50 Shades Darker: the Banality of Fetishism
by Guy Walker
by Guy Walker
The sun finally rose enough to push through the beige lace curtains, the first rays of light shining into the visible effluvium of the bedroom, shining on the huge heaving butt cheek of a fat woman sleeping. Her breasts weighing down the bed, her blue veins beating like knotted spurts through a garden hose. A fan in the corner oscillating over and over, blowing the long draping fern, then moving towards the sleeping woman, blowing her mass of starless sordid hair like she were resting under a coastal breeze. A kitten is sitting by its empty bowl, as it had sat there for most of the night, just waiting patiently for the woman to stir, then wake, then feed him. But she didn’t stir—she just groaned like a dying antelope, scaring away the many little robins outside.
Many hours pass. The room is now full of steaming light, and the woman rolls over onto her back, naked, a million individual beads of sweat pushing from their pores. She opens her eyes finally, her eyelids encrusted with sticky yellow globs, and she stares up at a huge and absurd papier-mâché Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling—completely lifeless, the fan not even making it stir, like it were some recoiled memory of life, an illusory modish object just hanging there in the middle of the room. The woman shoves that whole body of hers onto her feet, picks up a pair of soiled panties, and slips her legs into them one by one—they are, naturally, baggy around the bottom of the ass, seeming to always flutter loosely in that warm gap between the buttcheeks. Then her breasts—she packs them into a bra, cinching it tight around the front. She stands up and walks towards her desk, making the antique floorboards creak. She doesn’t eat, doesn’t wash her face, doesn’t piss, and doesn’t feed the little kitten. She just sits into her tufted leather chair, opens her laptop, and begins writing instantly, her fingers burning furiously, finishing page after page like a flip book. Outside, the wet temporal countryside buzzes with excitement, the satyric affairs of bugs more rupturous than all other predatory fauna; but the woman never once looks out the window. Words and love and the scenic delirium of fantasy devour her. Her heart beats with more nerve and adventure than she has felt from all the real wanton intrigue she’s had in the bedroom. She writes her next sentence: Holy crap! He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar, and tray flannel pants that hang from his hips. She feels the illustrious paean flood over her. It’s all too much.
She is Erika James, EL James, and she is halfway through her life epic, 50 Shades of Grey. No one knows it yet, but Erika will excite and satisfy tens of millions of desirous frenzied women seeking something far beyond their domestic passivities. In other words, Erika is going to sell books.
In its primitive stage, it started as a Twilight fan fiction series, originally titled Master of the Universe. Her pen name was, fittingly, Snowqueen Icedragon. But the story was always the same: Ana, an average-looking woman gets fucked properly by a billionaire, Christian Grey. He is young, handsome, a stalwart type who satisfies himself by tying up women, fucking them, and spanking them until their buttcheeks pulse cherry red. When performed on Ana, she at first admonishes these advances, but when he pulls off his belt and begins whipping her, she hesitates and pulls away from him. Classic boy-meets-girl-boy-whips-girl love story. But in the midst of her libidinous appetite for abuse, we are graced with Erika’s natural talent for words, something we as readers are forever in debt: I pull him deeper into my mouth so I can feel him at the back of my throat and then to the front again. My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle. I suck harder and harder … Hmm … My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves. As a fellow writer, I am completely aroused. My fully erect penis throbs for the next page. I read on, almost as fast as when Erika wrote the thing.
50 Shades of Grey has sold over 100 million copies, in 52 languages. At its peak, it was being sold every second somewhere in the world. They were mostly to women of course. But the sorts of women who buy and read this type of shit are an especially malnourished breed—none of them have ever been in love, and certainly none of them have ever even had great sex, but they do all fantasize about being spanked over and over, their orgasms bellowing across town like a Call to Prayer. After the first of the 50 Shades trilogy premiered in theaters on Valentines of 2015, stories began to arise of soiled cucumbers and sex toys being found in the back rows. This is clearly more than a distant fantasy, but rather a very real fetish. It seems more like a sex-deprived epidemic—women numbering the size of a large nation are paralyzed by their domestic sexual inhibitions, in which the only conceivable outlet is a terribly written novel and its equally terrible film adaptation.
With all our customized dating apps and easily accessible drugs, my generation is having less sex than men and women were 60 years ago. Our grandparents, with their prudish raisined lips and crooked genitals, fucked more than us. And the 50 Shades phenomenon is testament to that. Yes, the genders have their preferences—men are more brutish, humping and snorting like a warthog until they ejaculate all over her glossy buttocks and immediately roll over asleep. Women, it seems, read books. They join book clubs, and discuss over tea and biscuits the allure of being whipped with a belt—it’s akin to men watching hours of hazy porn as their retinas burn red, their penises sweaty and tired, still hanging flaccidly in their clammy grip. We humans are repressed animals, with too much religion, porn, and anti-depressants to manifest our fantasies. Rather than having great sex with a great partner, the women who spend $15 on a book like this—or $15 on the movie—prefer to shuffle around in sweatpants, their unruffled panties filling with the stink of resentment.
50 Shades Darker, the film sequel to the original, opened Valentines, which was perfect timing if you and your date like watching sadomasochism but not actually taking part in it. You can voyeuristically watch a girl being tied up and beaten, and eat more popcorn while holding your girl’s hand. It’s something French philosopher Gilles Deleuze argued didn’t exist as a real term. Sadomasochism is of course the combination of one’s desire to be bear pain through sexual acts, and another’s desire to inflict the pain. But in Deleuze’s essay Coldness and Cruelty, he confers that the sadist attempts to destroy the ego in order to unify the id and the super-ego, while masochism alone is the desire that intensifies because of a delay of sexual gratification; its sexual frustration is ‘rewarded’ as ‘unwavering coldness.’ This is The Contract, the process of controlling another, and turning them into a cold and callous prey. In other words, because a man is sexually insecure or unsatisfied, he will be more prone to tying up girls and whipping them in order to feel closer to an illusory alpha dominance.
We all have our perversions, and there is nothing better than carrying them out with a willing partner or partners—and if ball gags and hot wax are involved, all the better—but this 100-million-person fetishism for abuse is a strangely gruesome one. It’s not who is conducting the abuse that’s important, but rather the abuse itself—because Christian Grey happens to be handsome in this case, his abuse is desirable. If he were fat and pig-snouted, the same actions would be condemned as violent and rapish. If the novel itself were written by a man, it would of course be viewed as misogynistic, as hostile against women, and possibly protested against with pussy hats and vitriolic chants. It’s the fetish itself—the sadomasochism—that every sex-driven serial killer has in common with Christian Grey—they all need to assert their dominance over their chosen inferiors. Gary Ridgeway—the Green River Killer—for example, had an insatiable sexual appetite; he would lure women (mostly prostitutes) with a picture of his son. After raping them, he strangled and killed them (totaling seventy-one in all) and then dumped their bodies in the river. Or David Berkowitz—Son of Sam—the New York serial killer who in the late seventies shot and killed several couples. Whether they were kissing in their car or having a picnic in the park, Berkowitz sought to end the romantic affection of others.
The quintessential modern-day failed masochist is Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who couldn’t get laid so he killed six people—mostly young women—near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in May of 2014. Rodger was Christian Grey’s hallmark predecessor: wealthy, the son of a movie director, good looking, and sexually frustrated. Before carrying out his killing spree, he posted a 141-page autobiographical manifesto titled My Twisted World on the internet, a scrambled barely literate diatribe of his young adult trauma of still being a virgin. He also posted videos, the last one of which he justifies his cause: I’m 22-years-old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime, because . . . I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.
Rodger was as much of a gentleman as Christian Grey—the only problem was that Rodger didn’t have anybody to turn cold and callous, so he just killed them instead. His misogynistic narcissism is tragic and predictable, comparable to the schoolboy reverie of Donald Trump, the title of his manifesto in ironic similarity to Mein Kampf. He wrote in his journal that he would wait outside a Dominos Pizza for hours on end waiting for a girl to walk by and smile at him so they could start talking and eventually fuck in a glorious fashion. Clearly, Dominos is mostly delivery.
Elliot Rodger was a product of American Pie derangement—the mania of some tepid conquest overpowering him. If he ever did lose his virginity, he would have been utterly disappointed, the full-steamed climax immediately evaporating into the room. Christian Grey was tirelessly charging against this same vacuous despair. He was one lonely fantasy of one lonely woman. Erika James had to keep writing about him because he kept disappearing into the same evaporation of ecstasy—without her words he would be a cloud of smoke, a fading symptom of sexual dissatisfaction, opening up space on book shelves for better writing.
Across the road from where Erika is writing her epic, there is a cherry blossom where a nest is shaking and a mother bird is tending to her chicks. Beyond that there is a garden, full of lilacs and grasses hanging heavy with dew. And beyond that there is another tall house. Inside, a bushy porcine man in a stained wife-beater is sitting back in his couch—the foam cushions bulging out the torn ends—his hand wrapped around his sweaty penis, tugging on it like a madman as another man on the television gets whipped again, naked, screaming for more. The porcine man is so close to climax, his face contorts and then freezes in place. Everything is silent for a moment—the man, the porno on the television, the grasses and birds outside, they are all frozen in place. Erika too pauses for the first time in hours, thinking of her next word. She looks out the window with a look of devoted contemplation. Suddenly, a group of pheasants erupt from the tall grasses; the porcine man leans forward in the dim opaque room, ejaculating all over his coffee table; Erika smiles, and then writes, Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese?