by Anonymous, Australia
This month’s Women’s Weekly printed an article on the phenomenon of the novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The article points out it is “far and away the fastest selling book in Australian history”. It has sold 20 million copies worldwide, more than Twilight and Harry Potter. This could indicate it is a fair barometer of where Western middle class women are at. A brief synopsis of the book is that it is about a virgin college graduate and a billionaire lover who has a bondage dungeon called ‘The Red Room of Pain’. She plays a completely submissive role, where the lover does everything for her and they engage in erotic sex, including bondage, riding crops and handcuffs.
The book’s Facebook page is full of reports of renewed vigour and libido in women’s lives – and very happy, satisfied husbands as a result. But what can we draw from this phenomenon? Could it be possible that the female readers, mainly married mothers (the book has been dubbed ‘mummy porn’), have been without deep intimacy and affection in their marriages, and to admit that their lives are lacking this deeper quality is too painful to face? The engaging of the eroticism from this book then suddenly has aroused a renewed vigour in the bedroom, and love is deemed to have been rediscovered in their lives – but maybe all that has happened is that more sex has substituted for a deeper intimacy and affection of love, and the painful absence of that previously being longed for, is abated.
But is this phenomenon new? Women have been interested in erotic literature for decades. Is it just today’s more open society that allows women to be seen publicly reading this material and openly discussing it with their friends? Could it be that women have secretly been reading erotic literature for years in search of fixing the lack of deep intimacy and affection in their lives? I just this morning watched a film review of a movie called Hysteria, based on a true story about professors who helped women in the late 1800’s cure their mental health disorders by advocating masturbation. These gentlemen, in their endeavours to cure women of their wan-ness, go on to create the world’s first vibrator. Better get this movie on the ‘to watch’ list?
Reviews report that the submissive nature of the female character in Fifty Shades adds to the appeal for the readership because it reflects their exhaustion, and the idea of someone doing everything for them is pretty enticing.
Nikki Gemmel wrote a similar book a few years ago called The Bride Stripped Bare. She now writes a weekly feature article in an Australian weekend newspaper. Her article on the Fifty Shades book makes mention that women are thrilled with themselves to be able to achieve the sexual exploits the books allude to – it almost empowers them. But what if, over time, the exploits do not fulfill the void they are experiencing – could these newly discovered bedrooms antics leave them feeling exploited, deceived, maybe even abused? What possible future fall-out could this have on their self-esteem?
So what can we draw about women in their livingness from the phenomenon of this book? The reality that many women are living ‘without deep intimacy’ and are ‘constantly exhausted’, perhaps? And is an increased sex life going to actually address this lack of deep intimacy, or will the exhaustion just be increased from all that late night frolicking? As women we all have an opportunity to truly reflect on what is going on. When I read the articles on a site like this, and perhaps when others do too, there is the sense that life doesn’t have to be the barren wasteland of lack-of-true-love so often felt by many women, but that we can instead look inside ourselves and connect to the beauty that already lies therein.
Now that is something worth reading about.