[Content Note: Non-Consensual Fantasies, the usual Rape/Abuse CN for Twilight/FSoG, BDSM/kink]
Probably everyone is aware by now that the trailer for the new 50 Shades of Grey movie is out on the internets. (I recommend both Erika's deconstruction of the book and Cliff's deconstruction of the book. So highly recommended.) The following is a collection of tweet thoughts I made about Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey last night, but in longer format:
Twilight has toxic abusive relationships in it, yes. But I would really beg the world to remember that the success of Twilight could (and I would argue does) indicate that many of our girls and women feel safer with fiction where the things they desire are "forced" on them rather than the girls and women going out to get what they desire for themselves.
Is that a problem? Yes.
Is it a problem to be solved by berating lady-readers and lady-writers? No.
If our society has made girls and women feel unsafe--and I want to stress that word, unsafe--for WANTING and GETTING the things they desire through their own non-forced-upon-them-means, then the problem is with our society and not with the lady-readers and lady-writers trying to navigate that unsafety.
And I would also like to point out that I could easily name a hundred male-authored scifi/fantasy books (a) that have worse relationship dynamics, (b) that do not end with a girl/woman getting what she wants (i.e., Winning At Patriarchy), and (c) which come under a fraction*** of the scrutiny and criticism that we give to works by women, for women, about women protagonists. And that avalanche of criticism, as well as what it is directed against and what it isn't directed against, doesn't occur in a vacuum.
So, yes, Twilight has bad things in it and no one is obliged to like it. But let us remember that it's not uniquely bad (looking at almost all the male-authored scifi/fantasy on my bookshelf, with a few key exceptions--and the fact that many of you reading along KNOW which scifi/fantasy male authors are feminist should kinda drive that point home, I think, because it's a short list and well-known precisely because they are wonderful rare unicorns). And let us also not fall into the trap of shaming women for liking Twilight because that just compounds the underlying issue that women aren't allowed to like the things they like.
What I will say about 50 Shades of Gray in specific is this: My feminism does not dictate how I like to fuck. My patriarchal upbringing did try to dictate that. I will not shame women for liking kink. I will not shame women for liking kink in the name of "protecting" them or offering them "better" kink they should read instead. I will not infantalize women. I will trust that they can tell the difference between real life rape/abuse versus fantasy rape/abuse. I will not pretend that the rape and abuse in 50 Shades of Grey is different or unique or worse than the rape and abuse I read in hundreds of male-authored books.
I will remember that rape victims can have rape fantasies. That purity culture can make noncon fantasies the only "valid" source of relief and pleasure for some women. That my feminism punches up at the purity culture and patriarchy that dictates how women are allowed to fuck rather than punching down at the many, many women who have read and enjoyed a goddamn novel for fuck's sake. I will remember that every time I sneer about 50 Shades and its readers, there are women in the room who hear me and hear loud-and-clear that their desires (in bed, in reading, in wherever) are mock-worthy and shameful and wrong and bad.
By all means, do not come away from this thinking you have to like Twilight or 50 Shades. Or thinking that you can't criticize these books. I've spent 5 years criticizing Twilight, which would seem to indicate that I think criticism of these books is both necessary and valid. But I seriously beg that criticism of these books be done in a thoughtful manner that doesn't infantilize women* or shame them** for liking these books.
So, yeah. All I'm gonna say about 50 Shades is that it's personally not my thing, but I have zero problem with women writing or reading or enjoying noncon fantasies, and I would say to people who do have a problem with that: maybe try getting rid of purity culture and sex-shaming of women first and see if that doesn't cause the popularity of noncon fiction to dip a little. I think that's a worthy experiment to try first, if only because then we'll be in a world without purity culture. (Yay!)
* Sexuality is complicated. If you wanna talk about books that fucked up my sexuality as a kid, L'Engle and Lewis fucked me way worse than Twilight or 50 Shades ever could have. If you're shocked by the knowledge that I would rec Twilight over L'Engle to a Hypothetical Impressionable Teenager, well. I will just point out that Bella gets sex and doesn't have to give up Heaven or Unicorns for it. (Yeah, that's gonna be a flamewar in the comments, I predict.)
** I am almost-but-not-quite certain that ebook sales for 50 Shades far outpaced paper sales. I just want to stop and think about what it means that a book about women only getting what they want by having it forced on them... was successful in part because women could get the book they wanted without the people around them knowing at-a-glance that they had gotten a thing they wanted. Wow, it's almost like the point is being proved right there.
*** (Yes, these footnotes are out of order.) I can almost guarantee that a FSoG movie about kink for adult women will be subjected to 1000% more hand-wringing than fucking Ender's Game which was, I remind you, a book about genocide and thinly-veiled sexual assault in showers. For children. Written by a guy who actively uses his platform to lob hatred at non-[straight cis white men]. Also, you need to read Will's posts on Ender's Game because they are everything.