I’m trying to figure out what the attraction is with 50 Shades of Grey. As a Christian feminist who is passionate about equality for women, I am concerned about how many women love this book, and what messages this book is sending those women. From what I have read, the book started out as Twilight fan fiction, and from the sounds of it, is worse that Twilight. It appears as if popular culture is currently trending towards romanticizing abusive relationships, and that’s sad. 50 Shades of Grey is also a very poorly written manifesto on being in an abusive relationship.
And talking about abusive relationships, there’s a blog firestorm right now that I am entering late about a leader in the Christian patriarchy movement, Doug Wilson, who seems to think that men need to conquer women in bed. To me it sounds like he’s advocating abusive relationships also, but then again, in my opinion the entire patriarchy movement just does that. Here is a quote from Douglas Wilson’s book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man:
“Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.”
Looking around online, I see that I’m not the only one disgusted by Doug Wilson’s words. First of all, I want to know why exactly sex can’t be “an egalitarian pleasuring party”. I think my husband and I could have a lot of fun with our own private egalitarian pleasuring party, not that any of it would be any of Doug Wilson’s business.
At any rate, Wilson goes on to say that a man is to “penetrate, conquer, colonize and plant” and that a woman is to “receive, surrender, and accept”. See, that sounds like abuse to me. The words conquer and colonize are violent imagery. When my husband and I were in pre-marriage counselling, the pastor told my husband that he was to “ravage” me on our wedding night, and told me that I was to “submit”. So this violent rape imagery isn’t exclusive to Wilson, it seems to be exclusive to abusive men who use patriarchy to put a religious label on their abuse in order to try to make it ok.
I think that telling a woman to submit and surrender to violence is horrible. For far too long now, women have been blamed for their own rape, with the men who raped them claiming that they enjoyed it, or they were asking for it by what they were wearing, or that they shouldn’t have been in a particular location. For some reason, culture still tends to blame rape victims for what happened to them, and reading things like Wilson’s quote and 50 Shades of Grey just makes this kind of thinking worse, not better.
Wilson states that his writing is offensive to all egalitarians, and I can say that this is probably the only part where I agree with him. However, I would hope that his writing is offensive to more than just people who claim the egalitarian label. Women are not something to be conquered; we are a person to be loved.
I really think that Wilson’s views are dangerous, but so are the current portrayals of relationships in popular culture. We need to throw out Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey along with the likes of Doug Wilson, and stand up for ourselves and refuse to buy literature which exploits women and teaches them to remain in abusive relationships.
Wilson, D 1999, Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man, Canon Press.