I shouldn’t really be surprised.
There is a line of “50 Shades of Grey” themed sex toys. I found this article because Gail Dines linked to it to talk about how many different industries are all “in bed with” the porn industry. By the time the next 50 Shades film comes out, there will be a whole line of products to go with it, as well as pop songs released from the soundtrack. Fifty shades will be everywhere you look. The film is sold to us as edgy and sexy, but it’s a story of a man stalking, abusing, and manipulating a naive woman.
When several industries at once are all advertising a product, it’s hard to escape from seeing it. When I’m streaming pop music online, one of the songs that plays is “Love Me Like You Do” from the 50 Shades soundtrack. When I go around town before the film is released I see large ads for it everywhere. Even though I haven’t read the book or seen the first film, I know all about it.
We’re told that the product being sold in this case is a sexy love story that women are into—that’s how they brand it. But the character Ana is ridiculously naive, she is in college and has never had an orgasm before—as if! She is presented as downright childlike. And Christian is an abuser who controls her. The same dynamic is at play here that is presented in porn. Men are dominant and seek women who are powerless, youthful and naive. Men groom the childlike women to do exactly what they want. This is really the foundation of patriarchy—the unequal relationship between older, dominant men and younger, submissive women—and we are supposed to find this inequality sexy.
This film will serve as grooming material for the next generation of girls. They are told this is a sexy, edgy film for women, and they will go see it and learn to sexualize their own submission. I’m not trying to say that this film alone with groom them. The entire culture brings us the same message over and over. It’s this film along with everything else—particularly internet porn, but also a lot of other media.
I looked at the Fifty Shades line of products out of curiosity. It is a full line of sex toys, many of them standard items like condoms and lube, and of course BDSM items such as rope and restraints. They have named the items in specific ways to market them. Some of the product names are “Totally His Soft Handcuffs” and “Ultimate Control Handcuff Restraint Set” and “Promise to Obey Arm Restraints.” So the sexiness of submitting to an abuser is written right into the product names.
We live under capitalist rule. The capitalists create our culture through the media and the branding of the products they sell. You’ll notice that they aren’t trying to sell equal, consensual relationships—they’re just trying to sell abusive sexuality. They are saturating our culture with it so that all of us will sexualize abuse.
By the way, you can even buy Christian Grey’s tie. You know you live in a capitalist patriarchy when they are selling us a cheap version of a tie worn by an abuser in a bad film as if it’s a thing you’d want to use to turn you on during sex. I’m sure they outsourced the actual manufacture of the tie to a poor country to be sewn by underpaid garment workers—companies in North America don’t actually make anything, they just create brands. I can’t imagine anyone getting turned on by having their partner wear a cheap tie made in an overseas garment factory and branded by a bunch of assholes who think that male violence against women is sexy. This situation just makes me want to projectile vomit.
I’ve said that many of the items in this line of products are standard sex toys. What do you want to bet that these items will cost more just because they’re branded as 50 Shades of Grey gear? I mean, one of the items they’re selling is tape to tie people up with. I bet the 50 Shades tape costs way more than the exact same roll of tape that you could get at a hardware store.
The commercialization of sexuality never leads anywhere good. I am a firm believer that sex doesn’t have to cost anything at all—it’s something you and your partner have all the necessary equipment for on your body. And if you do experiment with props and equipment, the best stuff to get is not overpriced crap that has been branded by a bad film, but things that are good quality and will contribute to a healthy and joyful experience.