Thursday, February 12, 2015

What's so insidious about 50 Shades of Grey?

I complain about 50 Shades of Grey a lot, as anyone who knows me from Facebook groups can attest.  I explain over and over, ad nauseum, what I find wrong with this series, but I keep having to explain, so I figured I would write an article about it that I could link to whenever the subject comes up.

I have a more appropriate blog for this subject matter, but I want this article to be accessible to everyone, and the other blog is not.  The other blog is for adult audiences only, and it's for a certain segment of the adult population.  It is not for everyone.

In any case...what do I have against this work of fiction?  You didn't hear me complaining about Twilight.  You also haven't heard me complain about other works of fiction that have as their subject matter abusive relationships or irresponsible representations of the BDSM lifestyle.

The truth is this: I would not care what the story was about if it hadn't been turned into a brand used to sell adult novelties and products in a way that deceptively marries this story to the BDSM lifestyle.
It doesn't matter to me that it's poorly written and edited, even though reading it was an assault on my sensibilities as an English major with a writing minor.

It doesn't matter to me that it's about abuse--plenty of stories have abuse in them.  Plenty have rape, murder, torture, and other horrible subjects--and the person or people doing those things is/are not necessarily looked down upon by the author.  That does not matter.

What matters is that 50 Shades is a brand now.  It's not the book series anymore; it's not the movie that's out or the movies to come.  It's magazine article after magazine article, telling people how they can have sex like they do in this series, how they can learn from Christian Grey, how they can bring the play they see in the books into their bedrooms. Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and even Men's Health have published this type of article, as well as a myriad of websites promoting this atrocious series.

Don't get me started on daytime talk shows.

E. L. James did no research for this book, and yet, she shamelessly allows her brand to be associated with a lifestyle whose participants live the opposite way of the abusive character she wrote into her books.

  • A responsible dominant does not set hard and soft limits on kinks with a virgin.  Yes, Anastasia is a virgin in the first book.  I am not sure if she's portrayed this way in the movie, because I have not seen it yet, but she is definitely a virgin when Christian meets her.  A virgin could not sign a contract that sets rules on kinks with hard and soft limits and call it informed consent.  
  • Christian Grey is portrayed as someone whose drug addict mother shaped him into who he is.  That's not generally true of lifestyle dominants.  Abuse is rampant in society, and yes, some people into BDSM have been abused or had hard lives--but no more than those who aren't into kink.  
  • Christian isolates Ana from her friends and family--huge red flag!  This is one of the classic signs of an abusive relationship.  
  • The stalking of Ana is also a huge red flag for abuse, but it's also another misrepresentation of the BDSM lifestyle.  BDSM relationships are built on trust--out of necessity.  The submissive must trust the dominant in order to give consent and relinquish control; the dominant must trust the submissive not to claim domestic violence for marks they both agreed to in the beginning.  Slave contracts are no protection; the submissive could easily say she/he was coerced.  If Christian has so little trust of Ana that he had to stalk her, he had no business trying to be a Dom.  Furthermore, it reeks of insecurity--and the last thing anyone wants in a dominant is insecurity.
There are plenty of articles out there listing the instances of abuse, but the main point remains that if the author hadn't consented to merging her series about abuse with a lifestyle that has a thriving community whose members warn against it, where healthy relationships depend on trust and consent, where partners care about the physical and emotional safety and well-being of each other, I would not be writing this article to warn against it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A review of Pugliano's, who catered our wedding

I wanted to say some good stuff about Pugliano's at 1808 Golden Mile Highway, in Pittsburgh, PA.

We were looking for a place to have our wedding and reception, and Pugliano's was the first place we tried.  After excellent service, excellent food, and delightful presentation, we decided to look no further.

On the day of our wedding, the service was just as great as it was when we at there for dinner the day we scoped it out. They made sure everyone had the drinks they wanted, and the food they provided was hot, fresh, and excellent.  We had their fried chicken, their stuffed shells, their meatballs, potatoes au gratin, chipotle barbecue wings, a vegetable tray, and a fruit bowl.  It was all delicious and looked fantastic.

It was all reasonably, priced, too--about $16,99 a plate, and better the catering I've had at other weddings.

I would recommend Pugliano's to anyone who wants to have an event catered.  I'm not sure what their total capacity is there--I think 180, but you should check with them before you go.

An atheist wedding

I got married!  Here is the script of the wedding, in its entirety.

We have gathered here today to witness the union of Greg and Jeanie. Thanks to technology, we in this room bear witness to this ceremony along with people from all over the world. On six continents, people who have watched Greg and Jeanie grow in their love are now witnessing their pledge to a lifetime of love and commitment to each other and their children.

(Daniel reads the essay on marriage)
Why do people get married? What makes a couple sign a marriage license and legally bind one person to another?

Sure, there are benefits and protections involved. It’s easier to do things in the name of your spouse. It’s easier to get insurance, it protects the assets you’ve built together, it assures that you have a say in medical decisions, and it makes any process involving children easier. It makes your taxes slightly easier to do.

It’s more than that, though. It’s announcing to society that you are committed to building a life together, that you are on the same page, that you have the same goals, and you are going to spend your life working to achieve them. It says to everyone you meet that you’re proud to call your spouse your husband or your wife.

It’s no longer “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. It’s no longer “significant other”. It’s not simply “partner”, “love interest”, or even “fiancĂ©”. You love each other enough to take the next step into the most challenging adventure of human relationships.

So what is marriage? It’s dedication and perseverance; it’s talking and listening; it’s helping and supporting and believing in each other; it’s intimacy and laugher; it’s learning to forgive, learning to appreciate your differences, and doing little things every day to build each other up. . As you begin your married life, it is my hope that your family gathered here, that your family not present today, and that your friends from all over the world will support your commitment and look to your love as an inspiration in their own lives.

Greg and Jeanie have prepared some words they would like to share with each other.

Greg, how can I express how happy you’ve made me?

You make me feel safe. You accept me with all of my weirdness. You and I have similar goals and ideas, and that’s important when we’re staring a life together. We can always be ourselves with each other.

You don’t just say you care about me; you show it, and it’s not with expensive presents or over the top displays, but with all of the little things you do every day.

It’s when you stroke my hair and hold me close when I come to sit down next to you. It’s the times you say “I love you” out of nowhere. It’s you taking care of me when I’m sick or have a headache, doing the dishes without a word when I’m in pain, and when you kiss my nose to make me smile. It’s when you write expressions of love for me out of the blue and make me so happy, it moves me to tears. It’s when you stop what you’re doing to spend time with me, not because I complained, but because that’s what you’d rather do.

It’s always the little things that matter the most.

I promise to love, honor, and cherish you, as long as we live.

Jeanie, I fell in love with you early on, within eight days of talking with you. We talked almost around the clock for all eight of those days, learning a great deal about each other. The more we spoke, the more I realized that I could not see a down side. There were only positives. On day nine, I told you that I love you. I can’t tell you how elated I was to hear you say you love me too.

Words are words, of course, and no one can be sure until those words are tested. Everything I learned about you in words passed each test with flying colors. It did not take long to learn that you are completely genuine.

I never knew I could be so happy with anyone. I thought I knew what love was, but you proved that everything I labeled “love” in the past was a shadow of the real experience.

Love is not just a feeling. Love is a blend of emotions, trust, cooperation, affection, intimacy, and bliss. It is holding hands on car trips, cuddling on the couch during a movie, getting lost in each other’s eyes, raising children together, making long-term goals, building each other up, and growing old together. It’s making each other laugh and supporting each other through both good times and more difficult ones.
I promise to love you, cherish you, adore you, and never take you for granted. You make life better, and I promise always to strive to make life better, too.

Dan: Do you, Greg, take Jeanie to be your lawfully wedded wife? To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, to love, honor, and cherish for the rest of your life?

Greg: I do.

Dan: Do you, Jeanie, take Greg to be your lawfully wedded husband? To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, to love, honor, and cherish for the rest of your life?
Jeanie: I do.

Dan: By the power vested in my by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.