A couple of days ago I Tweeted something silly about Fifty Shades of Grey and was hit back with a Tweet telling me to read an article when I was done reading the book. I was already onto the second in the series so I took a break from the steamy novel and checked out the article. It left me annoyed and upset. I posted on Facebook about it and got some responses from others. I decided I needed to go a little more in depth about what bothers me about it.
So the article, written by an English professor and feminist scholar, claims that the Fifty Shades of Grey books are degrading to women. That it’s “mommy porn” and the women reading it are swatting away their children and not taking care of themselves in order to read these books. She claims that instead of our daughters learning to be strong women, they will be looking to be submissive to men so they can be taken care of and not make any decisions on their own.
Firstly, the term mommy porn makes me chuckle. Like it’s something new? Obviously, the author of the article has never read a Harlequin romance novel, a.k.a. bodice ripper. While there is more clenching than quivering in Fifty Shades, they are not that different. Personally, I would dub the books by E.L. James as BDSM mainstream erotica, but I can guess that she dubs them as merely steamy romance since words like c*ck, pu$$y or even penis are not used. Slightly off topic, but it annoys me that the author refers to the pleasure spots as “down there” and simply erection, but whatever.
Secondly, it bothers me to no end that this Professor thinks that women can be so easily swayed by a piece of fiction. If that were truly the case, I feel it lays more in the reader’s upbringing than in the “message” of the book. For a feminist, she’s not giving us women a lot of credit. The book is a piece of fiction. Reading fiction should be entertaining and maybe a bit educational (depending on what you’re reading) but by no means should it be a “How To” manual for people to live their lives by. Might reading Fifty Shades turn some women on to the world of BDSM? Maybe, but even if it did, what is wrong with that? It’s not a lifestyle people should just jump into but perhaps it will lead the reader to learn more about themselves and their sexuality and what they like. I would think a feminist wouldn’t have an issue with women wanting to learn more about what pleases them in the bedroom or pain room, should that be the case.
Thirdly, I almost wonder if the author of the article even read the book or did any research about BDSM. While I don’t lead the lifestyle myself, I have read a decent deal about it (oooh internet, you are a wealth of information, aren’t you?) and it seems to me that the Submissive is the one holding the power in the relationship because they have the final say on what happens. If they don’t like it, they safe word and their Dominate has to stop. In the books, there is a contract drawn up by the male MC, Christian Grey, that talks about hard limits (definite no-nos), soft limits, eating habits, personal hygiene, etc. I don’t know if this happens in the real world of BDSM, but I’d have to think it’s at least discussed if not written up and signed . The book’s female MC, Anastasia Steele, negotiates with Mr. Grey about what she finds acceptable and unacceptable, so she’s not going into blind and she’s not merely accepting his offer, she makes it work for her as well. I can understand how a feminist would have issue with anyone being submissive to someone else, but maybe those who are submissive in the bedroom are dominate elsewhere. Maybe they need that break. Most of the mommies I know are the ones who make the majority of the decisions for the family. They set up the schedules and cart the kids around and have to make a lot of the decisions because the daddies are off working or don’t necessarily know what choices work best for the daily lives of their kids (I’m sure that’s not always the case but I see it happening often) so maybe they need an outlet in life where they don’t have that control, where decisions are made for them. I see no issue in that. I don’t think it’s degrading, I think it’s making yourself happy. Remember, the BDSM lifestyle is about pain AND pleasure and the amount of each depends on the submissive and not the dominate.
Lastly, I’m not sure what the lady has against these women and their fantasies. She states that these moms are letting themselves go, ignoring their husbands and swatting their kids away. I find it hard to believe any mom is going to ignore her child to read these books. Might she put them to bed earlier? Maybe, but hey, growing kids need lots of sleep. Also, I’m not sure how people could read these books and not get turned on and want to get it on with their significant others. And really lady, you’re complaining because people are reading?! I’ve always said it doesn’t matter what people read, so long as they’re reading something. Who cares if it’s smut or articles on genetics? Reading keeps the mind active and if what you’re reading leads to fantasies, I see no problem with that. Maybe the reader will have the chance to live them out someday, but even if they don’t what’s the harm in having them?
All in all I think it comes down to remembering that these books are fictional and women are not going to run out looking for men to tell them what to do and beat them silly, all for money. That’s not what it’s about. It’s a super steamy love story about an alternate lifestyle. The author of the books controls the outcome but gives the reader insight into something they may not know about. Maybe it’ll peak their curiosity to learn more about what they enjoy and maybe it’ll perk up things in their own bedrooms/red room of pain. Maybe it’ll just give them something to giggle about with the other moms while waiting to pick up their kids from school.
So moms and others, go ahead and keep reading your mommy porn without shame. It’s not degrading and it’s not going to knock you back to a 1950′s mentality. We’ve come too far to let a piece of fiction make us regress. Just enjoy and don’t worry about the opinions of others who think it’s wrong. They’re probably just too shy and prudish to admit they want to read it as well.