More Nightmares Dressed As Fantasy

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So I went with a bunch of friends to protest at the UK premier of 50 Shades of Grey. This book/film glamorises the abuse, rape and torture of women, dressing it up as “kink” and calling itself a “love story”. Those of you reading this who have intimate experience of men who fantasise themselves to be women may be well aware of the practice of BDSM within these relationships*. The female “heroine” of 50 Shades is portrayed as naive and “submissive”, her sexuality being “awakened” by a powerful, rich, sadistic man who stalks, isolates, tortures and ignores her personal and sexual boundaries to the point of rape. The author of the book and director of the film claim that the heroine’s journey is one of “empowerment”, as she submits to Mr Grey’s sadism and finally “heals” him from his inner “torture” that drives his sadistic impulses. It is said that since she “consents” to such abuse, then there is no harm being done. Except that the glamorisation and eroticising of dominance and submission normalises the power imbalance of male/female relationships (and all inequalities). It portrays women as “naturally” submissive or “secretly” wishing to be dominated – even when they don’t realise it (!) – and contributes to rape culture and the gender-role stereotyping at the heart of female oppression.

So what do men who fantasise themselves to be women make of these pervasive tropes about female submissiveness and otherness? In my experience, and that of many of the women I speak to, the sexual fantasies of such men revolve around them not just “playing the part” of a woman, but specifically a woman who is “submissive”, “eager to please”, willing to be dominated, moulded, created for pleasure. A fuck toy. A thing. An object. The sexual preferences and comfort of their female partners are by-the-by – irrelevant to the workings of their inner fantasy. Intimate connection on an emotional level with these men is impossible. How can anyone emotionally connect with someone who is merely playing a role? Someone so dissociated from reality, from authentic intimacy.
These men talk about finding “a dominant woman” to play the domme to their sub. Their personal ads are full of “seeks woman to sissify and control me”, and other such lurid fantasies. Fantasies that include being bound, gagged, made to perform sex acts, forcibly injected with hormones, humiliated, kidnapped and even raped. All things that I presume they think are “natural” for a woman to endure.

The fact is, that an actual “dominant” woman is the last thing they actually want outside of their all-encompassing paraphilia. A woman who would actually say NO to them is not an attractive proposition to these vampiric men, with their offensive and misogynistic ideas of what a woman *is*. Their ideas about women are shaped by their reading of pornography, their observation of sexist and woman-hating media portrayals of women, and the stench of their own male privilege. Women, initially lured in by these men’s pledges to cater to their every whim as their “sub”, quickly find out the nature and reality of being “topped from the bottom” (to borrow some BDSM speak). Their ideas about what a woman “is” would be ludicrous if they weren’t actually horrific.
So standing waiting for an opportunity to raise our banner and make some noise at the 50 Shades premier, we were subjected to scenes from the film being shown on a large outdoor screen. As I watched scenes of “Mr Grey” preparing his torture equipment, or “Anastasia” simpering or crying, doe-eyed and vulnerable, I began to shake and fat tears rolled down my cheeks at the memories I hold inside, at the cheering crowds of women believing the lie that this represents “love”.

*Please don’t bother trying to defend BDSM, or accuse me of “shaming” or “phobia” of one sort or another. I won’t publish such comments so you will be wasting your time.

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9 thoughts on “More Nightmares Dressed As Fantasy

  1. That film’s R-rating is too low and in any case they had no business inflicting it on the public like that. I am sorry you had to see that. Thank you for protesting.

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  2. Good cards! It doesn’t surprise me that the movie is like that. The books were based on a fanfiction of the Twilight books, which are also full of misogyny and glorify and abusive relationship.

    I am also tired of the line that women need to put up with men’s bullshit so the man can “heal”.

    Sado-masochism is not healthy and it’s just the same old misogyny.

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  3. Thank you for protesting and for letting those of us in rural U.S. know that women are protesting.

    This book is, apparently, very popular with women. I am isolated due to disability, but my husband is a nurse and was unable to avoid hearing the book praised by his coworkers. Years ago, when I was a proofreader, I discovered — to my horror — that much of so-called romantic fiction glorifies male violence. My question is, if we consider women as adults and not as children, when do women become responsible for rejecting such poisonous notions of relationship? Many American women seem to think thugs — men who look like wanted posters — are appealing, and I am completely in the dark as to why. If we say it’s because this is how women are socialized, then we can say that men are socialized to be thugs — is either of these statements a legitimate excuse?

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      • You are right, it is an explanation. What are your suggestions for changing the situation? It simply horrifies and depresses me when I see another woman (and sometimes her children) murdered by a man who looks like Machine-Gun Kelly. This is one of the problems I have with local domestic violence projects — they treat the situations as though they are individual tragedies, instead of the result of a violent society that thinks violence is cool and appealing. When I volunteered, we were told “Any woman can become a victim.” NO, NO, NO! It takes socialization and years of training to make women victims. I am so marginalized I feel I can have no effect whatsoever.

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      • I think it is sensible to assume that any woman can become a victim of domestic violence. Yes, socialization can increase the risk, but in the end, everyone can be fooled by an abuser.
        Don’t get me wrong, I fully agree that it is political, not individual tragedies. But it is dangerous to consider oneself safe because one has mostly escaped harmful socialization.

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  4. BDSM is not healthy in anyway. There are quite a few blogs on the interwebs written by women who were in these relationships (or in “kink communities”) and got out. Unsurprisingly, rape and even covering up rapists was pretty common in BDSM groups. Plus I’m pretty tired of hetero kinksters claiming that they’re the new queers and they’re just as oppressed as lesbians and gays. Because we really need lesbians and everyone else to believe it’s only about sex.

    I was at a club event where a gay man came as a speaker and talked about being in the “BDSM community”. Initially, his talk seemed light-hearted with a lot of jokes and bragging that he could tie a ton of different knots and earn a boyscout badge if they allowed gays. But, he eventually started talking about all the injuries he got throughout the years, including being unable to properly move some of his fingers. That limp he had was probably permanent; it wasn’t from tripping over something. He was still promoting the whole lifestyle, but he ended up showing me and some other people that we do not want to be involved with that.

    One person mentioned that 50 Shades of Grey is a modified Twilight fanfiction, and she’s right it is. Twilight does glorify a relationship that is emotionally abusive and borders on physically abusive. It seems that the author of 50 Shades of Grey took that dynamic to an extreme level with less Mormonism and a lot more sex. (The author of Twilight is a Mormon housewife whose vampires believe in creationism and waiting until marriage, even if it means being a 100-year-old virgin.)

    I do think that some BDSM groups operate on a cult logic like the trans cult. BDSM groups name people who don’t do BDSM as “vanilla” and claim we have some sort of privilege over them because they are so oppressed. The trans cult renames women as “cis” (yet another c-word slur) and also claims they are the most oppressed beings ever to walk the earth.

    You did a good analysis about how men pretending to be women have this BDSM submissive woman fantasy. It’s all about in-acting degrading stereotypes.

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  5. Lol…for a moment there I thought that was a picture of my ex! he also has this submissive woman fantasy and admits to it on one of his videos ..ugh..and talks about buying a dog collar! Quite appropriate considering he is a real narcissistic, autogynopheliac bitch! Woof!

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