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Opinion: ‘Fifty Shades’ empowering, liberating to women’s libidos

This is part of a weekly series called in which The Lantern’s Ty Anderson offers his take on the week’s pop culture news.

tytalksCountless Facebook posts and online articles have been written to urge people not to watch “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Allegedly, the film encourages abusive relationships and domestic violence against women, and it depicts an inaccurate image of what BDSM “should” be. For those of you who might not know what BDSM stands for, it stands for “bondage,” something that I can’t remember that starts with “D,” “sadism and masochism.”

I think.

Now, perhaps it’s simply because of the fact that I HATE being told what to do, but all these claims are making me very, very angry. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Every monkey with a keyboard is able to write an opinion online (myself included), but that doesn’t mean every monkey with a keyboard should write an opinion.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” might or might not be an inaccurate depiction of what BDSM “should” be — I wouldn’t know — but I think it’s unfair for anyone to mandate what that definition “should” be in the first place. This is a classic example of people preaching about topics that they don’t really understand. What I understand from my limited knowledge is that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a story of female empowerment. Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but when has female empowerment ever been a traditional subject?

“Fifty Shades” does something that few commercially successful films have done before. It explores and de-stigmatizes the deep and uncharted waters of female sexuality. Feminine desire is a subject that has existed in a sort of hushed limbo for centuries, if not longer. Girls aren’t supposed to talk about their libidos. It’s a rule that has existed longer than anyone alive can remember, but I think society is finally ready to open up that conversation.

And I think that’s why “Fifty Shades” is so popular. It’s why women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan are so successful. Challenging old ways of thinking is exciting, and the breaking of a taboo is an almost euphoric sensation.

It feels good to do what society says is wrong.

Ask any formerly closeted gay man how he felt the first time he admitted to sharing a spiritual connection with Taylor Swift lyrics. His answer will be “euphoric.”

But don’t just take my word for it — here is what Eloise Mumford, who stars in the film, had to say: “I would never have signed on to something that I didn’t think women were being empowered. The reality is that power dynamics of relationships are complicated, and the movie deals with that complexity.”

Now, I have a feeling that the stars of the film might know a little bit more about the plot than all of those angry bloggers and Facebook status-ers urging folks to stay far, far away. I actually agree with what Eloise had to say. The power dynamics of relationships are complicated, and I think it’s great that we’re seeing that on the big screen. Love isn’t always easy and straightforward. “Fifty Shades” isn’t depicting a powerless woman’s love life, but rather, it is depicting a woman’s complicated, messy, exciting love life.

Besides, this film is about a lot more than just sex. I don’t think that the original story would have reached the popularity it did if it was just another smutty example of literary porn. There’s clearly something deeper going on here — something to which people are relating.

If you want to see the film, I urge you do to so. Why? Because you want to. It’ll likely elicit some sort of emotional response within you, and you’ll probably learn a thing or two.

And if you don’t want to see it — don’t. But please, do not discourage others from doing so. It’s not your call to make. Rather, I encourage you to grow up, get over it, and buy a more age-appropriate movie ticket. I personally suggest the new SpongeBob film — I hear it’s a riot.


  1. Spoken like a true relativistic narcissist. “Leave me alone, i like it, nyah!”

  2. Your opinion piece is sloppy, uninformed, and could have been improved with a simple google search: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=BDSM. Also, in regards to your ending pot shot: Expressing an opinion against seeing the movie is not making the “call” that someone can’t see the movie. If you want to ignore people expressing an opinion, by all means, but nobody is telling you you cannot see the movie. DANG.

  3. Protip: never have a man (of any sexual orientation) write a column about women’s libidos and liberation. ever. kthanksbye.

  4. I completely agree with you J ^. I kind of think this article is ignorant. It’s an extremely unhealthy relationship and encourages mental abuse which usually leads to physical abuse. Until you’re a woman and have dealt with abuse in the home, I don’t think you’ll be able to recognize that in reality this is the start to something very dangerous. And yes, the movie can definitely get popular just by being a book a of “porn” because as we all know, Sex sells. That is how it was promoted.

  5. What makes you think it is your call to make any “calls”? (last paragraph)
    You contradict yourself several times in the article. There is little correlation to a logic stream here.
    Please never write opinion again. Please do not ever review a movie again.

  6. tl;dr: cisdude claims to know what is ’empowering’ and ‘liberating’ for women. sit down, sir.

  7. First…. not 100% sure a man would know ANYTHING about female empowerment. Have a seat, please

    Second, the “all gay men must loOoOve tswift” comment is disgustingly homophobic and stereotypical. Does that mean I can say all straight men like you are assholes? Great, because you are.

    Also, nothing is empowering about being a sexual slave to a man. But I’m sure you wouldn’t know since you aren’t a gay Taylor Swift loving boy, right?

  8. “For those of you who might not know what BDSM stands for, it stands for “bondage,” something that I can’t remember that starts with “D,” “sadism and masochism.”
    I think.”

    One paragraph later:

    “This is a classic example of people preaching about topics that they don’t really understand.”

    Is this satire? Do you not see the irony here?

  9. How about you do some research before you write an article next time? If you know nothing about the books or BDSM and are not a woman then how can you have an opinion on any of this? Surprised they let you publish this.

  10. To anybody who says 50 Shades of Grey is borderline abusive and people should be protesting it because it’s not a love story the media is portraying it: I strongly urge you keep your mouths shut until you read a synopsis (at the least) of the other 2 books in the triology. They portray an actual love story and it is empowering to women.

  11. you confess to having limited knowledge about both the book, movie, and the subject of women’s empowerment, so it’s no surprise this article is about as shallow and redundant as could possibly be. 50 shades IS abusive, it depicts both an emotionally and physically abusive relationship, and articles like this are actively harmful to women.

  12. A man should have never wrote this column. You’ve got plenty of columnists.

  13. “50 Shades of Gray” makes me want to scream. When it first came out, I saw an interview with the author, who stated that the series is a plagerization of a popular vampire romance trilogy beloved by teenagers, combined with a Victorian-era SM classic popular in the 60’s. She is making an outrageous amount of money on this, while hardworking authors are beating their brains up trying to get published. I couldn’t believe how much better that “author” looks now, than she did then. She has clearly had some “work done.” Who says money doesn’t buy happiness?

  14. Exceedingly lame.

  15. please resign, you clown

  16. Hey everyone, settle down. I’m a woman and I think this article is completely okay. Guess what, it’s his opinion. He’s simply defending the movie, which, as a woman who doesn’t talk much about her libido, I personally want to go see.

  17. entitled white gay cisgender males who think they can comment on everything from race, to gender, to sexuality are extremely laughable

  18. The only thing BDSM empowers is the dominant. Certainly not the one being dominated. Actually it’s the submissive that empowers the dominant.

    Empower :verb (used with object)
    1. to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means:

    2. to enable or permit:

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