I admit it! I hate Fifty Shades of Grey. And Fifty Shades Darker. And especially Fifty Shades Freed. Yes, I read all three books. If I’m going to do a Fifty Shades party and show people items from the books that they probably want to buy, I had to. I do plan to do a much more in-depth post as to why the books themselves are problematic and why I hate theme parties, but this is a focus on the harmful cultural issues that I’ve witnessed surrounding this phenomenon and its fan base.
As a feminist and sex positive advocate, I also had to critically examine the issues within, the mainstream representation of BDSM to the public at large, and I had to acknowledge where triggers and parallels in violent relationships lie. Often, as a sex toy party rep, I’m told things people don’t tell their doctors or therapists. I defer back to those professionals, of course, but I must be prepared for what I’ll hear.
But the thing I hate the most? Twilight fan fiction has gone mainstream, haywire, made a terrible writer tons of money, and fans react like THIS (please only watch the first minute or two, for your own sanity, if you can even stand it at all):
This is like one of those “how long can you stand to watch this” tests from however many years ago. I can watch the whole thing without flinching, because I deal with these people on a regular basis. They’re my customers.
WHY??? You squealing fan girls drive me nuts!
Look, I appreciate what Fifty Shades has done, in that it’s brought women (primarily cis-women) to a place where they can acknowledge their sexuality, desires, pleasure, and are actively communicating that they WANT. Just wanting, sexually, used to be taboo for cis-women, and it’s always been taboo for trans-women.
I hate the representation of the BDSM lifestyle as some patriarchal romance novel. I hate that Anastasia Steele is a pair of fucking pants. I hate that while I bust my ass to make people’s lives better through factual sex education, this steaming pile of shit rakes in the dough. Yes, I profit somewhat off of it but I wonder if I do more harm than good allowing some people access to these products. I hate that people want to take home products they’re not trained to use. I hate that they think fantasy is a better teacher than an actual BDSM practitioner. These women have no idea what they’re even fan-girling out about.
Are we so desperate to be wanted we refuse to look past the red flags? Do we loathe ourselves so much that we only find our identity in those that desire us sexually and romantically? Do we worship the false idea of virginity so much that we really believe the first person to penetrate a vagina with a penis is their one and only true love for life?
Yes, we believe these things, but we’ve been fed lies.
Little girls are fed the lie that Prince Charming will come and woo us and be the only one to ever excite us sexually. We’re led to believe he will support us financially and spoil us, because outside that we’re not worthy. We’re led to believe he can read our minds about what we think is romantic or sexy, and he’ll do and say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. And if he doesn’t? Well, then we must have failed somewhere. We must be unworthy of true love or his actions are betrayal, going mad with disappointment and resentment.
Little boys are taught that women are decoration, the source of adoration, always willing, always available, that all they need are convincing to bend to his whims. If he just does and says the right things at the right time, if he can just slay the right dragons and bring home the bacon, he will win undying loyalty and can use her for his pleasure as he deems fit. And when he has no idea what dragons to slay, when her loyalty wavers, and when she doesn’t worship him, he demonizes her. Even as he puts his princess on a pedestal, he has failed to adventure with her. He is taught aggression, so he believes he is to bend her and mold her and shape her and force her into the mold into which he was told she would fit. And when she doesn’t, she is disposed of.
And where does that leave the queer population? Where does that leave the ones who can’t relate to any of these ideals? It leaves them out and with an entirely different set of lies. I don’t have to tell you this reinforces heteronormativity. I don’t have to tell you it reinforces gender roles. I don’t have to tell you that cissexism kills. I wish I could go on with this and give more room to this particular anger-inducing thing, but sadly this isn’t the post for it. So I’ll simply say this. There’s simply no room for a queer couple or genderqueer people in the Fifty Shades world.
I hate Fifty Shades of Grey because it takes a sex positive concept and forces it into a patriarchal heteronormative cissexist box. I hate it because it paints a false picture of something very near and dear to my heart.
Yet, if I want to make money, I must market this crap to the squealing masses. I hate that I must work within this marketing juggernaut. I will try to set the record straight through the work I do, and teach people safety, sanity, and consent. I feel like a fraud, though.