyed, sexually and psychologically, with their much younger prey, however remote and emotionally challenged he was, the hero did not have a torture chamber tucked away in his basement. Fifty Shades of Grey is Harlequin on steroids, a kind of romance novel for the porn age in which overt sexual sadism masquerades as adoration and love. New as this is, the ending remains depressingly the same for real women who end up falling for the Mr. Greys of the world.

Sadistic Romance: Why are Women Devouring Fifty Shades of Grey?

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Filed under Preach Ugh

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PSA for the shy, sexually inexperienced, maybe-queer, maybe-bi, maybe-asexual ladies who send me letters about finding someone to snuggle and/or date:

YOU.

ARE.

LEGION.

You are not alone in writing a (usually beautifully written, well-spelled) note about how you are looking for someone to hang out with and maybe make out with and cuddle but without pressure or expectation of doing more.

You are not alone in feeling like traditional “dating” situations and advice don’t work for you. Common worries: Too much pressure to “come out” and/or categorize yourself in some way, worried that people won’t be satisfied with what you are able to give, worried about being harassed by 10,000 creepy dudes, body image issues, shame about being a late bloomer.

We’ve covered a lot of this on the site already in other threads about meeting new people and dating, but I get, easily, three or four of these specific (female, somewhere on the queer/bi/ace axis, looking for someone who will go really, really slow with sex stuff) letters per week. You are not alone! You are not alone. […]

I wish you sweet blanket forts with respectful, adorable, terrifyingly amazing people like yourselves. But mostly I want you to know: You are not alone.

Jennifer, aka Captain Awkward (via riverlight82)

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