Regulating desire: 50 shades of mind your own business

15 Feb

Keep calm & spank me


I haven’t seen the film Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve read perhaps three pages of the first book which was far more than I needed to tell me it wasn’t going to cause any quivers in my nethers, and it would be self-abuse to persist in reading the excruciatingly awful writing for absolutely no reward.

The narrative centres around the relationship between an “ordinary” young woman and a wealthy man in which she is his submissive, and he controls her life. They practice consensual bondage, domination, sadism and masochism.

I was interested in what some others were saying about the movie so I read the erudite scorn of Razer, the feminist outrage of Tyler, and the, well, I don’t know quite how to describe Mia Freedman’s take in which she claims that reading all three books brings both knowledge and understanding to the film, a brand new angle on the concept of a lord of the rings trilogy which seems to endow Fifty Shades with far more intellectual and imaginative gravitas than it can possible deserve.

Tyler’s piece in the Conversation launches a full frontal attack on the practices of bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, which she claims are only ever abusive, even when engaged in by consenting adults. Adults are never capable of “individual” consent, the argument goes, because all of our actions take place within the context of a culture that constructs our desires, so  people only think they want BDSM because they’ve been taught to be dominant or submissive by the patriarchy. BDSM eroticises domination and subordination and this is wrong, she writes, when we consider how many women are subjected to violence and abuse to which they do not consent.

This argument is a little like saying that nobody should be allowed to eat hot chips because some people are dangerously obese.

The conflation of intimate violence with consensual BDSM offends me mightily. I haven’t explored all the potential of BDSM yet in my life, but I do know the erotic delight of yielding and submission, and the equally erotic delight of dominating in sexual games played in an atmosphere of trust and exploration. I’m not that interested in hurting and being hurt, so I’d be a very low-level kind of BDSM person in that it doesn’t take a lot to transport me to the altered state where complex emotions and sensations are aroused by submitting, and by dominating. And this is surely what BDSM is about – people want the feels and will do what it takes to get them, and who is to say they shouldn’t and when the physical performance is abusive, excepting those involved?

Yes, there are times when BDSM goes wrong. There are times when practically everything you can think of goes wrong: we inhabit a Manichean universe of dark and light, and oftentimes the distance between the two is narrower than a bee’s dick. Of late, this universe seems to be increasingly populated by those who wish to prevent anything ever going wrong, an impossible task that can only result in nobody being allowed to do anything at all, in case it goes wrong.

I have experienced family violence and childhood sexual abuse, and there is absolutely no comparison between those experiences  and consensual BDSM, and it is dishonest in every way for anybody to claim they are inevitably the same. They may well become the same if wishes aren’t respected in BDSM encounters, just as ordinary old heterosexual sex can go wrong if wishes aren’t respected. What is wrong in both instances in the disrespect of wishes, not the practices.

To be honest, I’ve had it with pearl-clutching repressives who want to vanilla the world, and try to achieve that by shaming others about their sexual desires and practices. They are far more of a menace than Fifty Shades can ever be.

In a period of our evolution in which we are supposedly increasingly free from sexual oppression and repression, merely by virtue of being allowed to speak of sex in ways that were unthinkable fifty years ago, it seems to me that this freedom has brought with it a focus of concentration on the morality or otherwise of how we perform sex, rather than on the more important matter of respecting another’s wishes in sexual encounters of all kinds.

If I want to be spanked, I’ll get spanked, and problems will only arise for me if I’m spanked when I don’t want to be. Then I’ve been assaulted and there are already laws in place to address that.

But I can’t see anything in the least coherent in telling me I can’t have a spanking because others are being subjected to intimate violence. Conflation is one of the scourges of our times.



32 Responses to “Regulating desire: 50 shades of mind your own business”

  1. sandrasearle February 15, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    After listening in on a few friends discussing (gossiping) about this book I just thought: “Gosh girls, surely there are more serious things you could be talking about” then decided I really didn’t think the book would be worth a read. Now I’m glad I took my own advice :-))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 15, 2015 at 10:45 am #

      I love Anais Nin if you want to read erotica written by a woman.

      Liked by 1 person

      • helvityni February 15, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

        Haven’t read the books, will not see the movie.

        I agree with you about Anais Nin.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Michaela Tschudi February 15, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    I don’t read Razer. I objected to Tyler’s piece because I don’t like being told what I can and cannot do in my intimate relationships. And reading Freedman’s article was like plumbing the depths of a Petri dish missing the all important ingredient of agar. I haven’t read the book and won’t bother with the film. 😊


    • paul walter February 15, 2015 at 11:49 am #

      Razer is good! Give her a read for an almost certain laugh.


      • Michaela Tschudi February 15, 2015 at 11:59 am #

        One day I might PW


    • helvityni February 15, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

      Michaela, seen Razer on TV, read her articles on Unleashed (the early Drum), she irritated me on all those occasions, will not bother to read anything by her…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Team Oyeniyi February 15, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

        That makes two of us…..

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michaela Tschudi February 15, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

        Yes I think Razer is an attention seeker. I can’t be bothered with her. So many more good writers to read!


        • paul walter February 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

          Yes, you know I think I’m with you and the others now.

          I loath much of exploitative pop culture and the irresponsible mentality behind it myself .

          It occurs to me that the response to the movie and the silly season beat ups involving msm to avoid running real news or social commentary, is a good, healthy one here…love the scepticism.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. paul walter February 15, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    Am I gate-crashing?

    I read the articles but not having seen the movie or read the book it’s probably pointless commenting. I guess its like an Attwood novel; different pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, then Jennifer’s comments.

    It sound suspiciously like another Last Tango, or Story of O or Emmanuel, movies that pop up every few years since Rachel played netball for Jericho, then there is a bit of perving disguised as intellectualism and lots of criticisms of poor dialogue, scene construction and linkage as to theplot and point, also cinematic technique.
    The male leads are usually dismissed as wooden and the females are always dark haired, like the contracted prostitute on the SBS movie a couple of nights ago.

    Some of the worry revolves around whether such movies set inexperienced people, or conscripted sex slaves in the sex industry up for bad experiences, after the unfortunate Dworkin, et al. Isn’t it a legitimate point to make, at one pole.

    Oth, what there seem many grown ups who love a bit of variation, like the woman featured in the Guardian yesterday who said she’d had sex with three thousand men as a swinger, although maxing out at only fourteen during one glorious session. This is the other pole.

    I think Jennifer’s point that any sex requires appropriate concern for your partner is right, if too conventional for some,also that some times things won’t work out, but it’s also true that you cant have the Sex Police just standing at peoples bedroom doors and monitor activites with ‘metering devices and tape measures, unless you are an exhibitionist.

    Anyway, enough from me.
    I needed to write just now to get my mind of my jaw and may be different viewpoints help, but happy rompings, the lot of you.


    • Jennifer Wilson February 16, 2015 at 7:13 am #

      Last Tango was a good movie for it’s time, as were the other two, and Night Porter and a long line of movies exploring edgy relationships.

      I would rather have the Sex Pistols standing at my door…


  4. Cranky Pants Noely (@YaThinkN) February 15, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    I had not read it at all & would not see the movie AND shamefully have to admit that decision was based solely on the ‘type’ of people I knew who had read it & liked it, I know, shame on me 😦

    Having said that, seems now that my terrible generalisation was correct in the first place LOL Jen’s piece here particularly in regard to BDSM is really valid. We already have enough issues with sexuality in all it’s form in our communities and lame crap like 50 Shades which seems to attract the more shallow really does not help with sexual education either 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michaela Tschudi February 15, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

      My 17yo daughter saw the film today and said it was a waste of time and money. I asked her why she went to see it. She said she wanted to know what the fuss was about. She objected to the representation of “women as submissives, controlled by men”. She said the relationships were “vapid”. She hasn’t read the books and won’t bother. I wonder what her boyfriend thought? Must ask him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson February 16, 2015 at 7:20 am #

        Tell us when you find out


        • Michaela Tschudi February 24, 2015 at 11:45 pm #

          The boyfriend agreed with my daughter. The film was a waste of time and money.


    • Jennifer Wilson February 16, 2015 at 7:14 am #

      I just read the Goodreads review of Fifty that Robyn tweeted and it is absolutely hilarious. Spot on so to speak lol we’re all starting to sound like that book


  5. Team Oyeniyi February 15, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    I agree with you Jen.

    One aspect of the books’ popularity we discovered today which may be worth deeper investigation is that anecdotal evidence suggests these were the first books many readers had ever written.

    For myself, it isn’t the BDSM aspect that is a concern. It is the possible misshaping of the concepts of a healthy relationship in developing minds. For example, some time ago I wrote about the problem of young women seeking cosmetic surgery to make their genitalia look like what their boyfriends were seeing in porn movies.

    Now, if as an informed adult you want to reshape your vulva, go for it. I’m concerned when 18 year-olds think their body ugly because it doesn’t conform to porn standards.

    BDSM is a perfectly legitimate lifestyle choice as far as I’m concerned. However, I don’t like the concept of young people somehow getting the idea this is how every relationship should be without the appropriate understanding.

    There IS a great difference, as you so eloquently describe, between BDSM and abuse. But we already have problems with date rape and Year 9 boys not understanding consent.

    While there is a great difference, there is a fine line between understanding the difference and not understanding the difference.

    Sexuality runs a spectrum and we should be free to explore and determine our place on that spectrum. However, just as we don’t let an unlicensed 18 year-old drive a car, we need to ensure our young people are equipped to step onto that spectrum in the first place.

    Our society is so fucked when it comes to sex and relationships, my concern is around the psychology of expectation – just as with the appearance of the female genitalia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter February 15, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

      That is a thoughtful post.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson February 16, 2015 at 7:22 am #

      Rob, I have much sympathy for young ones negotiating sex today. It wasn’t nearly as complicated for us in the sense that we didn’t have media input to anything like the same degree.

      But it was still complicated by ignorance and shyness, so I don’t know.
      We make altogether too much fuss about it, IMO, it has become a prime area for regulation of the body by those who need to regulate something.

      Liked by 1 person

    • doug quixote February 17, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

      If it is really what is seen in porn movies there shouldn’t be a problem. Women’s labia are as individual as their noses (and much more interesting). It is what is seen in silly soft porn magazines that have to pass silly censorship boards and exert self-censorship.

      The airbrushing of women’s genitals is one of the worst crimes against women, for it damages their self-image and their self-respect as they compare themselves (and are compared by silly boyfriends) to the equivalent of a barbie doll.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jennifer Wilson February 17, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

        That’s owing to censorship requirements that there are no bits and pieces hanging out, I think.


        • doug quixote February 17, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

          Uh, yes. Can’t have any bits dangling, can we. The horses might be frightened.

          It never ceases to amaze me that you can see people supposedly dismembered, burned alive, slaughtered any whichway, yet adults are not supposed to be allowed to see sexual activity or explicit sex scenes.

          I know which I regard as obscene.


  6. paul walter February 15, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    You know the press is in a frenzy over this movie.

    The Guardian is, literally, running whole swathes of reviews on it, most them scornful.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. thevenerable1 February 16, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

    Conflation – the scourge of today’s society, leading to such weird ‘political correctness’ as has never been seen before …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

      Yes! We are going to be more repressed than the Victorians if we aren’t careful

      Liked by 1 person

      • thevenerable1 February 16, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

        Frankly, I’m glad I’m old.


      • paul walter February 16, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

        I really start to enjoy what emerges as healthy scepticism here..

        There is a certain streak of cold blooded, manipulative greed involved in consumer culture, that won’t concern itself with the welfare of its audience- cultural Monsanto, if you like- and I think people are reacting to this, rather than out of priggishness.

        I think it”s just people who are adults wanting to know, why can’t they just be allowed to get on with their lives, which they can run quite comfortably without the inevitable and unwelcome intrusions from a hegemonic culture that won’t stop demanding attention and engagement regardless of the value of what this engagement offers for its subjects.

        It’s very Fahrenheit 451.

        Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter February 16, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

        You needn’t worry, since they got rid of Napthine.

        They’ll be alright.

        Liked by 1 person

        • paul walter February 16, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

          Sorry, landed in wrong place. The Victorians.

          Liked by 1 person

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