"Fifty Shades" spoiler alert.
Yes, I did.
So If you don't want to know, don't read on.
The dust has settled on the Red Room. The first installment of E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" has run the course though book release, film debut and now streaming into homes across the nation. And what "Fifty Shades" got right is finally starting to emerge from the murk of critic opinion.
Most critics didn't like it. Say what? This was one of the hottest anticipated mainstream media releases of the decade. Never has a romance novel been so analyzed and criticized. Why so many haters?
Psychologists and relationship gurus are blasting it for promoting abuse of women. Unless I read a different book, I don't see it that way. After Ana's final fanny beating, she essentially tells Christian to go take a flying f$%k and leaves him. Apparently, Anastasia's "inner goddess" is a pretty strong woman who knows when enough is enough. So I don't buy that this is a story about sexual or emotional abuse. Sure, Christian is an ass. But so are many protagonists in print and film and I don't see critics running to analyze their anti-feminist psychoses.
Critics arising from the BDSM community blame it for its portrayal of BDSM. I get it. If this was supposed to be a story about BDSM then it is a travesty. One of the major complaints is that Christian Grey is damaged goods and doesn't represent the BDSM community. Agreed. He's damaged. "Fifty Shades of Fucked Up" as he quotes in the movie (actually taken from "Fifty Shades Darker.") The critics would be right if this was a story about BDSM. But it's not. It's about sexual exploration and adventure.
Huff Post wrote "Fifty Shades" has exposed millions of decidedly "vanilla" fans to the world of kink, but does it offer an accurate picture of the dominant-submissive dynamic?" Nope. Not in a long shot.
I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure this wasn't intended as a 20/20 expose' of the dominant-submissive relationship. There are more variants of the Dom-Sub lifestyle than you can shake a flogger at. So who's to say what's accurate? But I'm pretty sure most would agree that an abused child seduced by mommy's best friend does not make for a good Dominant role model.
But I have a very different opinion about the story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. And I think that "Fifty Shades" got it right.
This is not a story about BDSM, female abuse nor a portrayal of the "dominant-submissive dynamic." This is a romance novel. Plain and simple. It's a story about the attraction between a controlling, creepy rich kid and the very hot, in a "girl-next-door-kind-of-way," Anastasia Steele. This is a story about a woman's acceptance into a world of sexual exploration. And it's pretty tame at that. There are a plethora of romance novels that delve so much deeper into sexual deviation and you never hear a peep from the critics.
Ok, I get that the premise is a little off the charts. How many college virgins fall into the arms of a beautiful 20-Something billionaire, fly off in helicopters for dinner and drive off with a gift of a pretty little Audi. But it is presented in an incredibly tasteful and erotic way. It's hot. A lot of mainstream couples are waking up to realize that they wouldn't mind a little spanking.
"Fifty Shades" provided that spark that is igniting a couple's desire to have something a little more than vanilla sex but have no desire to delve into clit clamps and floggings. There is an entire adventurous world of sexual activities that lie between missionary and Sadomasochism waiting for couples to explore.
But is getting spanked that appealing? Before you answer, let me ask you this? Was getting spanked by your parent the most painful experience in your life? Not in a long shot. But the anticipation of getting spanked sent your fear into overdrive. You became flushed. Your heart raced. Your head went crazy with anticipation. The actual spanking probably wasn't the whopping you imagined but it left you exhausted and breathless.
Fast forward to your adult life. Is spanking during sex that painful? Hardly. Is it thrilling? Not the spanking. But the built-up anticipation of the event fuels your sexual appetite in ways a basic kiss simply can't.
The thrill is in the anticipation. The thrill is the foreplay. And "Fifty Shades" delivered some pretty good foreplay. Anna tolerated the discipline. She absolutely loved the anticipation.
The Christian-Anastasia chemistry pales to some of history's hot relationships in print and film. But what they did get right is the build-up that leads to the elevator kiss, or the amusingly erotic negotiation of their sexual agreement at opposite ends of a business table, and the first time she realizes that he actually is going to spank her.
While the sex itself was tame, the foreplay was intense. I'm talking about the mental foreplay that goes on between two people long before they make that first physical contact, not the foreplay of kissing and caressing. If critics felt there was too little sex in the movie then they know little about how foreplay is tantamount to incredible sex. If they just wanted more sex, there are myriads of porn at their disposal to peruse.
That is what "Fifty Shades" got right. It teased us with the ambiguous conundrums between two people with different sexual histories. It appeals to all persons desiring more adventurous sex. And who doesn't want that?