Gender and Sexuality in Popular Culture
The interaction between men and women in any given setting acts as a source of information about gender and sexuality. Every society has its set of features that define the two aspects. The definition as well as the societal expectations of a given gender as far as sexuality is concerned differs from one community to another. The behavior of men and women in respect to the conventional cultures has become a controversial issue in the twenty first century. People have developed different forms of expressing their gender and sexuality in the contemporary society. The novel Fifty Shades of Grey has been used as a platform of expressing gender and sexuality in the western culture.
In the traditional culture, the roles of the different genders as far as sexuality is concerned were well defined and followed to the latter. There has been a new shift in cultural practices due to the deliberate blurring of gender lines. Women have taken the role that was meant for men especially when it comes to pursuing them into romantic relationships. Irrespective of the circumstances, in the conventional setting a man is supposed to make the first move (Sabo 147). However, after they get to know each other, Christian takes the challenge of winning the Ana’s heart. Despite their interest in men, women have to endure male chauvinism. The terms of the sexual practice that Christian sets could be used as a source of dominance even for the women in society. As depicted in the novel, fantasy has the potential to cause the change in the order of power. If the woman in question took the dominant role in BDSM, the male character would lose the power to control the woman. This would be a new phenomenon in most of the world’s famous cultures.
Irrespective of the woman’s effort to live an independent life, men still do not recognize the potential vested in women. Women are depicted as objects of sexual pleasure to men. Christian makes Ana to sign the non-disclosure agreement an aspect that makes her psychologically tied to him. It turns out that he wanted to introduce her to a form a relationship where she would always act according to his will and wishes-without questioning. Christian demonstrates his willingness to punish her if she fails to comply with the terms of the contract that would bind them. He uses their difference in social status to exploit her emotionally by enticing her with gifts that he knows she cannot afford by her own. According to Sabo, men always take advantage of women’s weaknesses to exploit them sexually (149).
The use of pornography gained momentum during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, it entered the scholarly realm as a worthy sociological, ‘sexological’ as well as a psychological topic (Sabo 150). Pornography has taken the better part of the twenty-first century. The novel creates a lot of sexual sensation especially in its explicit BDSM content. This aspect disqualifies it from being a literally or fictional piece of work. Its pornographic aspect has made it not only one of the best-selling novels but also a social hit around the globe. The readers as well as the media coverage of the book show that sexuality is no longer a valued aspect of the contemporary society. This portrays the erosion of the moral value that the traditional society upheld.
As far as gender performativity is concerned, activities of the main characters in the novel depict the ideal picture of men and women in the society. The woman remains submissive. She does everything within her power to be at par with the desires and wishes of the man in her life. She is not supposed to question his decisions and activities. Despite his domineering and rather abusive nature, Christian does everything in his power to make Ana sexually attracted to her. He buys her lavish gifts besides taking her out for coffee. He also takes the responsibility of ensuring her safety especially when she is incapacitated to take care of herself e.g. when she was drunk.
The loss of virginity is a defining aspect in life. Its significance lies on the when, how, and who they lost it. For instance in the novel Fifty Shades of Grey Christian tells Ann that he lost his virginity to one of his mother’s friends when he was fifteen years old. On the other hand, Ann loses her virginity to Christian a few days after they met. Unlike the conventional culture that requires individuals to remain virgins until they are married, the novel does not attach the loss of virginity to marriage. It is depicted as one of the things that someone has to pass through in their life irrespective of whether they are married or not. This shows that moral decadency has become like a norm in the society where no one cares about his or her morality.
Women have the potential to control their life. However, the fact that they have made men to be the major decision makers always pulls them towards sexual captivity. Women believe in the ability of their male counterparts to take control of their life. They have also contributed in their suffering under the hands of the chauvinistic and egocentric men. Unless they discover their innate power to live a free life, they will always be sexual captives. Additionally, women have the right to choose what they want an aspect that acts as their pathway to a peaceful life. The antagonist in the novel refuses to sign the contract that would bind her to an abusive life. This shows that the freedom of women in the contemporary society is attained by one’s decisions-men cannot dictate what women want to do as far as expressing their sexuality is concerned.
In conclusion, the aspects that define traditional aspects of gender and sexuality have significantly changed with time. The change entails the emergence of new forms of expressing sexuality such as BDSM. The value that the traditional western culture attached to virginity has also been eroded by new ideologies. However, women have continued to be victims of male chauvinism an aspect that can only be altered by the realization of the power vested in them. The novel serves both as a creator and as repository of cultural discourses that reflect and promote dominant interests. Such hegemonic goals have been accomplished via a number of techniques and strategies that range from the exclusion of certain images to the inclusion of stereotypical presentation. The presentation of sexuality, gender and class appear to challenge cultural norms but are nonetheless subsumed and framed by certain conventions that have expanded to contain them such as pornography.
Sabo, Anne. “Highbrow and Lowbrow Pornography: Prejudice Prevails Against Popular Culture-
A Case Study.” Journal of Popular Culture 42.1 (2009): 147-153. Print.