The book shop had a 15% discount if I took all three parts of the book but conservative spender that I am , I decided to first try out the paper back version of Part 1 costing Rs 399….. and thank god for that ! It is one of the wise decisions that I made on that day…!
Those of you who have read it obviously know what I referring to- yes it is the now (in) famous best seller aka “mommy porn” – Fifty shades of Grey by E.L James!
I am not a prude and I have in my four decades of life read many “controversial” book starting from D.H. Lawarence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” to Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying”. But this …!!!
The story begins in true M&B style, rather simply- it is about a young college graduate Anastasia Steele who finds herself getting very drawn to Christian Grey a young millionaire when she goes to interview him for a college magazine. There is some sort of instant chemistry between them and we have Christian turning up around Anastasia making cryptic comments. She on her part is a very inexperienced girl and finds herself very confused by his interest in her. The simplicity unfortunately ends here
He takes her to his apartment one weekend and makes a proposition to her to sign a “No Disclosure Agreement” and enter into a relationship with him. It is then that Anastasia realizes what the relationship would involve. Christian Grey enjoys kinky sex which involves, bondage, domination, pain etc including use of various gadgets! He has an agreement prepared which lists the activities that they would do together should she agree and consent. The agreement lists him as the “Dominant” and her as the “Subservient”! It is while discussing the agreement that he realizes that Anastasia is sexually inexperienced and a virgin and then begins his “training” and “ induction” of her into his world- a world where he himself had been inducted to as a “Sub” by his mother’s friend when he was just fifteen!
While the book is sexually very explicit in terms of its description it just about misses being classified as “pornography” because of the language – which is rather good! A lot of its non sexually explicit parts deal with emotions of the heroine which is well articulated!
However what is disturbing about the entire book is the way kinky sex has been portrayed as something fascinating! We have this young girl who does not want to agree to the terms of the so called “contract” but finds herself so attracted to this man that she cannot say no as he takes her from one act to the other and tells her that she needs to let her herself go and explore her sensuality until she finds her own limits!
Now, as a concept, I am all for people exploring their sensuality but what is very off putting is the entire dominance –subjugation thing! The sexual act ( of the consensual type) as I understand is something extremely intimate between two human beings. While sex itself may be physical it has the capacity to bind those involved emotionally and mentally. But the sexual act does have the risk of becoming a power game- demand and denial both included! Yes, men are often conditioned into being the dominant partner but to actually include acts where the woman has to beg for something-disgusting!!! And all this is being presented as a consequence of an attraction that consumes her..!
Question is, do women enjoy being dominated? No! So why does Anastasia get excited by it? The author tries to justify the hero’s behaviour by explaining something about his past because of which he is supposed to be able to only enjoy this kind of sex! Sure, I can understand that .. but what makes a young woman want to get into a consensual relationship that only involves acts like this? Absolutely beyond me!!!
I wonder if the author is trying to imply that despite being in a world which is supposed to be heading in the direction of women’s sexual freedom, a woman in reality enjoys being dominated and subjugated ! When her reality goes towards equality, domination by a man becomes her fantasy?
The book is supposed to be extremely popular with women of my age group- hence the name “mommy porn” ! I cannot believe it! I mean, I can understand that women like me who are in their middle age may have a mid life crisis and may want to get into sexual relationships outside of marriage but why should this kind of thing be fascinating with a generation of women who are highly educated and hold important jobs..! What is this social conditioning that makes women who have tasted professional success to suddenly get into a stereotypical role that makes men like Christian Grey seem extremely attractive? Or is it just the way media keeps a hold on us as we see extremely attractive male models in ads who behave in a certain dominating way..?
I don’t know and I am baffled at the success of this book..! While “Lady Chatterley’s lover” that dealt with a woman’s sexual longing and subsequent affair with a game keeper and “Fear of Flying” where the protagonist Isadora has multiple relationships can be called “controversial” within the time and space of their publication, they did deal with women’s sexuality and sexual freedom in some ways. But “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a regressive effort that tries to send women back to the stone age period where she is attracted to cave man qualities.. definitely a book that I would not recommend !