8/1/2015 – – I finally saw the movie, Fifty Shades of Gray. I do not usually address gender issues, but three comments do occur to me.
First, the movie is a lot of fun. Sexy and entertaining. Fortunately, the movie ends with Anastasia finally understanding how sick Christian Grey is. All that talk about safety and exploring one’s sexuality dissolves at the end of the movie into a male character simply wishing to inflict pain. The unanswerable question, why do you want to see me like this?, exposes this creep as the abusing loser that he is.
Second, Jamie Dorman is not exactly a commanding male presence. And, indeed, as presented in the movie at least, he is needy and confused. He is just rich, not impressive, and not confident. For an object lesson in what Christian Grey should have been like, just rewatch the opening appearance of Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind.
Third, and most important, the success of the book and of the movie shows that many women like to fantasize about being controlled by a man. Throughout the movie, Anastasia is quite content to be passive. And, if the demands on her had not become so extreme, she probably would have continued going along with them. The revealing moment occurred when she asked, are you going to make love to me? It was all up to man.
The secret life of the fantasies of women is their own business, of course. And it is also the case that some portion of the women reading the book or watching the movie feel that reality and fantasy should not be mixed.
But what does the success of this book and movie tell us about the gender equality on campus and about sexual assault? If there are women who desire male forcefulness and initiation, then some of the campus initiatives are bound to fail.
Years ago, one of the classic feminists—I don’t remember which one—made the point that secret fantasies are not public policy. This is of course true and date rape has nothing to do with sexy games.
Nevertheless, this movie reminds us that men and women are to a certain extent different. And that difference does not submit itself to the standards of what it ought to be.