What’s 50 Shades Got To Do With It ?

March 7, 2013

  • Peep_Show_by_David_ShankboneA friend and I had a great and heated argument not long ago about 50 Shades of Grey. (If you have not heard of this huge bestseller have a look on Amazon, you can read a few pages for free)

Finally there was a book that celebrated female desire, the female version of lust, she explained. Yes sure, it was pornography, and not exactly well written at that, but it had desire in it. Pornography, at long last, that appealed to women’s appetite and wasn’t it about time?

I really tried hard to listen. It might be fair enough that women have to culturally catch up and create their own version of pornography, including a seriously cliché prince charming and an infuriatingly self-deprecating heroine. We certainly have plenty to catch up with in all aspects of societal life. But hadn’t we dealt with this particular aspect in the Seventies?

But millions of women are reading this now, so obviously we did NOT go all the way, my friend argued. She also told me about studies that show that the large majority of women still do not experience orgasms when having sex with a man. Obviously something was amiss.

I could totally sympathize with the frustration. But the conclusion…

After quite a bit of noisy back and forth and literally being cornered into the kitchen counter, I found myself getting clearer about why I could not bring myself to praise this book as a break-through in women’s consciousness:

As far as I know it was men who invented pornography. Why should women want to follow that route? Is it really that worthwhile a track? Pornography is a mediated sterile substitute that will stimulate our minds, which can certainly effect our bodies. But it will never take us into our bodies directly, will never make us feel at home where, without mental imaging and linguistic stimulation, sexuality can find its real expression and release. Love is not really being made in the head.

Allowing ourselves to trust and relax, allowing our bodies to have sex rather than our minds, maybe we will come to a new relationship to sexuality that is much less charged, much less fraught with illusory ideals and dis-empowering longings. Maybe we will see that our bodies have their own rhythms and that sexuality does not have to be anything to fret over, read expensive magazines about or study in a book. Maybe it is one of the simplest things to untether from the mores of patriarchy. Maybe all we need is a trustworthy partner – and being trustworthy ourselves – and the courage to own up to being very normal, sexual beings.

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