The Vermont Cynic

On the ‘Fifty Shades’ movement


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This weekend, while tuned in to National Public Radio, I listened to a discussion regarding the immense cinematic success of “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

As of this writing, the movie has grossed around $400 million worldwide, according to USA Today.

The NPR discussion focused on what this means for American popular culture regarding its attitude toward obscure — but, one supposes, not so obscure anymore — sexual practices.

The segment featured a guest speaker, noted “sexologist” — a vocation which seems to hold just as much empirical legitimacy among the sciences as “mixology” (tending bar) and “reflexology” (professionally scamming naive Californians) — “Dr.” Charley Ferrer, who was asked to render her opinion on “Fifty Shades” and the BDSM — which stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism, the latter two, I think, hold a place in the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — “movement,” as it were, in general.

Ms. Ferrer, in a statement infused with as much dopey optimism as historical illiteracy, compared the current BDSM movement to the gay rights movement decades ago.

This sentiment was repeated in a statement she made at the BDSM Writers Confererence: “BDSM is currently where LGBT was 30 years ago.”

Far be it from me, pertaining to neither of these movements, to pronounce that they are absolutely nothing alike — but they are absolutely nothing alike.

In the first place, there is not, nor should there ever be, a civil rights movement for people engaged in — however consensual and voluntary — an act that devalues both human beings and the importance of sex, relegating them both to mere objects of sociopathic delight.

I’m not saying that we should legislate against BDSM, but we shouldn’t necessarily welcome it into the popular culture, either.

Moreover, practitioners of BDSM have never been victimized — outside of the bedroom, that is — in any significant way.

They certainly have never gone up against fire hoses and dogs.

Indeed, members of the BDSM movement, unlike the adherents of the original civil rights movement and the gay rights movement, were never disenfranchised, except for having been rightly relegated to obscure, underground circles with a home in the dark bowels of the internet.

And they deserved that. BDSM is so far antithetical to the brightest ideals of feminism that it should remain in the dark.

But for some reason, it has managed to jump from the scummiest of porn sites to the apex of the box office and popular literature.

And if any movement is under assault, it’s that of Susan B. Anthony and Betty Friedan.

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On the ‘Fifty Shades’ movement