Fifty Shades of Grey – Why It’s Better to Misbehave
Yesterday, by pure accident (not because I typed naughty in Pinterest, before going to bed) I came across a phrase coined by Laurel Thatcher Urlich, a female historian and professor at Harvard University: “Well-behaved women seldom make history!” (Not exactly the kind of statement you would expect from a devoted Mormon and teacher of a Religion class).
Damn right she is! – dawned on me in the obscurity of an evening drawing to a close, amidst images of lingerie-clad women and naughty manifestos looming over me (while my cheeky brain was performing a scan of the entire female history).
Just think of Sappho, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc and later Virginia Woolf, Marie Curie, Coco Chanel or Simone de Beauvoir. The one thing that all these women had in common was that they dared to think outside the box, denounced the order of a male dominated world, stood up for their believes and as a result interminably shaped our history.
Our past is packed with examples of feminine acts of rebellion: Veleda, the German priestess (not Vileda – the mop), who in year 70 was declared deity, because she won the Batavian riot; Larskalina Bouboulina, a Greek naval commander of 1821, who lead the fight against the Ottoman Empire (and not a fellow Greek “Hero” Marina Fouraki, who in 2009 set a man’s genitals on fire); Yaa Asantewaa initiating in 1900 the War of Independence of modern-day Ghana, and thus becoming the African version of the French Joan of Arc.
However, there is another category, undeniably less heroic, but perhaps equally important, of women who through their pushing-boundaries writing contributed to the sexual revolt. The list is far too long to incorporate here, but there are a few scandalous novels worth mentioning that have changed the erotic world forever. Unquestionably the Story of O, 1954 fiction written by Anne Desclos (Pen name Pauline Reage), leads the pack, followed by Delta of Venus (by Anais Nin) published in 1977, Bad behavior of Mary Gaitskill from 1988, The sexual life of Catherine M written by Catherine Millet in 2001, and Fifty Shades of Grey by Erica Mitchell (aka E.L. James), being the most recent one.
Fifty Shades of Grey
While it’s unarguably the worst-written-book-ever in a strictly literary sense, it remains without doubt, that the last novel has changed the way women view their sexuality, and which it so openly (and instrumentally) manifests.
You don’t have to be a connoisseur of the sadomasochistic endeavours to want to have a peek (or two, or three) inside the most infamous novel of contemporary writing (while curiosity killed the cat, it certainly won’t kill us, right?). Which explains why a book of such a mediocre character, rapidly turned into a major commercial success and game-changer for zillions of women (in fact, it sparked the biggest baby boom since the last one in the fifties).
But what is it about the implausible story of Anastasia and master Christian, that makes us wet our underwear at the sheer thought of being spanked just for the fun of it? Is it the graphic sex (by which I mean, loads of graphic sex), the fantasy of submission or the non-vanilla guilty pleasure? I presume it must be a mix of all three, plus the fact that it involves a “No, please no, but really, yes” kind of deal.
According to Oscar Wilde: “Everything in the world is about sex, except for sex. Sex is about power“, which sort of explains the controversial affinity of the twisted mechanics. With the recent emancipation of female-hood and erotic desires it’s no surprise that women want a man in bed, who’s in control, even if slightly dominant (With women being in charge everywhere, it’s ok to divert the steering wheel to somebody else for once).
The part of the story that makes us women immeasurably juiced up is less the adoration of S&M but rather the anticipation of the unknown, the rising tension, the buttocks burning lust or simply a projection of whip-hand pleasure or the idea of being tied up. There is something incredibly erotic about being vulnerable, being at the mercy of your romantic partner, surrendering to his superiority, yielding to his desires, feeling like the naughty girl who deserves to be punished (and the good old butt aching spank does precisely that).
I’m yet to meet a woman who hasn’t toyed with the idea of being a misbehaved temptress in the bedroom and maybe elsewhere. While pressured to act responsibly in every other area (work, school, family, kitchen), inside we long for bowing out of obligations, and playing behind tightly closed doors the naughty kitten, the disobedient siren. I’d be surprised to find a single woman who hasn’t tried at least once in her career, to seduce the life out of her companion by wearing racy lingerie, performing most elaborate Kama sutra positions with her 8” heels on or trying her hand at a vibrator. Without even going into details of getting sensual in front of a mirror or trying that kinky furry cuff and other playful novelties. Let’s admit there is a femme fatale anchored in every one of us, waiting to be liberated and perhaps even subjected to some indecent power.
Indecency can be regarded here as a personal riot, a kind of protest against the constraining norms of our loosening up -yet still very puritan -society. Behaving in a disobedient way allows us to break free from prevalent rules and choose sexual liberty instead of personal confinement (without having to burn our bras or even our knickers).
It’s at this point that Fifty Shades of Grey kicks in, allowing us to unearth most hidden erotic desires, without risking of being regarded as a deviant or perverted enchantress. Being witness to the raunchy screwing in both, the film and the novel, gives us an opportunity to enjoy silent voyeurism without the corporal repercussion. It awakens the naughty in even the most prudish of us, who otherwise would never dare to get a glimpse of the adult world of obscene literature.
I mean, let’s face it: why did the trio of Fifty Shades become such a humongous success?
Because deep inside every woman there is a naughty, naughty girl, waiting to get (un)leashed!