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Hype around 'Fifty Shades of Grey' all about the fantasy

Since the release of the trailer last year, the Internet has been abuzz, anxiously awaiting the Fifty Shades of Grey movie which opens in th...

Since the release of the trailer last year, the Internet has been abuzz, anxiously awaiting the Fifty Shades of Grey movie which opens in theatres today. However, as many of us prepare to watch fictional couple Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey go to town on each other in full technicolour glory, there’s a whole slew of us who are still trying to process how Fifty Shades of Grey ever became popular in the first place and what this says about modern sexuality.
Hype around 'Fifty Shades of Grey' all about the fantasy
Considering I only made it to the third page of the book before wanting to unceremoniously toss it off my balcony in frustration, to get some answers I decided to turn to Cynthia Loyst, a sex and relationship expert and co-host of CTV’s The Social. A self-described ardent feminist, at first glance, Loyst seems to be the opposite of a passionate supporter for the Fifty Shades of Grey novels. However, having grudgingly read the book, Loyst has undergone a personal journey from “hater” to full-on “reveler” in the Fifty Shades phenomenon.

With it’s schmaltzy writing chock full of “inner goddess” references and far-fetched plot (Drama! Arson! Helicopter crashes! Orgasms!), it’s easy to write off the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy as simply a BDSM-themed re-boot of a Harlequin romance. However, despite these obvious critiques, when it comes to the trilogy and the subsequent movie, Loyst argues that the fact women are engaging in this kind of content shows how far we’ve come. “Women have become unabashed about sex. Not only that, they’re prioritizing their solo sex life” - both of which are important components of a healthy approach to sexuality, says Loyst.

When asked why she feels the book is relevant to women right here and now, Loyst says, “Women are increasingly CEOs of corporations and certainly CEOs of their homes. It’s not surprising that they’d be drawn to a book that’s an easy to digest fantasy about loss of control.”

However since it’s rise to popularity, critics have chastised Fifty Shades of Grey for providing an incomplete, often misleading representation of BDSM culture. While Loyst acknowledges that the book is likely many readers' first exposure to BDSM, she says it shouldn’t be seen as the be-all-end-all authority on the subject. At the very least, Loyst says she hopes the series will “inspire women to try the accoutrements featured in the book” on their own terms.

Bondage aside - Fifty Shades of Grey has also come under fire because of the relationship dynamics embodied in the book, which are anything but healthy. Bedroom antics aside, the character of Christian Grey is controlling, obsessive and codependent - which many would argue are classic signs of an abusive partner.

However, when it comes to the relationship dynamics in Fifty Shades of Grey, Loyst argues that critics aren’t giving women enough credit. “I don’t think women are stupid. They know this is fantasy,” says Loyst. “In the world of private fantasy, political correctness and control are often thrown out the window,” she explains. In other words, our fantasies shouldn’t be subjected to censorship. Loyst is also careful to remind us that just because someone enjoys fantasizing about these things, “in no way assume that this is what she wants in her own life.”
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