The last few weeks have had me thinking about the release of Fifty Shades Darker. I had originally decided to ignore the pseudo outrage, the paternalistic narratives and the absolute infantilising of women doing nothing more than enjoying a movie. It infuriates me, and to be brutally honest, I have internalised a lot of the shame thrown at women who actually enjoy the franchise. I have found myself questioning my connection to the storylines, my contribution to some of the conversations around the movie and whether or not I am actually eligible to call myself a submissive woman when I’m clearly crossing a boundary that is intended to reject those like me from the words submissive and woman.
But this release is a bit different for me. Not that the positions of those who intentionally choose to negate the enjoyment, the community and the permission to explore their bodies that this has given us has changed. The articles written and the boycott advocated for are still connected to vile anti woman, pro censorship, sex negative advocacy. Who reject all forms of female sexual agency and couldn’t engage with a critical interrogation of BDSM and pop culture without resorting to policing the choices women make.
But this time around, as a submissive woman, I am encountering a huge blind stop in the conversations around FSD. Maybe I just didn’t notice it in 2015. I was relatively new to my curiosity about sex outside of my own body. What I’m noticing is a deliberate move away from the voices of women who are both the intended audience and consumers of this movie.
Maybe the movie and the controversy surrounding its release isn’t enough to warrant the media saturation it held 2 years ago. And so there are less words afforded to ‘the real submissive lives’ of ordinary women. But I have to wonder where, in all of these words being written by so called women activists calling for boycotts and attention to the glamorisation of harmful behaviours are the words by women, like me. Women who are going to watch this movie. Women who enjoyed watching the first movie. And women who will go and watch and enjoy the third movie. Where are our voices?
I can warrant a guess!
We are sidelined, intentionally so, because we choose, through our consumer choices and our sexual behaviours to exist between two worlds. See, as a woman who owns the submissive space within her marriage I am expected to play by the rules. And yet I don’t. I don’t play by the rules that say I should trash a story that I actually enjoy. A character that I can recognise a lot of myself in. And I do want to add a dissenting voice beyond that which is expected of me. But at the same time I am expected to be the victim. The victim of domestic violence, of a culture that has conditioned me to believe my sexual desires are real. And of a culture that would have me believe that I am unable to make informed decisions.
Because, from what I’ve read about myself, I am all of the above. I am not a 30 something woman who can decide whether or not I want to go and see a particular move. I am not a woman who can understand that there is a difference between fiction on screen and the reality in my bedroom. I am not a woman who is able to gain genuine enjoyment from a movie and genuine pleasure from kinky fuckery.
Go see the movie.
Don’t go see the movie.
Write a piece telling your audience how awful the storyline is, how inaccurate the portrayal of dominance and submission is to you.
Write a piece telling your audience how you feel about the character development, the direction Christian and Ana’s relationship is taking or how much you hate the idea of women saving their man from themselves.
Write a piece about how dysfunctional Christian is in his relationships – no please, someone really write a piece about how Christian exhibits all the common traits of an attachment disorder associated with childhood abuse. And how his attachment to Mrs Robertson and his succession of short term relationships were no more than a consequence of his childhood. Because we need more conversations about how childhood abuse does affect our ability to form effective intimate relationships; especially in men!
Write a piece to inform women wanting to take their fiction from fantasy to their boudoir how to make the best and most informed decisions for them.
Write a piece exploring the diversity of sexual behaviours that human beings engage with, and how to ensure that these behaviours are to healthiest for your readers.
But do not, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, write a piece that actively dissuades women from seeking out pop culture or intimate relationships that they tell you they want and enjoy.
But at the same time. Don’t choose to ridicule, minimise or ignore voices like mine. Women’s voices that are discussing their interactions with the franchise. Discussing how the franchise has allowed them to open up their sexual selves in ways they never would have dreamed of doing. Discussing how they experience the culture around the franchise; good and bad.
The spectrum of desire amongst women is as vast as it is diverse. The spectrum of voices amongst women is just as vast and just as diverse. Our sexual behaviours and our choice of movie, should not be used as ‘clickbait’ to prop up a worrying political and social agenda, carried out by those who are repulsed by the idea of genuine female sexual autonomy. Nor should not be used by those who seek to contain the idioms and cultural norms of BDSM to one that, effectively removes any hint of active sexual desire and safety for submissive women.
But more importantly, or voices and our sexual behaviours should not be sidelined because they are inconvenient, or because they are not conforming to your rules.
Because when you sideline women’s voices, even those of us who are inconvenient, dissenting, angry, and laden with shame, you are choosing to engage with pseudo outrage, paternalistic narratives and the absolute infantilising of women – all because some of us are going to go and watch a 118-minute chick flick!