I had no intention of reading Fifty Shades of Grey, the novel by E.L. James that has sold 30 million copies in a few months and has been often tagged as “mommy porn” based on its appealed to so-called frustrated housewives.
But an ex-boyfriend incited my curiosity. According to him, no less than five of his other former girlfriends emailed him to say how much Christian Grey reminds them of him. So I read the book and came across a flat, predictable story, filled with descriptions that seem to be taken from the diary of a teenager. “He’s so alpha male,” laments Anastasia Steele. Ugh.
Yes, Mr. Grey reminds me, too, of my ex. Attractive and wealthy. Seductive, but cold. A control freak dressed up as a gentleman. Able to shower you with praise, gifts and messages for a month just to end up deciding that he’s “not ready” for a commitment…with you. The type of toxic man I have already banned from my life.
THE FANTASY OF PRINCE CHARMING
But it seems that 30 million women are attracted to guys like him, or they are at least curious. I understand the reason why the book has become a blockbuster, despite its complete lack of literary quality. It connects with the female fantasy of Prince Charming—a man unbearably handsome, rich and perfect who spoils and amuses you, picks up the tab, gives you never-ending orgasms and makes all the decisions in your daily life. And of course, he’s mysterious and complicated enough to awake your burning desire to conquer him.
As a fantasy, it’s great. Every woman loves the idea of a well-groomed gentleman taking her to dinner at a fancy restaurant, only to seduce her afterwards in his wonderful penthouse. But the downside of this fantasy is the theme of the book: BDSM (bondage-domination/submission-masochism) relationships. As a game to play in the privacy of a couple’s bedroom, it’s fine. As a way of life, it’s appalling.
Come on, what 21st century woman really wants to be Anastasia Steele? She’s a disastrous role model for the rest of us. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. She’s naive. Steele is 22 years old, about to graduate at college. She should be a somewhat independent woman with some experience in the world. Instead, she behaves like a shy tween. Gawky, insecure, sloppy and clumsy, she constantly blushes and stumbles with irritating frequency.
2. She’s inexperienced. She’s a virgin before meeting Grey. She has never been aroused by a man before, let alone had an orgasm. She is totally unaware of her body and her sensuality. And her first sexual experience is BDSM. Yeah, she’s doomed to a lifetime on her therapist’s couch.
3. She’s dumb. She considers the possibility of signing a master/submissive contract with a guy she barely knows, endangering her principles and even her own integrity. Although she thinks she would be an awful submissive, Steele is actually an emotional masochist, determined to fall in love with a man who, in her own words, is not able to love.
4. She’s superficial. She’s blinded by Christian’s money and physical beauty, instead of realizing that real, worthwhile men are delightfully imperfect. And she has no qualms (well, maybe at the beginning) about accepting ridiculously expensive gifts.
5. She’s blind, figuratively speaking. She doesn’t care about the fact that he is a stalker, able to track her cell phone to find out where she lives or show up in her city when she tries to get away from him. Restraining order anyone?
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6. She has no self-esteem. She can’t stop belittling herself, wondering how a man as amazing as Christian Grey could even look at such insignificant girl. “I am the moth and he is the light,” she says. “I always wonder if I’m worthy of him.” Ouch.
7. She lacks imagination. Despite her erotic potential and having such an eccentric and sexually unconventional man in her bed, she never considers the idea of becoming the bad girl who plays spicy games with him, taking an active, naughty role.
8. She’s clueless about her sexuality. She can’t stop mentioning her “inner goddess,” but she has no idea of what female energy and the concept of “goddess” really mean in tantric sex. First of all, the goddess’s sexuality is not as phallo-centric as this book describes. To become a multi-orgasmic woman, you need a lot more than a handsome man screwing you for two minutes.
9. She’s predictable. She is fascinated with Grey, but what she really wants is to change him from a top to a bottom. Ah, how typical.
10. She thinks she can save him. What excites her most is not Grey’s beauty or his bank account, but the reasons why he is such a cold, hurt man. She wants to be the one and only woman able to penetrate his shell and win the heart of the Beast, to live together happily ever after. Oh please. Very original.
In short, a real-life Anastasia Steele would be an insecure, false, materialistic and inconsistent woman. She would sleep with a man just because he’s rich, sexy and mysterious. She’d be a loser unable to earn a living for herself or focus on her own happiness, as she would be too busy trying to rescue bad boys. So tell me, just what kind of a romantic heroine or role model is that?