50 Shades of Libido Dominandi

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Last spring, Fifty Shades: Freed, the third installment of the notorious sadomasochistic film series based upon the books written by British novelist E. L. James, was released on DVD in America. The original novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, has spawned a franchise that has made author E.L. James over $95 million, and the movie adaptations are closing in on  almost a billion and a half dollars. Despite its financial success, Fifty Shades as a franchise has been subject to incredible (and often hilarious) derision from critics--the Iranian novelist and author of The Satanic Verses, Sarlman Rushdie, said of the first novel, after reading a couple of pages, “I’ve never read anything so badly written that got published. It made ‘Twilight’ look like ‘War and Peace.” Nonetheless, Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the most important and influential cultural artefacts of the 21st century and has caused a radical sea-change in Western sexuality. 

Certainly, Fifty Shades of Grey has initiated some people into sadomasochism and has further normalized the use of pornography by women. However, perhaps the most deleterious effect the series has had is in programming women into violent and selfish predators, thus destroying their treasured role as the heart and soul of not only families, but of civilizations. 

Called “Mommy porn,” by some of its critics, Fifty Shades has been a gateway for many women into the world of pornography, yet its lure is not simply sexual.  Fifty Shades appeals to the dreams and desires of both many women and men for success, affirmation, love, and power. The novels tell the story of Anastasia Steele, a young college student who ends up in a manipulative and violent relationship with the very wealthy Christian Grey. The cartoonish plot that unravels over three novels and soon to be three movies is not worth mentioning in detail. The corrupter of young Ana, Christian himself as young man was initiated into sadomasochistic sex, which, we later learn in the deceptively titled third book, Fifty Shades Freed, enabled him to take control of his life (the ploy here is obvious and similar to many attempts to normalize degenerate sexual behavior by erroneously pitching the therapeutic benefits). There are some bizarre and ridiculous plot twists as the intricacies of Christian’s character as both a manipulative sociopath and a tender but wounded father figure are clumsily fleshed out. Following the ancient “Cinderella story,” Ana ends up rising from the level of an administrative assistant to the wife of the owner of the publishing company, and she and Christian get married and form a family. 

As some critics have noted, Fifty Shades of Grey is about making sado-masochism seem normal and a part of any healthy relationship. However, what many critics miss is that Fifty Shades appeals to what St. Augustine of Hippo calls in his Confessions the libido dominandi, or the desire for power—a concept further developed by E. Michael Jones in his classic text Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Social Control. In Fifty Shades, James does not simply depict the desire for power over the other; rather, it is Ana’s rise to wealth and power, her control over her own publishing house, and her ability to have servants and bodyguards at her beck and call, which is just as alluring to the “desperate housewives” and others who have imbibed the poison of Fifty Shades of Grey. Oddly, this aspect may be one of the most alluring baits in Fifty Shades: the lure of power as such--even aside from any sexual element. It is the dream of every young college student and administrative assistant--whether male or female--to hold the reins of power of the company at which they currently serve at the bottom of the totem pole. 

However, Fifty Shades of Grey is about sex, and Fifty Shades does especially attack female sexuality, for the series is meant not simply to degrade women but to teach and encourage women to pursue their own interests and power in and outside of the bedroom, thus furthering the agenda of the culture of death in destroying marriages and families and ultimately societies. 

Fifty Shades of Grey as a movie phenomenon is nothing new in American film history; it is part of a long tradition of radically altering female sexuality and drawing women away from roles as chaste mothers and changing them into individualistic, pleasure-seekers. 

Fifty Shades of Grey would not be possible without the precedent set by Basic Instinct (1992), the movie that, not too ironically, initiated the Clinton era--six years later President Clinton would run the gauntlet of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in which American culture would be further degraded as previously unmentionable sexual acts were referenced in prime time news. The Clintonesque Basic Instinct presented Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell, a vicious, narcissistic psychopath who, nonetheless, alluringly appears as a strong, confident woman. To a certain degree, Stone’s character is an anti-Anastasia Steele who, in Fifty Shades, despite her powerful name, is subject to the brutalizing of Christian Grey. However, like Ana, Catherine Tramell is depicted as a powerful woman who seeks her own pleasure while exerting power over the men she encounters. She is, like a black widow, a murderer who holds the power of life and death of men. This display of power via self-degradation in Basic Instinct is found in the most iconic moment in the movie, the notorious “leg crossing,” police interrogation scene in which Tramell uses nudity to dominate and control a host of Los Angeles police officers. In both Basic Instinct and Fifty Shades, a woman is taught that she will be praised and admired by men if she exposes of herself to them and both brutalizes and is brutalized by them. 

Basic Instinct is only one of many works that have targeted women to seek out sex as merely an opportunity for pleasure and domination. Even supposed romantic comedies contain this same message. When Harry Met Sally’s (1989) famous “deli scene” between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan brought the topic of female sexual pleasure into the mainstream. Now known as the quintessential “feel good” romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally introduced a bombardment of movies in the 1990s and 2000s that specifically targeted women, drawing them away from the traditional role as mothers and wives sacrificing themselves and their desires for the greater good of their families and the wider community. Even James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), a sweetheart drama directed toward teenage girls, had its nude Kate Winslett and love scene with the heart throb Leonardo Dicaprio. 


This is just an excerpt from Culture Wars Magazine, not the full article. To continue reading, purchase the January, 2019 edition of Culture Wars Magazine.

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