He’s Ba-ack: The Horror that is Grey
Hey, has everyone heard about the new horror novel that’s sweeping the nation? Told from the perpetrator’s perspective, this terrifying tale tells the story of a man who threatens to bind and gag his lover into submission, who traces her whereabouts via her cell phone, who draws blood and causes her actual physical pain, who ignores safe words, and who — as an encore — verbally abuses her and tries to control every aspect of her life. This story, which I dare read only in the daylight (although, come to think of it, it would be difficult to read a book in total darkness, anyway), is titled Grey.
Wait a minute, what’s that you say? Grey is not a horror story at all, but instead is a work of erotic romance? And the perpetrator is portrayed, not as a maniac in serious need of imprisonment if not outright throttling, but a romantic hero?
That’s right, Folks; EL James is getting set to release another installment of Fifty Shades of Grey, the erotic romance series that manages to be not very erotic or romantic at all, instead painting a romanticized portrait of an abusive relationship.
And, judging from comments posted across various social media sites, her fans are ready as well — ready to condemn anyone who dares to offer a negative opinion of their beloved books. So if you, as an enlightened ally to women, in some way feel offended or even harmed by these books and are in need of answers and arguments to support your case, here are a few:
Anti-FSOG equals Anti-Sex. Some assert that those who object to Fifty Shades of Grey are against sex in general; or, at the very least, that they object to any form of adult entertainment.
The fact is, however, that a number of adult performers and content producers — including a number of BDSM practitioners — object to the manner in which Fifty Shades misrepresents their mission and activities. Dominatrix and adult film performer Tara Indiana, for example, told NBC Los Angeles, “It perpetuates the worst stereotypes of the S&M community — that it’s about violence, it’s about rape, and kidnapping.” And Madonna, who most literally wrote the book on Sex, claims that Fifty Shades “isn’t very sexy.”
It also must be noted that, speaking strictly in terms of content, FSOG violates standards set forth by the feminist adult industry regarding the themes and messages embodied in true works of women positive erotica. How so? Well feminist porn director Tristan Taormino recently told the Huffington Post, “feminist porn is sex-positive, depicts sexual consent and agency, and prioritizes female pleasure.” No shades of grey here, as far as I can see.
Speaking on a personal level, I’ve been a published erotica author since 2005 and also have written blogs, DVD cover copy and erotic stories for companies that include Playgirl, Scandalous Women, Good Vibrations, Chick Media, Pool Boy magazine, and Dusk! TV for women. So, um, overall I’d say that I don’t have any noticeable hang ups in the sex department. None to speak of, anyway.
Of course, the resolution of this myth just leads to the introduction of another:
You’re JEALOUS of E.L. James. OK, so what erotica author wouldn’t love to have James’ bank account or name value? Actually, when I first heard about the success of Fifty Shades, I was very excited at the prospect of an erotic book achieving such extreme mainstream success; and I probably do have her to thank for an increase in my sales, due to the burgeoning popularity of the erotic genre. My excitement died the moment I realized that the book did not promote an equitable, loving relationship.
Sure, we all would love to have her riches and fan base. On the other hand, what erotica author would want their work to be ‘credited’ with helping to inspire real instances of alleged sexual violence, including a rape?
Whenever I hear a reader tell me that my work affirms her strength, gives her permission to enjoy her sexuality, and reinforces her body image, I can honestly say that these comments are priceless to me; and I sleep just fine at night, knowing that I’m presenting a healthy, nonviolent portrayal of women’s sexuality.
Who are you to tell other women what books they can enjoy, and what turns them on? Wouldn’t dream of it. I believe, in fact, that the phenomenon of slut shaming (in other words, telling other other women what they can enjoy and what turns them on) has in part helped to inspire the success of FSOG.
Think about it. Early examples of romantic works (Rudolph Valentino’s The Sheik, for example, or Gone with the Wind) contain elements of coercion, with the alpha male hero sometimes showing aggression toward the heroine — as a huge fan of Valentino and Clark Gable I hate to say this, but the truth remains. Then in the 1980s and 1990s, women took the reins in the novels of Jackie Collins, Kathryn Harvey and Robin Schone. The heroine of Collins’ Lady Boss or The Bitch, for example, did not need a billionaire to show her a good time; they made their own money and had their own fun, on their own terms.
I believe that with the advent of slut shaming, women’s sexuality was driven back into the closet; thus once again opening the door for patriarchal portrayals of romantic and sexual relationships. Suddenly we once again need a man’s permission to get down and dirty.
FSOG protestors are in favor of censorship. Free speech is a two way street. E.L. James has every right to write any type of book she wants; and we as responsible, conscientious, free thinking protestors have the right to say no.
And for once, Christian Grey had better listen when a woman says no.