By Ellie MacGregor
The novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E.L. James, has sold over one hundred million copies since its publish date in 2011.
On Valentine’s Day weekend, the film adaptation of the book was released, causing endless lines at local theaters and generating more than $85 million in box office ticket sales.
Along with its release, multiple debates have come to light regarding whether the film is a catalyst for women’s empowerment or an offensive film that advocates and perpetuates violence against women.
While the film may have failed to do the novel justice in many regards, Anastasia Steele, the female lead and deemed “submissive,” was exploring her sexual desires with Christian Grey, the dominant, very clearly in both the film and the book.
The contract between the two characters, although never signed, was carefully negotiated and revised based on Anastasia’s consenting opinion.
There was never one point in the film when Anastasia clearly said, “No,” to what Christian Grey was doing, and this includes her using the designated “safe words,” which were agreed upon by both parties before engaging in their first, BDSM (the acronym for bondage, domination, sadism and masochism) sexual act.
What’s more important than the clearly depicted, no-rape scenes is the fact that this film, unlike the majority of commercially popular films, explores and aims to de-stigmatize female sexuality.
In a society that exists under an overarching patriarchal ideology, feminine desire is a topic that has been hushed for many centuries.
It’s an unspoken agreement that women aren’t supposed to talk about their sex drive.
And “Fifty Shades” could be a starting point for removing the chains restricting a woman’s libido.
The female orgasm has, historically, never been the focus of sexual relations between man and woman, let alone in the movie theater.
In traditional, heterosexual relationships, sexual intercourse ends at the point of male ejaculation.
More so in the past than in the present, it is often expected that if the man achieves orgasm during vaginal intercourse, so will the woman; and more so, if she doesn’t, there is something wrong with her.
According to Planned Parenthood statistics, as many as 1 in 3 women have trouble reaching orgasm when having sex, and as many as 80 percent of women have difficulty with orgasm from vaginal intercourse alone.
Now, put the factual information aside and look back at “Fifty Shades.”
The film is essentially dominated (no pun intended) by Anastasia’s orgasms.
Her pleasure is depicted far more explicitly and far more noticeably than Christian Grey’s.
Christian Grey is fixated on giving Anastasia pleasure through sexual acts — sounds pretty ideal to me.
On the other side of the debate lays those opinions of viewers who see the film as advocating for the abuse, coercion, humiliation and degradation of women.
They write in opinion pieces similar to this one that BDSM is a form of violence against women because any consent under physical duress is not truly consent.
But who has the right to claim what provides pleasure and what does not for other individuals?
Who are these writers to claim that Anastasia Steele disliked what was being done to her in these physical, sexual exchanges between her and Christian Grey?
Nobody has the power to deem what gives whom sexual satisfaction, in any case, period.
The sexual exploitation of women is wrong. Please do not misinterpret my views. Violence against women and the psychological or physical abuse of women is unacceptable.
However, in my opinion, this is not what is being portrayed in this film.
The complicated relationship between Christian and Anastasia reveals the complexity of any relationship.
It involves the communication of boundaries and the disagreements of normal, day-to-day life between couples.
Sexually, it involves the consent of both parties, as well as the singular, more “acceptable” scene of love-making.
This film speaks to the normality of many human relationships, including the normality of providing and experiencing sexual pleasure.
The focus on female sexuality in “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a new and revolutionary movement.
It can serve as a catalyst for female empowerment, most obviously in sexual situations.
I hope men and women take this film the same way I did and expand their experiences outside of the movie theater.
It is my hope that women claim complete control over their sexual relationships with others and feel completely comfortable with whatever act they agree to or personally desire to put their bodies through.