Ohhhh… I can see that I will be unpopular in about 10 seconds flat. As a little disclaimer, I am not supporting 50 Shades of Grey in particular or advocating for that specific book. Rather I am defending the right for non-consent fantasy to exist.
I recently was directed to an article about 50 Shades of Grey where writers told other writers (particularly the author of 50 Shades of Grey) what their responsibility to the reader should be. The article argued for four things:
- Accurate play scenes (well-researched, etc)
- Discussions of consent or non-consent within the text
- Realistic sex scenes that include condoms, safe words, dental dams, and other precautions
- IF #3 is ignored, then the writer must acknowledge, within the text, that the practices are unsafe.
Throughout this article, I will argue why this ridiculous and is merely another form of sexual repression. Ready for your viewpoint to be challenged? Then continue reading.
FICTION & FANTASY
Fifty Shades of Grey (book) is a fiction and a fantasy novel. As a work of fiction, it is composed of imagination without a grain of ‘fact’ needed. If you want fact, read a non-fiction book. Fiction books feature all sorts of scenarios that are not accurate according to today’s standards: centaurs (half-man / half-horse), earth with zero gravity, post-apocalyptic worlds, aliens, etc. Sure, you can tell Issac Asimov to make his robots ‘accurate’ but this is fucking non-sense. Fiction can be as fucking inaccurate as it likes because it is the realm of what could be, what might be, what I would like to be, what I don’t want to be – it is all about IMAGINATION NOT REALITY. Thus, Fifty Shades of Grey has no responsibility to the reader to present accurate sex scenes.
Secondly, 50 Shades is a work of fantasy – and appropriately so as it is a sexual fantasy. I understand that the fantasy is about non-consent sex or more blatantly rape, mind-fucking, domination, stalking, etc. It is about things that the regular human populous considers taboo (and society just accepts sex so well to begin with…). What advice like above ignores is the validity of these sexual fantasies. Women have them. Men have them. They are ‘real’ in that people dream of this stuff both in their sleep and in waking hours. They exist in our fucking minds and they are often quite enjoyable. As I said to a friend of mine, people should not be told they are evil or wrong or bad for having those fantasies. If you constantly tell people that HAVING THE FANTASY is bad then people learn self-loathing and repression. The very problem you are trying to prevent – unsafe sexual intercourse – you make WORSE by forcing people underground by the way you treat their fantasy. That is how people end up in dangerous situations: when you have no one to ask advice from, when your fantasy is shoved under a mattress, and when you are facing a situation that makes you uneasy but far be it from society to actually be able to openly communicate about desires. As people, we should be saying the fantasy is fine. That it is okay. It doesn’t matter if it turns you on. Enjoy. However, the physical practising of this fantasy is not okay. Always keep in mind that fantasy does not need to translate into real life, or else half the female population would be married to Ryan Gosling.
This leads really well into censorship. A few of the suggestions toted by the article I read suggested a modification in the way non-consent literature is presented to the reader. The article suggests accurate sex scenes (which I already discussed), discussion of consent and non-consent within the text and showing safe sex practices OR making sure the reader knows that what is happening is wrong. I think this is pure tripe for several reasons. Firstly, you are fucking with the fantasy. Seriously: If I fantasize about non-consent sex, the last thing on earth I want to read is a crapload of stuff on “this is so wrong” and “here is how safe sex really is.” FUCK THAT. First of all, do not shove your moral judgment up my ass because I like to fantasize about being fucked without giving my permission. Your little finger waving “this is wrong” within the text is a way of slapping the reader and saying “what you enjoy fantasizing about is wrong.” I say keep your moral judgments out of my fucking fantasy world – it is just thoughts and desires. For goodness sake, we all process love, attachment, safety, and desire differently. Entertaining thoughts of being so desired by another that they cannot help themselves is a legitimate fantasy that turns people on – so stop trying to change it.
Inserting safe-sex practices into a book that is obviously not about safe sex is also problematic. You are censoring the text: changing it to make you feel more secure. This sounds a lot like what we have done with MANY books in the past. Then if the book does not pass muster, we ban it like The Crucible and Catcher in the Rye and fuck – even Harry Potter (WTF haven’t people tried to ban).
BUT UNCRITICAL READERS…
A primary complaint in the article I read was how people are going it use the book as a how-to guide for their first BDSM encounter. In addition, many critics think that Fifty Shades of Grey romanticizes abuse and rape (well, no duh Sherlock – it is a fantasy book for non-consent sex). Essentially, people will take a piece of fantasy fiction, think it is accurate, and then follow the practises within to their determent. This argument condones the modification of a text or the banning therein of a text in order to “protect the people.” I’m sorry, but you cannot reduce literature down to the lowest common denominator. Stop sticking baby locks on adult books because some idiots are going to decide that a completely FICTIONAL book is not actually fictional (or fantasy) and instead uses it as the Dummies’ guide to BDSM or how a relationship should look. You know, most of humanity knows that you do not turn to fiction for ‘how to’ do anything and that rape and abuse are not healthy aspects of a usual relationship. The silly thing is, once we step away from sex literature, most people would drop this argument like a hot potato. Will country leaders and rebels take military instructions from War and Peace? I don’t think so. Will angst-ridden teenagers run away to New York City, sneak into bars, and employ a hooker after reading Catcher in the Rye? Hahaha.. not really. Are men going to lock their wives up in rooms until they go insane because of The Yellow Wallpaper? Only already deranged men. Nor are you going to go try to mate with a bear because you read Bear (by Marian Engel). Nor are you going to stage a murder and get away with it using the CSI books as a guide. The only people who take life advice from a fictional book are those who are predisposed to already doing foolish things. You cannot censor literature just because some people might use it in the WRONG WAY. That is the entire point; you are telling a book it is responsible for those who misuse it. It is like telling Rawlings (makers of baseball bats) that they are responsible for the idiot who beat another person’s head in with a Rawlings baseball bat. You are simply trying to shift blame from the individual to something else. Like a child whining, “She made me do it,” this childish desire to be absolved from any guilt when there is someone or something else to blame has plagued literature for ages. Evidently, it continues to do so.
I do not care if 50 Shades of Grey is good literature or bad literature – well written or badly written – original or fan-fiction – intelligent or dumb. The point is that it deserves to exist as it is now without any changes. The book occupies the realm of fantasy and fiction – a place where accuracy is bubkus and where magic, inter-species breeding, wizards, elves, magicians, aliens, and monsters exist. In addition, repressing sexual fantasies is just propagating our current system of sexual repression. It should be okay to have, desire, and be turned on by fantasies: even non-consent fantasies.
It is also okay not to get anything from that kind of fantasy. That is when you choose not to read a certain book series and you choose not to go see a certain movie. We all have choice here. So, if 50 Shades of Grey is not your cup of tea, then stop drinking it and let someone else who enjoys that flavour of fantasy finish the pot.
Song of the Day: Closer ~ by ~ Nine Inch Nails