Friday 13 February 2015

50 Shades of Grey - Crossing the line or upsetting the new puritans?

The big event in London last night was the premier of 50 Shades of Grey. I didn't attend the film, not really one on my radar, but I was intrigued to hear that there were protests against the film. It seems that some groups believe that the film promotes domestic violence and sexual abuse. They feel the film objectifies and degrades women and leads to people being forced to do things they are none too keen on.

As I haven't read the book, I can't really comment, but I've discussed it with my wife and other female friends, none of whom I'd consider downtrodden or victims of domestic abuse, and those who read it are of the view that the female character in the book enters into a consensual relationship and has the ultimate say over what goes and what doesn't. I was having a cup of tea last week with a female friend, who told me that she was organising a girlie night out to see it. I don't think any of the people I've spoken to who read the book think it's a literary masterpiece, but do see it as quite entertaining.

Having said that, there is a serious question to consider. When does S&M stop being a bit of fun and start becoming sexual violence. If women feel that they must submit to what they consider unreasonable demands, then the film is not helpful. There is of course a flip side to this. Many people still consider the UK to be a reasonably sexually repressed society. As a society, we are not particularly open and honest about sex. The very language we use about sex shows this prudishness. If two people start having a sexual relationship, we say they are "sleeping together", which is probably the last thing they are doing.

When EL James wrote the novel, one assumes she wrote the book to entertain people. It seems that she targetted it at fellow females and she quite correctly (her bank account validates this) worked out that a plot that was perhaps a bit saucy and a bit naughty would help her sell millions of books. Some of the effects of this were probably not anticipated, such as the increased number of calls to the fire brigade to rescue people stuck as a result of mishaps with sex toys. The fire brigade has even taken to tweeting to raise awareness of the risks of sex toys

London Fire Brigade         @LondonFire
A woman rang after her husband was locked in a titanium chastity belt. Keep those keys handy! 

Which brings us to the question. Does 50 Shades of Grey cross the line between entertainment and promoting sexual violence or are the protestors the next generation of Mary Whitehouse style prudes, seeking to ensure we all live prim and proper lives and don't enjoy ourselves too much.

Well as far as I'm concerned, in the bedroom, if you have two consenting adults and they are enjoying themselves, that is fine. In 50 Shades of Grey, as soon as someone says stop, they stop. As far as I am concerned, that is the key factor. In fact, I think that is a powerful and positive message. If the protestors are worried about objectification of women, then we'd have no James Bond films, let alone cheesy chick flicks like 50 Shades. Perhaps for me the saddest thing is that they've missed the point that the author is a successful female writer and the director is also a successful female - Sam Taylor-Johnson. There is a real shortage of successful female film directors, which is perhaps the real story for campaigners for womens rights.

Personally I'm not convinced by the arguments of the "new puritans". If like me, youa re not that interested in 50 Shades of Grey, don't go and see it. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the people campaigning watch it a few times just to make sure how disgusted they are.  I doubt anyone will be turning up to watch it under the misapprehension that it's a  film about decorators painting the Forth Bridge.

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