metaphortunate: (Default)
metaphortunate son ([personal profile] metaphortunate) wrote2015-02-14 05:21 pm

the pleasure and pain of 50 shades

As you probably know, the 50 Shades of Grey movie came out recently.

Delightful: the explosion of men impotently railing "This isn't sexy! Why would anyone think this was sexy! It's awful! It's terrible! Stop finding it sexy!"

I will fucking increase the fucking thing
(drawn by floccinaucinihilipilificationa; thanks, [personal profile] kate_nepveu!)

Incidentally, have you noticed? Sometimes things that are just not that well written become hugely popular among men, or majority men. Star Wars, for example. Then there is an enormous collective effort to figure out what's appealing about it: explosions, special effects, the Hero's Journey, etc. And sometimes things that are just not that well written become hugely popular among women. Then there is an enormous collective effort to explain what's wrong with women for liking it.

Irritating as all fuck: all the earnest BDSMers finger-wagging about how dangerous it is that this story has fallen into the hands of women who Know Not The Truth About BDSM.

Y'all. It is a fantasy. Fan. Ta. Sy. I've got a copy of The Topping Book and Dossie Easton cheerfully writes about helping a guy figure out how to play out his fantasy of literally skinning his lover. You've read Doc and Fluff - you know, groundbreaking BDSM classic? About healthy safe and sane relationships, is it? Fuck's sake, stop freaking out because women are doing some homosocial bonding over fantasizing about a hot toppy billionaire.

(The famous tampon scene? The "ewww, why would anyone want to read that?" scene? Yes. In a world where girls don't want to let guys go down on them because they think they're "gross", let us wonder what on earth women might find appealing about a book with a scene in which a man is so comfortable with and completely not grossed out at all by a woman's normal bodily functions that it doesn't kill the mood for him to take out her tampon. It may remain forever a mystery.)
were_duck: Ellen Ripley from Alien looking pensively to the right in her space helmet (Default)

[personal profile] were_duck 2015-02-15 01:36 am (UTC)(link)
Yeahhhhh I'm with you on all of this.

(Anonymous) 2015-02-15 01:41 am (UTC)(link)
Have you read the Pervocracy read through of it? I feel like he does a good job of talking this through. The key thing being that based on fan reactions, the fantasy part is the link part, not the unrelenting emotional and physical abuse part. Which, I think it matters. We get our ideas of interpersonal relationships from our art as well and our experience. -Kcat
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[personal profile] ironed_orchid 2015-02-15 02:07 am (UTC)(link)
I saw a great piece by Erica Moen about a week ago: 50 Shades of Grey: My Kind of Trash. It's amazing the number of people who don't seem to understand that wank fodder is not necessarily what we look for in a relationship.

ETA: Never mind, it's the same one you linked to, just on a different site

I do think that the way the movie has been marketed and released on Valentines Day probably fuels some of the "oh noez, this is not a healthy romance" reactions. But it is hardly worse than a lot of the crap out there marketed as and considered romantic.
Edited 2015-02-15 02:09 (UTC)
jae: (Default)

[personal profile] jae 2015-02-15 02:49 am (UTC)(link)
Y'all. It is a fantasy. Fan. Ta. Sy.

All right. Since we're already on the subject of not policing each other's fantasies, let's make our best effort NOT to define "fantasy" as inherently meaning "something that couldn't/shouldn't actually happen, but is hot anyway," okay? My own personal fantasies do not work like that, and finding out that a lot of women defined things in that direction actually completely messed with my head and made me wonder whether I could possibly be "normal."

-J
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[personal profile] jae 2015-02-15 03:34 pm (UTC)(link)
That...doesn't address the point I was trying to make, alas, but I'm afraid clarifying would involve more clarification of how fantasies work for me than I'm willing to provide in a public post. :) Ah, maybe we'll have this conversation someday. In the meantime, consider it dropped.

-J
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[personal profile] lovepeaceohana 2015-02-15 02:53 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for sharing this. We're about to begin a round of Our Whole Lives (UU's comprehensive sexual health curriculum) and so 50 Shades has been on my brain recently. I'll admit, I do still lean more toward the camp of earnest finger-wagging BDSMers, so I'm trying to find ways to talk about the series without shaming people for enjoying it because nobody likes kinkshaming :P

Although I did read something the other day ... here, I found it:
"In an interview, Esther Perel, a sex therapist and the author of Mating in Captivity, said, “I find it amazing that this country at this point is going to spill quantities of ink talking about Fifty Shades, when it doesn’t even have a basic education on sex. It’s like you’re introducing alcohol to people who haven’t had any water in years.”"
And I can't really say I disagree.

(Also I think that cartoon may be by the Hark! A Vagrant! person? The art style looks similar.)
Edited 2015-02-15 02:54 (UTC)
lederhosen: (Default)

[personal profile] lederhosen 2015-02-15 03:13 am (UTC)(link)
I have mixed feelings about this one. I do think that a good portion of the flak directed at 50SoG is coming from a place of "what would a middle-aged woman know about erotica and why are women reading it?" and that's not okay.

Beyond that... I used to have an attitude of "fantasy is fantasy end of story", but in recent years I've drifted towards "it's complicated". IMHO when a person reads a fantasy story, a great deal of that is received as fiction, but a certain amount is received as truths about the way of the world.

Like, nobody believes the Discworld exists, but Pratchett gets applauded for using comic fantasy as a way to grapple with real-world issues. I'm pretty sure there are people whose understanding of human nature and morality has been influenced by Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax. Same sort of thing goes for Heinlein, Rand, etc etc. And the push to improve diversity of representation in fiction is all based in an understanding that fiction does affect how people view the real world.

Speaking of Game of Thrones - I don't believe anybody's at risk of reading/watching that and coming away with the idea that it's safe to stand in fire or push kids out of windows. (At least, not anybody who didn't already have severe problems.)

But I have seen quite a good critique that discussed the Tyrion-Shae relationship and how it ties in with problematic RL attitudes to sex workers - like the idea that somebody who explicitly takes money in exchange for her company becomes a traitor when her "loyalty" doesn't extend beyond what was paid for. To me, that aspect of the story is more problematic than most of the rape-murder-death stuff because I think it's more likely to slip through the fantasy filters.

I can't articulate what makes the distinction between "stuff received as fantasy" and "stuff received as RL truth". But some of the responses to stuff like @50shadesofabuse seems to indicate that there are some people receiving it as "this is how consent is supposed to work in RL BDSM".

All that said, I don't know whether that's a large proportion of readers/watchers. And if we're going to protect impressionable folks from reading fiction that might lead them astray, I think I'd start with protecting white men from "American Sniper" and "Atlas Shrugged".

tldr: I don't see 50SoG as entirely harmless, but I do acknowledge that the amount of attention paid to its flaws vs that paid to other works says some interesting things about people's prejudices.
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[personal profile] lovepeaceohana 2015-02-15 05:57 am (UTC)(link)
some of the responses to stuff like @50shadesofabuse seems to indicate that there are some people receiving it as "this is how consent is supposed to work in RL BDSM".

Like, admittedly, a huge part of my reaction to the series is defensiveness based on "but oh god this is such terrible pr for bdsm" but I'd like to think that a larger part is along the same lines of worry as you mention because that leaves those people particularly vulnerable to abuse (which ... there's a lot of "if it's abuse, it's not kink!" that goes on, and I understand that impulse, but the truer truth is that abusers are in every community and you can't just define them out of existence). But like you I'm increasingly wondering how large of a problem this actually may come to be, and I take [personal profile] metaphortunate's stance to be that this concerned policing of women's fantasies is just ... doing patriarchy's work for it. (Please correct me if I'm putting words in your mouth, ok? I'm parsing, but I do want to get it right!)
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[personal profile] lederhosen 2015-02-15 06:19 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I certainly don't want to say "this never happens in real BDSM" because it does (give or take the 24-year-old billionaire). Just that it's unhealthy when it happens that way without being wrapped in a layer of "we agree to this particular NC stalker fantasy".

Maybe the solution here is to focus more on "this is how RL consent and non-stalkery relationships differ from 50SoG, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it as fantasy" rather than criticising 50SoG for the things it doesn't teach? I'm not sure, still trying to work this stuff out.
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[personal profile] rydra_wong 2015-02-15 10:03 am (UTC)(link)
But some of the responses to stuff like @50shadesofabuse seems to indicate that there are some people receiving it as "this is how consent is supposed to work in RL BDSM".

I like Cliff Pervocracy's comment here:

http://pervocracy.tumblr.com/post/110380465704/intrigue-posthaste-please-pervocracy-snip
lederhosen: (Default)

[personal profile] lederhosen 2015-02-15 10:29 am (UTC)(link)
Yes, that sums up my qualms about it nicely. But I don't know what the ratio is of people who don't make the appropriate fantasy/reality distinction to people who do; it seems to be higher than the "zero" that I'd like it to be, but I don't know how it compares to the percentage of people who learn bad relationship lessons from e.g. Love Actually or Say Anything.

(And I do love Pervocracy's sporking of 50SoG.)
rydra_wong: Naked Meret Oppenheim, black grease and printing press wheel. Text: "a needle for my pornograph" (meret oppenheim)

[personal profile] rydra_wong 2015-02-15 10:47 am (UTC)(link)
I also like this a lot:

http://pervocracy.tumblr.com/post/110374452439/bad-ways-to-criticize-50-shades-of-grey-its-a

Which is in sync with [personal profile] metaphortunate's criticism of some of the criticisms.
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[personal profile] rydra_wong 2015-02-15 04:12 pm (UTC)(link)
I would have said something about how but the bad guys get killed in the end and run away. I wouldn't have said "but it's just a fantasy."

Not sure if I'm reading correctly -- are you saying that "she signed a contract and it's BDSM so it's consensual!" is the equivalent here of "the bad guys get killed in the end!" i.e. it's the Watsonian justification for being allowed to enjoy it without having to unpack it?
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[personal profile] rydra_wong 2015-02-16 09:28 am (UTC)(link)
Ooh. That's an interesting read on it. Must ponder.
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[personal profile] kalmn 2015-02-15 04:48 pm (UTC)(link)
No one watching 50 shades is a kid, though. And we all played Leia because she was the only woman in the movie. Not to say that your metaphor is wrong, just flawed. And I think the ways in which it is flawed are relevant. If there were portrayals of healthy bdsm relationships out there, I wouldn't mind as much. But even Secretary is low on consent and negotiation. It's not that they're bad examples; it's that they're the only examples.
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[personal profile] lovepeaceohana 2015-02-16 09:37 pm (UTC)(link)
No one watching 50 shades is a kid, though.

Watching, probably not; it's got that great big R-rating all over it. But reading? I managed to find texts by and about the Marquis de Sade well before I was of an age to appropriately digest them. I imagine that there are plenty of creative kids who'll find ways to read this book, especially since it's everywhere. I've had to have conversations with my four- and six-year-olds about it because they keep hearing ads on the radio.

Harimad here

(Anonymous) 2015-02-15 02:54 pm (UTC)(link)
lederhosen talks about how we distinguish fantasy from allegory/dealing with RL issues. Part of the problem with 50 Shades is that most of the readership is unfamiliar with BDSM and so doesn't know which is which. In contrast, we all have enough experience to know Discworld is fake or standing in fire is a bad idea.
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[personal profile] kate_nepveu 2015-02-15 04:02 am (UTC)(link)
Your image source is

http://floccinaucinihilipilificationa.tumblr.com/post/96040472380

Her name is Fucking Nancy.
lovepeaceohana: A tilted artist's rendition of a clear blue ocean with sky and clouds above; text reads "now bring me that horizon..." (Default)

[personal profile] lovepeaceohana 2015-02-15 05:48 am (UTC)(link)
Brilliant!! (Er, [personal profile] metaphortunate wasn't the only one wondering, haha.)
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[personal profile] jedusaur 2015-02-15 09:56 am (UTC)(link)
I love dragon bros.
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[personal profile] cofax7 2015-02-15 09:32 pm (UTC)(link)
omg yes, the dragon bros are so cute!
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[personal profile] lotesse 2015-02-15 09:31 am (UTC)(link)
bless you and keep you for this admirably correct position. hoping that now the film's out we can never speak of any of it ever again.
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[personal profile] brainwane 2015-02-15 12:47 pm (UTC)(link)
We could repeat the Must Pleasures Be Guilty panel just verbatim every single day and it wouldn't be enough. I sigh with resignation.
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[personal profile] firecat 2015-02-16 09:40 am (UTC)(link)
Sometimes things that are just not that well written become hugely popular among men, or majority men. Star Wars, for example. Then there is an enormous collective effort to figure out what's appealing about it: explosions, special effects, the Hero's Journey, etc. And sometimes things that are just not that well written become hugely popular among women. Then there is an enormous collective effort to explain what's wrong with women for liking it.

Yes, thank you.

I am not personally interested in 50 Shades, and I see the point that it's not proper BDSM and the point that fantasies can be problematic, but I think all the shaming of those who read such books and imagine such fantasies for entertainment gets to the point of being abusive too.
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[personal profile] liv 2015-02-17 11:11 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for this really great summary! It prompted thinky-thoughts.