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This place matters

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My pretty little head

Now that the 50 Shades movie is upon us, editorials abound warning about unhealthy messages and violent urges. 
I'm gonna opine all over that in a minute, but first a public service announcement:
I haven't seen 50 Shades, but I've heard it's not so big on the safe aspect of "safe, sane, and consensual" (or the sane. or the consensual.) So if you've never done the BDSM thing before, but the movie made you want to try, learn how to be safe. Even simple handcuff play can cause serious injury if you don't know what you're doing, so don't do it until you've learned how.
But on with the opining. There's something really bothersome to me about all the editorializing about bad messages and unhealthy relationships. I feel that sort of talk infantilzes women. Nobody wags their fingers at grown-ass men and says "Now, Mr. Bond bangs 8 ladies in this movie, but don't you bang 8 ladies because that's not healthy." Of course they don't. They are grown up men and it would be absurdly condescending. 
So how come women can't be trusted to put two and two together and realize they equal "creepy sociopath"?  We didn't enter suicide pacts after watching Romeo and Juliet in English class, so I think we can safely assume that women aren't so frail of mind that they can't deduce what's a healthy relationship decision and what's not.

If Pretty Woman didn't convince us all to turn to prostitution as a great way to meet men, I think we can read 50 Shades without leaping into bed with the first abusive billionaire who starts stalking us. It's for pretend, and we're grown-ass women who are perfectly capable of telling the difference between real and pretend.

At one time, people believed that sexual excitement and fantasy in women could make them go insane and develop female hysteria, a condition sometimes "cured" by the surgical removal of the clitoris. Women were simply too frail to handle sexual fantasy without going stark raving insane.

Some articles say that women who like 50 Shades need therapy, so I consulted an expert on women's own frailty when it comes to their own sexuality. Dating coach David Wygant explains why women "can't handle sex" perfectly on his website when he says 
A lot of women can’t handle the feelings they get when they have sex... women are not wired that way. The beauty of your emotional wiring is that when you do have sex, you’re giving your soul and your heart to another person and you do get all confused. And that’s a beautiful thing.
See, as women, we aren't wired to understand that just because sex with a controlling nutter looks sexy on screen, we shouldn't have sex with controlling nutters in real life. Because when we indulge in a sexual fantasy, we get all confused. And that's a beautiful thing, apparently.
Now the billions of dudes the world over who watch Internet porn, they don't need therapy because men are different from women, constitutionally capable of understanding that glory holes are fun in porno but not so much in real life. They don't need therapy when they play Grand Theft Auto, a game that literally lets you screw and then murder prostitutes because they're men, and men can handle these things. Women? No way. 

50 Shades is a fantasy, and fantasies don't need to have Socially Redeeming Value. The primary audience for the books and films are married, suburban, middle-class women approaching middle age. They've got kids who need braces and crushing debt and soul-sucking jobs, and love handles and husbands with waning libidos. So they like to take a minute and imagine the life of a woman who never has to worry about money and gets to follow her bliss and has sex with a powerful man who can't get enough of her. 
50 Shades is an awful book series and an awful movie about an awful man in love with an awful woman. It is also for pretend. Batman has sex with an international supervillian who wants to kill him, but don't you have sex with international supervillians because that is too dangerous. Ana has sex with a very bad man, but don't you have sex with very bad men because you are too stupid not to know that.

(Note: I do know the BDSM community has a legitimate beef with 50 Shades, in that gets pretty much everything about safe, sane, and consensual play wrong. That is a totally fair criticism - it's a book by tourists, for tourists, and neither James or her readers will ever get it right because they'll never actually be part of the scene. But considering this is the first mainstream depiction of BDSM that even mentions things like hard limits, contracts, safe words, etc., I don't think it's unreasonable to cut it a little slack.)

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