Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: I can't cleanse my mind of 'Fifty Shades'

 

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The Independent Online

In photgraphs, Erika Leonard James appears dependable and blameless, like a deputy head of a girls' school who quite likes M&S floral dresses. Looks lie. With Fifty Shades of Grey, this erstwhile TV executive has cannily exploited "post-feminist" confusion and sexual restiveness in a period of plenty. I bought the book to see what made it so irresistible to so many.

The narrative is so corny you couldn't caricature it, and the S/M bits are grubby and foul. I was not titillated. I didn't long to be bound and gagged and thrashed for "love". I washed my hands with anti-bacterial soap, but couldn't cleanse my mind of rising rage and desolation.

James has sheathed hard porn in a soft summer wrap, sold fantasies of sexual subjugation to vacuous yummie mummies and middle-class female singletons who are clueless about its implications. Living comfortable lives, they must pursue vicarious excitement by reading about pain, and playing at it in their bedrooms. Sales of bondage equipment have shot up since the book came out.

OK, I hear all you fans of the book yelling at me. I have no business prying into people's motivatons and chastising them for the sexual games they choose to play. Yes, agreed. But the phenomenal spread of this bonk-buster takes it out of that intimate space and should make us think about the social and political landscape, the victories and failures of feminism, and the dissonance between female equality achieved and equality willingly surrendered by females.

What prayer is this manipulative, horrible book answering? What does it say about life for young women in our times? There are, I think, darker answers. When young women become instinctively assertive and free of gender constrictions, their liberty threatens the "natural" order. So they have to be reminded of their place, must re-learn submission.

Will all the mumsy fans of the book want their daughters to learn that? I've thrown my copy on to the pile of other trash in the garden. To be burnt.

The last time I burnt anything in protest was my black lace bra, back in the 1970s. What hopes we had then.

Fifty Shades has shot to the top of the UK bestseller lists ap

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