Should sex be viewed strictly in terms of black and white, right and wrong, romantic love vs. pure, pulse-racing lust? Or is sex more prismatic, open to wider interpretation and exploration? That ought to be the pivotal question to arise from the film based on the most popular fan fiction about sex in recent times. In this case, finding the answer on the screen of your neighborhood cinema means using your gray matter.
Inspired by the bestselling book with the same title, 50 Shades of Grey illustrates the confusion and competition between often opposing sexual motives and meanings. The leading man, Christian, is obsessed with being in control. His female counterpart, Anastasia, wants pleasure and love more than pain or domination. Although she starts out as naïve, Anastasia ends up in control.
In spite of the different gradations described in the title, many reviewers have either lauded or hated the movie. This is hardly a terrible movie but not a masterpiece either. I would grade it a three on a five point “Libby” scale in terms of filmmaking. The movie is entertaining, well done technically and there is some imagination and fantasy to electrify sex and conversations about sex. The sex scenes would have been more engaging if the movie did not seek an R rating. The scenes were not explicit enough for sophisticated viewers.
The BDSM scenes reflect typical BDSM activities that would seem to define the activity. But as the pain becomes harsh, our heroine retreats into her identity and away from being defined as Christian’s subordinate. It’s not hard to see why and how some feel the BDSM verged on sexual abuse as the movie progressed, but Anastasia had the option to stop the more excruciating scene, and Christian was hesitant to go further.
In real life, both lovers have to be excited by a fantasy for the fantasy to inspire truly erotic and authentic lovemaking. The entire movie reflects a starting point for open conversations about healthy and sex-positive meanings and motives for sex as a language in intimate relationships.
The movie is an initial blockbuster in sales. About 68% of the movie’s audiences are women. Since the book came out, plenty of wives and girlfriends have dragged their partners into my office asking for more erotic sex lives. The movie has powerfully underscored the importance of fantasy as a trigger for lust, love and passion. Not all fantasies involve BDSM, but in this movie BDSM is the focus.
If more lovers created, shared and acted on healthy fantasies, our nation would be more enthusiastically sexual. There is a fine line between pleasure and pain. Every person and couple has to find the line for themselves. As sexual beings, every individual deserves the freedom to make responsible sexual choices which are fun for all concerned.
In a healthy relationship, sexual enthusiasm, imaginative fantasies and playfulness are the ingredients of the best sex possible. Love and romance certainly help! Perhaps we are on the verge of another sexual revolution where sexual play will be as common and as much fun as any kind of play. To accomplish erotic nirvana, we have to reject robot-like sex as obvious in the book and the movie and replace robotic sex with heartfelt lust and love.
I suggest that people go see the movie. It may well inspire discussions that lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of eroticism, control and letting go. The movie is also creating a frenzy about control and domination in a relationship.
No one needs to agree with or practice all of E.L. James’ ideas to use them as a springboard for interesting talks between those intrigued by expanding sexual fantasies and experiences. The national conversation about all of this is sure to escalate as more view and discuss the film. – R.L.