Bondage: A Black & White Matter

Photo credit: Jeremy Bales | Book club members recently read “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James.

I couldn’t find any surveys or studies to reference but I have a theory about the cult-hit book Fifty Shades of Grey. 

I have a hunch this book is far more popular with white audiences than black ones.

Perhaps the Pew Research Center ought to conduct a study?

White people have a thing for ropes and handcuffs. Western whites in particular have had a long history of getting  our jollies off of putting others in bondage.

Blacks, on the other hand, have an aversion to ropes and handcuffs.

Understandably so.

That the author of this book, E.L. James,  is British makes the story ever more disturbing, given the Commonwealth’s troubling historical propensity for enslaving others.

Affluent whites have always had the dominating role in these matters. Our nation’s history is rife with affluent whites whose best form of entertainment involved cotton rope and whips and someone moaning in pain.

Puts a whole new twist on it, when you consider this cult fiction within historical context, doesn’t it?

Of course, I’m sure E.L. James would rather readers not consider bondage a black and white matter.

And, as an affluent white woman (which she was long before the books hit the NYT) James enjoys the luxury of avoiding all that nasty history.

But let’s be honest here — bondage is a fantasy only white audiences can enjoy.

If you are black, it can be a terrifying nightmare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • http://www.lukemontgomery.net/ Luke Montgomery

    Hmmm. Not sure what to do with that but I do have a theory about Shades of Gray. I think it proves that the new American dream is porn.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      Excellent point, Luke. Indeed it would seem so.

  • kenneth

    You’ve obviously never given even a cursory look to the real BDSM community. It is as diverse as any area of human sexuality. It’s not really my thing but I have many friends in many subcultures, and THE biggest and most skillful dom I’ve ever met or even heard of happens to be a black woman. She has two manservants/permanent lovers, at least one of whom is white. He in turn is a master of a form of rope bondage which is entirely Japanese in origin. She has no problem letting him tie her up…

    “Bondage” in the sense it’s described in 50 Shades has nothing at all to do with re-enacting the regime of brutality which was used to preserve chattel race slavery in this country for hundreds of years. Black people experience that in the drug war and a criminal justice/prison industry complex which seeks to incarcerate and marginalize black males almost from the time they can walk. Play bondage is not at all about one segment of society forcing its will upon another. The entire enterprise is based upon consent, and the community is very big on safety and ethics.

    • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

      K – Guilty as charged. I have never given even a cursory look at BDSM, nor do I ever intend to. But just because you know of one token black woman who debases herself in this manner, doesn’t negate any of my points. Bondage by its very definition — the state of being enslaved — is a form of brutality.

      • kenneth

        So you not only admit to your complete ignorance on the subject but you’re actually proud of it, and yet we’re supposed to take your pronouncements on the matter as authoritative or even credible? If my main knowledge of Christianity was something I’d heard about Westboro Baptist’s antics, would it be fair for me to just toss of an opinion piece saying “this is what Christians are all about”?

        It must be nice knowing “the real story” on any subject without so much as even a 10-minute read of a Wikipedia article. Why stop at an area as pedestrian as psychology and human sexuality? Drop in at CERN sometime and set them straight on what you know is really going on with the Higgs particle….

        • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

          Great idea, albeit, I’ve already written two posts about the Higgs particle.

      • Donalbain

        Karen Spears Zacharias writes about real people. Except when she prefers to talk about imaginary people.

        BDSM is not slavery. Slavery is the non-consensual ownership of one person by another. I know that some people seem to think that is OK.. but it has nothing to do with the BDSM scene.

        The cliche in BDSM is “safe sane and consensual”. Any activity that does not meet those criteria is not BDSM, but is abuse and/or rape.

        Everything that happens in a BDSM encounter happens because it is what both parties want to happen. If the Dom hits the Sub, it is because the Sub WANTS to be hit. If the Dom ties up the Sub, it is because the sub WANTS to be tied up. If the Dom calls the Sub names, it is because the Sub wants to be called names. At no point in this encounter is any person “debased”.

        Please try to talk about things you know about, even things you have taken a cursory glance at. You will seem less ignorant.


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