50 Shades of Grey has been a polarising topic since the original book came out a few years ago, and has become even more so since with the PR build up / nightmare and release of the film. On the one hand, you have the millions of adoring fans, and on the other you have scores of feminists, people from the BDSM community and film critics condemning it’s every word and scene.
The jist of their argument is that “50 Shades of Grey is dangerous because it does not reflect a healthy relationship, BDSM or otherwise, and sure the writing is shit anyway,” which is hilarious, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone try to argue that 50 Shades is a work of post-modern, literary/cinematic genius. In fact the most common responses have been celebrities reading ridiculous excerpts from the book so we can laugh at them. Have a look at Nell McCafferty trying to follow how Christian is meant to pretzel his arms around whilst squeezing Anastasia's nipples.
I agree that it does a terribly poor job of reflecting anything remotely resembling a healthy relationship, but I also agree with Erika Moen on this one that that argument isn’t going to stop people wanking to it, and shaming them for being turned on by a story about power imbalance is just as problematic as the book/movie itself.
Here’s my admission: I saw the film this week. It was dreadful. There was a whole lot of middle, but not much beginning or end. And what's with all the face-cradling? If I were to give a rough estimate, I'd say 30% of the shots in the film were of Christian cradling Anastasia's face. But even so, there was a couple of scenes that turned me on. It was as if my genitals had betrayed my intellect. “Traitors!” I thought to myself as I gulped back more disgusting Pepsi Max and over-salted popcorn, hoping that I could somehow teach my body to have a negative pavlovian response to what I was seeing on the screen. But alas my vulva laughed back at me or rather drooled incomprehensibly at the sight of Dakota Johnson’s adorable face giggling away as Jamie Dornan puts her over his knee, rattles off some shite dialogue and spanks her.
But the one thing that frustrated me the most, the fact that an entire film about sex didn’t show any full frontal nudity apart from a cheeky hint of pube here and there, actually ended up giving me hope. 50 Shades of Grey doesn’t need to be an erotic masterpiece (and let me be perfectly clear that it most certainly is not), because it’s a stepping stone. While there is spectrum of female friendly porn out there and more an more female directors coming out of the woodwork, they are still sadly on the fringes of the mainstream.What 50 Shades has shown us in the kind of scale that has never been reached before is that women of all backgrounds and cultures across the world like porn. We like to watch and read about people having sex, and we’re becoming less ashamed of talking about it openly. That to me is the important thing to take away from it. It will no doubt encourage more women to write their own erotica and get involved in producing porn, and the more creative people we have in that field, the more variety and quality of content we will see in future. Whether we like it or not, 50 Shades of Grey just might be the catalyst to bringing porn back into cinemas and being celebrated and critiqued as a legitimate art form.