The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

CATFISH:”Fifty Shades” Are Us?

Unless you’re Amish, or live in a cave, you have probably heard of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Many of you have read it and maybe you have even read it secretly in that barn or cave. Set largely in Seattle, it is the first installment in a trilogy that traces the relationship between a virgin college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey who has a dark secret side. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/and discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM).

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is currently one of the best-selling novels in the world with over 60 million copies sold. It is a 2011 erotic romance by British author E. L. James. It was number one on USA Today’s best-selling books list for twenty weeks in a row, and in the UK it’s the fastest selling book ever in both physical and e-book incarnations. Though critical reception of the novel has been mixed, its popularity has attracted a wide fan base of both men and women.

So what’s the deal? The books themselves are very quick reads, when they can be found. I looked for them at several libraries and was put on numerous wait-lists before I could get them. I have to say the books really didn’t live up to all the hype for me but that definitely was an interesting twist on a love story.

So why are people so fascinated by these books? What does this say about the readers and the culture? Is it that many didn’t know BDSM existed and are curious to try something new? Is it the new popular thing trending now, or is it that it takes a fantasy of both men and women and makes it ‘ok’ to act on it? A lot of people must be into it or at least are obviously curious about it.

Something that was previously an intimate thing between consenting adults is brought into the homes of millions and is now a much talked about subject.

So I’m curious…

When I think of S&M or BDSM I get a picture in my head of hot dominatrices in awesome boots beating the shit out of some guy. But BDSM is not meant to be abuse; it’s an agreement between two people who are aroused by such behavior. It is a way to create immense pleasure because their senses are heightened and stimulated by the pain.

Often there is a dominant and a submissive. The dominant is “in control” of the submissive but with limits. These limits are set before any act occurs. Like in the book, contracts are drawn up between the two people stating what they are willing to do and not do. Hard limits are things you will not do, but to each their own. Soft limits are thing you might consider, toys, bondage, etc. There are rules and safe words agreed upon by both parties about how far either is willing to go. It’s supposed to be fun, not abuse. BDSM represents a continuum of practices and expressions, both erotic and non-erotic, involving restraint, sensory stimulation, role-playing, and a variety of interpersonal dynamics.

Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who don’t consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community and/or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. Interest in BDSM can range from one-time experimentation to a lifestyle

Of course many are enraged about the books. It’s been banned from libraries, called “mommy porn,” disgusting, and a literary piece of shit. The relationship between Christian & Anastasia is labeled unhealthy. He is extremely possessive, to the extent of buying the company she works at and having a bodyguard follow her every move to completely overreacting and constantly threating to beat her with his twitchy palm. Yet she had every opportunity to leave; she didn’t have to participate in any of it. She wanted to.

Anastasia is constantly telling herself she doesn’t care about Christian’s money, penthouse, helicopter and all that comes with it. But I have to call bullshit. I highly doubt that she would be so eager to be tied up and spanked if it was on a dirty mattress in a crack house. Of course the fact that he is loaded, apparently extremely hung, gorgeous and a master sex god might make a lot people change their mind.

For me my biggest issue was, did the author really need to delve intp such immense detail about Christian plucking out her tampon (gross). This is not something I want to read about, and it could have been left out completely. What makes it worse is that Christian is just thrilled that Ana’s menstruating because he hates using condoms.

All the talk and controversy has led to a huge marketing campaign based on the books, and a movie is in the works right now. You can now buy everything from beginner bondage kits to explore your inner goddess, to the more advanced containing a wide range of adult toys, covering everything you can image. Many adult toy site even have their own “Grey Area” where you can find all the things you need to explore. There are even how-to-tie-up-your-food cookbooks and theme parties. But the craziest thing I found while exploring the “Grey Accessories” were clothes for your baby, shirts with sayings like, “My mom read Fifty Shades of Grey 9 months ago,” to “My mom wishes Christian Grey was my dad,” to a onesie with the infamous necktie from the book printed on it with hand cuffs. Imaging dropping your kid off at daycare in that? Awkward. As adults do what you want, explore, be safe, and have fun, but to put your baby in a bondage outfit is just fucked.

We have become Generation Sex, subliminally spoonfed from a young age; it’s all around us, all the time, so why are we still shocked by things like this book? We all do it, if we can. As humans we all have a natural inclination towards sex. Many want to experiment and keep things new and fresh. We should judge; we all have our own ‘50’ shades in some form or another, whether we want to admit it or not. Whatever your preferences are, have fun with them.

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