Fifty shades of fake: A real-life submissive hits back at the ‘stereotypical’ novel and opens up about life as sex slave
17:19 GMT, 3 August 2012
E. L. James's erotic Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has become a record breaking best-seller since its release.
The steamy books, which have been dubbed 'mummy porn', detail the sadomasochistic affair between wealthy entrepreneur Christian Grey and nave literature student Anastasia Steele and has its many readers, including Victoria Beckham, hooked on their sexy exploits.
But while millions of women have been seduced by the series, author Sophie Morgan says she's been left unimpressed…
Misconceptions: Author Sophie Morgan says the novel is full of misconceptions about female 'submissives' and bondage
I've always loved erotic fiction that I
could relate to, from my very first Black Lace novel (New Woman magazine
gave one away as a free gift during my formative years, and it rocked
my world) through to the short stories, novellas and books that
currently fill my Kindle.
But while Fifty Shades of Grey has encouraged thousands of women to spice up their love lives and talk honestly about their fantasies and things they want to try – which can only be a positive thing – the book has done little to remove the stereotype that submissives are simpletons, doormats or throwbacks to a pre-feminist age, and as someone who self-defines as ‘submissive’ that makes me grumpy.
Here are ten reasons why Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t true to life…
1. Being into BDSM doesn’t mean you’re somehow broken
No-one looks for profound reasons for someone who finds high heels sexually alluring to be wired that way. Or someone who likes the efficient secretary look, redheads or corsets, or any other kink you care to name. Just because power play in some form or another floats your boat doesn’t mean you are the victim of abuse, mentally ill or in any other way unhinged.
2. Being submissive doesn’t mean suppressing your personality
Ana spends a great huge part of the books worrying (courtesy of her quite bitchy 'inner goddess') whether she can either be 'obedient' in the way Christian wants.
Worldwide phenomenon: E. L. James's erotic Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has been enjoying record breaking sales
But you don’t have to be a Stepford submissive – you can quite happily show your feelings and thoughts and react like yourself, even within the sexual context. No eye rolling or lip biting is necessary either (although, ok, maybe I eye roll a bit – my inner goddess if I have one has a sarcastic streak and a strong sense of the ludicrous).
3. Nor does it mean 'lying back and thinking of England/America/Penthouse apartments'
Ana doesn't have any interest in sex at all before she meets Christian, and a lot of her experiences with him involve her enduring whatever kinky shenanigans he wants to get up to, rather than actively enjoying what they're doing together. Putting aside the whole ‘why would you indulge in sex you don’t enjoy to land a guy, even if he DOES look like Daniel Craig meets Alexander Skarsgard’ question, being submissive doesn’t mean either suppressing your desires, or quietly not mentioning them. As with all sex, the emphasis on D/s sex is (and should be) about everyone involved having fun. Being submissive isn't about being some kind of living sex doll who'll put up with anything that your partner wants to do. It's about enjoying the power play together – in ways you both find hot, whether that's being tied up or spanked or something else altogether.
4. Not all ‘punishments’ are equal
Bestselling: The books are written by former TV executive E. L. James
Pain and ‘punishment’ is a major part of the dominant / submissive dynamic. However, unless you’re uber hardcore (and most people aren’t) they aren’t the way real life disagreements and arguments are sorted. Christian Grey marking Anastasia’s breasts because she dares to bare while sunbathing on holiday is not an act of sexual punishment, it’s the act of a horrible and jealous husband and no number of first edition books, gadgetry or helicopter flights to swanky restaurants can or should make up for it.
5. Micromanaging isn’t sexy
As a man who yearns for complete control, Christian Grey has an opinion on everything going on in Ana’s life – from her friends, to what she wears, what she eats, even when she heads off to her GP. Suffice to say most dominants I’ve ever met are less hands on. This isn’t just because some of my exes struggle to choose their own socks some mornings, but also because, frankly, the allure of deciding everything in someone’s life can safely be filed under 'hot in theory, but just a bit dull after a while in practice'. Also, I’d imagine, knackering.
6. Paperwork isn't sexy either
I'll be honest, I'm suspicious that the epic contract reproduced in full in the middle of the first book which Ana is asked to sign, laying out all her limits and random additional dictats including not snacking between meals (a hard limit for me, right there) is shameless filler on the part of E.L. James. Let's face it, it's not in any way hot, if anything it's the erotic equivalent of Big Bang Theory character Sheldon Cooper's Roommate Agreement. It's also not something I've ever been faced with when discussing starting out with a new dominant – which is just as well as I'm not renowned for reading life's small print. Discussing your expectations and limits before you do anything is an important part of the whole experience, but it needn't be in triplicate. Ever.
7. Orgasms: It’s not like retuning a radio…
Ana orgasms for the first time (ever – SHE clearly doesn’t read women’s magazines) as Christian tweaks her nipples back and forth. That’s all. It’s probably just as well more blokes don’t read the Fifty Shades trilogy, lest we end up with a generation of men who think the road to sexual ecstasy is nipple twiddling like a cat burglar trying to crack a safe.
8. There's no need to limber up
Christian asks Ana to start an exercise regime, presumably because it's the only way even the lithest of twenty-somethings will be able to keep up with being concertinaed into exotic positions, swung from the chandeliers and generally able to keep up with him and his energetic sexual appetite. Leaving aside the fact that any boyfriend, partner or husband who makes a suggestion like that
Sophie Morgan's novel The Diary of a Submissive has been dubbed 'a real-life Fifty Shades of Grey'
relating to their other half's body deserves a swift kick in the shins, D/s is something which anyone can indulge in should they wish to. You don't have to be stick thin, young, or even able bodied – there's enough ways you can enjoy a power dynamic that don't involve the need to wear lycra. Unless of course that's your thing and you want to, in which case rather you than me.
9. No room to swing a cat-o-nine-tails
BDSM doesn’t have to be accoutrement-heavy. Toys and the like can be fun, but most people I know who indulge in such things don’t have that much kit to do so, and lots of them also manage it in shared houses or small flats with nearby neighbours. Of course the dominants don’t play semi-naked piano in their penthouse apartment after the deed has been done, so maybe I’m being churlish.
10. BDSM romances aren't like Wuthering Heights
If you read the full Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy Ana and Christian's relationship is – frankly – a bit bonkers at times. 'Emotional rollercoaster' doesn't begin to cover it. What with their will they/won't they relationship, bouts of jealousy, po-faced speeches, grand passion and then assorted lunatic exes, helicopter rides and stalking, their life together comes across as Heathcliff-and-Cathy-meet-James Bond. It sounds exhausting, even before the epic amounts of sex. Thankfully, real life is – as you'd hope – considerably more sedate and, well, fun. Dominants needn't be distant and broody all the time (or indeed ever), and indulging in this kind of power play can be part of (not even completely central to) a normal, happy, supportive, loving relationship. Even one where for most of the time you are equal to each other, and (shock horror) have a laugh together like any other couple in love. Sex IS supposed to be fun after all…
* Sophie Morgan is a journalist and author. Her book The Diary of a Submissive is published by Penguin and out now on Kindle / iTunes. It’s available in paperback from 30th August. Follow her on Twitter at @mssophiemorgan.
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