Why Dudes Don’t Get FSoG


Before I get started on this I need to write a disclaimer.  Dudes aren’t the only ones that don’t get FSoG and nor does this statement apply to all ‘dudes’ because I am sure there are some males out there who are secretly creaming themselves over these books.  However, JasonWrites offered up a challenge for me to explain my comment on his review of FSoG so here goes.

When I mentioned this post to SuperGeek, on our way to do our duty at his company Xmas function, (OMG, watching Magic Danny just about gave me an embolism), he agreed on the following basis.  Apart from the fact that it is no literary masterpiece (for which I thank goodness, because I don’t think I would be posting my own dodgy efforts if I thought that was a prerequisite for needing to tell a story), he felt that it was too much about the emotional aspects of Christian and Ana’s relationship and as a male that was not something he wanted to read.

When I asked him about the sex scenes he was also a little cold on them.  Not that he didn’t want to read about the kinky stuff or that he didn’t appreciate the end result my reading them (he would have been one of the 34% who encouraged their wives to read it in the ECigaretteDirect.co.uk poll (London & Lloyd 2012))  but that it was all told from inside Ana’s head and he, quite frankly, didn’t want to be there.

Tyler Moss (2012) from the Huffington Post explains it like this:

Watching sex in a movie or on the computer is voyeuristic, and therefore inherently detached. To watch porn stars copulate is about the visceral act itself, minus the thoughts or emotions involved. Once the deed is done, you wash your hands of the material both literally and figuratively. Fifty Shades of Grey, on the other hand, stays with you. It’s much more intrusive. Maybe too intrusive. We’re invited to experience the thoughts and feelings behind the Young Virgin’s every groan and whimper, and I’m not sure I’m cool with that. While in most other literature sex is a fanciful footnote, in Fifty Shades, it’s in these supercharged scenes that the real story unfolds. And that, I realized, is what makes this book more sophisticated than a Playboy centerfold. And why, despite the fact that it’s delightfully dense in debauchery, more men can’t indulge. We cannot endure sitting in this woman’s psyche for almost 400 pages and hearing her connect on a deeply emotional level during these intensely intimate moments. By the end of the book, I found myself skipping over the sex because the scenes were too real for me to handle.

SuperGeek had a similar reaction as JasonWrites when he said he wanted to throw his Nook (Kindle) against the wall.  The reaction though was about more than the writing, it was about being inside that emotional world.  I personally love it inside that emotional world.  Hell, I cried during the massive fight scene at the end of Breaking Dawn 2 yesterday, much to Mini Me’s disgust (oh Mum, not again).  I like a good whimper and a groan, (obviously, no matter how badly written).  Most of all I like to know why people connect – perhaps it is the humanist learning theorist in me and my inherent interest in identity work in educational settings and relationships.  This is easily transferred into the desire to find out things like ‘how did you meet your husband/wife/partner’? at dinner parties.  To this end I will be the first to tell you about the emotional disconnect and reconnect that went on when SuperGeek and I were first dating.  We don’t get invited out much.

To me stories like FSoG do this.  Take me inside that emotional world and allow me to identify with the characters.  BTW I don’t feel like this about all characters but a part of me recognised myself at 22 in Ana.  Probably the whiney “I want more” bits which loosely translate as “why doesn’t he love me”?  Not every woman went through this or liked themselves if they did.  They probably don’t get Ana either.

As for Christian, well he is damaged and needs saving and that appeals on a whole lot of levels.  I have known a few controlling assholes in my time (you know who you are).  I won’t be alone there.  So it is not about his controlling dominant ways.  It is about his journey to realise that he is deserving of love.  Not just Ana’s but his family as well.  The emotional blackmail I can do without.  Holding back, impassivity, mood swings, controlling behaviours.  Not much there for a girl to want (again, you know you are).  But when he lets go and loves, now that is hot.  I don’t know many men who will sit around and have the particular conversation with me, including SuperGeek who is one of the most open and loving people I know.

Next is the food thing.  Victoria Coren (2012) of the Guardian suggests that there is nothing sexier than a man giving permission, if not insisting that his woman eats.  Most men don’t seem to have that complex relationship with food that women have.  Coren elaborates;

But what kind of a hussy says openly that she’d like a stack of pancakes and syrup? As if she cared not a fig for social rules of weight and waistline? The unabashed satisfier of calorie cravings: she is today’s outlier, outsider and outcast.

If a masterful stranger instructs us to eat pancakes, however, we’re not sluts at all. Not our fault! Just following orders! Dear oh dear, another big mouthful? Must I really? That, I posit, is the erotic charge of Fifty Shades Of Grey.

Then there is the sex.  Well, again I would venture to suggest it lacks appeal for most men because of the emotion tied into it.  As Moss says it is not like reading Playboy.  There will be men out there who are intimidated by it.  I suspect there are a few women who are intimidated by it (why can’t I come when he asks me? what is wrong with me?).  As for the ‘I owe you one’, well if I had a dollar for every time…. The kinky stuff is great, not terribly kinky. But I suspect that a lot of women got to the point where it wasn’t the sex act itself but the build up and the aftermath that they were concentrating on.

Kat from BookThingo says the reasons why FSoG and books of this genre work for their target audience is safety in knowing the outcomes.  She says that those of us who love the genre expect to read about “a fairly conservative approach to relationships” (eventual monogamy),  “a fairly conservative approach to romance” (character driven romantic connection), ” a fairly conservative approach to sex” (again, if monogamy isn’t present at the beginning it usually will be at the end and vanilla is still the sexiest thing on offer because the romantic connection is present) and finally “a happy ending” (this is how we knew FSoG would be serialised, Ana and Christian had to end up together).  There is a chance that those who don’t like this formulaic approach to genre are looking for more plot twists and while I think EL James has done this reasonably well (if she hadn’t then I suspect the movie would be off the table) she doesn’t take you to the edge of your seat trying to anticipate a range of possible outcomes.

Dudes might not be getting FSoG out of fear and intimidation as suggested by some commentators.  That of course might require some thinking and emotional processing on the part of said males and that is probably more intimidating than trying to rock your wife’s world more than 3-5 times per week (night for the true FSoG diehard) for extended sessions with resultant multiple orgasms on both sides (show me a man who can perform like that and I will show you a man who is on the verge of having his bits fall off).

I leave the last word on this with Tim Peel (2012) of the Guardian who explains it best:

The spirit of experimentation introduced by the book brings another impossible complication to the lives of men. What was a natural, uncomplicated process suddenly requires kit and planning. And the British male, on the whole, sees planning as a useful tool for weddings, large IT projects and international conflict – but not for sex.

My advice, though, is not to retreat back into the safe world of marital routine entirely. My cautious, usually drunken, conversations with my fellow fathers suggest that for many couples sex has drifted as a priority. The real – and I think tremendously positive – effect of Fifty Shades is to remind everyone what a warm, funny, loving and enjoyable part of married life sex can be. What the mummies really want is not a millionaire with a pain room but for their partners to linger more attentively over intimate moments and a willingness to experiment a bit rather than stick to years-old habits. Generally, I thank EL James for reminding us all to encourage the children to watch a lot more of the Simpsons.

For years men have been portrayed as constantly sexually unsatisfied, barely restraining our roving, rampant needs. We like to perpetuate this mythology, never imagining that our partners would want to test the theory. And now there is the odd phenomenon of millions of women enjoying a book filled with detailed fantasies of acts outside the scope of their husbands’ experience.

So the Fifty Shades husband is asking himself, “How can I compete with that?” He laughs along with her hints and winks but he is afraid – and tired. The woman who shares the pesto-pasta, cups-of-decaf-tea reality of his daily life suddenly wants … more.

Partly the problem is men. We love domination, cross-dressing, gimp masks and acts of non-consensual sodomy – as mainstays of our humour. The pose is that we know about the darker side of life and, as men of the world with insatiable appetites of our own, we naturally make lazy adolescent jokes about it.

Laters,

Sasha xox

Coren, V (2012) Finally, I get the sex in Fifty Shades of Grey http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/29/victoria-coren-fifty-shades-of-grey

Kat (2012) Why readers love Fifty Shades of Grey (and why the literati still don’t get it)  http://bookthingo.com.au/why-readers-love-fifty-shades-of-grey-and-why-the-literati-still-dont-get-it/

London, B & Lloyd, P (2012) Fifty Shades of Intimidation as over HALF of men struggle to keep up with Christian Grey in the bedroom http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2186418/Fifty-Shades-Intimidation-HALF-men-struggle-Christian-Grey-bedroom.html

Moss, T (2012) ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’: Why Women Can Keep It  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tyler-moss/fifty-shades-of-grey-too-_b_1732546.html

Peel, T (2012) Fifty Shades of Fear http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/aug/18/fifty-shades-grey-sex-men-women

8 thoughts on “Why Dudes Don’t Get FSoG

  1. Chris L says:

    Your wrong.

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    • Care to elaborate? Wrong about my own opinions, wrong about the inclusion of quotes of others, wrong about my own partners reaction, wrong about the disclaimer at the top that says this doesn’t apply to all males? Happy to discuss. 🙂

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  2. Chris L says:

    My original comment was simply to short. Sorry about that. There is plenty in FSOG for “dudes”. Two area in particular where I think you are wildly off the mark are food and being inside the “emotional world”. Food first. If the man cooks and he cooks for his woman or his man, and/or his kids he has a very different relationship with food than if he is mainly a consumer. If you cook, as I do, you want to see food appreciated and consumed in quantity. And yes you know that consumption without adjustment eslewhere like the additional exercise Christian insists on will change the bodies of those you are feeding. You want that appreciation and shared experience (that.s where alot of the fun in cooking is) so you encourage those around you to eat. Being in Ana’s head and the emotional world. guys are very visual. EL James writing descriptive style, possibly bcause she was in television as well as a Mom, is very visual. You can see what going on, the emotions are less of a puzzle. It works for ‘dudes”. Its porn with words. And not surprising most of the classic depictions of sex until quite recently were written and mostly wrtten by ‘dudes” for “dudes”. Laters, its midnight here and if I can sleep I have alot of work later today..

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    • Thanks for elaborating Chris. I appreciate the thought behind this. Yes, I can appreciate the relationship with food that you are talking about but there is a disconnect with FSoG here. First of all, Christian doesn’t cook, in fact he is a terrible cook, so he is merely appreciating the efforts of others and shoving it down Ana’s throat (in a loving and sexually caring way, of course). My point, which isn’t actually mine, but Coren’s is that being told to eat by a man – and this is said facetiously – could be perceived as sexy. Women generally spend more time thinking about how to avoid eating because of the weight gain issue. There is a sense of relief that goes with having a man who says, ‘for gods sake woman, just eat the chocolate cake’. Even for those of us who don’t resist food often enough, I bet we think about it and hate the power of it more than most men do. However, in this media dominated body-image obsessed world we live in, I am prepared to be wrong about that one.

      As for the emotional world, as I said, SuperGeek expressed that he hated that aspect and I was merely relating his reaction. He didn’t mind the visuals that were created and as you say James does that well, but then the dreaded E word would come up and it became too much for him. Jason had a similar reaction but then he was struggling with the repetitive prose and poorly constructed narrative elements. My experience of English teachers is that they tend to be a bit like that. There are always a few exceptions to every rule and I am certainly glad that you, my friend, are one of them. 🙂

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  3. thegreysfan01 says:

    I feel the same way Sasha, I really do although you put it in to words my limited Vocabulary would never have heard of. Well written as always and in my view it has merit. You clearly address each of the reasons why the book is more related to by women than it is by men. Just a well written piece of work with great excerpts from justified sources. Well done and thank you for another great read!

    Like

  4. Franne Demetrician says:

    This is such an interesting conversation. My fascination with this story is the combination plate of the fantasy life that such wealth affords, the amazing sex and its effect on my own sex life, and all of the subsequent events that has brought with it. But, the most compelling aspect of this story is the emotional development, the growth, the psycho-spiritual integration of the characters, and the love story. My husband read all of the books and the result in our 22-year marriage was an delightful resurgence of our waning sex-life (TMI??) We’ve re-connected in almost magical ways…not that our marriage and love wasn’t always wonderful, but we found ourselves drawn to each other as if it was all new and fresh, with a liveliness that was more like twentysomethings or thirtysomethings rather than the othersomethings we are chronologically. And it has taken our intimacy to a much deeper level and the creativity in our sexuality to places we hadn’t yet explored. So…men do like it and some even enjoy knowing what’s going on the female psyche. To each his/her own. Thanks for the opportunity to share my perspective.

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