TW: Sex, abuse. Contains some spoilers of Fifty Shades and 365 Dni
Everyone has heard of Fifty Shades of Grey. If not you must’ve lived under a rock because when the books were released, the female population went crazy. Of course, the movies that followed were going to be even more thrilling. The world finally got to see these characters in the flesh.
But I never bought into the hype. Firstly, I read snippets of the book online. I must say, it’s pretty laughable to consider half of the wording erotic. It was like reading fanfiction but not as good. I couldn’t bring myself to sit through three 2 hour movies of badly written and acted script.
A few years after the last Fifty Shades movie was released an even MORE sexy movie was released via Netflix.
365 Dni (translated to 365 Days) is a story about a powerful Mafia boss who kidnaps a woman. He had seen her five years prior, just before his father was assassinated. She (Laura) is having trouble with her relationship. Mr Boss man (Massimo) shows her that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. He explains that he wants Laura to stay with him for a year. If after a year she isn’t in love with him, she can leave. Nice, huh?
Rich, powerful, sexy and Italian, he seems quite a catch. Well, unless you want to include the fact that HE’S A KIDNAPPER AND A MURDERER. Minor details of course.
Of course, they eventually have sex. And my word. It is graphic. Cameras are well placed, so you don’t see anything but you really don’t need to.
“FIFTY SHADES OF F***ED UP*
365 Days was an awful movie. There was no real plot, bad writing and terrible acting… but it had a lot of chemistry and sex appeal. I guess that’s what we all came to see though, right? With that, I thought, “Hey, let’s give Fifty Shades a try.” Sometimes you need to drink some wine and watch trash. So, that is exactly what we did.
I won’t deny that I didn’t find the Fifty Shades films too bad. They’re mediocre at best but didn’t make me laugh as much as the obscenity as the books or 365 Days.
What the two movies did have in common was the need for the women to be dominated by their male lead, who both happened to be rich and have the abs of a Greek god.
And it got me wondering. If the behaviour of these characters belonged to balding, pale, poor ass guys, would women still feel the desire to be dominated and controlled by them? Probably not.
A DESIRE TO BE CONTROLLED?
The shocking thing for me is the books are written by women. Women who seem to think it is perfectly okay to release books and movies that depict the female sex as needing a powerful (rich) male in their life.
Despite the female characters are often teasing and trying to manipulate the men in their lives, they often abide by the rules eventually. They accept the punishments as a consequence of having minds of their own. Laura, for example, is constantly trying to push Massimo. She is continuously sexually teasing him but not giving him permission for sexual contact. This, in turn, causes him to threaten the fact that he’s not used to getting his own way.
Christian uses his “playroom” as a place for punishment, getting off on the fact he’s causing Ana pain. Yes, she leaves him when he pushes the boundaries too far which she asked him to do. Eventually, he comes back promising to change. However, he still uses sex as a punishment. This may be cool in consented role play and BDSM but he does it for all aspects of their life. These hunks are KINDLY offering so much in exchange for cooperation and obedience. Why shouldn’t these women give them what they want?
LOVE OR ABUSE?
It took far too long in my opinion for Ana Steele to actually start standing up to Christian Grey. At least she was able to stand her ground to keep her job… But he still owns the company she works for. He always has a part in her life, no matter what she does. And he claims it’s because he loves and wants to protects her.
And Laura was just too easily swayed by a pretty face. Her lover totally had a Stockholm Syndrome situ going on. But it’s okay because he has a yacht and he shot someone for her. She argued, hit him, attempted running away and ultimately had a man killed for her behaviour. Massimo infantilises her and orders her around. Although he constantly claims that he won’t touch her unless she says yes, he continually caresses and manhandles Laura without her consent. And she eventually gives into him. Nonetheless, these interactions cannot be deemed consensual as she is being held captive.
SEX IN THE MOVIES
Sex in film is a topic that is a bigger topic than I am able to discuss. You see how men and women depict all different types of sex and some of it seems pretty normal. Whereas some seems far fetched. But what Hollywood has taught me as a whole is that it never seems realistic.
I haven’t watched enough erotic movies to be a pro on how women are depicted within them or what relationships are problematic. But I do know that the film industry likes to follow a pattern. When the lighting and the music are right you can make a sex scene pleasant for both parties or just the one.
Films like to depict that female orgasms happen ridiculously fast and are guaranteed. Women are always yelling and moaning crazy loud and couples orgasm at the same time. The guy seems to be able to last for hours with no awkward adjustments of positions. Plus she is ready to go within seconds and never “goes dry” throughout the sexual marathons.
Fifty Shades of Grey missed the mark with using the BDSM storyline, causing an uproar within the BDSM community. That is often the issue with erotic movies. They associate steamy sex pain or dominance but without any of this context. Although the female characters say yes, it can often be due to being too shy to speak their mind or because they’re afraid.
ARE WE BEING BRAINWASHED?
I don’t claim to be an expert on feminism, movies, or relationships. I only mentioned four films (three from the FS trilogy). Films like Blue is the Warmest Colour which includes very explicit lesbian sex scenes have their issues too. The film was praised and applauded by many. However, the creating of the film itself wasn’t smooth sailing. It is well known that it was degrading for the two starring actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times stated that the sex scenes weren’t artistic but they’re purely for the male gaze. She wrote that “the movie feels far more about Mr Kechiche’s desires than anything else.”
There is a huge audience for erotic media. Over 100 million people bought the Fifty Shades books. And that awful 365 Dni film is currently number one on Netflix UK (as of June 2020).
There’s a market for these types of films and books. But films would always do better due to the physical aspect of watching the acts being performed by beautiful people. Books seem less real but watching these scenes play out can give the impression that the behaviours on screen are to be accepted.
If it were you, would you want that kind of relationship? Where you can have everything you want but your free will? How long will the excitement last? Does it help to have a powerful and sexy, well-dressed man who wants you above anything else? Perhaps. But how far do we take fantasy? Do we accept it as the norm in every relationship? At what point does it go from sexy and protective to plain abuse?
Hedy Phillips mentions in Popsugar, “The more TV shows and movies run with abusive relationships, the more it normalizes them, and the more people think it’s OK not just to abuse others but to stay in abusive relationships.”
ARE THEY WORTH THE HYPE?
I think it’s okay to enjoy this kind of thing as long as you are 100% aware that the behaviour of all parties is not healthy or normal by any means. Hot sex scenes always make movies appealing to their audiences but I have always been of the opinion that you have to include them to make a crap film half good.
Overall, I do want to see more erotic romance not just because they’re sexy (don’t deny that you like it too!) but because I want a film that depicts the characters as equal. Please please please let me know if there are any you would recommend.