Archives for category: Feminism and Me

Today I want to talk about Allies. Specifically LGBTQPIA+ allies. Let me note now that this acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Pansexual, Intersex, Asexual (and others). The ‘A’ does not and will never stand for Allies.

Allow me to explain it in a different way. When the ‘A’ in a acronym is used to mean ‘Allies’, rather than ‘Asexual’, you are erasing a term representing marginalized people and inserting yourself (as an ally, you would be heterosexual) into a space where you do not belong. In other terms, if people who fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella term are seen as a soccer team (or any other sports team), the allies are meant to be the supportive crowd of the team. They do not play the game. They do not try to be the coach. They do not gather with the team for the team picture. They are supportive, and that is all.

Allies are supposed to be the crowd at a sporting event. And yet.

Obviously this is not always the case. For some reason, heterosexual “allies” (and I put that in quotation marks because they are not allies) think that they should be the center of the LGBTQPIA+ movement and that their voices should be heard over everyone and that they are above any critique from LGBTQPIA+ persons.

In my post about Macklemore and the problems with his song “Same Love”, there was a comment that I had to reply to. I usually [almost always, except in this one case] do not reply to comments on my posts, regardless of whether or not I agree with them or they agree with me. Honestly, this comment is what spurned this post [though, it’s not the only thing, as this type of idea is rather widespread throughout people who think they are allies.]

The comment-er said, at the very end:

“If we’re going to get to a society where gay people can be accepted by everyone, you’re not going to claw it into existence all by yourself. You need us, the straights, to get in on the plan too. And I’m glad Macklemore is throwing his hat in the ring. Because he, and I, and the rest of us are going to keep going with or without the approval of the gay community. Because it’s the right thing to do.”

This is revolting.

People who believe this -that they do not need “the approval” of the “gay community” [a phrase which is disgustingly limiting and erasing of other identities] and that they can do whatever they want -and even further, that we should be happy because they are so supportive and any critique is a horrible offense -are not allies. I repeat, people like this are not allies. They are only people who want to feel good about themselves, and they are selfish and narrow minded. They only want to help themselves, not anyone else. They do not truly support the cause, because they don’t even understand it.

This is a show of privilege.

This is also tone policing.

The tone policing bit comes in when they [I’m using this pronoun in favor of he or she] write “You need us, the straights, to get in on the plan too” -it is implied, then, that the LGBTQPIA+ Community must ‘be nice’ to the heterosexual people in order for them to “get in on the plan”.

Let me be clear: No marginalized group owes their oppressors ‘niceness’. If you require someone to be nice to you in order to support their cause, you are not an ally, and you do not believe in the cause, you just want to feel good about yourself.

If you want to be a true ally -or, the phrase I like much better, a person who is “currently operating in solidarity with” LGBTQPIA+ people -maybe just consider how you benefit from a system and culture that systematically discriminates against LGBTQPIA+ people. Maybe you could educate yourself by looking at online resources written by LGBTQPIA+ people, by people of color, by disabled people, and not immediately jump to the defensive “WELL NOT ALL (insert privileged group here) ARE LIKE THAT!”

The post from Black Girl Dangerous linked above (and here too, because it’s just that good) has a wonderful list of what you can do as a person who wants to act in solidarity with marginalized groups.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to talk about this post or has questions or ideas, I will gladly respond to the comments under this topic, as this is a very important topic to me. If we want to do better and make this a better world, we need to have a base understanding for what it means to be supportive of other people who’s lives are different from us.

Advertisements

Yesterday evening I was walking back to my apartment from the parking lot I am forced to park in due to not being an in-state resident where I go to school. The lot is about a block or two away from my apartment.

It was about nine at night, and I was walking alone. I’ve walked this route many times alone, as I have lived here for six months with my roommates’ schedules sometimes lining up with my own, but not always. Again, it’s about two blocks away. I also live directly across from a police station.

Last night, as I was crossing the street and turning a corner, a car with two men in it slowed down and stopped behind me, and the man in the passenger seat asked me how I was doing. I gave them a confused look and said “Fine” and continued walking.

These men proceeded to back up and turn down the road that I was walking on, driving alongside me and saying things (I’m not sure if they were talking to each other or to me, though at one point one of them did say “Sexy” and “don’t be like that”, so…) I did not look at them, I did not respond to them -I continued to walk normally.

I walked about 3/4 of the block like this, with them following me in their car. Then, the driver got out of the car and crossed over to me and asked if he could walk with me. He was smiling. I said no. He asked why I “had to be like that”. I kept walking. They drove away as I was turning into my complex.

I made sure they drove away before walking inside the complex and then called my boyfriend, and then cried on the phone to him while I locked my apartment in every way possible.

Tonight I want to talk about harassment.

After this experience, and after I had some time to calm down and think, I began wondering what else I could’ve done. Should I have been more forward to this man about my displeasure? About my disgust? About my fear? What if he had reacted badly and tried to grab me -what would I have done? Would any of the three people next to the building have done something? And then I started wondering why I was wondering what I could’ve done differently.

After thinking about these things for a while, I began to get very very angry, and I still am. I am angry that these complete strangers thought it was an ‘okay idea’ to follow a single woman in their car at night and try to hit on her. I am pissed off that my rejection of them and their advances was seen as something negative (which can be inferred from his question “why you gotta be like that” when I walked away) while their unwanted advances (and stalking) is not seen as such. I am angry that when I wrote about this on facebook, another female friend of mine wrote that she had also been followed last week by a man in an SUV while she was running, who asked her if she wanted a ride multiple times on different streets and continued to follow her after she refused. I am angry that people don’t think street harassment is a real problem, and I am furious that people think that it is actually a compliment.

No.

It is terrifying.

Being followed by two people in a car at night is terrifying.

Wondering if you are going to have to defend yourself physically against someone is terrifying.

Knowing that you cannot run because of health problems while a stranger is approaching you is terrifying.

Also knowing that, if it came down to it, you probably could not defend yourself physically against said person -because of those same health problems -is terrifying.

I wish that I could see that man again. I wish that I could ask him why he thought his actions were anywhere near appropriate. I wish I could ask him if he honestly thought I was ever going to get in his car when I didn’t know him at all and he just followed me down a block. I wish I could ask him why he thought I wanted his advances when I was very clearly ignoring him. I wish I could tell him to stop what he was doing and to never do it again. I wish I could tell him how scared and unsafe he made me feel.

Instead, I will tell you all something very clearly:

If you want to hit on someone, and they are actively not looking at you or are turning away from you or are not responding to things you say: they are not fucking interested. Leave them alone.

If you ask someone if you can walk with them, or if they need a ride, or anything even vaguely similar and they say no, or I don’t know, or I’m not sure, or nothing at all: they are not fucking interested. Leave them alone.

I cannot go back in time and change how I reacted, but maybe this post will help someone understand that street harassment is not okay ever. No one likes it, no matter what anyone else thinks. It’s not a compliment. It doesn’t make our day. It doesn’t make us feel pretty. It makes us feel scared and terrified and shitty and it just reinforces all of the bad things about this culture.

And, yes, my situation could’ve been a lot worse, I am absolutely sure of it -but that does not make it okay or something that I need to get over. Street harassment needs to be talked about, it needs to be identified, because that’s the only way that we can stop it.

I do not know how to start this post. I am angry. I am tired. I am tired of being angry.

There is often a lot of discussion surrounding ‘privilege’, at least there is on the Tumblr community. Privilege is what people in positions of power have in society. So, there is male privilege, which allows men to access things (capital, in the Marxist/Bourdieu-ian sense)  more easily than women. There is also white privilege, which allows white people to access better capital than people of color. There is cis privilege over trans* people; heterosexual privilege over LGBT*Q; and so on and so forth.

For examples of male privilege, see here or here.

Now, it has been my absolute honor to come across an article claiming female privilege.

Let me now explain how this article is complete and utter bullshit.

1. I’m allowed to be far more open about my sexuality than a man is. In fact, if I’m bisexual, it’s encouraged (both male and females encourage it funnily enough). If I’m hetero, I’m allowed to make comments about how hot men are, compliment men without others thinking it’s harassment and generally can make lewd comments about any person, be them male or female, and it’s considered ok. I can say “I fancy him so much I’d  even rape him” or “I need to pull him into the storeroom and show him I mean it” or “He is mega hot” about any male whether  he is seventeen (I am forty) or seventy. I can sit in a Twilight movie and drool at Jacob (for instance), and not be seen as a dirty old woman.

Women can only be open about their sexuality when it is approved of BY MEN. If you didn’t notice, she did not mention lesbianism, which only involves women. If a woman identifies as a lesbian, she will be told that she only likes women because she hasn’t had a good dick or a good fucking yet. In fact, even porn with “lesbians” in it is made for the men who watch it, and not for actual lesbians, which can be shown by the heavy emphasis on vaginal penetration. Bisexuality is only acceptable when she eventually settles down with a man, because then she will be seen as “really heterosexual”.

She is also completely erasing the Madonna/Whore complex. If a woman has sex before marriage, she is seen as a slut and a whore and deserving of any sexual assault that befalls her. Meanwhile, if she doesn’t have sex, she is a prude or a stuck up bitch or an ice queen. So tell me again how women’s sexualities are not controlled by men and how women are so free?

2. If my partner and I were in a domestic dispute and both violent, or both shouting, and I hit him … if the police were called, my male partner would still be the one far more likely to be taken into custody for the night. If my male partner tried to report domestic violence, it would be harder for him to have the charges laid, than if I did so. In fact, while there is a charge of Male assaults Woman in my country, there is no Woman assaults Male. That would be classified instead as General Assault.

Perhaps the male partner would be arrested, but let’s talk about what happens afterwards. The average prison sentence of men who kill their women partners is 2 to 6 years, while women who kill their male partners are sentenced on average to 15 years. This is despite the fact that 86% of female offenders kill in self-defense, while males are most likely to kill out of possessiveness (82%), abuse (75%) and during arguments (63%). Women are eight times more likely than men to be killed by an intimate partner.

Also, let’s talk about the fact that men are only allowed to show two emotions: anger/rage and lust. This is EXTREMELY harmful to the men in our society, and it is (one of) the reason(s) why men are disproportionally the one’s who commit assault (sexual assault, general assault, and domestic violence), have road rage, and commit murder. This is a problem and it needs to be fixed! THIS IS PART OF FEMINISM.

3. If my relationship with the father of my children was to break up, I’m far more likely to get the kids. And if I want a child, but don’t have a partner, I can do that too. I get to choose whether I have the baby or not, I get to choose whether the father’s name is on the birth certificate or not (and if he queries it, he’s the one who has to pay for the DNA test) and if he’s named as the father, he then has to pay child support, whether he was aware I was trying to have a child or not.

Yes, the reproductive rights of women are absolutely brilliant right now. No, really, it’s great.

Left out of her claims are the following facts:

1 –there are currently 31 states where a rapist can sue for custody of his child born from the rape. Also, let’s not forget that this happened

2 –the reason why women are often given custody is because of the sexist idea that women are better with children and more nurturing while men cannot be tied down that way because they have to be able to move to work

3 –working mothers lose more custody battles than they win

Also, are we just going to completely ignore the fact that if a woman does not want kids, people think there is actually something wrong with her? If a woman says that she never wants children, people will try to CONVINCE her that she actually does want kids, or that she’ll change her mind, or that kids are such a blessing. Are we just ignoring that? I guess we are.

4. I’m allowed to be as education- and career-driven as I want to be, and push for the top, seeking equity and equality in everything. But when it comes to dating and relationships, I’ll want the dates paid for, the doors opened, the bling bought. And if I want to choose to not be career-driven, and be instead at home, and not work, then I can far more readily choose that option too than a male partner could.

Women are “allowed” (by men) to be educated and career-driven, but it will cost them in many ways. Women are “allowed” to be career-driven, as long as they somehow figure out how to work and still do all of the house work and childcare. Women are “allowed” to be career-driven, as long as they are okay with never making more than their male peers and never being in a position of authority over them. Women are “allowed” to be career-driven  as long as they work above and beyond their male companions in order to even be noticed, and even then their achievements will probably be awarded to the men they work with.

Also, if women do well in academia or in the work-place, then they are immediately suspect. Claims are made that they “slept” their way to the top, because CLEARLY a woman cannot get into any position of power without having sex. This accusation has been leveled on me before, because I graduated with honors and won academic awards before moving on to date one of my previous professors.

In regards to the second part of her statement: the idea that men should pay for everything on a date is sexist and it comes from the idea that men are the breadwinners in society and women don’t/shouldn’t work, so how could they pay for anything? This is also a problem in society, and it needs to be fixed, but I’m not convinced it happens epidemically.

5. If I write an inflammatory comment, or a blog, or article, and a man questions anything in it, all I need to do to shut the conversation down is call him a bully, or say he’s a privileged male. I can also make disparaging comments about his sexuality, his economic standing, the size of his penis, and his ability to do pretty much anything in return for him disagreeing with me. I can do this, because when I do, I KNOW there will be a bunch of other women who will stick up for me. Because as a woman … I now have privilege.

Sure, a woman can try to “shut a man up” by calling him privileged or a bully. Want to know how to shut down a woman during an argument? Claim she’s on her period. Or, wait, no –just say she’s a crazy bitch who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Or, I’ve got it, this one’s good –say that she is being a typical woman and over-reacting. These things are called “gaslighting”, and they are all a form of mental abuse that happen all the time. So, let’s be honest, it is MUCH easier to silence a woman than a man during an argument.

Any notion of “female privilege” is either bullshit or is perpetuated by different strains of sexism and patriarchy. I will accept, however, that cis women have more privilege than trans* women (also due to patriarchy and trans-phobia). I will also gladly take responsibility for and accept my white privilege, because I definitely have that.

I refuse to accept that I have any form of female privilege that is NOT directly perpetuated by sexism and/or patriarchy. Just because patriarchy and sexism can backfire and hurt men as well as women does not mean that women have any sort of dominance or privilege over men. Period.

Someday I will actually write something that is not a response to something else that is completely wrong, but today is not that day.

I’m writing this to show you that no matter what, you cannot reason with anti-abortion people.

This is a conversation with my father, the original poster. I am the orange highlight.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

I hope everyone can read what this says. I’m too emotionally tired to type it out right now.

By the way, this is the article I referenced. Just fyi.

In case any of you have missed it, this article has been making rounds on the internet.

This is infuriating. Enraging. Hurtful. Shaming. Oppressive.

No one should be told their bodies are not good enough. No one should be allowed to discriminate based on another person’s body size. Until we understand that all bodies are beautiful -no matter what color, what gender, what size, what level of able-bodied ability they have -we will continue to make the non-normative (read: non-white, non-male, disabled, non-straight) bodies “Other”, and thus, oppressed.

This post is a call to action.

My friends and I are starting a protest. We are tired of these messages being sent to women that we are only worth the sizes of our waists. We are fed up with older white men telling us how to appreciate and love our bodies. We want other women to know that they are beautiful, no matter what a CEO of a fashion company says, or what society tells us in media images of models, actresses, and movie stars.

You are beautiful. Your body is beautiful.

If you are in the area, feel free to come to our protest. If you are not, the I challenge you to start your own. It doesn’t have to be like this one -we will just be holding signs. Your protest can take form in any way that subverts these harmful messages. Tell someone that they are beautiful. Let people know that being fat does not mean you are unattractive. You can be both fat and beautiful. Sure, start a protest (but consider the legal constructs as well. I don’t want people getting arrested!) Write a letter. But, please, do something.

The only way we will ever change society is by doing something.

TRIGGER WARNING: rape, suggestion of murder, general offensiveness towards women.

blog1

blog2

blog3

Just in case you cannot read the three images above, here is a transcript:

Original status: Dear fb friends, I wanna know your favv pickup line. Comment!

Female 1: Are you gay? No? Lets make out.

Male A: Gentlemen don’t use pickup lines, they devalue women…wait, was that a pickup line? JK, I meant what I said.

Male B: Does your leg hurt? Because you must be an angel fallen from the sky.

Female 2: Tu cheese bari hai mast mast

Female 3: Is that a mirror in your pants, cause I can see myself in them.

Male C: Allow me to release my basilisk into your chamber of secrets

Male D: I’m working on my abs

Male E: this will go alot smoother for both of us if you stop resisting

Male F: You must be my new boss because you just gave me a raise. (Most likely not gonna work & chappal for free. )

Female 2 again: on your comments it just looks like all these people are trying to hit on you lol

Male F again: ^ she’s to blame for this since she’s looking so preety… lol (see what I did there!)

Male G: i once picked up a girl by asking her if she was a lesbian. and then when she said no i told her my friend wanted to dance with her

Male G again: another time i told a girl my friend was a charity case and his make a wish was to dance with her lmao… it worked

Female 4: The word of the day is “legs” so let’s go back to my place and spread the word. (most pick up lines are for hook ups)

Female 5: it’s funny because earlier today [boyfriend] randomly came out or our room and said that pickup line to me lol. Now i know why lol

Male H: I have a 45 and a shovel I doubt anyone will miss u stop resisting

Male I:Guy: hey wanna go hook up?
Girl: sorry my bf is over there
Guy: my fish died wen I was 6
Girl: huh?
Guy: uh I thought we were telling each other stuff we don’t care about

Today, kids, we are going to talk about rape culture.

Rape culture is when “pick-up lines” that perpetuate graphic violence against women, disrespect a woman’s choices, and disregard her sexuality (or use it as a way to get with her) are all seen as “funny.”  Rape culture is being able to claim “it’s just a joke, stop taking it so seriously”. Rape culture is allowing these “pick-up lines” to go unchecked for what they really are: violent harassment against women and just plain old sexist.

Rape culture is any culture in which rape and sexual violence are normalized by methods such as the above status and its following comments.

Pick-up lines are not inherently bad. Some of the comments above are actually funny -personally, I like the Harry Potter reference, since that gives plenty of space for the person to say ‘no’. The “angel” one is also fairly common, as far as I know, and the mirror one isn’t that bad either.

I want to be clear: Not all of these lines can be used by solely by men to get women. However, due to the fact that the majority of the comments which perpetuate violence (rape, murder), disrespect choice (having a significant other), and use sexuality (being gay or not) were written by men, most of whom (if not all) are heterosexual. The first comment which uses sexual orientation to pick someone up was written by a female, but that leaves other comments which fall into one of the three categories above (and others which are just generally offensive) which were written by males (who are hypothetically using these pick-up lines to get women, or even just using them now to be ‘funny’ in this instance).

So let’s break this down.

1.) Generally offensive:

Male D: I’m working on my abs

Offensive because some people are not attracted to looks, but rather to intellect or charity or basically anything. Maybe a better pick-up line would be something more like ‘I have no sexually transmitted diseases/infections’. This is offensive because it just lacks any sort of intelligence needed for decent conversation.

Male F: You must be my new boss because you just gave me a raise. (Most likely not gonna work & chappal for free. )

This one is offensive because, seriously, it is already difficult enough for women to be in a position of power in the workplace (look up ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘glass escalator’ and then look up ‘female CEO vs male CEO’) and now this just mocks it. Awesome. I’m so glad that you are the type of guy who only supports women in positions of power if she is attractive enough to make your penis hard.

Male G again: another time i told a girl my friend was a charity case and his make a wish was to dance with her lmao… it worked

This… I just can’t.

2.) Using sexuality:

Female 1: Are you gay? No? Let’s make out.

Male G: i once picked up a girl by asking her if she was a lesbian. and then when she said no i told her my friend wanted to dance with her

Let me make this very clear: The fact that you are heterosexual and another person of the opposite sex is heterosexual DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU ARE ENTITLED TO MAKE OUT/SLEEP WITH/DATE/FUCK/KISS/OR BE WITH THEM IN ANY WAY. It is this type of thinking -that if a girl likes guys and you are a guy, therefore she must like you -leads to sexual harassment and rape. Thinking that you are entitled to ANYTHING when it comes to another person is simply wrong.

She owes you nothing.

It doesn’t matter if you bought her a drink.

It doesn’t matter if you are ‘such a nice guy’.

It doesn’t matter if she happens to be attracted to guys and you are one.

It doesn’t matter if she flirted a little or even a lot.

It doesn’t matter if she kissed you or if you gave her a ride home or if you helped her up the stairs or if she invited you in or if she gave you her number or if she wants to date you or if she marries you or if she did this or that or anything.

It doesn’t matter, because nothing you do entitles you to anything. She owes you nothing.

3.) Disrespect choice (having a significant other)

Male I:Guy: hey wanna go hook up?
Girl: sorry my bf is over there
Guy: my fish died wen I was 6
Girl: huh?
Guy: uh I thought we were telling each other stuff we don’t care about

This is something I really hate, and I’m sure many women have experienced it. You, a woman, are being hit on by some guy that you don’t care about and don’t want to be with. Regardless of whether you’ve told him no already and he ignored it, or if you’re just telling him no for the first time, we often fall back on the ‘I have a boyfriend’ card.

Because, apparently, in this society, a ‘no’ from a woman is irrelevant until it is noted that she is only saying ‘no’ to you because she is with another guy. That’s when most guys will back off, because of the respect for the other guy -not for the girl. Until, of course, the two break up, and then she’s free game again, right?!

No means no.

When you ask a girl, do you want to hook up, and she says ANYTHING THAT IS NOT YES, it is a no. She is a human fucking being, and she deserves your respect, regardless of whether or not it’s what you want.

4.) Perpetuate violence (rape, murder)

Male E: this will go alot smoother for both of us if you stop resisting
Male H: I have a 45 and a shovel I doubt anyone will miss u stop resisting

These, to me, are honestly the most terrifying. These more than any other comments perpetuate graphic violence against women. Despite the glaring incorrect grammar in both of these comments, they both mention resistance. From this one word alone, we can assume that the woman doesn’t want to be ‘picked up’, and the threat of rape is there.

The second one goes even further, because he chooses to mention that he has a gun and a shovel, which then threatens murder. Basically, if you don’t let me rape you, then I will rape you anyway and then kill you and bury you so that no one will know.

And I’m sure there are some of you who are out there right now saying ‘They were just joking, they would never say this to anyone if they REALLY wanted to pick them up’.

They aren’t ‘just’ jokes.

For those of you who do not click on the links I provide, I’ll sum this one up. This is research done by a college professor and graduate assistants which found that sexist humor creates a ‘safe space’ for people to become more tolerant to sexist attitudes and behavior. Sexist jokes lead to a toleration of hostile and discriminatory attitudes towards women and serve as a way to legitimize sexist actions.

These attitudes can then potentially be expressed by violent acts -like rape and murder.

So, no, nothing is ever ‘just a joke’. That is a piss-poor excuse for letting things like this go unexcused. These men are sexist and potentially violent towards women, and what’s terrifying is that in this culture of normalized violence, they (and other men like them) can and are getting away with it.

Before I even began this blog, a wonderful friend of mine (who actually was one of the first women to introduce me to the ideas of feminism) asked me to read and review 50 Shades of Grey. Let me note right now that this is just a themed-post, and I will most likely be writing three separate posts on each of the books individually. I will also be doing more in-depth posts on the topics below -orgasms, BDSM, consent, etc. -without having them be in-reference to the 50 Shades trilogy.

Also, SPOILER ALERT, if anyone cares.

Now, if you have not heard of this series of books, consider yourself lucky. This is a trilogy which was based off of (badly written) Twilight fanfiction. Edward and Bella became Christian and Ana. Wonderful.

Fanfiction aside, this series has hit the national bestseller list and has become extremely popular in America. I do have a few theories as to why this has happened, but we will get to those at the end of this post.

First, let’s talk about the actual content/themes of the trilogy.

For those who have not read it, the plot of the book is this: Ana (short for Anastasia) is a soon-to-be college graduate who has to work for money, but is never really left wanting because of her rich roommate Katherine (or, rather, her roommate Katherine who has rich parents.)

While doing a favor for Katherine, Ana meets Christian Grey, a CEO billionaire (understatement) with “exotic tastes” in basically everything, but specifically in sex. Christian Grey considers himself a ‘Dominant’ in a BDSM-type of relationship -this means that, in this relationship, he would be the one completely in charge of his Submissive partner during a scene that they both agree on beforehand. The relationship can last for longer than a single scene, but it is all organized heavily around lines of consent and rules (including safe-words.) Generally, that is how the trilogy begins.

Now, in this book series, author E. L. James gets a few things wrong on a variety of levels. We will start small.

Biology

Ana is, of course, a virgin when she meets Christian. He changes that by page 117 of Grey. I quote, “…I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity.” (emphasis mine.)

This idea (of a ‘ripped virginity’, or ‘popping the cherry’) is a common cultural myth. The hymen -what is seen as the woman’s virginity -is a thin and elastic membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening (there are instances where it covers the entire opening, and then surgery is needed.)

Watch this video, it’s much more elaborate and helpful!

This one sentence, with him ‘ripping her virginity’ sets the tone for their entire relationship -one that is based on violence. Even moreso, in the very next sentence, it says that he (Christian) looks triumphant. Ana is seen as a conquest, as something that he conquered by taking her virginity” as if the hymen leaves the woman after the first vaginal intercourse. She is no longer a person in this moment, she is just another one of the many women he’s been on top of. A victory.

This concept is masked by Ana’s pleasure. After the pain of her ‘ripped virginity’, she finds that sex is nice. This is true! Horray for one thing that’s right! But, James goes off the realistic track again by having Ana orgasm every single time she and Christian have sex.

No. Just… no.

I’m sorry, this just does not happen. Female orgasm just does not occur as often as male orgasm. In the majority of cases, women will not orgasm the first time they have sex, or even the second, or even the third. It takes a while -both in the sense of time during sex (women need just slightly more time on average), and in the other sense of experience. Plainly put, Ana is too inexperienced and Christian is too quick to guarantee Ana an orgasm during her first time, or really any of the times at all. There is also rarely enough clitoral stimulation involved for her to climax during their sexual encounters.

But, because Ana does experience orgasm every single time they have sex (and even in her dreams too), it can place shame on real women who read this series who don’t have orgasms when they have sex. It is not healthy or realistic to expect orgasm during the first few times, or even every single time. There are ways/methods for a woman to achieve orgasm, but this idea that it should just automatically happen during sex is just wrong.

Nothing is wrong with you if you do not orgasm when you have sex. Seriously. It’s harmful to yourself and to your relationship with your partner if you start to think this way. If you are not achieving an orgasm at all when you have sex, then talk to your partner and try to see what you can do differently, but don’t blame yourself or them. Please.

Psychology

Throughout the entire series, E. L. James makes use of the subconscious. She does this by referencing it on over fifty pages in the first book alone (51, 62, 63, 67, 75, 94, 95, 99, 126, 127, 128, 135, 145, 159, 164, 176, 199, 216, 240, 241, 242, 243, 245, 251, 252, 259, 260/1, 262, 273, 277, 285, 287, 309, 315, 334, 338, 345, 360, 368, 374, 382, 383, 391, 413, 420, 432, 434, 435, 445, 478, 482, 484, 485, 502, 507, 511.)

Ana and her subconscious interact with each other consistently throughout the book. Ana views her subconscious as some kind of stern older woman with horn-rimmed glasses that disapproves of sexual relationships of any kind and is extremely condescending towards Ana for her decisions in regards to Christian. Basically, the definition/image of an ice-bitch prude.

This is constantly contrasted with Ana’s “inner goddess,” which is apparently the part of Ana that wants to be controlled and fucked by a man. She is often ‘celebrating’ the sexual encounters between Ana and Christian by doing the salsa or yoga. Or by tearing off her clothes. (Unfortunately, I did not mark the page numbers down for the references to the inner goddess, because I foolishly thought it would not occur that often. Rest assured, I am positive the inner goddess is mentioned at least as many times as the subconscious.)

Both of these ideas are problematic.

First of all, E. L. James is completely misusing the concept of the subconscious. By its definition, the subconscious cannot be consciously accessed. The fact that Ana’s subconscious shoots her scathing remarks every 10-15 pages is completely ridiculous and oxymoronic. This is literally just bad writing. That’s it.

Moving on to the ‘inner goddess’ –this idea is redundant. James used “artistic license” on this one. Instead of allowing Ana’s ‘inner goddess’ to be the source of a strong female identity, taking shit from no one, James makes her the very thing which revels in being fucked and played with. While sex and pleasure are a part of female identity, they are not the only part, and this ‘goddess’ is not the source of a strong identity for Ana at all.

Character

On that note, let’s talk about how Ana barely has ANY IDENTITY AT ALL. She is the cookie-cutter female protagonist of modern culture. Her only flaw is that she is clumsy (which, I’m going to add, is not a flaw, because it is used in writing like this to make the character helpless and endearing to the audience and other characters as well.) In regards to character traits, we can see that she is somewhat sarcastic (witty), kind, charming, and she tries to be independent.

In regards to her physical characteristics, let’s discuss how E. L. James has perpetuated the ideals of feminine beauty throughout this entire series. Starting on the first page of the first book, Bella Ana states that her eyes are “too big” for her face.

This is written as though it is a bad thing, when in reality (in this culture) it is not. Women are constantly infantilized by this culture, and having big eyes is one way that happens. Meaning that Ana’s one physical “flaw” that she notes is not a flaw at all.

She complains that she has always been “too skinny” (Grey, 51) when, again, in this culture there is no such thing. People have died from being “too skinny” and it is still not enough. Ana ‘forgets’ to eat meals for days (Grey, 217, 312; it gets worse in the next book[s] ) and basically just does not take care of herself at the most basic level –eating.

So, for some reason, Ana believes that she is not pretty when by all cultural standards she is beautiful. Christian comments multiple times that she has beautiful skin, so we can assume she doesn’t have acne. She is thin, she has big eyes, her height can be average or so (I don’t recall it being mentioned, honestly.) Under these criteria, though, Ana could be a model. And yet E. L. James has decided to portray her as thinking she is unattractive.

This is just ridiculous. All of this adds to a horribly stereotypical female character that impossibly (by her wit and charm and mystery, and clumsiness) attracts a billionaire CEO. By having Ana fit into the thin, culturally attractive body and not recognize her beauty along with having a rich and powerful man fall in love with her, James perpetuates a stereotype about females which teaches that if a woman is fat, or if a woman recognizes her beauty, no one will fall for her, ever.

The problem is that Ana could easily be overweight. It would literally change nothing about the plot. Instead, though, James chose to perpetuate the harmful standards of female beauty that permeate the culture in every form of media possible. Instead of putting forth a message which promotes a healthy body image, or even (god forbid) sending out a message which says that a woman can still be beautiful even if she’s overweight –James makes her female character “too skinny” and ‘forgetful’ when it comes to meals.

BDSM

BDSM stands for bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism and masochism (S&M). In BDSM relationships, informed consent is essential. A relationship can last for as long as a single scene or much longer, but throughout all of it, there is a deep need for consent -both as informed consent before the scene begins or as consent throughout the scene by the use or non-use of safe-words.

Seriously, though, I cannot emphasize enough how important informed consent is in these relationships.

In 50 Shades, Christian Grey is a Dominant, meaning that he is the one who is doing things (tying up, inflicting pain/pleasure, exercising control over, etc) to a Submissive, who is receiving these things. The entire plot of the first book is that he wants Ana to be his submissive.

However, the way that this is pursued in this book is extremely problematic. James did get a few things right -written consent is fine, and Christian uses written consent for his submissives in the form of a written contract which can be edited and discussed and then signed. It is also noted twice (Grey, 187, 216) that the contract is not legally binding.

However, that’s about as far as it gets for ‘rightness’. In the book, Christian gives Ana the contract and then tells her to do her own research for the things that are mentioned in it -things like suspension, caning, and many different types of bondage -and basically lets it go at that.

Now, we have already established that Ana is extremely inexperienced at sex, and has literally zero experience with any sort of ‘kinky’ sex. Basically, he has given her this contract in the hopes that she would sign it even though he cannot actually prove that her consent was informed. She has no idea what any of these things are or what they could mean or how he could do them.

He literally tells her, on page 256 of 50 Shades of Grey, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into” in regards to their “arrangement”. He knows that she doesn’t know what their relationship will actually be like, and yet he does close to nothing to fix that. Sure, he edits the contract a little bit and allows her some more freedom, but he does not actually do anything to make her consent informed. He actually does close to everything to make her consent forced, however (Grey, 224, 226, 240, 245, 252, 261), and that continues on into the other books as well.

In BDSM relationships, informed consent is everything because it draws the line between BDSM and actual crimes -like assault, sexual assault, and rape. And (SPOILER ALERT, SERIOUSLY) ANA NEVER SIGNS THE CONTRACT. She NEVER gives her written consent, which was the agreed-upon method, meaning that ANY TIME HE LAYS A HAND ON HER (i.e. spanking), IT IS ABUSE.

The Christian-Ana relationship is not BDSM, it is ABUSIVE. Christian is extremely controlling throughout the entire series, and even when Kate points it out to Ana (Grey, 351, 381), it is ignored.

This video talks more about the nature of a BDSM relationship and problems with the book.

THEMES

This brings us to the basic theme of the trilogy, which is that if you love your partner “enough”, then you can fix them. You can change them from their sadistic and abusive nature, and make them love you back in a way that doesn’t cause you pain/harm.

This is ridiculous and harmful. This is basically challenging victims to stay with their abusers because they (the victims) should be able to “fix” them. That is literally the entire trilogy. That is the major theme. Stay with your abuser, and eventually, they will love you enough so they won’t hurt you anymore, and you will love them enough so that even if they joke about hurting you, it won’t bother you because they don’t really mean it anymore.

I hope I don’t have to explain how harmful this can be.

CONCLUSIONS

I mentioned before that I had an idea as to why these books hit the bestseller list. There are a few ideas:

1.) At first, I thought it was just about the sex. Sex sells, right? It makes sense.

2.) It could also be because people want to think that they can change people. That they can “fix” people who are broken. That if they just stay long enough, love truly enough, work hard enough, then the other person will be magically repaired and they will live happily ever after.

3.) But, over-all, I think that it’s because we want this. We want someone who is impossibly rich and attractive and sexually-efficient to fall in love with us and give us all of the things that we can’t afford on our own with minimum-wage jobs (or even other types of jobs, but still.) We want to never worry about money -about if we have enough to pay the rent, or enough to go out to dinner, or enough to keep paying back loans. We want to be able to take random personal-helicopter flights to see the sunrise, and to live in million-dollar mansions, and to buy that front-of-the-line brand new car that everyone is jealous of. We want to orgasm every time we have sex, and we want to have sex with someone who is attractive to everyone and anyone who meets him/her. And that is the point of these books, to make us realize that we want this and to think that maybe it’s possible.

I think that we all want the easy way, the rich way, this way, because we think it will make us happy, because that is what this culture teaches us. And that is what this book teaches us. And they are both wrong.

References:

Acuna, Kirsten. “By the Numbers: The ’50 Shades of Grey’ Phenomenon.” Business Insider. June 27, 2012. http://www.businessinsider.com/by-the-numbers-the-50-shades-of-grey-phenomenon-2012-6?op=1

Boog, Jason. “The Lost History of Fifty Shades of Grey.” Galley Cat. November 21, 2012. http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/fifty-shades-of-grey-wayback-machine_b49124

Edrefferal.com. http://edreferral.com/Celebrities_who_died_or_have_Eating_Disorders.htm

“Female Orgasm.” Brown University: Health Education. http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/sexual_health/sexuality/female_orgasm.php

Green, Laci. “50 Shades of WTF” and “You Can’t POP You’re Cherry! (Hymen 101)” youtube.com

James, E. L. Fifty Shades of Grey. Australia: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, 2011.

James, E. L. Fifty Shades Darker. Australia: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, 2011.

James, E. L. Fifty Shades Freed. Australia: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, 2011.

“Killing Us Softly: It Begins with Barbie.” Comm 101. August 5, 2011. http://introtomedia.edublogs.org/2011/08/05/killing-us-softly-it-begins-with-barbie%E2%80%A6/

Klausner, Julie. “Don’t Fear the Dowager: A Valentine to Maturity.” Jezebel. June 10, 2011. http://jezebel.com/5810735/dont-fear-the-dowager-a-valentine-to-maturity

Park, Madison. “Actress: I got compliments for looking emaciated.” The Chart: CNN Health. July 26, 2011. http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/26/actress-sounds-off-on-body-image-extremes/