As we enter the age of the 50 shades of grey area, when it comes to consent, I find myself being more and more confused. Has ‘No’ now turned itself into some twisted idea of foreplay? It’s hard to decipher at what point ‘No’ became sexy...
50 shades is perhaps one of the best examples of this, and (although frankly, it is mostly ridiculous) the lines that it draws in people’s responses, is incredibly useful. From the novel/films, on the one hand, we have those that find it super-sexy and enticing. The idea of a man encouraging us to do things against our will (because I mean he clearly he knows what’s best for us right?) and those that would deem it as straight up emotional and physical abuse.
“He grabs me suddenly and yanks me up against him, one hand at my back holding me to him and the other fisting in my hair. "You're one challenging woman," He kisses me, forcing my lips apart with his tongue, taking no prisoners. "It's taking all my self-control not to fuck you on the hood of this car, just to show you that you're mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I'll buy you a fucking car, he growls.”
Now, I don’t know about you – but I personally find that a little difficult to read..... Its taking everything in him not to have sex with this woman, on a vehicle to marry the idea of ownership of material objects, and the objectification of women...... No? just me?.....OK back to the point.. I don’t know what it is about it but I just can’t find it sexy. It’s about as sexy as a faded nude calendar in a grungy garage with women carrying random objects like pineapples to cover their bits. Maybe it’s because Ive been in a situation where my consent was irrelevant, and suddenly the weight of these ‘pseudo-sexy’ sentences provided by E.L James just become repulsive. I speak from experience that it is absolutely unequivicaly not sexy to have someone force their hands, bits or anything else inside you against your will, in fact, to make the novel more true, it would have made more sense for our leading lady to vomit all over him.
Drawing these lines is a fucking minefield. Does finding 50 shades semi-abusive make us prudish? I seriously hope not. I enjoy getting strapped down and going along for the ride as much as the next person but isn’t it mostly exciting because we are screaming ‘YES!’ rather than ‘NO!’ I want to bring the sexy back, to ‘Yes please!’ rather than ‘No, Don’t’. No is not a challenge, or even a discussion. Yes is a celebration. Yes is celebrating two people who want to bang each others brains out and bump uglies until the early morning in whatever sordid, filthy and fucked up way they want, but because they both WANT to. I’m waiting for the novel where our leading lady isn’t just comedy accident Bridget Jones, who assumes that men only seemingly want to sleep with her because they feel sorry for her, or Anatasia, who has no idea seemingly whether she wants to or not, but is willing to sacrifice her moral compass and just take it wherever he wants. Where are these images of women in our mainstream media? Where is the strong sexy women who say Yes, but only when I want to, and men want to sleep with her because she has a brain and a life, and a multitude of different friends who would drag them kicking and screaming if they had to out of a relationship like the one depicted in 50 Shades. And for these women to not be depicted as a challenge, as if to break a strong woman down is to earn a medal of honor (Let us also be reminded, that Shakespeare wrote about this in ‘The taming of the shrew’ in sometime in the 1600’s. If that doesn’t mean it’s getting old, I’m leaving the island).
The 50 shades of damaging is on a multitude of levels, but obviously, and particularly when it comes to consent. I’m sure there are plenty others out there who have had one-night stands, or been in long term relationships, where the lines of when we want to, and when we feel like we should are constantly challenged. Where we question, who’s benefit are we being pounded for.
For me, actually, it’s a 50 shades of grey area no more (can you tell I was really proud of that pun?!). And not because I’m prudish. And not because I need to do or say anything to prove you otherwise, but because NO is never sexy. Nothing sexier than saying yes to someone, because you mean it, because you want to,as they tie your wrists to the bed frame....
This blog/article was written specifically in support of a zine, published by THE WARDROBE ENSEMBLE, for their upcoming show 1972: THE FUTURE OF SEX. The show is fantastic. Exciting, political, with just the right amount of floral. Catch them at the Edinburgh Fringe, a show not to be missed.
"It’s 1972. An era of possibility, polyester and pubic hair. Ziggy Stardust is on Top of the Pops, Penny is writing an essay on Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Christine is watching Deepthroat. Brian is confused. The Wardrobe Ensemble tell the story of the class of ‘72 with a handsome funk guitarist and some spacehoppers. Was it easier back then? Where did we go wrong? A brisk romp through the ins and outs of those excellently awkward first sexual encounters. ‘Genuinely hilarious’ ★★★★★ (Exeunt on RIOT)."