"Beyoncé Released A ‘Fifty Shades’ Teaser. Time For A Complete Guide To Political Takes On The Series"
CREDIT: AP Photo/Vintage Books
Have you seen the new teaser for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie that Beyoncé posted on Instagram? Of course you have, it’s been up since Saturday night. You’re probably still humming that slowed-down version of the “Crazy in Love” hook. Go ahead, watch it again below:
Of course, you can’t just saunter over to the water cooler (or open up a gchat box) and say, “Hey, did you see that Beyoncé teaser?” You’ll get laughed out of the office! You need more than that. You need a take. A politically charged, maybe controversial, maybe subversive, maybe ironic take.
Fortunately for you — fortunately for us all, really — many, many people had feelings about the insanely popular trilogy at the time of its initial release and even more feelings as the movie adaptation were announced. Here’s a guide to all the hot takes on Fifty Shades. Choose your own adventure and decide how to feel about the buzzy BDSM tale.
1. Professional, Successful Women Secretly Want To Be Dominated In Bed (And In Life)
This is a fun one! I’m kidding; it’s terrible. Katie Roiphe from Newsweek for the defense: “It has a special appeal right now in this moment when we’re looking at the end of men. We’re looking at this particular point in time when women are closer to being successful breadwinners than men, when they’re the majority of students on college campuses… you see male dominance is being shaky and threatened, in a way it hasn’t been in the past… so we’re particularly interested in these old-fashioned roles.” Roiphe also claims that feminists are really confused by the idea that there are women who get off on being submissive in bed. (Note: this is from a video about her story; since Newsweek‘s revamp, it looks like all the links to Roiphe’s original piece are broken.)
Should you bring this up today? Probably not. Roiphe’s piece was weak in every way: poorly sourced and full of obvious, rhetorical questions that she pretended no one could possibly have the answers to (i.e. “Why, for women especially, would free will be a burden?”).
2. Women Don’t Like Fifty Shades Because They Want To Be “Dominated”; They Like It Because They Want To Be Served
Fifty Shades started out as Twilight fan fiction, which could explain why Christian Grey is basically a mind reader: Ana never has to tell him what she wants. Said Buzzfeed‘s Anna North: “Speaking up can also be hard work, and it’s no surprise if overworked women — especially moms, who spend a lot of their time pleasing others — want their sexual needs fulfilled without having to spell them out.”
Should you bring this up today? Sure!
3. Fifty Shades Of Grey Is Violent And Dangerous
Asks Kathryn Casey in Forbes: “Do middle-aged women, the main audience for this book, really view the threat of violence as an aphrodisiac? And isn’t it dangerous to turn a BDSM-addict into a romantic hero? Would we want our daughters dating Christian Grey?” Fueled in part by a career spent writing true crime books, Casey sees in Grey the same disturbing character traits she’s found in men “who abuse and sometimes even end up murdering their intimate partners.”
Should you bring this up today? What’s interesting here is that Casey raises a lot of the concerns surrounding Twilight, the franchise that inspired James’s trilogy. So you could always take this as an opportunity to pivot back to the fact that Edward and Bella were in a textbook abusive relationship, and Twilight was devoured by a younger, far more impressionable population of girls who were/are still learning what healthy relationships are supposed to look like.
4. Fifty Shades Is Great For Women
In a back and forth on Buzzfeed, Amy Odell and Anna North discussed the fact that Fifty Shades managed to do what mainstream pornography rarely achieves: it pays attention to, and gratifies, what women want, not just what men want.
Amy: But porn, generally, isn’t intended for women. It’s not made with our desires in mind, usually. Frankly, Fifty Shades of Grey is great in that regard — getting people to talk about female fantasies.
Anna: Right. Breaking: women have them. They are not always about men vacuuming, or about shoes.
Amy: Yeah, I hate where the conversation went with the book. THIS IS BAD FOR WOMEN. No, not really — it’s normal to want that kind of sexual role with a partner. AND to fantasize about succeeding at work. And succeed at work.
They also talked about how the book is opening up this space for women to vocalize their wants and needs, instead of feeling embarrassed by or ashamed of those desires:
Amy: Women also have such a hard time knowing and articulating their desires that they might flail with a partner when a situation arises when they need to do just that… The message with that (and we see that archetype in pop culture all the time) is that it’s not okay to express what we want, so don’t bother learning how to do it.
Anna: Totally. You know what I like about this whole Fifty Shades of Grey thing? Is that I’ve seen women go into my local bookstore and just ask for the book by name. Without any embarrassment. This book that is widely known to be all about S&M sex. The bookstore got so many requests from women that it’s like right in front now. So even if it’s not high-quality, at least women aren’t shy about asking for it. That’s maybe a step.
Should you bring this up today? Yes. Especially if people start dismissing the books because they were mostly read by women. Bust this out of the arsenal anytime someone uses the condescending label of “mommy porn” to describe the series. (Why does that term even exist? Why doesn’t anyone call porn for grown men, a.k.a., 98 percent of all the porn that exists, “daddy porn”? Sigh.)
5. Fifty Shades Is A Rape Fantasy
Dr. Drew Pinsky, on his HLN show, Dr. Drew on Call, referred to the novel as “a rape story.” Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, immediately called him out on this, saying “It is not a rape fantasy” and “I’m not going to let you go there.” You should read the whole transcript if you have some time, because Drew’s interpretation of events and his wife’s interpretation are so different and revealing:
Drew: Why is this guy a great lover in the book?
Susan: Well, he’s teaching her. She`s a virgin and he`s very —
Drew: Enthusiastically, agreeing with you.
Susan: And he’s very responsive to her needs. It’s not just him tying her up.
Drew: I don’t see him doing anything except, telling her what he`s going to do before he does it. That’s the only thing unusual I see the guy doing.
Also, throughout the interview, Pinsky refers to the author as “he” even though E. L. James is a woman. (“This is an indictment of somebody whose claims he’s writing fiction but is really writing very accurately about a severely pathological couple, severe.”)
Should you bring this up today? I would suggest… not doing that.
6. Fifty Shades Is NOT A Rape Fantasy
Jill Filipovic, then a blogger at Feministe, wrote “there’s nothing wrong with BDSM when it’s fully consensual on both ends, both partners have relatively equal bargaining power, both partners feel comfortable setting boundaries, and boundaries are communicated and respected.” Jessica Wakeman from The Frisky called Pinsky’s remarks “pretty irresponsible. No one should be concerned about a consensual relationship between a submissive and a dominant. The realm of fantasy is just that — fantasy.”
Should you bring this up today? Not right away, but definitely keep it in your back pocket in case the office Dr. Drew tries to say Fifty Shades is pro-rape.
7. Fifty Shades Is Badly Written
Don’t think you’re going to find anyone to argue with you on this one.
Should you bring this up today? If you want to find the one point of view on which everyone can agree, this is your go-to.