Why you need to be terrified of Christian Grey.
August 22, 2012
By: Victoria Finan
Let’s talk about sex.
These are four words that emblazon the cover of an adolescent puberty manual I once curiously borrowed from the library. They are also the words that every teenager DREADS hearing from their parents (I was lucky, my parents have always adopted a ‘we won’t ask if you don’t tell as long as you don’t make us grandparents any time this century’ approach.) They are also four words that, surprisingly, very few women seem to ever say to each other.
Female sexuality is kept very hush-hushed. We are constantly told by the media that we should work on being ‘sexy’ for our men and not for ourselves- flicking through my latest issue of Cosmo, I can see an article entitled ’30 ways to BLOW HIS MIND’. It is apparent everywhere that, in the so called emancipated year of 2012, women still have a huge issue talking about sex and what pleases them rather than what pleases their partner. When was the last time you and your friends had a conversation about masturbation, compared with all the times you’ve heard the men in your life talk about ‘bashing one out’ (which to me always sounded disgusting but anyway…)? Every time sex gets mentioned, women seem to just clam up. I remember one alcohol fuelled night in my student flat last year where all the girls had a very long conversation about our experiences, histories, fantasies, weird things etc. One girl mentioned an unusual but by no means bizarre fantasy and the rest of us were shocked into absolute silence – we simply can’t bring ourselves to talk about these very human aspects of life for fear that we might still be seen as ‘dirty’. Nice girls don’t talk about the S word, after all.
So, when ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ came along, for many women it was a revelation. Suddenly, there was this book which had filthy sex scenes in – and WE ARE TALKING ABOUT IT. Women are openly admitting to having a ‘night in’ with Christian Grey with winky faces in their Facebook statuses, they are pouring over the smut in the playground, they are passing the book along to their friends, they are crediting it with restoring their own sex life back to its chandelier-swinging former glories. Isn’t this fantastic? Aren’t we empowered? For once, don’t we have our answer to men boasting about how much porn they watch?
Except this isn’t fantastic. It is not empowering. And I’m going to come out and say it: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY IS JUST AS DEGRADING AND INSULTING TO WOMEN AS THE MODERN PORN INDUSTRY HAS BECOME. I don’t care if it’s making women talk about sex. I don’t care if it’s getting people to read. I am SICK of women aspiring to be these spineless heroines and I am SICK of women lusting after abusive and psychopathic men like Christian Grey.
This week I have seen at least five Facebook statuses proclaiming ‘Christian, I wish you were my boyfriend’, and I’ve been trying to understand why any sane girl would ever want him to be hers. So far, I have come up with this: that EL James describes him as being good looking, that he is rich, that he spoils Anastasia immensely. These are literally the only truly positive qualities I can attribute Christian with, and I am going to ignore them as plenty of literature’s most famous heroes are hot, rich and ready to splash the cash on a lucky lady.
Let’s look at Christian’s other points.
1) His controlling nature. In ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Christian BUYS the company Anastasia is working for so he can keep an eye on her at work. He flies three thousand miles to see her because she doesn’t respond to an email. He insists on knowing where she is and who she is with 100% of the time. I find it worrying that girls find this hot, I find it incredibly disturbing. What happened to privacy, to independence? If a guy pulled half the crap that Christian pulls, he’d get a restraining order, and I’m perplexed at how many people seem to be overlooking this.
2) His sexual deviance. I am not saying there is anything wrong with a BDSM lifestyle IF and only IF both parties enter it willingly because it is what turns them on. It is made abundantly clear in ‘Fifty Shades’ that Anastasia is TERRIFIED of having pain inflicted on her, but endures it because Christian gets his kicks from it. How is THIS desirable – and what happened to the woman getting some pleasure? A healthy sexual relationship should revolve around equality, trust and communication. I find it very scary that the women who claim to be in love with Christian seem to accept that their sexual needs and desires are totally unimportant. In ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Christian admits he enjoys inflicting pain because his submissives remind him of his ‘crackwhore mother’. And yet girls still WANT this? They WANT to be made powerless, to be told they are dirty and worthless? I seriously think we need to look at the way sex education is taught in this country, if young girls are still growing up and believing that is a healthy attitude to have.
3) He is full of issues and is generally pretty dull. Look, there is something to be said for a bad boy. I myself have often wondered what it would be like to be Carla on Corrie and have Peter Barlow all to myself. However, that women would see somebody as messed up as Christian Grey as an ideal partner is baffling. He is selfish and constantly puts his own needs and fears before those of Anastasia in every respect – and no amount of talk therapy seems to do him any good. Moreover, throughout the books, Christian remains insipidly boring, like Edward Cullen before him. He is not funny and seems of average intelligence.
What makes me sad is that I know none of this will have changed a Christian lover’s mind. I almost wonder sometimes if some girls are genetically programmed to fancy men who are damaging and completely wrong for them. In 2012, women can vote, they can be educated to the same level as any man, they can hold powerful jobs, they can be amazing mothers. Why then, do we still lust after the archetypal men of a bygone era – controlling, domineering and eager to push women into subservience? What does this say about us? About our own self-worth? As a woman, I believe I deserve far more than what the likes of Christian Grey has to offer me.
I know all this has been said a thousand times before, but I feel I need to chip in. We live in an era in which literature goes viral. In the past ten years, we have had four books series’ that have exploded in popularity and become permeated on the world’s consciousness: Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games and now Fifty Shades. Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen are feisty, kind, intelligent and independent young women who refuse to let their lives be dominated by males and the desire to obtain one. It is to be hoped, therefore, that when we dust off the literature of the early 21st century, it is their legacy that remains – and the likes of Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele are cast back into the chasms of a far bygone age, remembered not with glowing nostalgia but with grim and astonished recollections that ‘this portrayal of women could happen in our lifetimes.’ I hope that Fifty Shades of Grey is merely a passing fad – and indeed if it encourages more women to openly explore their sexuality, it does at least have one positive. Otherwise, we have far more to worry about femininity today than any of us could have possibly imagined.
First published on author’s blog: missmisselthwaite.wordpress.com
Image courtesy of www.guardian.co.uk