I always hated in school when we would study books and the teachers pushed you to “read between the lines” and figure out what the author is “really” trying to say, what message they are trying to impart. No one ever seemed interested in my hypothesis that maybe there wasn’t a message. Moth eaten blue curtains doesn’t necessarily have to be a representation of the protagonist’s emotional state.. it could just mean that they like the colour blue and are really shite at housework. Of course, I knew that that wasn’t the answer they were looking for so I was smart enough to never actually submit that. But I thought then, and I still think now, that stories don’t necessarily have to have a moral message or a life lesson as their purpose. It could be that the simple purpose of a story is to entertain, or amuse. The author might not want to convert you to a new way of thinking or cause you to have a big revelation. They might just want to give you something that is different from your own life that is a pleasant way to pass some time. Not everything has to be epic and meaningful.
I’m starting to get towards my point now, and it is this: I’m really sick of reading articles about how Fifty Shades of Grey (and by extension, Twilight) are terrible works that encourage people to be abusive and creepy. Maybe I read different books to everyone else (though I actually have read them, which is a step ahead of the countless people who are writing critiques of books they confess to not having bothered to read) but I kind of thought that if anything, they were giving the opposite message. There are some questionable behaviours depicted in those books, but nowhere does it saying that those are fine and normal. Edward and Christian know that they are “fifty shades of fucked up” and that their mindsets are not the way to a healthy relationship. But habits are called habits instead of whims because they’re hard to break. And it may be cliché, but Bella and Ana know that despite these failings there is a person there worth loving, worth giving a chance. By showing that trust they start to teach Edward and Christian to relinquish control and the need to control and move towards a more equitable relationship. It’s not like they are both perfect at the outset, though, either. They both learn about give and take and mutual respect. Ana happens to learn a little about “kinky fuckery”, too. Pain is so close to pleasure, and both Anastasia and a crap load of women around the world have learned that it can be exciting and arousing to explore to find out where the line between the two is.
How is teaching people that it’s ok to try new things and giving them the confidence to do it a bad thing? Especially when there are still people in the world who won’t get naked in front of their spouse, or women who don’t know what an orgasm or clitoris is.
It occurred to me, too, that perhaps the tagging of “Mommy Porn” that has been used to describe Fifty Shades and other works in the same burgeoning genre is perhaps part of why people are so keen to criticise it all. Everyone knows that these books are kinky and explicit. No one wants to think about their mother like that. Mothers are the no-go-zone, one just does not suggest that another person’s mother is anything other than the embodiment of pure and perfect. By calling it “Mommy Porn” and acknowledging that this new genre is both targeted at women and more than just a little bit risqué, it’s like one huge big “yo’ momma” insult. Yo momma likes to be blindfolded. Yo momma likes to be restrained. Yo momma likes to be spanked.
And that is not cool, because there’s still a strong social perception that you don’t do kinky things with women you actually care for. It’s ok to do that shit to whores and sluts who don’t really matter, but you treat the woman you love better than that. This mindset has even affected me. There was one time that Daniel didn’t want to do something that I had suggested because he said it felt wrong. Disrespectful. Because he loves me. This is pretty big because I’m the vanilla loving, ain’t-broke-don’t-fix kind of person whereas he’s generally the one to come up with new ideas to try. If that thinking has entered the collective psyche so deeply that even someone as laid back as Daniel can be affected by it, that he could still feel that unease despite how well we communicate, what hope are there for other people still plagued by the weight of thinking that anything other than good old missionary (in the dark, of course) is not good enough for people they actually care about? It’s so backward. If you love and/or trust someone – which if you are choosing to make them your sexual partner, you should – then nothing you are both interested in should feel wrong.
And then, so what if your mother or sister or grandmother (for realz) likes “Mommy Porn?” If you know that she’s educated and confident enough to make informed and non-coerced choices about who she shares a bed (or Red Room) with, what does it matter if yo momma likes whips and chains? Be glad that she’s a happy and fulfilled modern woman rather than a repressed and depressed historical lady.
One final thought. If you don’t like a book or a movie – don’t read it, don’t watch it, don’t write about it and call attention to it. Bad publicity is still publicity.