Culture

Fifty Shades of America's New Dark Ages

This year you could spend your Valentine’s Day in a theater full of middle-aged women oozing over a hot-bodied twenty-something whipping his blindfolded secretary to the point of striking blood in the name of “love.” Daytime television loves to play up to the Soccer Mom demographic (a title first dubbed to describe Clinton fans, ironically) seeking fantasy fulfillment in the form of sexual fiction. It was corny enough when shirtless Fabios graced the covers. Now that the most popular sex trilogy focuses on a woman who willingly allows herself to be sexually abused, is pop culture humoring those bored housewives too much?

While the majority of Fifty Shades fans are typical middle-aged marrieds dissatisfied with their partners (or even themselves), anywhere from 5-25% of Americans “show affinity” for BDSM (Bondage/Domination-Discipline/Sadism/Masochism) in the bedroom. On an issue that poses a particular sexual threat to women, feminists are split 50-50 between being against sexual abuse and for a narcissistic “if it feels good, do it” sexual ethos. Hence, a pervert who trolls Fanfiction.net (the original home of Hobbit-inspired Elvish/Dwarf porn) can turn her twisted sexual fantasies into an overnight sensation. After all, it’s all about love in the end. Or is it?

BDSM involves sexual acts that manipulate and break gender roles through expressions of sexual power and submission. The idea of Anastasia the Virgin contractually agreeing to being sexually abused is nothing more than a modern-day Dracula fantasy, which should come as no surprise given that Fifty Shades began as Twilight fan-fiction. Contemporary feminists connect to BDSM through the language of Marxism, defining sadomasochistic fantasies as expressions of the “evil capitalist economy.”

They remain totally ignorant of the fact that the earliest depictions of BDSM trace back to the era of the pagan goddess Ishtar. As a result of following the gender feminist trend of ignoring biology, psychology, art and religion in favor of Marxist interpretation, most scholars addressing the subject are forced into desensitized agreement with it:

…any references to religion or spirituality are passed by without comment. …To avoid any ripple in the smooth surface of liberal tolerance, therefore, flogging, cutting, branding, and the rest of the menu of consensual torture must be assumed to be meaning-free—no different than taking your coffee with cream or without.

Why the robotic compliance? The critical reliance on Marxist theorists like Foucault, regarding whose theories Paglia explains “…nothing exists except refractions of language and where the body is merely a passive recipient of oppressive social power.” In other words, the act of BDSM is manipulated to suit the political needs of Marxist academia. Political message: Men dominate women. Sexual message: BDSM is a sexual expression of this political power-play. It’s the kind of theorizing that literally puts baby in a corner. Writing of one feminist academic’s BDSM commentary, Paglia notes:

Newmahr’s refusal to comment on this activity, to which I would apply a term like “barbaric” (a concept evidently falling outside the anesthetized world of academic theory), becomes even more glaring when the object of abuse is herself. On one occasion, she lies on a bed in a deserted apartment, where a stranger straddles her and presses a thick cord on her throat until her breathing nearly stops; he smashes her in the face again and again with the back of his hand and draws a razor blade across her cheek. Except for a momentary panic at her isolation and potential danger, we learn nothing of her reaction. Newmahr’s flat affect, always disconcerting, becomes positively chilling when she says of a sadist and masochist indulging in “edgeplay”: “Only the bottom is risking her life, and only the top is risking a prison sentence.”

While one hand slaps us into a concussive state with false campus rape statistics, the other holds women down in classrooms, brainwashing them into believing that sexual abuse is a cultural norm. In the real world this translates into mom and dad bringing violence into the bedroom in an attempt to spice up what they’ve been led to believe must be a boring sex life. High art Marxist feminist theory turns into low art sex toys marketed via the Fifty Shades movie name at your local Target:

“Our stores are carrying a limited assortment of the merchandise. It’s worth noting that it is not exclusive to Target and we directed stores to place the display on a back cap (which means the back of an aisle, not the main aisle facing part) in the adult health area of the store.”

The duct tape, cable ties and rope featured in the film are best found in your local hardware store. Will those be shelved under “adult health” as well?

Queen Bey takes the lead on the 50 Shades soundtrack.

The classic free speech cop out always arises in these situations: “No one is forcing you to read the book or watch the film.” Yet, individual choice has dictated 50 Shades an overwhelming pop culture success, which does force us to ask what that means for us as a culture. Of other societies that have fallen into the BDSM trap, Paglia writes:

My conclusion, after wide reading in anthropology and psychology, was that sadomasochism is an archaic ritual form that descends from prehistoric nature cults and that erupts in sophisticated “late” phases of culture, when a civilization has become too large and diffuse and is starting to weaken or decline. I state in Sexual Personae that “sex is a far darker power than feminism has admitted,” and that its “primitive urges” have never been fully tamed: “My theory is that whenever sexual freedom is sought or achieved, sadomasochism will not be far behind.”

Sadomasochism’s punitive hierarchical structure is ultimately a religious longing for order, marked by ceremonies of penance and absolution. …By redefining the boundaries of the body, SM limits and disciplines the overexpanded consciousness of “late” phases, which are plagued by free-floating doubts and anxieties.

The Fifty Shades phenomenon is the inevitable result of the cynicism, confusion and doubt generated by Marxist feminist theory. It is also yet another sign that we have entered the new dark ages in which we seek redemption from these emotions through bondage instead of freedom.