Five Shades of Misogyny in “Fifty Shades of Grey”

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As soon as I heard about E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, I knew I’d probably end up reading it.  I tend to go to the those “bandwagon books” (The Hunger Games, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and so on) kicking and screaming, but I’m somehow always convinced to read them.

I bought Fifty Shades of Grey when I went into the town bookstore to get a book for one of my students.  I’d heard about it, of course, and figured it was as good a time as any to read it.  I read that book with a mixture of fascination and disgust, and I’m pretty sure my family was disgusted with me.  I kept commenting on how skeeved out I was by it, and my mother would say, “Then why the hell are you still reading it?”

And then I lost all credibility when I got the subsequent books (Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed) on my Nook.  Why, you might ask, if I was not exactly enjoying the experience?  Well, I wanted to know what happened.

Which is really stupid if you think about it; after all, I’ve read the Twilight books, and Fifty Shades began life as Twilight fanfiction.  What that means, just so you know, is that you can do this:

Twilight/Fifty Shades of Grey is the story of an innocent young woman named Bella Swann/Anastasia Steele who somehow attracts the attention of a gorgeous, rich young man named Edward Cullen/Christian Grey who lives with his adoptive family.  Edward/Christian is not as perfect as he appears, though; there is something about him that could be potentially fatal to Bella/Ana: he is a vampire/obsessed with S&M.  There are several twists and turns, of course (notably Bella’s/Ana’s longtime friend, Jacob/Jose, who develops romantic feelings for her that lead to awkwardness with Edward/Christian), but they ultimately end up together after Bella/Ana changes herself to become a true part of Edward’s/Christian’s dark world, and they all live happily every after.

But that isn’t really my problem … I mean, to some degree, you can do that with many stories.  As one of my wise English professors once said, “There are only five original stories in the world.  The rest is in the details.”  And, to be fair, this book was never billed as fine literature.

Nope, my beef with Fifty Shades is the misogyny present therein.  A small sampling …

1.  A woman should not have to change herself to fit into the idea of a man’s perfection.

I’m not talking about the S&M so much, either.

Ana is chastised repeatedly for going out with her friends without Christian’s …

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Is Shutting Down Craigslist’s Adult Services a Hindrance for Child Porn Investigations?

photo of craigslist adult services censored nude man naked men pictures

Under pressure from several attorneys general, government officials, law enforcement and advocacy groups, Craigslist shut down its Adult Services section on September 3rd of this year. In place of the link to the once-popular hookup site, it now simply reads “Censored.” Although Craigslist did shut down the Adult Services portion of the site, and their director of customer service and law enforcement relations, William Clint Powell, has assured the House Judiciary Crime subcommittee that they have no intention of restoring it, the company itself is …

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Dan Savages Argues That Cheating Can Save Your Relationship

Here’s the problem with Dan Savage: he gives you the good advice you don’t want to hear. But. Is it really a problem?

Savage writes Savage Love, a weekly sex and relationship advice column that runs in a number of newspapers around North America. I love his column and find his advice, for the most part, to be incredibly funny and incredibly honest.

Savage’s real strength is his ability to handle even the most taboo sexual topics with the same reason and frankness that he applies to his most “vanilla” cases. Are you a feminist who enjoys being spanked but worries that S&M play threatens your relationship’s sense of equality? Get a necklace to figure out who’s in charge and when.

He’s gotten in a bit of trouble in the past for some of his more controversial or less sensitive views — like his belief that the female genitalia looks like …

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The Latest Epidemic: Women Who Are Addicted to Pornography

We’ve heard plenty from men who claim that they have “sexual compulsion” and men who are addicted to pornography, but those stories often left women out of the loop. Yet however, despite its lack of coverage, women apparently aren’t any more exempt from compulsive behavior — like excessive porn viewing — than men are.

A church support group in Kansas claims their aim is to rehabilitate women who are addicted to pornography and have created a peer network of other women who are afflicted by this “disease.” The Westside Family Church organized their group in order to bring awareness to how pornography and sexual compulsion affects women. They currently have a following large enough to hold weekly meetings and call themselves the Victory Over Porn Addiction Group. The leader, Crystal Renaud, states that it’s long overdue in a religion where women are not “intended” to be sexual beings to be able to discuss very real, very sexual topics in a non-threatening environment. Renaud states that she created the group with her own former addiction in mind:

“At school I wanted to go home and look at it more. Then I went online. I’d stay late at the library to look at it. Eventually I got into masturbation, phone sex, cybersex … That was my life for eight years.”

Renaud claims that she was lucky enough to find support in order to help put a stop to her compulsion.

One of the women in the group, a girl who goes by the alias “Michele L. H.,” states that the group has helped her create and maintain a healthy level of intimacy in the sexual aspect of her marriage. Michele states that she was sexually abused at a young age and exposed to pornography. She claims that the exposure desensitized her to a “normal” sexual appetite and stated that she couldn’t achieve orgasm or even arousal without incorporating pornography into her and her husband’s shared sex life. Michele states that she’s “learning the correct way of intimacy and bonds.” She also claims that her basis of this education is to “learn[ing] what your spouse wants, his needs.” Michele states that the crux of her fight against temptation stems from the desire to masturbate.

Renaud states that many women in the group are taking part in its events because they are afraid that they’ll marry a man someday and fear that he won’t be able to please them like they please themselves. ( … And I subsequently ask myself, “Is that really such a bad thing?”)

According to the women who participated in the interview, it appears that most of them suffered an addiction to porn-watching or masturbation — not sexual compulsion on a Tiger- or David Duchovny-like scale where they were headed out to bed every breathing male in a fifteen-mile radius.

While I think that sexual compulsion is just as “real” for women as it is for men (yet I do have my questions on the validity of a “sexual” compulsion; I think there’s compulsive behavior, sex being merely one aspect of it), none of these women are admitting to any wrongdoing. What’s so wrong with masturbation? Why do these women feel that the focus of their sexual experiences has to revolved around their male counterparts satisfaction? Why in God’s name would they put their husband’s sexual needs ahead of their own, for the sake of a little ego-stroking?



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