50 shades of trouble

50ShadesPremier004I have read nothing by E. L. James. Not a line of 50 Shades of Grey, or its sequels, nor anything else by this author. However, on this occasion I am not going to allow ignorance to stymie me from venturing an opinion.

Of course I have heard about it. Almost all opinion coming from women who, in my admittedly limited experience, appear to form the overwhelming majority of the book’s readership. The impression I am left with is that it is boring. This is little enough incentive to this lover of books; add in the subject matter and my continued avoidance is almost guaranteed. However, rather like the cat, my curiosity invariably trumps all.

It is a book about sex. Sex, and domination. Oh, and money. And a fine honed athletic male physique. Written by a woman. I have been told it is also juvenile, and debauched.

I have not tackled erotica. Not even D. H. Lawrence or Vladimir Nabokov. Well, not Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Lolita, anyway.

From what I have gathered though it is pretty clear that 50 Shades of Grey deals with a pretty dark subject. In of itself that is fine – I read a fair bit of crime fiction and this can be quite disturbing. What is different here, though, is that the male protagonist is becoming a hero, an ideal, almost a role model. In the novel he is abusive, and I wonder how this can be positive.

I know little about BDSM. My view has always been that what two consenting adults do is none of my business. The key word is consent; and this is where it gets troubling.

I have to defer to those who know their stuff: 50 Shades is Domestic Abuse pretty much self-describes itself – it is no fan page.

I would never want the novels banned, but I do wonder whether those who are chasing quick and easy big bucks have examined what they are selling – commercialising abusive behaviour cannot be acceptable, even to the most libertarian of souls.

At the risk of a terrible pun, very little in this world is black and white. However, woman all over do suffer, and if these novels at all trivialise or normalise that then it is very wrong.

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One Response to 50 shades of trouble

  1. Before commenting on anything like this, I think it is really a good idea to read the book (not meant to sound as big a criticism as it does Julian!)… In fact, given how such big a phenomenon the book is (was?) I’d make an exception to the rule and read it, it won’t take long… I did (just the first one), to see what all the fuss was about.

    Yes care must be taken when talking about things that may trivialise abuse, but the same care must also be taken when talking about abuse, to ensure you don’t include things that aren’t, even if they are not what you are into/disgust you/you can’t understand.

    I remember when training as a police officer studying the different levels of assault – put simply: common assault, ABH and GBH – being rather surprised at how low the bar was before the consent of the ‘assaulted’ party was irrelevant – as late as the 1990s the HoL upheld the decision that you couldn’t consent to ABH and above (Wikipedia, as always, is a reasonable first point of reference for this sort of thing ‘Consent (criminal law)’.
    There were some interesting cases, that described in graphic detail what had happened, to give examples and I remember feeling sorry for both parties involved who had had some of their most private acts publicised and broadcast all over the media. Not the sort of thing they’d want their mum, neighbour or boss reading about, I suspect!

    With the exception of public health considerations – I’m not sure it’s quite right the taxpayer should have to pay the bill because your desire for sexual gratification went wrong and you ended up needing the NHS, but there again if people injury themselves base-jumping, cage-fighting, boxing, playing football it is accepted as OK – what on earth has it got to do with me what two consenting adults get up to behind closed doors (or even in a public club that’s purpose is made quite clear)?

    Of course this brings heightened risks that abusers will be able to use the shelter of others’ activities to cover up their crimes, and the state should go out of its way to protect those who are on the receiving end of abuse. But for society/the law to use the broad brush approach it currently does and is often suggested by lobbyists seems a rather sixth form argument. No-one said it was going to be easy, but let’s not tarnish a whole group of people just to get a few abusers, let’s do the hard work and get just the abusers!

    The book? Personally I thought it all a bit tame….

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