There are three very distinct camps when it comes to 50 Shades of Grey:
- the sexual progressives – people who are sexually advanced and already into kink seem to HATE 50 Shades. They believe it to be a glammed-up, dumbed-down depiction of the BDSM lifestyle. They, almost universally, find Anastasia’s character to be weak and unlikable and find Christian to be an completely unrealistic dom. And they really, really hate that BDSM is still, kind of sort of, treated like a sickness that Christian has to be cured of. And, if 50 Shades ever comes up in a discussion with this group, you will instantly be provided with dozens of other BDSM book and film recommendations that are a million times sexier, better, more realistic.
- the sexual conservatives – this grouping is pretty initiative. Whenever a film or book dealing with sex and sexuality is released in a mainstream forum, the conservatives get their feathers ruffled. They juts don’t like sex.
- the sexually repressed, but learning – this was the big target market. Housewives who never considered BDSM but for whom the glammed-up BDSM-light feel of the franchise got their juices and imagination flowing. As one cycling buddy once told me after his once vanilla wife had read the first book, “I shutter a bit whenever she opens her nightstand drawer now.. I’m scared of what’s in there”.
I had always seen these as three very distinct groups. And since my wife and I are pretty clearly in the sexually progressive and advanced, I had every reason to believe we would hate the books and movies. I remember when they first came out, we were hanging out with a couple who lived a 24/7 master slave lifestyle.. they were soothingly critical of the books. I had no interest at all in reading them.
So, imagine my surprise when our closest and most sexually progressive friends shared recently that they loved the books. That they renewed their interest in restraint and power exchange.
So, last weekend, we watched the first movie. Loved it!! All the criticisms are valid… it is overly glamourized, its hard to imagine Christian’s fascination with Anastasia, there is a contrived story-book element where Christian seems in need of being saved from his BDSM lifestyle fixation. But to dwell on these weaknesses misses the true magic of that movie – its beauty, sensuality and accessibility for those with near-traditional views of sexual kink. For people who are just peeking through the crack in the door of kink, it provides a gorgeous, non threatening entry point. The scenes where Anastasia is first exposed to light bondage and pain play… they are beautiful. And her ability to be ‘whole’ and happy and confident after the fact send a message to the prospective novice BDSMer that you can do this in a light, breezy way.
Most importantly, however, its pretty sexy. All the beauty and opulence make for some really sexy scenes. The Red Room is absolutely gorgeous and the Christian Grey lifestyle frames the sexuality in an opulent and delicious casing.
It may not be a true rendering of the BDSM lifestyle – but that’s no reason to hate it. Its kind of gorgeous.