By Tom DeSeno
“It is always of interest to know what strikes another human being as remarkable.” –Graham Greene
50 Shades of Grey: never has a book caused so many random acts of sociology, with people exclaiming what the book “says about women” or “means for society.” A Google search will turn up varied exclamations that the book is the apocalyptic forbearer of all things pro-feminist, anti-feminist, or pro and anti-capitalist. It also apparently has implications for class warfare, abuse, romance and the death of chivalry. Good grief. Despite my promise not to join this collection of chaos by opinion, I suspect I will.
My intent is only to state that the desire and act of sex itself is fraught with simplicity. There is no great mystery to it, only a juvenile fascination with the subject by artists. That cloak of mystification is buttoned tighter by the faux-Freudian analysis of people who will find “deeper meaning” in any thing, or any act, when, in reality, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
When I mention the simplicity of sex, I carve out first “romance” and all the emotional baggage that comes from coupling (or, since it’s the 21st century, tripling and quadrupling). I leave for another day the religious determination that sex is for procreation, as even Catholics will admit (since the Vatican promotes the rhythm method), that sometimes sex serves other purposes, like stress relief. I write here only of people who are secure in their partnering.
The act of sex itself is truly simple. It is a release that the human organism occasionally needs; like a yawn, but more fun. Unlike a yawn, there is some choice and some taste in how it is done. In the end, however, it is still just a function of humanness, with divergent tastes leading to variety.
Note too, instead of a preference for a particular taste, that there is really a priority forseveral tastes. Are people not “in the mood” occasionally for some variation—not in partner, but sometimes in time, place, and manner, even with the same partner?
The act of sex itself, I maintain, is the same for everyone, just like eating is the same for everyone. What differs in people is a desire for certain tastes. I like steak more than vegetables. Other palates differ from mine. We don’t choose these desires—we are born with them.
This is true of all our tastes. I prefer blue to green, guitars to drums, Batman to Superman, and women to men. None of it is a choice and no one knows why, although I suspect gene sequencing or a chemical combination somewhere in us drives desires.
Sex too comes in a variety of tastes, and I would no more publicly scorn the diners seated near me in a restaurant for their menu choice (unless it’s vegan) than I would want to have a say in the sexual preferences of my neighbor; it would be a useless act of imposing my nature on them.
I read Professor Paul Rahe’s piece on 50 Shades, where he referred to Mollie Hemingway’s piece on the same topic, and, after reading those and others, I found this common thread: People who write about the sex of others invariably leave out any mention of their own participation in sex.
That doesn’t hold true for other life experiences. If Peter Robinson is discussing presidential speechwriting, his experience in the field will rightly be mentioned. If Rob Long is discussing television writing, proving his points with his experience will be a plus. Yet I suppose when discussing a pop culture phenomenon like 50 Shades that involves sex, neither of them will mention their own proclivities, despite, I suspect, their acting on them for decades now. This is true of most of us.
Why is that?
First, we maintain privacy and humility for ourselves to conform to a community standard. We are thankfully still that Puritan.
Second, the act of sex becomes brainless, does it not? Eventually we are operating on instinct, passion, fantasy, and animal drive. Who wants to be seen in a moment of irrational sway?
Third, and most importantly, there is some judging going on; some seriously useless sociology. We don’t want to be judged, but we will surely judge the Dickens out of anyone who puts their sex in public. As competitive beings, we want to know our way is best. We have an instinct to shun people doing things differently; an instinct that can only be overcome with intellect. This idea of judging others will be highlighted again later in this piece. Stay tuned.
So, a multitude of housewives bought a book about being tied up and told what to do. This type of sex is not a marker of a psychological defect or the sequelae of a previous injury, just as there is no “underlying disease” for people whose tastes run toward rose petals and champagne as a warm-up. It’s not an illness. It’s an innate desire. Whatever floats your boat and such.
Ok, darn it, having maintained that sex is all the same but tastes differ, I have to do some sociology cowboy-ing myself.
If it’s all the same, then homosexuality differs in no way from heterosexuality. That’s becoming more accepted as time goes on, isn’t it? Same sex, different taste. We don’t choose our desires, they choose us. Equal equal.
So what does this have to do with 50 Shades of Grey? Everything. You see, a housewife who once a week gets lost in a sexual fantasy to get release then goes back to being a productive wife, mom, worker, and soccer coach is not engaged in something that needs to be judged—exactly as we have no reason to judge the person who is satisfied by vanilla sex, gay sex, or any other spank-and-tickle involving consenting adults.
These women who enjoy 50 Shades and even mimic what goes on there aren’t going to be hurt by it any more than any other way of getting to stress release. Different foods can make you full.
In truth, I don’t really need to know about it. As I said earlier, people will judge—so if you are going to put what you like out in public, you can expect 50 shades of opinion on what you do.
So I’ll blame you, the handcuffed housewife, for telling us about it as much as I blame someone for having a negative opinion about it. When it comes to what sort of sex you like, you’re better off not letting the rest of us know about it.
Tommy DeSeno of Howell Township via Asbury Park has not read 50 Shades of Grey, seen the movie nor worn yoga pants. He does shop at Home Depot.