Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Never Thought I'd be Defending 50 Shades of Grey

I saw this link on a blog yesterday, and had reactions that couldn't quite be summed up in a Facebook link, so I figured I'd actually write something that is slightly book-related but not a book review.  Basically, a women's shelter asked for donations of 50 Shades of Grey so they could burn them in a bonfire.  Once they received them, they decided to dispose of them in a different way (they appear to be considering using them as toilet paper).  I've never read 50 Shades of Grey, I don't really plan on reading the novel or the trilogy, but I have read a few different things about it online.  When it comes down to it, I think 50 Shades of Grey is probably horribly written, unrealistic, and ridiculous.  If the shelter were somehow receiving donations of the novels, I would entirely understand their desire to get rid of them - I'm not sure if abused women really need to be reading inaccurate and badly portrayed S&M.  However, the shelter went out of their way to request copies of this book so they could burn them because they are "horrible for women" (paraphrase).  And that just rubs me the wrong way - yes, I have on occasion felt the desire to throw a book in a fire or the trash because it was that horribly written, and I have the feeling this might be one of those that would cause that type of reaction in me - but calling for a public book burning?  When has that ever been a good idea?  Also, who are you to tell me what is or isn't good for me when it comes to reading choices?
Now from what I understand, 50 Shades of Grey's portrayal of BDSM (Bondage Discipline Sadism Masochism) is less than accurate of what actually accurs in those types of communities (other articles, not personal experience).  I think there is definitely a lot of discussion that could be done about the ideas of consent, female fantasy and sexuality, and BDSM using this series as a starting point, and discussing where it gets it wrong vs how maybe it does do it right, by at least acknowledging that women are sexual and aren't necessarily interested in plain old vanilla.  I can also understand the possibly misguided desire to protect women who have been in abusive relationships from reading these novels and possibly being reminded of bad, nonconsensual experiences.  However, when it comes down to it, BDSM on its own is not abusive.  Domestic violence is not the same thing as practicing S&M.  While the quote is out of context, one of the shelter's representatives describes the "themes of S&M" as vile.  Somehow, I don't get the impression from that quote that she is trying to say that the portrayal is inaccurate and therefore vile; instead it gives the impression that she is judging the life style, and mistakenly demonizes it as leading to or being part of a cycle of abuse.
Basically, I'm all for mocking badly written novels, and using them as a means to open discussion.  However, don't call for a public book burning, and don't demonize people's sexual preferences because you disagree with them.

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