50 shades- Feminst Success or Gender Role Fragmentation?

0725-50-shades-of-grey-up-ff-7Hey Guys Dr. Max here for our third installment of Grey Mondays, where we discuss elements of the book, Fifty Shades of Grey.    In the book, Christian Grey is obsessed with control and wants to dominate Ana. He is deep in to the BDSM lifestyle equipped with dungeon and all!  Ana being a virgin and obviously inexperienced is thrown into this world ill prepared for the intense nature of it.  So why is she enticed to go along with it? What it is about Christian and his deviant ways that have made women around the world to go and buy this book?  100 million of them BTW!

Domination and submission have been in the matrix of male/ female relationships for a long time.  Darwinists who prescribe to the standard narrative would say women secretly want to be dominated. The females of any mammalian species succumb and mate with the “Alpha.”  Since he is the strongest and most virile, she is betting on strong gene dissemination.

Is Ana drawn to Christian by biology? Isn’t it simply nice and romantic for a man to take care of everything?  It isn’t just the sex that Christian controls.  He controls the finances and buys Ana lots of nice things like expensive books, a computer and a car!  He also shows up just in time, like a super hero to save her from a perilous bike crash and unwanted advances from a drunk man.  I think everyone could use a lover or friend like Christian.  So, in the beginning what draws Ana to Christian and women readers around the word could be romance. Yes, In the beginning… but to understand why this book is so popular we must look deeper.

Our instinctual bio-sexology could have some answers- We have evolved from our hunter gather pre-agrarian societies and commoditized everything. Goods and services are produced and sold.  Marriage became “ownership”, and more importantly a way to track land inheritance. Sex becomes big business and our relationships now are based on money.  Sex also becomes a way for a woman to access male resources.  Now add in the feminist movement with sexual equality and you can see how our gender roles are totally confused.  As women become confused they don’t know what they want and can become insecure and submissive.  We know that Ana is confused about her feelings toward Christian and her attraction/ repulsion to the BDSM lifestyle.  She also is desperately insecure- she feels less desirable than her roommate Kate and is lacking stable father figures.  Maybe Ana is the embodiment of the modern American woman.

Soraya Chemaly from the Huffington post argues that the success of El James Fifty series is the proliferation of the romance- erotica genre.  More importantly that the books are not notable for women’s interest in trangressive sex but how women are using technology to subvert gendered shame by exploring sexual content privately using e-readers. She says that instead of submission fantasies representing a discomfort with power and free will, women’s consumption and sharing of this content is a feminist success.  I disagree. The modern woman is fascinated by the Fifty series because like Ana they don’t know what they want.  They are exploring their inner thoughts as Ana explores Christian’s dungeon. The feminine repulsion/attraction of sex, boredom with lustless marriages and the battle for sexual control will form the boundaries of the next sexual revolution.


Key Discussion points

 Do women like being submissive?

-Women want to feel feminine whereas men want to feel masculine – this stems from gender roles (letting the man handle things and being submissive)

-Some women find it romantic when a man takes care of her

-Submission is about trust and allowing a man to work his magic

-Psychological nature vs nurture

-Women in ancient history were dominated and taken: survival of the fittest, alpha male

-Now we have moved away from ancient history, men and women’s sexual roles are confused now, feminism

-insecurity and low self esteem drives submissive behavior

-If woman has no Father figure, the new man in her life takes over that role

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