In line with pop culture I decided to get in line and consume the latest romance novel-50 Shades of Grey. With great publicity and reception, it has hit the NY Times bestseller list. On one hand it reads to me no different than the books of my youth, that of Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Suzanne. A romance novel highlighted by seduction and sex as well as beautiful, wealthy and successful people, all young and of course Hollywood types. Not that I didn’t enjoy those books . . besides they were and this one is fairly well written. If you like a lot of sex and action in the bedroom read this book.
The difference between the old and the new is, however, the timeliness. Fifty Shades is current day. It uses email, cell phones and other standard fare of what we experience today. Mostly, however, and largely a reason for it’s success, is the story line. Perfectionistic driven handsome wealthy control freak hero with troubled childhood seduces and is seduced by a young sweet intelligence pretty woman who taps into his sadness and has a desire to rescue him from his pain. The backdrop is violence-sadomasochism which, when acted out in the first book, causes her to leave, at least for a few days, until the start of the next book.
Sadomasochism is appealing. It is appealing to its readers, largely those in their 20’s and 30’s but also older (as those are my peers who practically bombarded me with the request to read it). It is appealing perhaps because the nature of submission is an archetype of the feministic soul. Nancy Friday’s book, My Secret Garden, published in 1987 highlighted and reviewed the sexual fantasies of women. A different and long ago era, it was her intention, I believe, to free women of their sexual oppression and allow then to believe that ‘nice girls do’. Amongst many was the rape fantasy, a sexual fantasy almost as strong as the rescue fantasy in the Cinderella/Pretty Woman scenarios. In another era and almost 20 years later, Women on Top revitalized the sexual fantasy scene with a more current and updated version. Yet, there were few differences. Sin and rape were still present, as they are today, despite our attempts at feminism. I recall a quote regarding one of my own idols . . .”Madonna is no male masturbatory fantasy”, revealing perhaps the rejection of real power by women.
Nevertheless, inherent to our archetype is the desire for submission and while the Heroine in Fifty Shades takes no responsibility and in fact says it is not what she wants (in fact she wants his love) it is still a part of us.
My personal fantasy, however, (not a sexual one), is that I too could ‘put pen to paper’ (an often cited reference to EL James) and write.