'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Is A Sex Fantasy Of Consent In A Sea Of Damsels In Distress

February 16, 2015 3:00 PM

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Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey dominated the box office this weekend, earning a scorching $90 million over its first four days of domestic play and around $239 million over the first five days around the world. There has been talk for the last year about how the film’s BDSM-tinged erotic melodrama is a kind of pro-domestic abuse porn, playing on the fantasy of a young virginal woman being swept up by a rich and handsome “bad boy” and changing him in some way. I think the best defense to those charges can be found in what happens at the very end of the film, but I digress. For the purposes of this discussion, I don’t care about whether Fifty Shades of Grey (Universal/Comcast Corp.) is guilty of every single charge leveled at it or whether it’s a good movie. It’s at-worst a deviant fantasy and women are just as capable of indulging in fantasy without taking it as an educational tool as men are. Fifty Shades of Grey is not remotely the first mainstream Hollywood film or television show to show a pretty young woman being tied, blindfolded, and/or beaten by a male character. But it is among the few to allow her a choice in the matter. Women unwillingly being bound and abused for the pleasure of the male characters (or displeasure of other male characters) and titillation of male (and sometimes female) viewers is business as usual in Hollywood and pop culture in general. But you show one woman who chooses to receive such treatment willingly, from a trusted and consent-driven partner and potentially for her own sexual pleasure, and suddenly it’s bad for women and dangerous.

I don’t think I have to read you a laundry list of mainstream films and movies which feature scenes of female characters, major and minor, being subjected to would-be bondage or sexual violence against their will. Usually it is to motivate the male hero to take action and/or establish dangerous stak...

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