Bye-bye, Bartell... And Seattle, Too
Seattle, A Love Letter

"Fifty Shades of F****d Up" - Why You Can Take a Pass on This One, and What You Should Read/Watch Instead

First, I tried to read the book, but it was terrible. Of course I couldn't buy the implausibility of a twenty-seven-year old billionaire who doesn't seem to do any actual work. Neither could I buy the implausibility of a twenty-something virgin living in the Pacific Northwest who's made it through enough college to get a degree but has somehow not once ever glimpsed anything pornographic. (Even with that adventurous roommate of hers in the mix!) This is a twentysomething who apparently is incapable of googling "butt plug," by the way. Yet somehow, without ever giving a blow job before in her life, or ever talking about it, or ever watching someone give a blow job onscreen, she's miraculously able to give the Most Earthshattering Blow Job in the History of Blow Jobs.

Yeah, that's when I threw the book across the room.

And the epic blow job is in the first sex scene in the book - for all you who saw the film, it's what happens when they cut away from the two lovers cuddling up in his high-end luxury bathtub. So, probably the smartest cut-away in the history of moviemaking cut-aways. 

Even though I could not read the book, I went to see "Fifty Shades of Grey" because of the zeitgeist factor. For the past four years, I've been trying like everyone else in the world to figure out why this is so freakin' popular. And for the record, I have no problem with kink - people should do whatever turns them on, as long as there's clear, able consent by all parties, which there most certainly is in this case.

The dude's behavior IS kind of stalker-y, but the leading lady character is portrayed as seeming to like being startled in the middle of her work day and kind of... encourages his behavior. Maybe it's supposed to fit in with her love of Victorian romance. Whatevs. I still don't think the movie should be boycotted. Look, I'm a feminist and proud of it, but for one thing, banning works of art just leads to more repression. I'd rather have critics see it and analyze it for its actual flaws. Secondly, there's a mischaracterization at work here in that Steele has every opportunity to refuse consent and walk away, and instead she pursues a sexual relationship with someone she isn't compatible with and immediately sets out to try to change him into the man she really wants. Which I guess is Rochester from Jane Eyre.

Seeing the movie, as awful as the writing is, gave me a new perspective on why the franchise is so popular: It allows mainstream people who are deeply afraid of kink to dip a toe into that world, feel aroused by its allure, and then ultimately reject it, just as the virginal/vanilla protagonist does. It's actually a "safe" movie for the mainstream because it allows people to preserve their judgmental prejudices against the kink world and the presumed "broken" people who inhabit it. In that respect, it strikes me as not much different from stories that depict gay people as simply wayward souls who just need someone hetero to love them and turn them around.

It fails as a literary project because it doesn't challenge its audience in any way.

Not to mention the terrible lines! God, his whole "stay away from me - I'm not the man for you" stuff is unbearable. And this: "I'm 50 shades of fucked up," he utters, broodingly, while staring out at a several-million-dollar view of Seattle from his penthouse in the clouds.

But unless you just really need to satisfy your curiosity, don't see this movie. If you want to know more about kink culture, and you live in Seattle or can get to Seattle, go to Hump Fest instead. This is a sex-positive amateur film collection put out every year, championed and curated by Dan Savage, editorial director of Seattle's Only Newspaper. You'll see a lot of things, and some of it you might not like, but you'll gain a respect for the wide spectrum of sexual expression available to human beings. And the writing will only be painful in the good way.


Here's also a book recommendation that offers a nice gloss on the kink world, from an insider's perspective, plus an engaging mystery to boot! 


Trust me. You'll be so much the better for these experiences, and you'll be supporting sex positive culture, instead of setting sexual freedom back about fifty years, which seems to be the intent with fifty shades. 

...And that is all I have to say about that. Happy Valentine's Day!


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