Controversy Around 50 Shades… Reprint from Carthage College Newspaoer

Taboo Talk: Why is there controversy surrounding “Fifty Shades of Grey”?


You might have heard of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy whose popularity skyrocketed over this past summer. Not only was it popular, but it also became quite controversial because of its BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) components combined with the new rise in “mommy porn.”

The theme of the book becomes problematic because most people can’t wrap their minds around how sexual submission, especially with pain involved, can be so erotic for young, educated women.

However, Margot Sage, co-owner of Watchung Booksellers, in an interview with ABC explained what might be appealing about this: “…when you’re a young mom and everyone depends on you for everything — your husband, your mother — the idea of having someone take care of you and telling you what to do, even in twisted sense, it rocks their boat.”

The controversial aspects of the books seem to be overlooked as women have no problem owning up to the fact that they have read these books and enjoy them. Over the summer on a local radio station show, the host asked women to call in if they were reading one of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books at that moment. Women responded that were on the bus, at work and even driving reading it.

We also can’t forget to mention the new fad of baby onesies that say things like, “Nine months ago mommy read Fifty Shades of Grey” or “All mommy wanted was a night with Mr. Grey.”

To some feminists, the popularity of the book series is creating a feeling of horror and possibly even a fear for the future of marital relations actually beginning to go back in time.

“I think a lot of women find the image of femaleness – currently all about desire, even masochistic desire – just too reductive and frankly a bit perplexing,” Lennie Goodings told The Guardian.

Goodings works for Virago Press, a British publishing company that is in the works to print “Fifty Shades of Feminism” in March. This not-so-subtle response to the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series will feature stories from 50 strong female professionals about what being a woman means to each of them.

The backlash that the original novels have gotten stems from an argument that has gone on for quite some time. Some people argue that BDSM relationships, especially when the female is the submissive, are damaging to the roles of women. Others argue that being submissive is a choice and that this choice is actually empowering for women. The latter position is one that the characters in the book take and that the books seem to represent for some readers.

Overall, sexuality in women that is unconventional, such as that portrayed in “Fifty Shades of Grey” has always held a stigma in society. But this stigma is made more powerful when expressing these sexual preferences could be viewed as anti-feminist.

In reference to “Fifty Shades of Feminism,” Goodings says that, “There are many powerful ways to be female. And we are still in a casually misogynist world.” Maybe her words can be applied more generally to the idea of female sexuality.

If women like the idea of being submissive, is it not empowering for them to engage in consensual relationships under this pretense? It’s a question that remains at the forefront of conversation surrounding “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

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