So, there's this book called Fifty Shades Of Grey (which I call Fiddy Shay Gray). And it's, more or less, about a nice-looking young man who is into sexualized corporal punishment (BDSM, I suppose) and the woman who loves him despite, rather than because, of this "quirk." TV's Dan Savage would refer to her as GGG (Good, Giving And Game), and in Quagmire's lingo she is 'giggity.' This book, referencing the multi-hued moral gradient between good and bad, has been selling like hot cakes on a cold, sugarless day and has inspired much in the way of cultural criticism and criticism of that criticism. 50 Shades Of Grey: Do You Like It Rough?
Katie Roiphe, checking in from The Daily Beast, got things underway last week with an essay that can be boiled down to the following: A) Women like being spanked because they seem to enjoy some sense of powerlessness, despite various equality efforts in society, and; B) Feminists' heads are threatening to explode because of this. The criticism ends with a blanket dismissal of the book (based on handpicked prose) as anything that approaches art and chastises "otherwise intelligent women" for enjoying it. Frankly, this sort of literary condemnation defines the term 'guilty pleasure.'* Which fits because of Roiphe's assessment that the upshot of submission is not being responsible for doing shameful things that you may actually enjoy. Why Every Woman Should Experiment With S&M
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As Roiphe alludes in her essay, this isn't a new thing. There were cavewomen who, when not exhausted, didn't mind being dragged around by their hair, provided it was done with the understanding that when she says "uggah buggah" he'd stop. We're the only species on Earth in which the physically stronger members don't hold all of the power,** and some part of BDSM may be a reminder of that. It's interesting because it's still taboo. We're not supposed to strike each other. Or enjoy being hit. But we do. Oh boy, do we ever.
One point on which I totally agree with Roiphe's assessment is the safety of victimhood. Some people who absolutely adore being spanked, tied up, choked, et al would really like to be the absolved of the responsibility of liking it. Being able to point to their partner as the weird one removes some guilt, shame and culpability.
Anyone who has read Fiddy Shay Gray, let's hear what you think. Everyone else, how do you feel about the rough stuff? Is it demeaning? Liberating? Good, sexy fun?
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*Note: The term 'guilty pleasure' is awful. Like the things you like and ignore the people who tell you you're lowbrow. Shakespeare wasn't a Lincoln Center artist in his day.
**Note: I could be making that up.