I was talking to my friend Kaitlin the other day and she mentioned a friend asking her to see 50 Shades Darker, the new 50 Shades of Gray movie.
Now, I know that a lot of people I know are very split on the 50 Shades books/films. First off, since I know a lot of people who are writers or literary scholars, we like to make fun of them. I remember when the books first got really popular, me and my friend Margaret were having a blast just going through and looking at passages and making fun of the quality of prose and the authors apparent unfamiliarity with… well… how sex works. And yes… I agree. So yeah, I get it. A lot of us think the books are really bad. If you fall into this camp, this isn’t really about you.
I also have a lot of friends in the kink community who are frequently upset about the way the franchise portrays BDSM. My friends Russ and Heather and many other people I’ve seen have posted articles about how the actual way bondage is portrayed in the books/films is super unsafe and the relationship between he characters is hella creepy and stalkery and very much not in-line with the extremely heavy focus on consent that the real life kink community has. And yes, I agree here too. E.L. James, the author, has pretty much admitted that she did no real research into how any of this worked. She basically just made it up. And she didn’t do a great job of it (IMO). So yeah, I get it. But if you fall into this camp, this isn’t really about you, either.
No, this is about the people who like it… or really my desire to study the people who like it. Because no matter how you feel about it… this series is hellafuckingpopular.
And I’m ok with them being popular. In fact, I think it’s good that it’s popular. I don’t really care about the literary or artistic quality. I like a big dumb movie sometimes. Hell, I’m the guy who liked Sucker Punch. And I’m ok with a fantasy not being realistic or even being problematic. Star Wars isn’t exactly scientifically accurate. As I frequently tell my students, if you stop to think about romance films like the Notebook for more than 5 seconds you’ll realize that they’re not just sexist, but in fact SUPERFUCKING CREEPY. And I don’t care what anyone says about anatomy… the pool sex scene in Showgirls is hot HOVAdammit!!! Admit it, guys. You would love for Elizabeth Berkley to have floppy, splashy sex with your upper torso. Anatomy be damned!
I don’t think most people go to 50 shades movies because they’re looking for an instructional video on how to properly tie a half-hitch. They’re not interested in actual bondage anymore than most Star Wars fans are interested in actuality of how the real life space program works. What they’re interested in is filling their minds with enough mental pictures oh Jamie Dornan‘s naked ass and chest that they can fantasize about him in the bubblebath later while they drink a glass of wine and lock out their annoying husband and they bratty kids. And they deserve it! These are hard working women! Mothers who work their fingers to the bone for little thanks and they just want a moment of peace to themselves to enjoy a sexual release. And it’s because of you! You’re a horrble burden! She carried you in her belly for nine months and raised and fed you for eighteen years. And now what? You grew up! You never call! When’s the last time you called your mother? Exactly. Now pick up the phone and call her and tell her you love her and that you hope that she having good orgasms in her life! Because that woman is a saint and she deserves it!
Anyway, it’s all about fantasy. I’m cool with that. I’m a sex-positive person. And not every movie or book has to be for me. So as far as I’m concerned if there’s a movie designed specifically to get a bunch of sexually frustrated midwestern housewives off, then dammit! They’ve done a service to the world. That’s right! I’m saying it. I’m pro-housewife porn!
But that got me thinking. How did 50 Shades become acceptable porn? It totally is. And I’m good with people watching porn. But I’m a crazy person. I’m the guy who just told you to go wish your mother a happy orgasm. But how did it become acceptable for a bunch of proper, good Christian women to get together and watch porn in a public theater… with no shame? And then admit to it… to share it with their friends? To talk about it on social media? Porn is supposed to be shameful. It’s supposed to be that thing that no one wants to admit they do. Kaitlin told me that the person who asked her to go is just a casual friend. But that never happens with other porn! You can’t just go up to random people and be like “hey, what are you doing next Friday? Are you interested in going to the XXX theater and catching the a showing of Big Tit Anal Schoolgirls 27 with me and my husband? I hear the tits are bigger than ever this time! It’ll be fun!” Nobody asks a causal friend that? No-one says that to a coworker. It’s not ok conversation with the girls at the post-church Sunday brunch? No, couples watch porn at home. In their bedrooms so they can tolerate fucking each other after a couple decades of marriage. Or, if you’re going to go out, you’re supposed to go late at night, through the darkest entrance, keep your face covered, sit in the back and try to quietly fuck and not call any attention to yourselves and then shamefully sneak out the back exit. Shame! It’s what the porn industry is built on! Or was…
I mean, I’m glad it’s not. In this case. But how did that happen? And do they really know?
Specifically auto-ethnography. I want to do a social experiment. I want to go to see 50 Shades Darker. Like a lot. Like a dozen times. I’m not really interested in watching it. I just want to go in with a date, and sit in the middle to the theater. Watch the first ten minutes or so and then start making out for like ten minutes. And then just totally have sex right there in the middle of the theater. Once we’re finished we clean up, zip up and leave… because the movie has accomplished it’s goal and who cares. Meanwhile I need someone to note the reactions of all the other film patrons. Because really… if the movie is working right… no one should care at all. Hell, if the movie is working right, we shouldn’t even be the only people in the theater having sex.
I mean, there’s also the just as likely chance that we’l be thrown out of the theater… but it’s not like we wanted to see the movie anyway. And there’s a small chance that we’ll be arrested… but like, that’s important data to capture! And real science takes sacrifice!
So now I need research partners… who’s in? You know… like for science!!!!