50 Shades of Virginity

Warnings: The Fifty Shades series is extremely sexually explicit and involves BDSM. Because of that, and because they are not exactly well-researched or high-quality literature, I will mention things such as abuse, rape, rape culture, male dominance, sexism, relationship violence, and consensual BDSM. Also, the books began as Twilight fanfic, so I will be mentioning Twilight (which is a major squick for a lot of people just by itself).

Guess what time it is?  You’ve got it—it’s Monday; time for another round of spot-the-crappy-writing.  In this edition: Ana loses her virginity!

I think the strangest part here is that Ana, at age 21 or 22, appears not to have ever had any attraction to anyone up to this point.  Again, I think this shows an exaggerated form of Bella Swan.  That, or someone raised in a fundamentalist church; whichever.

We’re apparently supposed to believe that Ms. Inexperienced has never done any kind of experimenting, even by herself.  In fact, it would seem that she didn’t even entertain crushes or fantasies.  Actually, this is starting to remind me of some of the things my ex-fundamentalist friends have told me about their adolescent years.

Anyway, when Christian finds out that Ana is a virgin, he gets mad at her.  I don’t know whether this is just more bad writing, or if it’s some kind of scathing commentary on the way women’s virginity is usually some kind of prize men get to claim.  I mean, when I was in college, I learned that Keeping the Gate Locked™ was highly valued—so much so that more than one of my friends was crushed by a potential or actual boyfriend when he learned that she’d already given away her Special Gift®.  Here in the Fifty Shades universe we have a man raging about the opposite.  There’s some serious irony there.

Moving right along, we—finally!—get to the famed smut of the series.  Because he’s such a thorough and dutiful stalker lover, Christian is willing to break Ana in before abusing her entering into a perfectly healthy, adult relationship that happens to include kinky sex.  Suddenly, Ana develops a sex drive.  See what E. L. James did there?  Great plot device, no?

What I find distasteful about this section is that even though Christian is mad that Ana’s a virgin, we are clearly meant to see it as a virtue (and therefore, any girl who actually wants sex is a slut; see Ana’s friend Kate for a prime example of that trope).  The whole scene plays into the Ultimate Fantasy that women should be virgins and that all they need is a big, strong man with lots of experience to teach them the ways of lovin’.  Apparently, this is the best that Ms. James can do.  She seems to think that this is actually the fantasy of millions of women, rather than seeing it for the long-standing crappy romance novel tradition that it is.

This is probably TMI, but I’m going to share it anyway.  The first time I had intercourse, it was nothing like what Ana experiences.  We got married at 9 in the morning, had a long day of eating, dancing, and thanking friends, and took a fairly late flight to our honeymoon.  We stood in line at the check-in desk for half an hour listening to people complain about the service before we got our room key.  My hair was shellacked in place with the pound of hairspray I had used, so I needed a shower.  It was about 2 in the morning before we even got into bed.  Seriously, my husband could have been Christian Grey (without the abusive, rapey overtones) and it still wouldn’t have been an awesome pinnacle of great sex.  But here’s the difference: I was in love with my husband.  No matter how awkward it felt, or how tired we were, it was us.  I’ll take that any day over what poor Ana got.

Anyway, at last we have our first taste of the much-gossiped-about smut.  I highly recommend that you read chapter 8 in parallel with Jen’s version of the events.  Trust me, it will be easier to get through it.  It’s all downhill from here, and not in a good way.

Stick around this week, there’s plenty of good stuff to come.  Otherwise, join me again next Monday for…dun, dun, dun…the Kitchen Scene.

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