The 50 Shades of Grey novels have quickly captivated the minds of women (and men) worldwide, with the concept encouraging women to discover their sexual awakening, own their sensuality, and claim male sexual dominance as their own. No longer is it required of women to be the token subject of ‘kinky f*ckery’, but instead to find a role within sexual exchange that not only pleases their partner, but also places the utmost importance on the woman’s experience.
The films have already claimed the box office with their releases, giving Valentines Day dates a more intriguing option rather than dinner and chocolates. The first film introduced the naïve and innocent Anna Steele to the world of BDSM and sexual limits at the hands (and whips) of the charismatic and sexy Christian Grey. Anna is captivated by Grey quickly, willing to giver herself to him with very little resistance, even after learning of his less than typical nocturnal preferences. Christian begins to teach Anna of her sexuality, showing her that ‘vanilla’ sex isn’t bad, but there is so much more than what is typical between the sheets.
The second installment saw the two parting ways, coming back together again, finding a balance between what Christian said he needed, and what Anna wanted. As was set early, Anna has the power, even if most of the time she is tied to his bed, wall, a strange weaving of metal that drops from the ceiling…and the second film puts that into motion. Here, Anna begins to put the sexual aspects of their relationship to the side, in favor of what she needs from him emotionally. It is here that Anna truly starts coming in to her own, and is no longer the virginal, wishy-washy heroine that had many readers and film goers rolling their eyes at her (myself included).
The final film in the series, 50 Shades Freed, is scheduled for release on Valentines Day 2018, and for those who have read the books, you have a pretty good idea of what is to come. Jack, Anna’s former boss and office attacker, has a grudge against the pair and vows to get revenge. All very dramatic and a catalyst for more trouble. But as the second film ended with the two becoming engaged, many wonder how Anna will grow as a married woman, to one of the most successful, and demanding, men in the world.
Many have commented since the books were released that the series is no more than ‘mommy porn’ and that it is simply subjugation of women to rich men. But in many ways, to me, it is an example of women learning to own their sexuality on their own terms, not be afraid to say no, and be willing to lay out exactly what they what, even when faced with challenging circumstances.
Here are 5 thoughts on why 50 Shades should be considered an example of female empowerment, rather than subjugation:
Anna Has The Power
As Christian said early on in their relationship, Anna had all the power. And while that part of the story wasn’t played up enough for emphasis, leaving it merely a blip on the emotional roller coaster of their exchange, from that first moment, she called all the shots. Yes, Christian preferred rather interesting and adventurous options in the bedroom, but at no point did he force Anna to participate. She was a willing participant, given options, experiences explained for complete disclosure. At the end of the first book, she asked to see ‘how bad it can get’. And afterwards, she chose to walk away. Sure, Christian was a little relentless in his pursuit in wanting her back, but again, it was her choice. She explained she wanted more from him, to which he agreed. She instigated their next sexual encounter on her own terms. She stayed at her job as she wanted, worked as she pleased, and despite Christians moody behavior, led her life as she wished. So yes, he was pushy, demanding and far left from vanilla, but Anna had the power from day one.
Anna Made Her Sexual Limits Clear
Anna learned her sexual limits early, and made them clear. Let’s be honest, most of us have experimented in the bedroom with partners we trust. Not necessarily in a red room of pain, but a dorm room with paisley sheets does the job just as well. Anna was given the opportunity to experience sexual awakening from an experienced man early, and on her terms. Despite the contract (which was never signed) and the million of clauses outlining how she should live (which she defied constantly) there was nothing in said contract of what Anna must do in the bedroom. She had safe words, and knew how to use them, and again, held the power in how their sexual exchanges would go. The books give women the conceptual freedom to own their sexuality rather than being a passive participant to the man, and Anna allows us to follow her learning and live through her in that way.
Anna Dominated Against the Alpha Male
As mentioned above, she defied him constantly. He had ridiculous rules, we will admit, even if we understand where they came from. We all have issues from childhood which make us a little off kilter, but Christian was a whole other beast of burden. And the way Anna managed him was pure female strength and dominance against an alpha male. She comes across as meek and weak, but really, is anything but. He wants her to follow the exercise and eating rules…she doesn’t. He wants her to quit work and stay at home…she refuses. He wants her to be at his beck and call…she isn’t. At no point does Anna simply roll over and obey (no pun intended), and in reality, challenges, defies and questions every rule Christian sets out. She puts him in his place as her equal, rather than her dominant, and teaches him how to have a true relationship apart from sexual gratification. And in that, she expresses her empowerment in the bedroom and beyond.
Anna Has Her Own Goals
She has her own goals. From the first pages of the story, Anna is her own person. Young and inexperienced, yes, but she knows what she wants and how she wants to live. She wants to work in publishing, worked hard to achieve it, and refuses to let Christian interfere with her goals. Sure, he still tries, but she tells him off at every opportunity where some women would take the hand up without question. She is her own person apart from him, even if at times she feels like she is lost to him. It is her work ethic, and quality of work that moves her up the ladder, not her connection to Christian. Without him in her life, she would be just as successful as she is with him. She does not give up on her life to suit him, and if anything, demands separation from her career and her personal life. She wants her life as her own, and makes it so.
There Is A Little Bit of Anna in All of Us
Admit it, we all have a little bit of Anna in us. Whether it is sexual inexperience, beguiled by a rich man, or determined to be ourselves apart from our partner, we can all relate to something in Anna’s character. Yes, her back and forth, should I shouldn’t I inner monologue makes you want to scream at her. Christians bossy, domineering and controlling manner makes you want to slap him and tell Anna to run. But at the same time, we all have moments in our lives where we just don’t know what the right choice is. We all want a man who has our back no matter what. And for most of us, we would love to have a little wild night or two (or five) to explore our sexuality in a safe way. So no matter your stance on Anna and her choices, or Christian and his kinks, you would be hard pressed to find something in the story you cant connect with in some way, and that makes you look at relationships, sexual experimentation and how to express empowerment a little differently.
Yes, we know that the above may not have everyone cheering and agreeing. We all have different opinions on female empowerment in this day and age, especially when it is placed in connection toFifty Shades based solely on the subject matter. But we want you to take a little time and consider, just consider these ideas and what they mean, how they explain aspects of the story many may have overlooked in favor of kinky f*ckery, and what it could mean for our own female strength.
Fifty Shades doesn’t have to be about subjugation, unless you put that title on it. Instead, choose empowerment, choose to own your sexuality, your choices and your life, and be proud of your feminism!