Fifty Shades of Meh

Okay, so there’s this book out. It has caused quite an uproar in some circles, making the rounds not only of the bestseller lists but of the morning talk shows. Have you heard of it? It’s titled Fifty Shades of Grey by some author who is pretentious enough to only go by her (his?) initials. What’s the name? E L (space but no periods please) James. What is it with British authors and initials? J.K. Rowling? D.H. Lawrence? H.G. Wells? Perhaps some adopted initials in order to stump people as to gender. Maybe some were saddled with a less than memorable first name. I think in this case, maybe E L decided to go by her (yes, her, I googled her picture) initials because otherwise it would make shopping at the market or picking up her kids from school a bit embarrassing. I mean, if the local butcher knows you as Edith Louise or Emma Lavinia, that’s fine, but if he realizes you’re that E L, it could make him quite uncomfortable every time you’re picking up some lamb kidneys for Sunday brunch.

So, anyway, there’s this book she wrote. It has been described as “mommy porn”, which I think is a rather unfortunate designation. I prefer to call it “porn” and leave it at that. Let’s see what our good friend Wikipedia has to say about this literary treasure:

The plot traces the relationship between recent college graduate Anastasia Steele and manipulative billionaire Christian Grey. Steele is required by Grey to sign a contract allowing him complete control over her life as well as a non-disclosure agreement, something that he’s required from all of his previous submissives. Upon learning that she is a virgin, Grey agrees to have sex with her in order to prepare her for later encounters, fully intending that the contact would be signed. As she gets to know him, she learns that his sexual tastes involve bondage, domination and sadism, and that childhood abuse left him a deeply damaged individual. In order to be his partner she agrees to experiment with BDSM, but struggles to reconcile who she is (a virgin who has never previously had a boyfriend) with who Christian wants her to be: his submissive, to-do-with-as-he-pleases partner in his “Red Room of Pain.”

All I can say about that is (in my Church Lady voice) “Well, isn’t that special”.

Let’s cut to the chase. I’m a Muslim. I believe I modesty and chastity. I believe that what happens in the bedroom, stays in the bedroom, and that a healthy sex life between husband and wife is a beautiful thing. Islam is largely silent on how the intimate relationship should play out, but there are some bright lines drawn. No premarital sex. No sex with someone other than your spouse. No reading about people having sex or watching other people have sex. Wanna hang from the chandelier in your master bedroom? I can’t find a fatwa against it. Wanna dress hubby up as a linebacker and you as a French maid? Whatever floats your boat and is mutually satisfying. But don’t buy porn novels and don’t watch porn on the internet. It’s not that complicated, and I really thought that this was such a no-brainer that I certainly wouldn’t have to devote time and energy to explaining the concept….

And then I checked Facebook. The other day my wall was alive with the breathless anticipation of many women all abuzz about the book and in a hurry to get their copy. Muslim women. Knowledgeable Muslim women. Hijab-wearing, five-daily-prayers-making, Ramadan-fasting, charity-giving Muslim women. My reaction was this:

Now, I’m trying to be a more tactful person and only correct people in private, but on one thread there were about twenty ladies twittering about the book and letting each other know where to buy it, so I did try to gently correct my sisters and warn them about the evils of porn in general and this book specifically. I do have to say that no one came back at me with “Mind your own business!”, so I am hopeful that at least a few took my words to heart and are no longer planning on reading the book. But just the fact that I had to remind a Muslim woman of her duty to turn away from such blatant evil was, shall we say, discouraging.

It’s not just the fact of the book being pornographic that bothers me. It’s the nature of the pornography that is even more disturbing. Did they not read the wiki? I mean, c’mon, bondage? Domination? Sadism? What the hell, ladies? You are MUSLIM WOMEN. You should be struggling to set women free, not to further enslave them to the idea that they are only to be used as a man’s sexual toy. You wanna pull out the fuzzy handcuffs with your hubby, well, that’s not me but if that’s you, fine, but to promote the domination and subjugation of a virgin to an animalistic man is flabbergasting. It reminds me of the misguided women in Africa who hold down their own daughters before they are ripped apart in a ceremony of female genital mutilation. It’s more than just a book, it’s a betrayal. It is a betrayal of true womanhood.

You want to read a real story about an intense relationship? Here:

Boy meets girl. Boy thinks girl is the bees knees and proposes. Boy and girl marry. Boy and girl set up housekeeping in a modest apartment while he works and she finishes her degree. Boy and girl rent $1 movies and eat popcorn while cuddling on a secondhand couch. Boy and girl dedicate themselves to building a strong marriage. Boy and girl welcome children into the world and strive to raise them to be moral, ethical human beings. Boy and girl get older, gain a few pounds, lose a little hair, start showing some wrinkles, but still look at each other like lovestruck kids when their eyes meet across the dining room table. Boy and girl grow old together and retire with loving kids and grandkids bustling about. The End.

Happy now?

Leave the porn to other people.  You’re better than that.


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