In Defence of Fifty Shades

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I went to see Fifty Shades of Grey last night, despite the terrible reports I’d heard. Mostly because it was a night out with the girls and I’d already bought the tickets. So my expectations weren’t high, which coupled with the lovely wine we had during the movie, turned it into a much better than anticipated evening’s entertainment. Frankly, on the way out I was wondering what it was exactly that people were objecting to, calling it glorified domestic abuse, appalling, worst movie ever, etc.

Clearly there were a lot of people watching it who hadn’t read the books, which given how well they sold is surprising in itself. This was made abundantly clear by the groans and calls of “What!!” at the final scene, which was identical to where the first book ended and should have surprised no one. The book gives more context to what happens in the end, but the movie was far superior in the way you didn’t have to listen to an annoying inner monologue about “inner goddesses” leaping about repeatedly. The sex scenes were tastefully done and there were moments of humour. I thought Dakota Johnson was very good and captured the conflict the heroine feels perfectly. Sure it’s about BDSM, but more than that, it’s about pushing personal boundaries.

Most of us in our twenties did this, maybe not exploring kink, but in other ways. It could have been seeing how long you could go without sleeping. My record for this is nearly 36 hours, where I went to uni on a Friday morning, then straight to work behind the bar at a nightclub where I worked a 12 hour shift until 6am then drove an hour outside Sydney to a skydiving centre and jumped out of a plane. By the time I finally got to bed it was early afternoon.  I generally partied hard, drinking and dancing for hours, pushing my body to do more, imbibe more, keep going longer and longer. This is what you do when you are young. How do you know what you are capable of if you don’t test it?

If you haven’t seen the movie and plan on being surprised, stop reading here. The final climactic scene, where Christian whips Anna too hard and she breaks up with him, has been called by one reviewer as glorified domestic violence. I think this is a simplistic interpretation. She asks him to do it, to show her what it is he wants, testing both her limits and his. His limit is clearly further than hers, but when it becomes too much she doesn’t safe word out. In the second book this is explained as “she forgot” and he gets upset with her for not saying stop, even though he reminded her before they started. If she had said the safe word “red” and he hadn’t stopped, then I’d agree it was domestic violence. Though I don’t get the attraction to BDSM, I do understand wanting to see how far you can go with things. This scene is similar to any video of extreme sports – base jumping, free running, skateboarding or snowboarding when someone attempts a skill and doesn’t pull it off. They went to the edge and fell off. Do you think less of the snowboarder who tries their best but still stacks it? No, but because it’s sex that is the medium rather than snow, there’s far more judgement. Just because we wouldn’t personally attempt something doesn’t make it our right to say that no one should.

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