Home   /   InContext  /   Anti-Feminist Ideals in “Fifty Shades of Grey”
Anti-Feminist Ideals in “Fifty Shades of Grey”

In the past year, E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey (Vintage, 2012) has taken female audiences by storm. Considered equal in consumption to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, Fifty Shades of Grey has become the series that women are obsessed with. The paradoxical issue with this ravenous consumption is that the book is centered on bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (BDSM). And as much as this is how the book is sold to the public, the story is more erotic than sexually deviant as these BDSM activities imply.

But the question remains, why do housewives and mommies rave as much as they do about this particular book, when it supports the objectification and submission of women?

Here are some dangerous myths perpetuated in this book about men and women:

The Virgin vs. the Deviant: An age-old concept, historically, women have been forced to remain virgins until they are wed or find true love, never being allowed to become sexually aware of their personal likes or dislikes. I have mentioned it before, but again, I find Margaret Atwood’s words in her essay “Pornography” radiating throughout my reading of these texts. She observes that while boys are raised on porn, girls are raised on romance novels, and when the two meet, violence ensues. He expects the whore, and the young girl expects the gentle prince. This pair meets expecting different things: he attacks, and she submits, waiting for the romance. It’s violent, rape, and irreversible. In this trilogy, Anastasia Steele, the first-person protagonist, is a twenty-four-year old virgin. She’s beautiful, smart, and a literature major, although the only story she can conjure up in her narrative is Wuthering Heights and a few other novels wherein the girl is a virgin and the guy is experienced. And when she falls in love with Christian Grey, a beautiful and successful businessman, she expects love and romance. Instead, he gives her a contract to sign, as to her limits and expectations for a BDSM relationship. Steele has to be a virgin in this book, because another experienced woman, like her roommate, Kathryn, would never give in to BDSM willingly. And as she’s a blank slate, he can teach her a kind of sex that she had never been aware of, a kind of sex that is deviant and submissive and offensive. But because she doesn’t know any better—hasn’t had any other kind of sex—virtue and intrigue can be discovered in the sex that he offers her. If deviant sex is all a woman knows—all a man knows, since Christian Grey had only been exposed to this kind of sex himself at the age of fifteen—then that is the only kind of sex that will appeal to her until she can discover the other.

A Woman’s Love Can Change Men: One of the many reasons women don’t leave abusive relationships is because the women believe that the men will change. If a woman is patient enough, kind enough, forgiving enough, then the man will be altered by her love for him. This is not how it really is in abusive relationships. People are how they are designed, and abuse is abuse. Fifty shades of “fucked up,” as Anastasia frequently refers to him, Christian Grey has a troubled past: his mother was a crack whore and her pimp used Christian’s toddler chest as his ashtray. Haunted by these memories, Grey is a man who doesn’t feel worthy of love—the nice kind of love that doesn’t require bondage, whips, and chains. E.L. James asks that we forgive him for this. Anastasia asks us to forgive him for this, since she uses this history as a means of softening his moody and dark side. E.L. James also asks us to believe that we, as women, because we are innocent, soft, and inherently maternal and loving, have the power to alter a man’s history, to change him. If we show him real love—that he is worthy of love—he will become virtuous. Christian Grey is not a villain, but he has a dark side that only therapy will change, not a woman. “He objectifies her, don’t get me wrong,” one educated woman said to me about this book, “but he changes, because of Anastasia and the love she has for him.” No one has the power to change anyone, but this trilogy offers us the stereotype that women are virtuous and self-sacrificing by nature, willing to give up their needs and wants in order to appease their men.

The Female Submissive: What both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey accomplish is to perpetuate the ideal of the “angel in the house,” as Virginia Woolf penned in regards to the submissive woman in her era. Both Twilight‘s Bella and Fifty Shades of Grey‘s Anastasia are virgins. Both of them find themselves overcome by the experienced and brooding heroes with dark histories. This idea that the good girl is intoxicated by the bad boy is a motif in movies and literature, but why is it so intoxicating? Why cannot our heroines be strong, experienced, and not so easily overcome by bad boys and by the darkness they embody? These romances reinforce an ideology that continues to place women beneath men—literally and symbolically. It shows how men perceive women, not how we perceive ourselves. Feminist theory teaches that women’s bodies and place in society have been defined by men, since we all live in patriarchal societies ruled by them. Even though two women have written these books, they are reinforcing the erotic representation of women as men would portray them. Men love the sweetness and innocence of women, but they also want to see that innocence turn to a dark and erotic form. Both Bella and Anastasia do turn. In Twilight, we see Bella’s sexual desire for her vampire hero, Edward. She tries to have sex with him for a few books, but he denies her because he may hurt her in his passion. With Anastasia, we see another virgin chained to a rack, being introduced to an anal plug and one orgasm after another. But she loves it. They’re both innocent “submissives” with sweet and quiet strength; and they are both turned, by the men they love, into dark mistresses intoxicated by sex.

These books tell women that they want not only to be objectified, their bodies ravaged by objects and men for whom they will attach themselves to the rack to please, but also that they want to be dominated—in the bedroom and outside of it. It’s pornography in its purest form, and pornography thrives because men demand it. In this case, Both Meyer and James are helping to the contribution of it, enabling the industry and patriarchy, and indoctrinating the idea that women want to be subjugated for the sake of love. One mom said to me, “This book has saved my marriage,” which proves that women now must bring handcuffs to the bedroom and assume the submissive and servile position in bed to keep the romance alive in their marriage. These books are not helping us form our own identities as women, or helping us locate our own sexual desires exclusive to what pleases men in bed. They like the school girl in the parochial uniform, as we have seen in Glee, Britney Spears’ “Oops… I Did it Again” music video, Kill Bill‘s Gogo Yubari, the 17-year-old sadistic girl, who also reeks of sexual appeal. Women don’t find this kind of demure image of girlhood tainted with darkness; men do. But Meyer and James have successfully “turned” the mainstream female reader into the housewife who can only save her marriage by putting on a school uniform while being handcuffed to a rack. There is nothing feminist in this. There is nothing empowering or progressive about these women writers, who reinforce stereotypical ideals of womanhood, and it is sad that we are buying into it.


Marina DelVecchio
Marina DelVecchio is the author of The Prostitute's Daughter, a memoir in which she shows how she has used literature to combat a life of abuse and poverty. She blogs about female agency and the necessary empowerment of our daughters at http://marinagraphy.com. Her work can be found at the Huffington Post, The New Agenda, the WM Parenting Connection, and BlogHer. She teaches writing and literature on the college level.
Related Article
  • Fifty Shades of Grey: Spicing up the Sex Lives of Readers Everywhere with “Kinky Fuckery.” | ChoiceWords

    […] things not directly related for sex and sexual play to engage in intense encounters. So instead of critiquing Fifty Shades, I want to focus my energy on how the novel promotes alternative sexual experiences […]

  • Johanna

    Quick! gather up all masochistically inclined girls into a camp to reverse their sexuality! Everyone of them must be pressured into becoming a bank-worker, CEO or at very least to be made to work 12 hours a day in an office!
    Every girl who displays desire to become a hausfrau or get more than 2 kids should be forced into a labourcamp!

  • At last, feminists and evangelicals agree ... about literature - Hot Dogma!

    […] seriously, which is not something you generally expect in contemporary American society. But also, evangelical women aren’t the only ones who are not thrilled with the relationship paradigm presented in the book: An age-old concept, historically, women have […]

  • Glee

    Curiosity. I think this is the main reason why fifty shades trilogy is selling like a hotcake. When I first saw its title as well as Christian’s name flooding in my timeline, I was curious and I asked myself, who’s Christian Grey? While I was in a bookstore, I heard a lady looking for a copy of this trilogy in the customer service area, but unfortunately for her, it was out of stock and it’s only available in the other branch. To my surprise the lady was so willing to go to the other branch jut to have a copy of the trilogy at that very moment. Again, I was curious, I asked myself, what’s up with this trilogy and it seems like everyone is going gaga about it? I was really curious that I really wanted to read it too. But unlike the lady in the bookstore, I didn’t grab a copy right away. I did my homework first, I made a research about the book. The first book review I read about it was very critical (and I might say comprehensive). In the review, I’ve already discovered the flaws of this trilogy in many aspects. I tried to read another review, and to my great surprise, most of the reviews were the stating the same thing about the book, and only few had said good things about it (unfortunately they’re fans of the book). And what really made my eyebrow raised is the (unbelievable) fact that it surpassed Harry Potter’s record as the fastest selling paperback of all time (seriously?). However, for the sake of fairness, I borrowed the first book to my friend and started reading. And honestly, I didn’t read anything extra ordinary in the book. On the first half of the first chapter, I already knew where the whole story would go because the story is very common among romance novels (though those few good romance novel I’ve read did not employ BDSM relationship). Right now, I’m still in the chapter 20 (of book 1) and haven’t moved to another chapter yet (since I started reading it). I stopped reading it because I found it unworthy of my reading time. The plot that ‘love conquers all’ is so idealistic. For me, only God’s love can conquer everything. And for a man to love a woman, a woman doesn’t need to be clumsy, innocent and anything like Anastasia, just be yourself and be real. I still believe that the right man comes from God.

  • Fa2

    Feminism is and always has been a patriarch agenda. The patriarch powers that be are not focused on forcing women into submissive roles in order to abuse them. However anything thing you single out and find data to support your claim will prove your point. Traditional roles created by nature do not, I repeat DO NOT, make this country money. Homemakers, stay at home moms, and women who accept that they can be smart and live in the traditional role defined by nature are not profitable. Feminist are profitable coming and going. School loans, credit/car/home loans, mass consumerism etc etc. Feminist mindset add to the machine of America. The real victims of feminism are the children who have to be with strangers all day, and good men who can’t find a wife because most women have grown a penis and women that can’t find husbands because again they’ve grown a penis. Fighting the injustices against women don’t even coordinate with the mindset of most feminist. Most feminist have turned into their own so called enemy. Super huge ego having (you can never tell a feminist you don’t agree with her view, she will certainly go super macho man on you), masculine aggressive, power hungry men with vaginas. Now wonder so many women are trying to find love online. To scared of what their feminist mindset friends would think if god forbid they say… I need a man.

  • Fifty shades of boredom – French mom vs. North-American mommy porn | French Touch Mom

    […] Feminists all around are ranting about the way this depicts women’s sexuality as something normative and constraining, a very far cry from what the sexual liberation gals like Naomi Wolf are trying to achieve. EL […]

  • John

    Most girls like to be dominated, I even dated a feminist this summer who turned out to love being spanked, etc. You truly alienate the majority of women with over analytical approaches that deny the reality of common inherent desires. Best of luck.

  • Taylor Swift, Mary Sue | WriteRight

    […] might apply to your writings, should you produce an insanely good book, or an insanely popular waste of arboreal destruction. As an example, I am going to use a poorly written character with whom you are probably […]

  • PStover

    I read about 1/2 of the first book and truly found it repulsive. People that get pleasure out of reading this book have a deeper issue than they realize. There is no way a normal loving relationship has any of the elements or depravity that this book demonstrates. It is quite frightening to me that so many women accepted this pornography that denigrates woman? Help me to understand why this is?????

  • Sid

    I think the main problem with this book is that, as the writer of this article pointed out, it portrays female submission as something that will make men love you.
    I read the book in about an hour. At first, I was laughing. But then, when I was about to finish it (finally) I realized that Christian “loved her”. Excuse me, what?
    There’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to be handcuffed and all that. There’s nothing wrong with someone wanting to be submissive, the problem is: “Why do you want to be dominated?”
    As someone said below, the whole relationship between the characters is an abusive one. What kind of society do we have if our women and men are thinking that love can be expressed through violence?

    These sort of stereotypes affects men, too (the whole idea that feminism is about women only sickens me, you people got it all wrong); it portrays men as violent human beings that can not pursue a healthy relationship. The fact this book is a best-seller will make men think that every woman wants to be dominated as long as you promise “love”.

    This kind of ‘literature’ is not empowering women. There is no power in “wanting” to be dominated in order to be loved. It’s a very distorted version of the fairy tales. The prince will love you, as long as you’re willing to be abused.

  • Lorrie B

    To those who think “who cares, this is just another book”, I say think again. The influence of a book with so many readers is undeniable, and whether you believe it or not, you are what you read, eat, think and choose. The fact that women around the world want to read this is just mind-boggling. I would prefer to think that this particular novel is more wanting more erotica, versus a continent of women craving a sadomasochist controlling sexual partner. To all writers out there – let’s just get to work on a better erotic novel, push this badly-written and seriously misguided one off the shelves, and give the readers who want something similar something better. Lead by example!

  • Holli

    I have been thinking for quite some time that Hollyweird and Mass Media have taken women backward 200-300 years. First they were telling us we needed to be bi-sexual to be “hot”. Then it was have a threesome. Mass Media insists that sexual submission to men regardless of our own needs is the formula for a hot, healthy relationship. Now they want us to be slapped around. I think they have a hidden agenda to break down the family unit to keep us poor and at odds with each. Sadly women are so stupid and desperate to be “hot” they jump on the next fad blindly without a thought. We need to stop tearing each other down and support each other. Get some self esteem and class ladies.

  • Charlie K

    Honestly, I only fully agree with you on the second point and just partially on 1 and 3.
    First, BDSM isn’t bad on its own and most people who practice it, are actually very normal. BDSM isn’t the dangerous aspect of their relationship. It’s the fact that Christian controls every aspect of her life. It’s the fact that that she can’t stand up for herself. It’s the fact that it’s not entirely consensual.
    The fact that good girls like bad guys as in guys with a dark side, but a good heart. Guys that may have done (and still do) bad things, but they aren’t scrupulous, they would never hurt the woman they love. Whereas both Edward and Christian (who are basically the same person)

  • sunshine

    I agree with you. These books are sending a very dangerous message that love can “fix” everything. Christian Grey is a psycho. He loves to hurt and abuse Ana. He loves to control every aspect of her life. This is not a romantic story. This story is about a sick man that loves to make everyone feel inferior. This is not a real BDSM relationship. A real BDSM relationship is about respect and trust.

  • lee

    this sort of nonsense is the reason most intelligent women hate the idea of FEMINISM. its just a book darlings, get over it.

  • Jennifer

    It’s a pity that such an insightful piece of writing gets such sadly unilluminated responses.

    If you can’t understand what the writer of this piece is doing quite a good job of imparting, then the problem is with your own failure to interpret the world around you and not her writing.

    This series is retrograde, woman-hating crap and women who read it uncritically have gone back into the kitchen, with a buttplug up their ass, in six inch stilettoes. There’s a word for women that thick and it’s not “sex worker”.

  • sere

    Why can’t people allow a work of fiction to simply be a work of fiction? Oh, I know, you need something to feed your indignation and write about on your blogs. I’m sorry that fiction does not reflect some idealized world you have or further your goals.

  • Från “Pretty Woman” vidare till “Twilight” och “Fifty Shades of ….Women actually like this!?” « Aktivarum

    […] DelVecchio varnar för “Antifeminist ideals in Fifty Shades of Grey”.Det framgår inte någonstans på vilket sätt hon menar de här sakerna skulle finnas för att […]

  • Megan Hussey

    As a feminist erotica writer who prides herself on offering strong female characters and equitable relationships in her stories, I want to thank you very much for this article. 50 Shades may be a big seller, but I despair at the statements it makes about women and their sexuality. A read can be sexy without being sexist, and that’s what I try to present in my books.

  • mkat

    This is one book I will NEVER read. Not only because it promotes gender stereotypes but because it sounds plain stupid. I’m ashamed to say that I have read the first Twilight book. It was horrible in every respect from the plot to the writing style. It’s sad because practically every other book is better yet doesn’t get the attention. As for this book, yes it easily fulfils all the cliche gender stereotypes. The inexperienced female virgin. The sexually experienced bad-boy. yawn. What I find especially disturbing is this new trend happening in Sydney in which women have adopted a trend from “50 Shades of Grey.” Their wedding vows includes a submission contract. This is degrading and is a giant leap backwards. All of these women who revel in being submissive are pathetic sheep stuck in a different time era (or possibly need psychological help.)

  • Rai-An Perrish

    I’m so happy to have read this article. thanks for articulating a lot of what i’ve been feeling about this series.i really dont’ understand the appeal of these books at all. the relationship between the two is clearly abusive and sends many horrible messages to women. there are many better books that portray hot sex between two people who are actually equal and respectful of each other . that to me is very hot but something like this.

  • Nell

    I don’t think “men and women are made to feel they betray their sex by being submissive”. I think if we still care about that we’re pretty pathetically behind on the times. I think that any PERSON who submits themselves, their well-being, their happiness completely to someone else betrays THEMSELVES. If you don’t see that you don’t understand feminism. I don’t care if this is a man or a woman, I don’t like the idealization of people who make themselves unhappy to make others happy.

    I don’t think the whole “virgin” thing is such an anti-feminist thing either. Quite like Ana, I was not interested in sex until I truly fell in love for the first time, this was at age 23 for me. That is just how I was, and be sure to know that my peers definitely made sure to make me feel like a freak for it. Don’t worry about that pressure, that goes the other way around nowadays. However I’d like to state that my partner, who I am still with to this day three years later, was gentle and loving and eager to please me and not just in the bedroom to make himself feel better. Christian Grey is just a butthole, really plain and simple.

    What offends me also about 50 Shades is the shallowness of Ana’s “intellectualism”. She is supposedly a student, a self proclaimed “geek”, but apparently she was so busy memorizing pointless quotes from obvious classics that she failed to get the message from those books, which is that people have been fighting from freedom of will, speech and true happiness for centuries. And especially women did not possess those basic rights for much too long. I think it’s very ironic that Thomas Hardy is her biggest classic favorite. She could have chosen a Bronte Sister, Jane Austen, but out of that whole era of “women who finally let themselves have voices” she chose the one heroine that was written by a man. I was a college student not too long ago, I did literature subjects and read all the classics and more, and I know girls who read them for fun all day almost every day. They are much smarter, more empowered by their knowledge and don’t need to make obvious references to “Sir Gawain… or Sir Lancelot!” to convince themselves they are into anything. It was forced, shallow and frankly an insult to the intelligence of well-read women all over the world.

  • Sara H

    It’s ironic, that both men, and women have voiced opinions to the effect of, that either submissive men, or submissive women, by being submissive, are “betraying their gender”.

    With homophobia, it’s been scientifically shown, that the more homophobic the person was, the more they aroused and stimulated they became to gay images.

    The conclusion being that homophobia is directly linked to suppressed homoerotic tendencies in the part of the homophobe

    Is it possible that people who are “submissiphobes” (to coin a term) are just uncomfortable with some aspect of themselves?

    Just like homophobia which has been scientifically shown to be linked to suppressed homoerotic tendencies in the homophobe, is it possible that the men who are uncomfortable with submissive men, and the women who are uncomfortable with submissive women, are truly just uncomfortable with some submissive aspect in themselves?

    Perhaps, secretly, they think some aspect of that submission they are seeing in the submissive man or woman is kindof hot, and they are afraid to look at that aspect in themselves.

    Homophobes can be very violent to gay men and lesbians, and transgender people.

    Perhaps it’s no different with kinkaphobes and submissiphobes.

    Perhaps it’s not the problem with the existence of submissive people.

    Perhaps the problem lies in themselves, the person who is uncomfortable with it.

  • TM


    I enjoy sadomasochism and bondage in real life, but hate this book. Real BDSM relationships are based on mutual trust, respect and love.

    It has nothing to do with “women’s freedom”. Girls are free to choose to be submissive with their partner if they wish to, but this book promotes abusive behavior. The man is cold and possessive and the girl has such a low self-esteem that she stays with him and tries to change him. Please, PLEASE girls, don’t act this way. You can have any kind of sex you want, but it shouldn’t involve mental abuse.

  • Feminism, Fairytales & ‘Fifty’… | The Outlandish Oxymoron

    […] Marina DelVecchio states that there is “nothing empowering or progressive” about the series. Really Marina? Because I would have thought that taking control of one’s fantasies and desires- no matter what they are- would be considered wholly empowering by most women. […]

  • Beck

    How is this book a manifestation of patriarchy? I’m sorry but what a cop-out to blame the imaginary evil patriarchy for coercing women to buy this book. Women are free, just like men, they and they alone are responsible for buying a book. Please stop spreading this victimhood feminism and encourage people to take responsibility for their own actions.

  • Christian Grey in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ —marinadelvecchio Empowering Girls and Women

    […] Book Reviews,Women's Issues I recently wrote about E. L. James’ infamous Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy for HerCircle from a feminist perspective. It’s getting a lot of […]

  • amethyst

    Amazingly accurate article.

  • Madge

    I couldn’t agree more with your review! This book is the kind of bullsh*t women should be steeling our minds AGAINST.

  • Anon

    While I’ll agree completely that this book is utter emotionally manipulative garbage, I have to disagree about how Anastasia only agreed to a BDSM relationship because she was a virgin. I know you wouldn’t have meant it that way, but it’s hurtful to those who have such desires, many of whom are struggling to accept them in a society that still believe that woman cannot own her sexuality be it dominant or submissive.

  • Rachael

    I’m sorry but you’re saying that THIS is what women want? They want to be objectified and treated as nothing but sex toys? Honestly get some self-respect. Porn and sex are great but sadomasochism is just plain wrong! It’s basically telling us that it’s ok for women to allow themselves to get beaten up in order for some bloke to get off on it. I’m so glad I’ve read this article because hearing my own sister rant and rave about it and then tell me that I’m judging it on my own experiences was extremely frustrating! I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Thank you so much! xxx

  • lee

    love porn, but this book is just little girls erotica not the real thing. love how it’s got the radicals and fundamentalists all hot and bothered though. most fun i’ve had in months

  • Dani

    Melissa, you poor, submissive girl. You just proved her point and more.

  • Melissa

    Youre missing one ENORMOUS aspect. That’s, that women everywhere LOVE this book! You seem to be upset that women can’t be free with their sexuality, but has it dawned on you that for a lot of women THIS is exactly what they want? You’re just upset that it doesn’t fit into what YOU believe a woman SHOULD want! By the way, porn doesn’t exist JUST because men demand it (which they don’t, they simply watch and purchase it.) Porn actually exists because there’s no shortage of women who will forsake any and all dignity, modesty, shame, and pride for the almighty dollar! Feminism is nothing more than your own false belief that you aren’t what you really are! Feminism is a failure to accept womanhood, and it’s nothing more than shame in being a woman and envy of men. Get over it, we don’t need feminists, we need women who know the difference between right and wrong, and who know the difference between men and women. Neither is better than the other. But both are SUPPOSE to be complimentary to each other.

  • Nelly

    I disagree he never changed, he changed the way he reacts to things and events. he is still the same person but yes now he knows what love is. only upset and discourages women that gave up on love would say otherwise. Steele did not know what she was getting herself into and when she had choice she did not leave.

  • Everyday is Silent and Grey « The Feminerds

    […] feminists. Marina DelVecchio, for example, criticises the book for embodying anti-feminist ideals here. I think Ms. DelVecchio does a reasonably good job making the case that Fifty Shades of Grey is […]

  • Fifty Shades of Wayne « sanczny

    […] Artikel “Anti-Feminist Ideals in Fifty Shades of Grey” kritisiert den Plot Device “A Woman’s Love Can Change Men” als kennzeichnend […]

  • Alexandra

    Oh good grief. BDSM is a two-way street- there are female submissives and there are male submissives. The fact that the book focuses on one female submissive does not mean that it is suggesting that every woman should be submissive. Sex does not have to be equal, and neither do relationships. They should be whatever make the people involved happy. How is it feminist to tell other women that it’s only acceptable to do sex and relationships a certain way?

  • Lets

    I read this book on Kindle after reading about it in the paper and was shocked – I’m not a prude by any means, but I saw it only as emotional abuse of the worst kind. I can’t believe women everywhere are buying into this garbage. And also, how many times does she have to refer to her ‘inner goddess’. My inner goddess says, not on your life mate!

  • Rosie

    Thank you for writing this! I totally agree with you. I was shocked and extremely disappointed to hear of women praising this trilogy and defending it as feminist triumph. I’m glad I’m not the only one to think otherwise!

  • Elle

    While I agree that the “virgin” aspect of 50 Shades is a bit frustrating, I completely disagree with the assertion that the only reason the main character consents to the BDSM relationship is that “because another experienced woman, like her roommate, Kathryn, would never give in to BDSM willingly.” That’s a complete falsehood. There are plenty of submissive women with sexually diverse backgrounds who have had vanilla sex, kinky sex, and all the sex in between. Declaring that women only want this because they haven’t been acquainted with anything else is offensive.

    This article is just as anti-feminist as the authors it accuses. The simple fact is that if there were a very successful article about feminine domination, many of the same people crying anti-feminism now would call the same in that case.

    Another note I’d like to add is that the idea that men run the pornographic world is antiquated and false. There is a growing market for pornography aimed directly at women and their desires. I think 50 Shades is aimed at both men and women who want to dominate and submit in equal measure. There is no doubt that the books are pornographic, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad.

    All in all, this article bases most of its frustrations on the misguided belief that only sexually naive women would consent to be submissive, that male dominance can only imply patriarchy and oppression of women, and that slut-shaming is still totally okay.

    On a personal note, while reading this book, I found myself identifying with the male character more than the female. As a sexually dominant woman in a relationship with a submissive man, this didn’t surprise me. So yes, I do bring handcuffs, tape, and rope into the bedroom. But they’re not for me. They’re for him. And for women who read the book and find themselves wanting to bite Anastasia’s lip, too, I say more power to them.

  • Fifty Shades Of Grey - 11 Things About 50 Shades

    […] rant here, but the issue of feminism with regards to the books is best summarized in the article “Anti Feminist Ideals in Fifty Shades of Grey” by Marina DelVecchio in which she observes the perpetuation of the following feminine myths: The […]

  • Marina DelVecchio

    Kate, I remember “Nine and a Half Weeks.” Love this line of your response:”It is a sad commentary that even today, women cannot feel comfortable (and neither can men) with expressing themselves sexually, with being on equal footing in the board room, classroom, across the kitchen table, the changing table and in the bedroom.” It’s true, and it speaks to the controlled and normalized sexuality enforced upon women by patriarchy. We have a long way to go in terms of defining our selves and our needs.

  • Marina DelVecchio

    Hi Margaret,

    Thanks for responding to this. I think E.L. James saw a market and so she fed it — with drivel.

  • Margaret

    I am no way a prude,but the first thing that came to mind when reading this is ‘Insecure,Obnoxious,Narcissast’.He dosnt have the guts to take a real woman but to rob a young girl of her innocence.The poor girl will have to be in therapy for the rest of her life!Many women in my work place was raving abut this book so I decided to read it for myself…sad to think what mental level EL James is on.Give me Jackie Collins,the strong heroic figure.Wish I could meet Mr.Grey..I would screw his mind up beyond belief(from a 40something year old woman)

  • Kate Robinson

    Oh, Marina! I love this review and analysis! I heard about this book and wondered, “Why would anyone want to read this?” To me, it came across as actually a young girl’s fantasy of being “taken” by a father-like man, yet not father, so there is no worry of incest. The girl is also “of age” so it’s not Lolita. However, in every other way, Anastasia seems very much the naive youth, yet well past the “age of consent.” I chocked it up to women not only harboring these fantasies, but also of fantasies of exploring more deviant sex acts that they are otherwise prohibited (or inhibited) about exploring.

    This book, like the decades-old-now “Nine and a Half Weeks” are ways for women to escape into these fantasies in a socially acceptable manner. It is sad, you are right, that this is the case. It is a sad commentary that even today, women cannot feel comfortable (and neither can men) with expressing themselves sexually, with being on equal footing in the board room, classroom, across the kitchen table, the changing table and in the bedroom.

    I say it is high time for women to demand what it is they want from relationships and to leave behind men who aren’t on board. Oh, and leave also these supposedly “controversial” books with their depictions of things no so risqué, but rather pathological and demeaning.

Post a new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *