Publicador de contenidos

Back to 15_2_18_ICS_sombras

Ana Marta González, Prof. of Philosophy Moral. department of Philosophy Director of project " Emotional culture and identity" Institute for Culture and Society

A sociological reflection on 50 shades

Wed, 18 Feb 2015 09:31:00 +0000 Published in La Razón

It is generally accepted that the integration of sexuality, emotions and character is one of the hallmarks of the mature personality. However, men and women tend to reach this maturity in different ways, because the differentiation between sexuality and emotionality is stronger in the former than in the latter. This could explain why pornography consumption has traditionally been higher among men than among women. This being the case, it might seem that the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, preferably among women around 40 years of age, represents a change in trend. However, the fact that precisely this, and no other, pornographic product has crossed the thresholds of the marginal and minority public to make its way among the general public is something that needs a sociological explanation. Eva Illouz has essayed one in a book graduate Hard Core Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, Best Sellers and Society, translated as Self-Help Eroticism (Katz 2014), which in many ways constitutes a corollary to an earlier book, Why Love Hurts ( Katz, 2012), where she explored the internal contradictions afflicting relations between the sexes in the framework of late modernity.

Regarding Fifty Shades, Illouz wonders why a product like this, whose reading "made my toenails stand on end," has resonated in such a way with the female public. For it must be considered that the initial diffusion of the book took place spontaneously: it was only later that the industry publishing house and the cinema made their appearance, with the marketing that is proper to them. Only because the origin was relatively spontaneous does it make sense to raise the sociological question: what key does this book, otherwise poorly written, press in order to gain, more than other works of its genre, such a striking attention?

Among the considerations that Illouz explores, there is one that has caught my attention: Fifty Shades works as an inverted Victorian novel; while in the Victorian novel we find an emotional wrapping of a sexual conquest -which never appears explicitly as such-, here we would have exactly the opposite: an explicitly sexual wrapping for an emotional denouement. According to this reading core topic a relationship that would have begun in core topic of pure and naked sexual desire, concretized in sadomasochistic practices empty of any emotional content between the dominator and the dominated, would gradually turn into the emotional conquest of the man by the girl. In this sense, and notwithstanding its hurtful and pernicious immorality, it could be described as a "conservative" story. For this is, in final, what the story implies: that where the preceding women failed, Ana, an "ordinary" woman, would have achieved her incredible victory: that Christian would begin to feel a genuine interest, a genuine admiration for her.

Let's not forget that the author of Fifty Shades is a woman, who writes mainly for women. That this elementary story is wrapped in pornographic garb allows women to appropriate a way of dealing with sexuality that from entrance is foreign to them. Hence, also, the degree scroll Spanish of Illouz's book: "self-help eroticism". After all, the relationship between men and pornography does not ordinarily require much literary mediation. With women it is different: precisely because sexuality and emotionality are presented for them in an indiscernible way, the fracture of both spheres does not take place without a certain violence.

In fact, the "attraction" of the story lies precisely in presenting together, on the plane of literary imagination, qualities that are incompatible in reality, as when we are told stories of men who fly, animals that talk or women who knock down a group of strong men with one blow. In this case, the incredible thing is to present as possible the emotional conquest of the man by these means, without the girl losing her own autonomy and sense of dignity in the meantime. For whether a relationship of this nature leaves the women's own autonomy safe is more than questionable; and whether the naked sexual pleasure derived from sadomasochistic practices compensates for the abysses of humiliation that the women who "freely" consent to them go through is more than doubtful. From this perspective, the success of 50 Shades among the female audience is not only an alarming indication of the issue of women desperate to conquer, at any price, the hearts of men, but it gives us the exact measure of such desperation, as much or more than the cases of gender violence, which we see every day in the media.