What does the huge popularity of BDSM erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey say about our culture? In this week’s issue of Newsweek, controversial writer Katie Roiphe asserts that because women are so beleaguered by climbing the corporate ladder, they want to let go and be spanked, dominated, or otherwise submissive. It’s a thought-provoking opinion, but is that really the case?
Roiphe suggests the following:
It is probably no coincidence that, as more books like The Richer Sex by Liza Mundy and Hanna Rosin’s forthcoming The End of Men appear, there is a renewed popular interest in the stylized theater of female powerlessness. This is not to mention a spate of articles on choosing not to be married or the steep rise in young women choosing single motherhood. We may then be especially drawn to this particular romanticized, erotically charged, semipornographic idea of female submission at a moment in history when male dominance is shakier than it has ever been.
But feminist sites like Jezebel vehemently disagree that women’s love of Grey is a “repressed feminist fantasy.” Writer Katie J.M. Baker says:
I would rather read the next two sequels in the Fifty Shades Trilogy ten times over than read even one paragraph of Roiphe’s article again. Because I don’t think there’s a “renewed popular interest in the stylized theater of female powerlessness.” There’s a renewed popular interest in non-”vanilla” sex, even if it’s superficial and imperfect, and hopefully Fifty Shades is just the beginning.
Non-vanilla sex: Yes, please! Regardless of gender politics, the economy, or your employment status, who doesn’t like the occasional dirty book? If you want to crack open a tome that’ll heat up your imagination (and hopefully, in turn, your sex life), check out this list of the top 1,000 romance novels ever, or A Field Guide for the Erotic-Lit Virgin, from New York Magazine.
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