50 Shades of… what’s all the fuss about?

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On Friday night I finally went to see Fifty Shades of Grey.

First thought?  I liked the movie a LOT more than the book… for one thing there was no inner goddess interrupting every five minutes!

Second thought?  Okay, the acting wasn’t the best, but as the movie went on the Christian Grey on the screen became closer to the Christian Grey I had imagined while reading the book.  Ana, on the other hand?  She reminded me so much of Cecile (Selma Blair) from Cruel Intentions that occasionally I forgot what movie I was watching, and kept expecting Ryan Phillippe to join her.

My main thought though?   I don’t know what all the fuss (ie critique) is about, with regard to the movie itself.  I personally thought the movie portrayed the relationship very well, particularly with regard to Ana willingly consenting to the type of relationship Christian wanted.  I didn’t see it as an abusive relationship – whereas in the book I did (to an extent) – I don’t know that it is a portrayal of a typical BDSM relationship, but it wasn’t something either of them jumped into quickly, or without discussion.

Having been in a sexually abusive relationship – masked as BDSM – the situation between Christian and Ana was 50,000 times different to the relationships and dynamics I experienced with my ex.  If it were an abusive relationship Christian wouldn’t have allowed Ana to make amendments to the contract, he wouldn’t have laid it all out like that for her.  He wouldn’t have cared about what she wanted or didn’t want and would have gone ahead and anally fisted her, not caring it was on her list of NOOOOOO NEVER EVER EVER.

I got the feeling by the end of the movie that Ana felt empowered and strong.  She had the lady-balls to tell Christian she did NOT like the way he was treating her and that the relationship had gone too far.   No way was she going to put up with it any longer, and she told him so.  She left.

Yes.  She LEFT.  She stood up for herself and left.

Leaving isn’t something done easily in a sexually abusive relationship.  In fact it is a bloody hard thing to do… so hard that a lot of victims just don’t do it.  But Ana, the first occurance of Christian taking things too far, the first time she felt as if she was out of her depth, the first time she felt he didn’t truly respect her, she left.  Yes, she is the one who told Christian to take her into the red room and show her what he was really like… but when she realised she couldn’t handle that version of Christian, she left.

It occurred to me while talking to my friend about the movie on the way home, that if Fifty Shades of Grey (the books) didn’t exist, but the movie did, people would go into the movie with a far more open mind.  Rather than seeing it as a story of sexually abusive domination, perhaps they would see it as a story about BDSM, about another sexual lifestyle?  Rather than seeing it as a story about an older, powerful man controlling a younger, naive woman, people would see it as a story about the importance of consent in relationships?  Rather than seeing it as an example of a woman caught under the spell of a messed-up control freak in all aspects of life, they would see it as the journey of this woman from timid and shy, to empowered and strong, strong enough to walk out when she felt she wasn’t being treated with the respect she deserved.

As for people complaining about the supposedly explicit sex scenes?   I have seen far more explicit sex scenes in mainstream movies!  Sure, it was a bit weird to be watching them on the big screen with strangers around me, but I have certainly seen worse.  It definitely deserves the R18 rating, but it most certainly wasn’t ‘pornographic’ as has been stated in many articles I’ve read.

If I am honest… I loved the sex scenes!  I thought they were tastefully done, showing enough to get your heart racing, but not so much it felt as if you were watching bonafide porn.  With regard to the BDSM scenes (spanking etc), I think those were particularly enjoyable to watch, and I can guarantee you that after seeing the movie, couples would have stopped at their nearest hardware store to buy a length of rope, or made good use of ties, experimented with feathers and other fabrics on the skin, on blindfolding and teasing each other.  It was by no means gratuitous, it was by no means violent (with the exception of the very last scene in the red room, when Ana decides she’s had enough).

No, this movie isn’t going to be to everyone’s liking, in the same way Avatar wasn’t to everyone’s liking, or The Notebook, or Armageddon, or American Pie, or Toy Story, or (this one shocks me!) Grease.  People who see the movie have every right to give their own review, their own critique… but if you don’t see the movie you have no right to bash it, to be negative and insulting about it.  Roll your eyes all you want, think every negative thing you want, but until you see it for yourself you don’t really have a right to give any form of feedback, negative or positive.

I have to share this because I'm a lip biter with a major elevator sex fetish...

I have to share this because I’m a lip biter with a major elevator sex fetish…

Women shaming women

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This post has been sitting in my draft folder for a couple of weeks now, or at least the mostly blank page, bar a couple of little notes.  I resisted writing it because if I had done so when I first saved it, it would have been a huge, angry, one-sided rant, mostly fueled by my sensitive nature; I get so damn offended, so damn easily.  On top of that I have this huge problem with not feeling good enough, with feeling as though everyone judges me, with feeling as though I don’t fit in.

What was it that sent me into this whirl of anger and… well, pissed-off-ed-ness?  Fifty Shades of Grey.  That’s what.

When the movie was finally released and reviews began rolling in, I started to get defensive.  Everything I read (and I’m not exaggerating when I say everything) in that first 24 hours suggested that if a woman wanted to see the movie, there was something badly wrong with her.  Amongst the reviews were people suggesting anyone who saw the movie was insulting all the women who fought so hard for women’s rights,  that they were essentially saying it was acceptable for men to control women in all senses of the word

Before I turn this into the rant it would have been a couple of weeks ago, I’ll move on…

What I realised, after a long talk with my wife, is that women are far too good at shaming other women.  No, not all women do this, but it seems women are judged for almost everything they do, that if they don’t do things a particular way, if they don’t feel a particular way about something, then they are scum.  Or this is how it seems to me anyway.

I always knew women could be bitchy, but it wasn’t until I became a parent that I realised just how nasty women can be to one another.  To start with, I was a single parent… there was a look I used to get, always from other women, the type of look that said ‘something is obviously wrong with her if she can’t hold down a man‘, then there is the ‘I bet she got pregnant after a one-night-stand and didn’t even know the guy’s name‘.  Not only was I a single parent, I was a single parent who gave birth via cesarean section – twice – and formula fed both babies.

To a lot of women, cesarean section seems to equal taking unwarranted risks, and endangering the life of mother and baby; similarly when it comes to formula feeding, it seems to equal not caring about what is best for your own child, being completely ignorant, and putting your own needs ahead of your child.  What BOTH of these scenarios in particular have in common, is that all the judgement thrown around makes those who didn’t have a natural birth and/or  didn’t breastfeed feel as if there is something wrong with them as a woman.

I remember being told by more than one person “Women’s bodies are created to give birth naturally” – and I knew this actually meant “you’re not a real woman because you opted to have your baby arrive via a surgical procedure” or “I went through 20 hours of labour, I deserve to be proud… you had a 45-minute-long surgery and didn’t do any hard work, pfffft, and you call yourself a woman?!”  My first cesarean was an emergency delivery, my second was because my anxiety disorder meant I was terrified of the process of giving birth, terrified of being the one responsible for bringing a baby into the world, being responsible for making sure she entered the outside world without dying.  To say I was terrified is an understatement.  Do I wish I could have delivered naturally?  Yes, I do.  I had dreams of a waterbirth with my first, and fantasised about a homebirth with my second.  I wasn’t strong enough to fight the anxiety-ridden part of my brain.

I lost count of the number of people who commented “Oh…. so you’re not breastfeeding?” when they realised I was feeding either of my babies with a bottle.  It was always said with shock, with disappointment, with disgust even.  I managed to give my eldest breastmilk until she was 14 days old and my second until she was four or five days old.  I TRIED MY HARDEST.  Those people who gave me the look had no idea of the hours I’d spent crying, upset because I couldn’t do what I should naturally be able to as a woman.  They had no idea how much I hated myself for not being able to perform this one task other women seemed to be able to do no-handed.  They had no idea how depressed it made me, how guilty I felt, how inferior, how useless, how worthless it made me feel.  I saw a lactation consultant in hospital with my youngest, but that was the one time she actually fed well.  She told me I would do fine.  I left the hospital and it was just me.  No nurses to help latch her on, to talk me through what I was doing.

One of my problems was my relatively flat nipples, the other was the fact my boobs are HUGE.  My babies DID get smothered by my boobs while they were feeding, the nurses at the hospital told me, the midwives told me, I could see it myself.  I tried all the positions I could to find the one that worked, but none of them did, not for me.  As I said, hours were spent crying about it.  Rather than enjoying breastfeeding for the bonding experience it should have been, I dreaded it…  I was told flat out by THREE people that big boobs isn’t an excuse not to breastfeed… but how would they know?  They had normal-sized boobs and more than that, they had the support at home, someone to sit and help them try to reposition the baby, to speak words of encouragement.

I already felt bad enough about not having the natural births I wanted, about not being able to breastfeed for 12+ months… but other women made me feel worse, a lot worse.

And this is how I am made to feel about wanting to see the Fifty Shades movie, and having read the books.  All three of them.

Do I think the story is an accurate depiction of a BDSM relationship, or the BDSM lifestyle?  No.
Do I think the relationship in the story is healthy?  Not particularly.
Do I think the story is well written?  No… I don’t.
Do I want to see the movie for any deep, philosophical reason?  No.  I want to go because… SEX!  Sex.  I love sex and seeing sex in movies.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, their own thoughts on the matter, their own reasons for liking or disliking something… but should that opinion entitle us to shame another woman for liking or disliking something?  For doing or not doing something?Hell.  No.All the articles and posts on social media that pissed me off, I could have responded to negatively, starting an argument; but I didn’t because I know every single person who states an opinion on a matter does so for their own reasons!  It’s not the opinions that get to me, it is the attitude of ‘I believe ____________, so if you don’t believe __________ as well, there is something wrong with you’.  It’s the ‘I’m looking down on you for wanting to _____________’ / ‘I’m looking down on you because you did/didn’t _____________’ attitude.  It’s the seeming desire to make other people feel inferior for living their life in a different way; for choosing a particular parenting method, for formula-feeding rather than breastfeeding, for liking a certain band, for liking a certain author, for liking a certain genre of movie, for being in any relationship other than a heterosexual monogamous one, for having a particular kink, for having a particular job, for liking sex, for not liking sex, for their weight, for their fashion sense, for wanting children, for not wanting children.As you can tell, this is something that has really been eating away at me!!!  If you are still following, I applaud you.I just wish people would focus on the positive things to have come out of the ‘whole Fifty Shades thing’.Alternative relationships are being spoken about!  Never has BDSM been spoken about so much in the mainstream, and I think it’s great.  It’s not something that should be hidden, it is something that should be spoken about, that people should be informed about, that people shouldn’t feel ashamed for feeling curious about!What constitutes abuse in a relationship is something else being spoken about.  The relationship between Ana and Christian has made people consider what abuse looks like in a relationship, that it’s not always as obvious as a black eye or a fat lip.  People are discussing what is healthy and what isn’t healthy in a relationship, about control and manipulation, about sexual abuse, about the importance of consent, the need for communication.SEX is finally being spoken about in a wider context, and I think it’s brilliant. … I would love to know how many people, after reading the books or seeing the movie, have decided to explore their own little kinks?Imagine a world where spanking was something openly spoken about in the break room at work.  When you could tell tales about that time you tried out those really intense nipple clamps.  Or maybe about that time you tied him up and flogged him.Okay, I doubt the above would ever happen, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that the world would be a better place if we could be more open about sex… and perhaps Fifty Shades is going to play a tiny little part in helping us evolve toward that point.