Fifty shades.

The other day I fell into a rabbit hole. It’s easy to do online. You follow one link, then another, then another and soon you’re looking at something like this, amusingly titled “Why Kindles Can Wreck Your Marriage”:

Look, I think sharing “sexy” thoughts with one’s husband, and flirting, and playing together is all pretty great. I am not against sexual play or sexual fun at all. But when we use something outside of marriage to get aroused, we’re transferring our sexual energy from our spouse. And if you then have sex with your spouse after getting aroused some other way, it becomes increasingly difficult to “be present” when you make love. Your mind starts to focus on what you were reading, not on your husband. And that’s not really making love.

This is an argument, I should clarify, against reading romance novels.

I’ve been around certain extremely Christian Christians enough to understand this is their definition of marriage: Two pythons tying themselves into knots, all the while proclaiming the unique strength of their bond, which was after all given by GOD HIMSELF. And in many cases I don’t even think it’s so awful; I think if people paid less attention to their children and more to their marriages, the children would take care of themselves. But at the same time, it makes me understand why they have higher divorce rates than the rest of us, too. A hug can feel like smothering if it goes on too long. And face it, does anyone want to live in a world where you can’t imagine Clive Owen with his pants off from time to time?

What prompted all this is “Fifty Shades of Gray,” a book I haven’t read and a movie I won’t see, at least until it comes around on Netflix and I’m sick with the flu or something. But judging from some of the social-media chatter I’ve seen lately, it appears to have unhinged a segment of the religious among us, who cannot be convinced that the vast majority of BDSM relationships are a) consensual; and b) no big deal. Personally? I don’t want to be spanked as a prelude to sex, but I understand others do, and I don’t think it qualifies as mental illness.

One of those things you inevitably read in any profile of a sex worker who specializes in this stuff is some version of: “Some of my most loyal clients are very powerful men.” It’s like: Duh. You spend all day influencing global exchange rates or lowering the tax bills of multinational corporations or bringing 747s in for a safe landing? Maybe you welcome a safe space where you can lay down that burden, have your hands cuffed to a bed frame and hear some lady in leather tell you what a bad, bad boy you’ve been.

As for women, well, we run the whole damn world, at least the part that involved getting dinner on the table and kids off to school and cookies made for a church bake sale. You don’t have to have aced Psych 101 to see why all those ladies made a bestseller out of a terribly written book that featured a woman who is blindfolded and restrained, so that her lover can fiddle with her: Oh, you mean I don’t have to run this show? Kind, kind sir!

The rougher stuff is a different breed of cat, but hey — as long as everyone’s clear on the boundaries and knows the safe word? Who cares.

Meanwhile, David Edelstein says the movie’s not so bad. And what a surprise:

The movie’s biggest surprise is its powerful affirmation of family values. It’s Jane Eyre with ropes. That this vanilla bean has been denounced by religious decency brigades while female churchgoers pleasure themselves over advance tickets is further proof of America’s insane cultural bifurcation — or trifurcation, if you count the worriers who predict that women’s shelters will have to add more beds to accommodate battered copycats. Are there really people who still think that watching a man tie up a woman and both of them get off is the gateway to hell?

Yeah, that sounds about right. This is Hollywood, after all. Meanwhile, I add this phenomenon to the list of Things I Am Not, Nor Ever Will Be, Into, which includes the “Sex and the City” movies, Uggs and the novels of Nicholas Sparks.

Some bloggage? OK:

This profile of young Scott Walker, college dropout, is essential reading for those who want to know more about him. As Hank said on Facebook, there’s a version of this guy on every college campus.

As we’re closing in on V-Day and I mentioned it above, this Esther Perel TED talk on maintaining desire in a long-term relationship is pretty damn smart, and a phenom all its own. Bonus: If you watch it, you pretty much have the gist of her book.

Back to edits. Have a great Thursday.

Posted at 8:51 am in Movies, Popculch |

36 responses to “Fifty shades.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 12, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Perel TED talk, good; E.L. James book, stunningly bad. And I mean literarily so, so morally. (Okay, not a big promoter of pre-marital sex, but it ain’t my major issue, and have never preached a sermon against it.) “Fifty Shades” is appalling if only because you just can’t use zip-ties that way. Seriously.

    I only read book one; I’m told Ana brings Mr. Grey around to familial married monogamy by the third book, but life’s too short. It’s just really really that badly written. And do I think turning Valentine’s Day into a holiday largely defined by Victoria’s Secret is a sad thing? Yes, on that charge, I am guilty.

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  2. nancy said on February 12, 2015 at 9:07 am

    A friend of mine works in a bookstore and says the staff used to read aloud from it, just for laffs at how atrocious the prose was.

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  3. Wim said on February 12, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I sure can’t get away from ‘Fifty Shades’ today. The phone rang at an ungodly hour this morning and it was the BBC-Ireland in Dublin, wanting my wife to weigh in on the topic for their noon show. They thought she was in Athens, Greece, not Athens, Georgia. They were sufficiently apologetic that my wife agreed to do it, and I hear it went well–just one god-botherer in the bunch, and my wife said that by then she was so giddy with exhaustion that she became convinced the caller was a plant they were springing on her for comic effect. “She sounded like Emily Litella. What’s this I hear about M&Ms?”

    Every generation has to have its big BDSM book-slash-movie, I guess. You got your Story of O and you got your 9 1/2 Weeks and you got your Fifty Shades, all gateways bringing the squares into the lifestyle, and all of them doomed to the same disappointment when they can’t find a map to the chateau or attract an indolent billionaire. There is no real-life Mister Grey. There is no real-life Mister Benson. And, by the way? The reason every pro dom can talk about her clients being big and important business guys and etc is because nobody else can afford to pay her. For every one of them there’s a bunch of broke-ass guys trying to trade carpentry for sessions.

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  4. Deborah said on February 12, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Um, Wim… What does your wife do, that she was chosen to be interviewed by the BBC?

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  5. Deggjr said on February 12, 2015 at 10:02 am

    According to the story Scott Walker earned 94 credits over 4 years of college and left still needing 34 credits to graduate. I don’t like the guy anyway so this is a throwaway comment. I matched his pace in my first five semesters of college and had to make a hard choice to graduate on time. My investors (parents) expected a timely degree.

    Maybe Scott Walker had different circumstances that led to that different outcome. I don’t see how a person can make a four year/big dollar investment like that and come away with so little.

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  6. Wim said on February 12, 2015 at 10:04 am

    My wife is a clinical sexologist and author.

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  7. Sue said on February 12, 2015 at 10:12 am

    MMJeff, there are THREE of those books? So does that mean movie sequels? A franchise?
    Re Scott Walker (now there’s a segue), everything folks will be hearing in the next few months has already been percolating for 4+ years in WI. The difference now will be that there will be more interest by out of state media in actually digging and continuing to dig, and more interest by out of state citizens in actually listening. In both categories it does not reflect well on my state.
    Although that ‘gotta punt’ comment on evolution is kinda new. As one commenter on Charlie Pierce said: ‘talk about deflated balls’.

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 12, 2015 at 10:19 am

    They’re already talking about the inevitability of the next two, and yes, she gets him to ditch the contract, marry her, and be more at ease in his own skin. Perhaps oddly, I feel for the BDSM folk who are pointing out that the series actually backs into making the argument that only wounded, scarred individuals who want to hurt people to “get even” psychically are into their kink, and once you get better, you’ll no longer find their tastes to be your own. As with gender attraction, there’s a spectrum out there, as anyone who actually works with real people in any quantity learns in a hurry.

    I do think that giving young women a teddy bear that’s four feet tall is abusive, by the way. Terribly so.

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  9. Jolene said on February 12, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Since he first popped on to the national scene, the main impression I’ve had of Scott Walker is: not smart. He speaks in platitudes and, in my view, is wholly uncharismatic. It’s not unusual for me to find GOP politicians unappealing, but he is the least appealing of the bunch. So white bread, so graceless. I can only hope he does something to disqualify himself early in the primaries so we can follow the debates and such without having to listen to him.

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  10. nancy said on February 12, 2015 at 10:24 am

    When I saw the 50 Shades teddy bear, all I could think was how much fun it would be to set up tableaux with other stuffed animals. I have at least a boxful in my basement, and they’ve all been very, very bad!

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  11. Charlotte said on February 12, 2015 at 10:25 am

    This is sad, Bob Simon, who was a *real* reporter, was killed in a livery cab accident in NYC last night:

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  12. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 12, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Bob Simon deserves all the plaudits he’s being given . . . but when NBC/Today was giving him extensive coverage and praise, methought I heard a not-so-veiled elbow in the ribs of a now suspended anchor at that network.

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  13. coozledad said on February 12, 2015 at 11:35 am

    The most notable allegation was that Walker’s people had stolen copies of the campus newspaper, to keep students from reading its endorsement of the other guy. Walker’s friends say to this day that they didn’t do it.

    More damaging was a flier that attacked Quigley’s ideas close to Election Day, saying that the liberal had only “vague ideals” and was destined for ineffectiveness. It was mild — at least by the standards of real-world politics — but it was enough to outrage the student newspaper.

    “Walker unfit,” proclaimed an editorial. Today, Walker’s friends think that helped swing the election.

    This was SOP for the Republican identifying tobacco family wastrels at ECU. Scotty’s attendance in his French class also sounds familiar. You’d have some sockless topsider-shod sack of lard manspreading at the back of the class, farting inanities.

    I was naive enough at the time to believe they’d be swallowed up in a life of mobile home sales or petty theft in some goobertown brokerage firm, but they actually got their foot in the door in state politics. Hell, one of them is the editor of the Roxboro Courier Times. If I’m not mistaken, the Republicans stole a couple of issues of his paper when he was a student editor. He must have decided he liked having his pisser slapped, or something.

    I used to think Scotty was the dumbest of the bunch they’re running, but Barbara Jr. outdumbs them all.

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  14. Snarkworth said on February 12, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Is it possible that the day is half over and Brian hasn’t been here to wish Abraham Lincoln a happy 206th birthday?

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  15. Jolene said on February 12, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    I was very sad to hear about Bob Simon, too. He seems to have been a lovely, gracious man, and, as a reporter, he had tremendous range, as shown in this clip from today’s CBS Morning show. In addition to covering the war in Vietnam and years of strife in the Middle East and the Balkans, he also discovered great feature stories such as this report on an orchestra created out of more or less nothing in Congo.

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  16. Deborah said on February 12, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    Wim, impressive.

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  17. brian stouder said on February 12, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Snark – Hah! The young folks hit me with that same line yesterday (a day early) – which made me smile; what more can a person ask of life, eh?

    Cooz – that Maddow piece last night was epic! Jeb is the shiniest car on the buy-here/pay-here used car lot…he won’t make it to his first oil change!

    I think the Republicans’ best bet is John Kasich of Ohio (because, Ohio!)

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  18. Jolene said on February 12, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Just for grins, here’s a follow-up re the Congolese orchestra. After their appearance on 60 Minutes, they were invited to play in LA, in Berlin, and in the UK.

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  19. Bitter Scribe said on February 12, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    There’s a long tradition of good movies being made from bad books.

    And if the two pages I read on the Amazon preview are representative, FSOG is the worst book in history.

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  20. Heather said on February 12, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    I picked up the book in an airport once just to see what the big deal is. Hey, I don’t mind trashy thrills once in a while. So, so, so bad. Interesting that the movie is maybe OK. It looks horrible from the trailer, and the gossip is that the two leads can’t stand each other.

    Also, the female lead is supposed to be a journalist, and in the trailer, during the interview, she asks him about his hobbies? Sigh.

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  21. adrianne said on February 12, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    If he doesn’t f up spectacularly, look for Rand Paul to sneak into the GOP nominating convention. He’s young, he appeals to the pot-smoking libertarians, and he at least is smart – I’ll give him that. Scott Walker, on the other hand, reminds me of every student government dweeb I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve encountered plenty in my time. My favorite comment in the story was about young Scotty’s first run for elective office. “His campaign was one big dog whistle” about fear of black criminals.

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  22. brian stouder said on February 12, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Rand Paul would have a curative effect on the Republigoon party, if (if!!) he gains traction.

    He looks like an interesting dud (rhymes with “thud”) to me, whereas the scarey dude (rhymes with “screwed”) in their field might be Marco Rubio.

    He seems to be Raphael Cruz without the 1930’s gangster hairdo

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  23. Kirk said on February 12, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Rand Paul seems to be the kind of wacko who could carry maybe six or seven states. More likely, he’ll self-destruct well before the primaries get very far.

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  24. Dexter said on February 12, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Bob Simon said he would never have to buy a diet book, as he had discovered the fool-proof way to lose weight: get yourself captured by the enemy in a hostile foreign land, locked away in a dingy dark shed as days turn to weeks to a month, stay a few more days, and go weigh yourself. You’ll be amazed at the weight loss…Simon was never a fatty, and he lost 40 pounds.

    I can’t contribute to the 50 Shades discussion, but I’ll make a comment on hugging. I was never a spontaneous hugger of friends and acquaintances, so when I quit the booze and went into the secret society of drunks, it was a real change, b ecause we hug everybody all the time, men on men, women on women, and men on women and the reverse.
    At work, a lady I worked with every day, sometimes in close proximity on two-people operations in the factory, was laid off, went away and found work in Washington, DC, and then a couple years later was called back and reported to work. I was and am married, she was single, and we never stepped out so to speak, but we did “go drinkin’ with the crew” after work a helluva lot, so we were close and totally “not together” friends. When I saw her after two years …in the factory , I strode up and gave her a for-real great big bear hug. That was the only time I ever touched her, or anybody else in that place. It was spontaneous, but it certainly came from my by-then habit of hugging after and before “the meetings”. Well, of course that was that, no big deal, but I am sure I was out of line and had done something I heard a lady at a meeting complain about: I had invaded her personal space. For all that hugging in meetings, a percentage of folks really hate it, I was told. Yes, no surprise, women who had been abused as children or while in adult relationships with partners really need that protective cone of space around them. Anyway, I never initiate a hug anymore, cuz ya just never know.

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  25. Deborah said on February 12, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Charles Pierce has what he calls the 5 minute rule when it comes to the Pauls (Rand and his dad Ron). The first 5 minutes when they are speaking they sound actually sane and smart, then immediately after those minutes they say something stupid and/or crazy and it continues like that.

    Dexter, I was never a hugger of friends or acquaintances until my daughter got to be older, she and all of her friends are big huggers and I started doing it too. Sometimes it’s obvious who doesn’t want to be hugged but sometimes it isn’t and then it’s extremely awkward.

    I’ve been listening to the Tiny Desk Concert Contest on NPR, they have the winner’s video up and some of the others that didn’t win but were standouts. Some of them are amazingly good. It’s very heartwarming to see. I’m supposed to be doing something else and I was using it as a procrastination technique, it worked.

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  26. Jolene said on February 12, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    I just spent a couple hours goofing off too. Saw “An Evening with Berry Gordy” and “An Evening with Vernon Jordan”. Both very interesting hour-long interviews conducted by Gwen Ifill, with brief contributions from others including, in the case of Berry Gordy, some musical bits. Really well done and, in the case of the V. Jordan interview, very moving. I have mainly known him as a mover-and-shaker type, which he is, but he also had deep roots in the civil rights movement and has clearly made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.

    These programs were both part of a series put together by a company called History Makers, whose goal is to record significant pieces if Africam American history. Apparently, there are lots more in this series. Am hoping my PBS station will show more during Black History Month.

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  27. Jolene said on February 12, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    One more piece on Bob Simon: A great commentary on the sort of journalism he practiced. Especially valuable in the wake of the Brian Williams downfall.

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  28. FDChief said on February 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    I thought this was the most precious part of “Wifey Wednesday”:

    2. Have your email for your account go to your husband

    If you do only have one Kindle, and it’s yours, then make sure that the email address on your account wherever you buy books is your husband’s. That way, every time you make a purchase, the receipt is sent to him.

    Internet porn became a big problem for men because it was anonymous. They could access it without anyone knowing. Take away the anonymity, and it’s suddenly not nearly as big a temptation.

    The best way to protect ourselves, then, is to make sure nothing is done in secret. So even if you don’t think you’d be tempted to buy erotica, I still think it’s always a good idea to expose things to the light. Just make sure others can always see your account and access what you buy.”

    Yep. You need to make sure that hubby’s email is your Kindle’s, too. Well, of course…that means it ISN’T “your” Kindle, is it? Sorta? Is it?

    But, hey. I can’t IMAGINE what could go wrong with that, having the loving, trusting, constrictor-like marriage that you and the hubster have, amirite?


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  29. Sherri said on February 12, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    A policeman in Madison, AL slams a 57 year old Indian man to the ground, injuring his neck and causing paralysis, all for the crime of walking while brown. The man had come to visit his son and help out his with grandson, and spoke almost no English, but since he didn’t “cooperate”, he gets slammed face first to the ground even though he’s clearly not a threat to anyone and was not committing any crime.

    But this story brings up what is probably the basic, fundamental truth of racism, at least in the South: it’s all intertwined with control of the women, just like the religion is. The caller is nervous about leaving his wife at home while he goes to work, because a “skinny black guy” is just walking around his neighborhood.

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  30. Jolene said on February 13, 2015 at 12:11 am

    David Carr, one of my favorite NYT writers died tonight. He was only 58 years old and collapsed without having given any indication of being ill. Another very sad loss to journalism, not to mention his family and, well, me.

    He wrote this piece about Philip Seymour Hoffman shortly after Hoffman died, The piece captures a lot of what I liked about him as a writer; it’s perceptive, appreciative, and wry, as well as being simple and clear.

    I’m going to miss reading his work.

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  31. Jolene said on February 13, 2015 at 12:18 am

    The Times has assembled some of Carr’s work into an archive. A quick glance will give you a sense of the range of topics he wrote about.

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  32. Jakash said on February 13, 2015 at 12:58 am

    Wow, that’s terrible, Jolene. I liked his work in the NYT, as well, and saw him once at a Book Fair in Chicago discussing his memoir, “The Night of the Gun”. I didn’t notice him being on TV often, but I happened to see him on “CBS This Morning” just yesterday: Very sad news.

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  33. Sherri said on February 13, 2015 at 2:55 am

    Terrible news about David Carr.

    Mike Daisey has advice for Brian Williams:

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  34. Jolene said on February 13, 2015 at 3:31 am

    Some clips and quotes from Carr.

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  35. Jolene said on February 13, 2015 at 4:10 am

    More Carr links. This set contains, among other things, a link to the transcript of a Fresh Air interview.

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  36. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 13, 2015 at 7:46 am

    The news about David Carr was *not* what I wanted to wake up to. It’s making me think of Jessica Tandy’s opening lines in “Nobody’s Fool.”

    Miss Beryl: Mr. Sullivan.
    [banging on ceiling]
    Miss Beryl: Mr. Sullivan. God just took out Mrs. Gruber’s bird bath!
    Miss Beryl: [to her husband’s picture] He’s getting closer Clive. Last year it was the street light at the end of the block, now it’s Mrs. Gruber’s bird bath. I think God’s zeroing in on me. I have the feeling this is the year he lowers the boom.

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