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The Potentially Insidious Message Underlying '50 Shades of Grey'

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | February 11, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | February 11, 2015 |

I don’t know if it was subconscious or intentional or a bit of both, but I know that in my high-school and college years (and even a little later), a lot of Lloyd Dobbler seeped into the way that I approached dating. I’m not talking about the sort of boombox-outside-the-window behavior that might be considered stalking today, I’m talking about the mannerisms and the stammering and employing a kind of awkward nervousness to disarm. It came about honestly. Attractive women made me nervous, but that nervousness — combined with paradoxical confidence — could be perceived as flattering if the woman I was dating understood that it was something specific about her that made me nervous (and it always was). Through Lloyd Dobbler, I gained that confidence because I was under the strange assumption — whether true or not — that social awkwardness was somehow an attractive quality in men.

But that was a long time ago, and I understand now that social awkwardness is just plain awkward in the grown-up adult world. I relay this only to underline that young, clueless men sometimes emulate the characteristics of other men that we are led to believe women find attractive. I wore an earring, I had a Johnny Depp haircut, and I was prone to huge romantic gestures (and still am) because that’s what I saw work in pop culture. If Ed could get Carol Vessey to fall in love with him by catapulting waffles onto her roof, then that’s the sort of thing I’d do win over a woman with whom I’d become smitten.

I am not suggesting that all men are as impressionable as I was. But, some men are, which I think is why 50 Shades of Grey makes me nervous. I am endlessly amused by the book itself, and fascinated with the obsession — both guilty and otherwise — with the characters. I also understand that BDSM can be a perfectly pleasurable and thrilling part of a normal couple’s sex life.

But what if dudes get the wrong idea about Christian Grey?

This wouldn’t otherwise be a concern — he’s a fictional character, after all! — if I hadn’t randomly stumbled across a post the other day while attempting to compile a list of (mostly archaic) movies about women who fall in love with their abusers (I was going to peg this list to the troubling 1975 Robert Redford movie, Three Days of the Condor ).

That list fell apart, but the post I stumbled upon has stuck with me.

The post — entitled Women are conditioned to respond sexually to dominant male behaviour — can be read in its entirety here.

Here are some unsettling highlights:

Remember this ….women are sexually attracted to a man who will lead and dominate them and shatter their “white picket fence fantasy” This is a sub-conscious response, of course.To compliment this notion most women want a man that they can look up to as a father figure.

A good example of this would be Olivier Martinez in the Movie “Unfaithful” and how he shatters a woman’s( Diane Lane) nice sub-urban life with her goody, two-shoes, white collar husband (Richard Gere) by introducing this dominant, caveman type of personality. Well look what happens, she is overtaken by it to the point that she is even willing to jeopardize her own family life.

Don’t believe me ?

Read Nancy Friday’s book “My Secret Garden” and you will discover things about the female psyche that will rock your world. The book’s premise is just what I am talking about and is based on countless accounts of dreams of several women across the United States, many of which are extremely educated and intelligent with high paying jobs. You discover from the content of the dreams of these women that it is filled with deep, dark sexual fantasies of being dominated and even raped by a strong, dominant, take-charge alpha male.

Wait, what? No, no, no, nonono.

What we can derive from this along with what I have experienced “Live in the field” during my countless interactions and relationships with women is that they are attracted to a strong, physically dominant, ALPHA MALE that doesn’t make any apologies for who he is, what he wants and especially for his sexual desires.

Having not read the book or seen the movie yet, I still can’t help but believe that this person is describing someone like very much like Christian Grey.

What kind of man is a woman sexually attracted to then? … a man who isn’t afraid to put her in her place if she disrespects him-

The same way her father would….Notice also the parallelism here. Punishment and reward being set up based on behavior as well as conditions, standards and principles being upheld for her to conform to. Reward her when she does something that you like and “diplomatically” put her in her place when she steps out of line or disrespects you, your time, your property, your friends, your family. Once again, she expects this punishment-reward system to be set up for her to conform to.

For me to argue that people take their cues from movies would be hypocritical because I don’t believe that horror movies are responsible for serial killers and murders, nor do I believe that Arrow is responsible for vigilantism. Still, I am a little concerned that Christian Grey might reinforce the opinions of men like the one above who believe that women want to be “dominated and even raped by a strong, dominant, take-charge alpha male.”

There might be more to 50 Shades of Grey than simply badly written porn or escapist fantasy. What if it’s also a guidebook — what if the idiots in the men’s right movement use it as a weapon to prove the merits of their ideology? That’s not escapist fantasy, it’s a worrisome possibility.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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