Fifty Shades of Confusion: Part Two

Well, another day has passed which means another day that I’m still confused as to how I feel about this whole Fifty Shades thing. If you visited my last post, you read about why I became intrigued by the novels and ultimately why I read them, but this post is all about the actual content in the book. After reading this article, my mind really started to race. For starters, I have a difficult time understanding if my problem lies in the innate fact that I, despite not trying the whole BDSM (bondage/domination, sadism/masochism) thing, just don’t understand it for myself. I wonder if the book was reversed and it was a woman who was the dom, if I would have the same problem. I appreciate that E L James, the author, acknowledges that Christian learned his behavior from somewhere and that it didn’t just show up out of the blue, and that his knowledge came from a female who dominated him. However, since the novel is in fact about a man having power over a female in more ways than one (money, sexual experience, etc), this is where my problem lies. With domestic violence being such a catastrophic issue, it was upsetting to see that James perpetuated some of the behaviors in her book. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many different kinds of things to have more power and control over their partners.” Christian is upfront about his need for control, and controls Ana in a multitude of aspects- from when/ what she should eat, if she can roll her eyes, what she wears, and also during sex. 

50

A clever play on the title, yet very accurate. 

As I was reading, all was fine and dandy until we got to the first spanking scene. All because of an eye roll, Christian decided it was time to unveil the punishment portion of the agreement that wasn’t even signed yet. He then proceeds to spank her. Not once, not twice, but six times. Although he claims to, “go easy” on her the first time, to me that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that this time the spanks were bearable, but the next time it happens, she barely gets through them. That’s not the point of it all. My point of frustration is the mere fact that he, the one in control (contrary to how he says that Ana has the power) is putting his hands on Ana for something that has absolutely no pleasure for her (the agreement states that both are supposed to seek pleasure).

Christian is all about the pleasure being dual, but in this specific spanking situation, it is not. Ana struggles with not understanding how to feel about it. She wants to like it to please Christian, but at the end of the day, she doesn’t (after all, she’s essentially being beaten for an almost uncontrollable reaction). So, this is my question: Why do we still condone men hitting women?

I think a majority of people would agree that we shouldn’t be hitting each other. But behind closed doors (including bedroom doors), do the rules change? If it’s under the guise of sadomasochism where there’s consent, is it different?

Yes, Ana consented to this, but she agreed to a lifestyle she knew little about. Sure, Christian gave her a computer to do research, but research doesn’t give you a completely accurate idea of what will actually happen. In addition, she consents to Christian because she knows that if she didn’t she would loose him. Therefore, she consented because he was the one in control. Under the guise of consent, Ana was still doing things that she wouldn’t normally choose for herself.

But here is my other problem. Even though I was upset over the spanking scenes, I couldn’t stop reading. I allowed myself to get past it, just like the millions of other people who have read this book, been upset with some of the scenes, but continued reading anyways.

Is this a sign that despite our best efforts to fight the battle against abuse, our society perpetuates it? Was this book, and the depiction of a relationship that involves a sub and dom, a big step backwards in this fight?

Join the conversation on twitter and comment below. I’d love to hear what you think!

In my next post, we will shift into talking about the over sexualization of women in media and how that contributes to a woman’s world view.

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