“Being a successful, middle-aged, overweight woman, people are so angry that you’re stepping out of line,” she said. “Sometimes it really gets me down.” (Alexandra Alter, New York Times, The Evolution of E. L. James, April 12, 2019)
I would amend E. L. James’ comment to “being a middle-aged, overweight woman, people are angry when [they think] you step out of line.” Something else we agree on, the women she describes are invisible.
That’s where our agreement ends because as much as I adore writers, and believe we get to write and read whatever we want, the woman who wrote fan fiction based on teenaged vampires is not someone whose work I would ever read.
People in the know tell me Fifty Shades of Grey really damaged the kink/fetish community because she wrote about it wrong. And from what I hear it wasn’t about consent at all. It was abusive. And now I read her new book is more of the same.
Let’s be clear, I am against censorship, and I am in no way encouraging she not be published. Nor am I encouraging people not read her.
What I am saying is women have a hard enough time being taken seriously anywhere, and fantasies written about men sweeping an unlikely candidate off her feet and abusing her in the name of love are not helping.
Glorifying non-consensual unbalanced power relationships just sets everyone up to believe that’s okay. Fetish/kink is all about consent. Nothing happens between people unless there is a clear understanding of what’s allowed and isn’t. We should all be so lucky as to know what we’re in for.
“Bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadism are ‘varsity-level’ sex activities, as the sex columnist Dan Savage might say, and they require a great deal of self-knowledge, communication skill, and education. Fifty Shades eroticizes sexual violence, but without any of the emotional maturity and communication required to make it safe.” (Emma Green, Consent Isn’t Enough: The Troubling Sex of Fifty Shades, The Atlantic, February 10, 2015)
I may have taken more than a little glee in
“It’s not just that [the book] is bad. It’s that it’s bad in ways that seem to cause the space-time continuum itself to wobble, slightly, as the words on the page rearrange themselves into kaleidoscopic fragments of repetition and product placement.” (Sophie Gilbert, The Indelible Awfulness of E. L. James’s The Mister, The Atlantic, April 18, 2019)
I will end by saying good for E. L. James for following her passion and getting published. That’s a dream most writers never see come true. And good for her for making so much money, and being smart about it.
It’s disheartening that such obviously poorly written books about a sexually abusive relationship which is emotionally dangerous is so popular. Women all over the world probably think this is the way romantic relationships are supposed to work, and will continue to pine for their multi-millionaire fantasy man to rescue them from a dreary, sexless reality.
Stand up for yourself! Engage your own agency and find happiness within yourself. If kink is your thing, find a community which will help you explore it in a physically and emotionally healthy way. Get a vibrator for goodness’ sake. No man is going to rescue you.