What Fifty Shades of Grey is Really About (IMO)

I have read two books out of three, “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Fifty Shades Darker”. They were not particularly exciting or arousing for me, but I had to know what the fuss was all about. Now I have formed an opinion.

Like the literature it was inspired by (Twilight), it’s a wish-fulfillment story. And if you fantasize, you don’t deny yourself anything.

First of all, this book is a lot less about BDSM than people think. No wonder the real practitioners of BDSM think the book is misrepresenting BDSM. I would say the book doesn’t really attempt to show us true BDSM at all. It is pretty clear that Christian Grey’s taste for BDSM is due to the way he deals with early childhood trauma.

Second, it’s not about glorification of abusive relationships, either. All those feminist critics forget that the heroine wants this man, and pushes him in all sorts of ways, in order to get what she wants from him. She’s not a good submissive.

Here’s how the story goes, through the lens of my understanding. Virginal young woman meets hot, mysterious billionaire. They start a passionate relationship, sexual and otherwise. She finds out he wants her to be his submissive, and agrees to some of that in order to keep him. She wants him, but doesn’t really want him to hurt her. That’s not to say she doesn’t like many of his softer, less painful BDSM games, because she does. He does most of the work in bed, actually. In general, he entertains the girl in a variety of ways – sexual games, flying her on a helicopter, bringing her on his boat. Not only that, but he also thinks she’s unlike anyone he met with/had sex with/dominated before, and wants to keep her. He shows how much he wants to keep her to himself and from harm by stalking her, putting guards around without her knowledge, and controlling the company she works for. She is pushing against his control-freak tendencies, and eventually makes him less dominant, less mentally scarred, and not sexually sadistic anymore. Christian Grey might have a lot of monetary power, as well as intoxicating hotness, but Ana has the power to change him dramatically. Christian might be the Dom, but Ana is kinda topping from the bottom, emotionally.

To me, it reads like one of those stories where a woman fixes a hot, but emotionally hurt/broken man. That kind of romantic plot is not uncommon. I remember a few people on the Purple Pill forum were confused about why a romance with a somewhat emotionally weak guy would be so hot, if women can’t tolerate displays weakness. I think the Nostalgia Critic explains it best. For me, he does it better than most red pill writers, despite being a little feminist. In this video, he explains why Loki from the Avengers has so many fangirls. Christian is different, but there are some common reasons for why both of them are appealing. If you listen to it, you will hear the reasons for liking bad guys, powerful guys, and for liking men who are not stoic:

Taking Nostalgia Critic’s explanation into account, I can say Fifty Shades of Grey is popular because it has everything a good female fantasy would have. The guy is hot, smart, confident, entertaining (not boring), powerful and rich. And to make it possible for a woman to have all that, he has a vulnerability only someone really special can fix. And for that, he’ll be forever grateful and give her his undying loyalty.

What do you think Fifty Shades of Grey is about?


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22 Responses to What Fifty Shades of Grey is Really About (IMO)

  1. Sadly there are many women out there who live in this fantasy world where they think they can find bad boys and “fix them” or “change them” or “save them.” As a result they end up moving from one failed relationship to another, developing crappier and crappier attitudes about men, yet refusing to break this self-destructive pattern. I wonder if these types of women also make up a large part of FSOGs fan base? I feel like doing a survey now…

    In any case, I’ve read all three books and for the life of me I still can’t figure out what the big deal is. The way some women are going bananas over it, you’d think there was never such a thing as a poorly written, trashy romance novel before.

    • Now that you mention it, here is what I’ve found in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey#Glorification_of_abusive_relationships

      “A second study in 2014 was conducted to examine the health of women who had read the series, compared to a control group that had never read any part of the novels. The results showed a correlation between having read at least the first book and exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, having romantic partners that were emotionally abusive and/or engaged in stalking behavior, engaging in binge drinking in the last month, and having 5 or more sexual partners before age 24. The authors could not conclude whether women already experiencing these problems were drawn to the series, or if the series influenced these behaviors to occur after reading by creating underlying context.”

      I haven’t looked into the sources and don’t know how reliable that study is. But it’s sure interesting.

    • I agree with you – it’s not good to try to repeat this fantasy in real life. And while many women say they know it’s just a guilty pleasure book, I believe fantasy tends to creep into reality. If you endulge in it enough, it’ll have a higher chance of not being “just a fantasy” anymore.

  2. Eric says:

    Here’s a big part of it: feminism has taught women to take on masculine sexual roles. Only a weak man can be dominated by a female (fixed, so to speak) in this way. But in reality, women are NOT programmed to fix things; they are programmed to manage relationships. Fixing things is a masculine trait: a more realistic scenario would be a good man redeeming a fallen woman. But it doesn’t work the other way around.

    My take on 50SOG: just more of what Anglosphere women do the most of: chasing thugs.

    • A man redeeming a fallen woman sounds like Captain Save-a-hoe. Not any better, if you ask me. Both, to me, sound potentially self-destructive and stupid.

      I’m not sure I can agree with you that trying to fix a man is something new women are doing. It’s older than feminism, I believe. Plus fixing, in this case, is an exercise in covert female power. Not very masculine.

      • Eric says:

        LOL—well, I’m not recommending redeeming fallen women as a good dating strategy. However, I’m just saying that more fallen women have straightened out than similar males.

        I do think though that thug-chasing is something new and that ‘fixing’ men is only an excuse for doing it. IOW, it’s a perversion of the female power that you mentioned.

      • A perversion of the female power? Perhaps, although I don’t know. I never thought trying to fix men was ever a good thing, as I felt it’s best to accept someone as they are, or leave them alone. Both sides are of course affected by being in a healthy relationship with each other, and change in a good way, but those changes should happen willingly and without someone turning you into a project. So if fixing broken men is really a part of female nature, then I’m not sure if it’s good, or on the same level as nagging…

  3. Hmm, I think women really are compelled to fix broken men. I think that is an innate part of being female. Hopefully that doesn’t get broken and manifest into thug chasing, but that is what women are called to do, we instinctively try to bring out the best in men. When it’s working in a healthy way, it’s a good thing.

    In 50 shades, what Ana really does is use Grey to help her deny the nature of herself. She hooks up with a man who is more messed up than she is and therefore makes her feel better about herself. Also, she is able to hand all the personal responsibility over to Grey, so at least in her mind, she is pretty much an innocent in the situation.

    • I didn’t think Ana had any mental problems. But it’s an interesting hypothesis.

      On fixing broken men. I want to say the same thing I said to Eric. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel that going into a relationship trying to fix someone is bad, even if they aren’t a thug. Is it not better to accept someone as they are, or leave them be? Once in a healthy relationship, people do change each other for the better, but this change happens willingly and without the other party expecting the change.

      • I don’t think we should go into relationships trying to fix bad people, but we do go into relationships hoping to bring out somebody’s better nature, their higher self. That is what love does to people, it makes them better.

      • Hmm. What would their better nature look like, if you picked someone who’s already pretty good? Sorry if it sounds like a stupid question, but I’m trying to imagine how it would look like.

  4. Liz says:

    That video was hilarious, Emma. 🙂
    I basically agree with your analysis, except I think Mr Gray’s wealth is a very important component of the plotline. If he were working in a baitshack and living in a tent (unless he was a “secret” billionaire playing poor, and the reader was made aware of this fact at the beginning) this story wouldn’t have sold 10 books, let alone 100 million (I’m still in denial over this, btw).

    • Liz says:

      Forgot to add, I never would have suspected that Loki had such a female following. That’s really funny!
      I liked Groot. That, tree guy on Guardians of the Galaxy. But only platonically. 😛

      • Aw I haven’t seen that movie yet. I also want to watch all those movies that lead up to the Avengers (Thor, Ironman, etc..). I think I like all the main Avengers, except Natasha and Hawkeye, who keep to themselves and thus I don’t know too much about their character. Loki is a fun, well-developed bad guy, so I like him too, although not in a fangirly way.

    • CUCH says:

      It’s a cynical view, but you’re right. There’s a meme doing the rounds on Facebook that says “If Christian Grey lived in a trailer and had no money, 50SOG would be an episode of Criminal Minds”.

      Sadly, true.

    • Yes, I do think it matters 🙂 His wealth is not only good on its own, but it also makes him powerful and confident. And not only that, but Ana is written as only wanting Christian for himself, without caring that he’s rich. I bet it means something. Reader doesn’t want to feel like a golddigger, but wants the fun only money and power can bring? 😉

    • SO true! 50SOG is just another variant of the same hackneyed plotline that has been used in probably every ‘romance’ story ever written. And the ‘hero’/love interest of the ‘heroine’ is NEVER NOT either a ‘mysterious’ wealthy/’powerful’ man (or who has access to wealth or power of some form), or the “romantic”, “exciting” ‘bad boy’ that the heroine wants to ‘tame’ (and gives her ‘gina tingles)…
      The more that these stories strive to be ‘different’, the more they remain the same.

  5. nate says:

    50SOG is just a story with an attempt to appeal to a higher mass of audiences, and it did. Everyone can relate somehow to sex. It is certainly not the steamiest romance movie or novel ever written. What I find most attractive about it is the title which I think is what really made the sell. The author picked the perfect title to captivate much attention. I can’t help but view it from a monetary standpoint and that may be what the author did eventhough she never admits it. Right about now she is living like Mr. Grey with enough money to indulge in her own fantasies.

  6. Sabiscuit says:

    I love your post to bits but I still need an answer to the question: Why is Loki so hot?

    • Matthew Chiglinsky says:

      Because all women are rape victims with Stockholm Syndrome, which basically means that human evolution has subconsciously programmed them to be sexually attracted to jerks (and Loki, like Christian Grey, is a jerk).

      The truly confusing thing is why women have rape fantasies but then are also upset by actual rape. Women seem to be cognitively dissonant about sex. It’s as if they want consensual rape. Try to make sense of that paradox.

      • Sabiscuit says:

        I can’t make sense of it, either, but cognitive dissonance has been a running theme in my life. I thank you so much for pointing this out. I’ll need to read up on the human evolution points you’ve made. Any sources you’d like to share? They’d be much appreciated.

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