Monday , 18 June 2018

Eliska Counce: Fifty Shades of Social Commentary

By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist

Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you are probably aware of a set of books that have sat atop The New York Times Bestseller List for the past 11 weeks. This trilogy has both titillated and inflamed public opinion, sparking a media controversy over what is being called, rather unattractively in my opinion, “mommy porn.” Shudder. Do you know the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy? Because you’d be hard pressed to avoid the firestorm of public opinion set off over this first book in a triology of paperbacks that Wikipedia describes thusly:

“Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic fiction novel by British author E. L. James. Set largely in Seattle, it is the first installment in a trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism).”

And guys, these books are causing massive queries at local libraries. Reports are even sales of…erm, supplies discussed in the books are through the roof. Evidently, not only does the trilogy stimulate you, but it has the power to stimulate the economy with a staggering boost in sales in…shall we say…”associated items.”

This Fifty Shades is a phenomenon, y’all, and I’m not embarrassed to say that for your sake, yes, you, dear reader, I was willing to examine this missive as research. Don’t say I’ve never done anything for you. My research was painstaking, but you’re totally worth it. You’re welcome.

So I can safely express at least one impression after initial perusing of the novel: the prose is dreadful. It ain’t literature. Now, it’s a page-turner. It’s not *clears throat* dull. But it’s also not the first time the wildly popular and critically acclaimed have parted ways (hello, Twilight series).

“Pulp fiction” has been around for 100 or more years. So what is it exactly about Fifty Shades of Grey? For everyone being so bent out of shape about it, clearly someone is buying it. This book is more popular with married women over 30 than Starbucks and Glenlivet put together.

So is this “mommy porn,” as the media refers to it? What does the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey actually have to say about us as a society? To wit:

Porn is already mainstream for men. At the very least soft porn. And men aren’t shy about it. It’s widely and unabashedly utilized, nay, seen as expected behavior for men. Boys will be boys. Underwear commercials, beer commercials…Those hotel channels are multiple for a reason. Have you SEEN the swimsuit addition of Sports Illustrated? Although I will admit Kate Upton wrestling that chest to stay inside a bikini top may or may not be a sweat-breaking activity you could call “sport.” But I digress.

My point: titillating pictures of barely dressed women are mainstream. I hide magazine covers from my small sons, and God help me should they ever access even the TITLES to the adult movies I can rent from my home. These titles are not, shall we say, designed to appeal to females. I mean: no one’s in the dark about what heterosexual men like, right?

Strip clubs and lap dances at bachelor parties are not uncommon. Can we be surprised at the onset of mainstream porn for women? Or the sparking of a conversation regarding what women find arousing? From the media, you’d think all our fantasies surround consumerism. Seems like they think our fantasies stop at fashion. Breaking news: sometimes these fantasies do not involving ironing. Or marriage. OR BABIES.

According to Prevention magazine, a new Australian study states that 27% percent of wives would like to have more sex. That’s nearly one in three, people, and it makes me sad. But get this: 22% of married women in their 50s and 38% percent of married women in their 60s haven’t had sex in the past year. A bit of a desire gap, methinks. And cruel and unusual.

America isn’t as Puritan as we claim to be. Let’s face it, America has a double standard when it comes to sex. We force people into roles, and then we’re scandalized when they can’t live up to Puritan standards. Our sexual identity is a huge part of who we are as a person. Yet, we as a society seem incapable of discussing it on a level higher than, say, Beavis and Butthead would. Or we’re too repressed to talk about it at all. Nothing that happens in Fifty Shades is NEW, from what I’ve seen.

Women fantasize about being served. SETTLE DOWN. I don’t mean THAT. I mean, In the book, Christian Grey washes Ana’s hair, he puts money in her bank account, he gets her to eat — and et cetera, which I of course will not discuss here in a family publication. But let’s face it, as women, a man that anticipates what you want and need before you express it? NOW, THAT’S HOT. When you’re the driving force behind a home and a family, you can indeed fantasize about someone else coming the hell in and taking over for a change.

Ah. To be effortlessly, totally understood. However, speaking up can be tough for many women, and it’s no surprise if overworked women — especially moms, who spend a lot of their time pleasing others — want their needs fulfilled without having to spell them out. Now, THAT’S a fantasy.

So whether you believe Fifty Shades of Grey is not only a sign of the complete and total moral breakdown of America or merely the raised social consciousness of the normal needs and fantasies of grown women, you can’t deny the craze the trilogy has set off. You can just wonder if Kristen Stewart will get the lead in the movie. Fifty Shades. It’s here. And as the case with Nickelback, more of you are fans than are willing to admit it.

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