Friday, October 5, 2012

FIFTY SHADES TOO WEIRD



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 !

19 comments:

SG said...

There is no plot and no story in this book. Anastasia wants a normal relationship and Christian is into BDSM. Asking someone to sign “No Disclosure Agreement” before doing the thing and she agreeing for that is pure illogical and nonsense. Reminds me of a few Tamil TV Serials.

Rahul said...

Lots of guys want to play the submissive role too. :-P It's all fantasy. If you read Nancy Friday's 'My secret garden' you'll come across a lot of bizarre sexual fantasies of women. Fantasy is just that. Shouldn't be taken too seriously...

SG said...

Please pardon me Meera. I sincerely want to reproduce a comment by a reader (meymoon) in Amazon.dot.com. I am sure you will love this comment.

“About half way through the book, I looked up the author to see if she was a teenager. I really did because the characters are out of a 16 year old's fantasy. The main male character is a billionaire (not a millionaire but a billionaire) who speaks fluent French, is basically a concert level pianist, is a fully trained pilot, is athletic, drop dead gorgeous, tall, built perfectly with an enormous penis, and the best lover on the planet. In addition, he's not only self made but is using his money to combat world hunger. Oh yeah, and all of this at the ripe old age of 26! And on top of that, he's never working. Every second is spent having sex or texting and emailing the female character. His billions seem to have just come about by magic. It seriously feels like 2 teenage girls got together and decided to create their "dream man" and came up with Christian Grey.”

The author is a female, 49 years old, wife, and a mother of 2.

Aparna said...

The shop keeper suggested me to pick this series. Thank god I picked up only the first book and not the entire series.

This book is so disturbing and disgusting!

Vinita Kherdekar said...

I have heard of this book and read similar reviews.
I believe there are some women who are conditioned in such a way that all they understand is domination. It is quite possible that such women might not find it as odd to be dominated sexually.

I agree that portraying women in such light is regressive and nullifies all the effort put in to liberate women from shackles of Gender stereotyping.

Lazy Pineapple

Jack said...

Meera,

I read about this book in newspapers etc but had no inclination to buy it. I may read it if I can lay my hands on this otherwise just to see how far has the author gone. In my opinion sex is something which is intimate relation between two involved persons and how or what is for them to decide. However they both are equal partners with no one being dominant or subservient.

Take care

Meera Sundararajan said...

SG I think that comment you have copied and pasted is so true...A billionare at 26!! And yes it is sort of strange that the guy does no work at all - All sex and no work- now how to do u sustain the billions? Definitely a female fantasy but disturbing that this fantasy should include being dominated upon by someone.!

@ Rahul, sure there are men who may play the submissive role in a relationship such as this but then the the issue of control still remains. I have read Nancy Friday and I am now convinced that it a figment of her imagination!

@ Vinita and Aparna happy that you feel the same way as I do !

@ Jack please do not waste your money or your time- this is just not worth it! I do not want others to repeat my mistake!

anilkurup said...

I have not read this book and hence it will be unfair to pass comment good or bad.
But going by the critical observations you made after having read the work, I must say I disagree in parts.
The foremost is the opinion that women do not like being enslaved by their sexual partner.I'm referingvto consensual sex and I know there are exceptions..There are women who love being dominated in the act and men who lIke being enslaved.It is yes weird to me either way But that is my chemistry ..
Lady Chatterly gained notoriety as a work because of its times and the British hypocricy .But there was no physical enslavement in sexual relationship in the work.

The domination I understand is an act that brings pleasure to some.Can we see it repugnant because we don't fancy the act? As long as it is not physical abuse Per se ?

Sykik said...

I need to read this book so I can understand why it's got everyone talking. It's been on about three blogs now.

Thanks

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Anil... there are different things that turn different people on- obviously otherwise how does one explain pedophilia, necrophilia, sex with animals...! While I try not to be judgemental I think there has to be a limit somewhere..! Yes men may like to be dominated too in the act but the question is why? Is reaching out to a partner as an equal during the act so mundane / ordinary? And what was disturbing about the book was the way it is presented as a "trust" issue!


Sykik- despite warning it looks like you are bent upon wasting your time!

anilkurup said...

Hello Meera, the realm of the subject is far exhaustive.
I do not think that a bit of fun and fantasy may energise a copulating session or a sagging sex life. If that is not physically and psychologically harming. Again it is up to the individuals concerned. I personally is not fascinated by the advocacy for domination and servility etc in sexual conduct..

The perversions you mentioned are the infliction of sick minds.I see homo sexuality also thus.
The message of the book may be disturbing.

Cloud Nine said...

Could not agree more on what you say about Dominant and sub, Meera. It irks to find women practically thumbing every page of sleaze in the book. To my knowledge, i haven't heard of one woman who would love to act a sub. EL James needs to see a psychiatrist immediately:P

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Anil, I have nothing to say. I am thinking of joining Mata Amritanandamayi now! There is obviously something wrong with me :D

@ Cloud Nine - point is sleaze is a rather subjective term !

anilkurup said...

Ha , hello Meera,
Nothing wrong with you.Only that we have to admit that out there it is a wired world. And do not see yourself a daft to join the Amritanandamayi band wagon

Divya said...

I do not believe in piracy but I bought a pirated edition of this book for just 50 bucks AND I still cannot make myself finish reading it..I am not a bit prudish but there is something about this book that disturbs me - I have not managed to progress beyond 2/5 of it!!

Meera Sundararajan said...

@Anil.. I think you are disturbed too about this book. I have got three comments from you now on this. BTW the interesting thing is that the book is written by a woman and read mostly by women.

@ Divya Rs 50 is too much you can read it on line. apparently that is the reason for its success and its wide female readership

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

I have not read this book and I don't intend to because I've not met one woman who said she learned something interesting from this book. Obviously books like these sell like hot cakes because of the debatable nature of the subject and the universal appeal it holds for different types of readers. I want to tell you that you've done a great service by writing this post and sharing your thoughts with an open, original voice that I found totally lacking in other posts that talked about this book and were couched in literary jargon that left one wondering whether we are all talking the same language. Good post and keep writing like this, Meera.

Victoria Poulin said...

I m excited for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.i cant wait for releasing date of fifty shades movie

Emma Lavoie said...

I loved book so much eagerly waiting for the Movie....Fifty shades of grey..
Fifty Shades Movie

Post a Comment

 
;