Essays Opinions

Fifty Shades of Tomb Raider

Back in May, there was a huge feminist outcry over an interview with a producer of the  Tomb Raider reboot by Square Enix:

“When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character…. They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her… She’s definitely the hero but— you’re kind of like her helper,” he said. “When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.”

The outrage over this was swift and severe and I agree with this. The producer was espousing a classic sexist stereotype that is insulting to men and women: that men only want submissive, non-threatening women that they can protect and heal (even at times by fucking, such as in the case of Jack from Mass Effect 2). This sexist view is literally everywhere and manifests itself in a variety of ways.

This brings me to Fifty Shades of Grey, the enormously popular erotic romance series which features a submissive female heroine who gives herself over to a heroic dominator. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to read it because I read Fifty Shades of God, an editorial in the Washington Post about how women are attracted to the trilogy because it’s really about religion:

Grey starts out in the books intending to dominate (beat and cause pain to) Anastasia in his famous playroom dubbed “The Red Room of Pain,” and ends up loving and not wanting (or rather willing) to hurt her. One could compare him to the God of some peoples’ imagination.

Christian is at times punishing, sadistic, angry, demanding, intolerant, fickle, bewildering, withholding, omnipotent, omniscient, awesome, abusive, kind, generous, wise and — above all — loving and cherishing.

Just when Anastasia has had it and is about to give up on Christian for doing something absolutely appalling, just when she no longer believes in him, he redeems himself by doing something so outrageously wonderful that she cannot abandon him and is pulled back into the fold. Just when he is withholding his love from her and she is weeping and can no longer bear it, he embraces her with an overwhelming totality. Just when she is doubting herself for her submission, he turns the tables and offers himself to her.

And here we see the delusional fantasy women have about men: that the dominating, asshole guy secretly has a heart of gold that only she can bring out. This, too is everywhere, for trashy Harelquin Presents novels to Twilight.

I noticed something: these delusional male and female fantasies match up.  Men want to dominate and ultimately heal the woman (usually by fucking) and women want to be submissive and ultimately heal the man (usually by making love). First off, sex and love, while often powerful motivators, don’t heal deep-seated mental wounds. This is just common sense.

Now, I’m of the opinion that in general, women subconsciously hand power to men. Why else would they be reading fantasies where they are literally bought and sold (again, Harlequin presents)? I know some women are going to  call me sexist and chauvinist, and I can see how they’d think that. However, I also believe it takes two to tango. Patriarchy wouldn’t exist if women weren’t willing to be submissive to male will.   Men might have imposed patriarchy long ago, but women’s beliefs and actions keep it alive and well.

Crap like 50 Shades of Grey only reinforces gender inequality by saying bliss is found in submission. Additionally, men also need to stop seeing women as lesser beings that they can dominate protect, which the new Tomb Raider does nothing to correct. Ultimately, both genders should be equals in life. Women shouldn’t hand the reins of power over to men completely and men shouldn’t be intimidated by not being totally in control. Unfortunately, while both genders might reach total equality one day, we still have a long way to go if men and women’s fantasies are anything to go by.

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  • Reply
    Josh (@bg_josh)
    July 25, 2012 at 3:20 am

    You are making some assumptions here that are not true, about BDSM. (also I have not read 50 shades, I am just talking about real BDSM)

    In dominance play and physical play the object is to give the submissive/bottom what they want. The problem is explaining kinky sex is like explaining color to a blind person. Only if you have seen color do you understand it. Think of it like gay sex (or straight sex if you are gay). You can’t see what homosexual men see in other men, but you can substitute women in, and you get the idea. To understand BDSM take the thing you most cherish doing (stamp collecting, bowling, line dancing) and imagine combining that with sex and drugs(from the endorphins BDSM is drug free). That’s what kinky sex is like.

    And if it doesn’t appeal to you, you are not interested. And then we have books, BDSM is distinct from fantasy reading. Women who read pirate rape novels are not actually interested in being raped by pirates. It is along the same lines as Tolken fans not actually wanting to fight orcs in pitched battle. Actually it might be thought of like porn. Porn is a stylized fantasy, people don’t actually want porn.

    And finally patriarchy. Most bottoms and subs are male. You are just seeing the female submissive corner in these books. And like I said earlier, it is a fantasy.

    There is this mistake that some people make about BDSM. It is similar to “pink princess ponies.” Girls don’t have to like PPP’s but some girls do like them. It is just as wrong to forbid PPP as it is to require them. Some people (mostly men) like to be sexually submissive. Let them.

    • Reply
      Noah Murphy
      July 25, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      I think missed you the point entirely. I don’t care about BDSM play or kinky sex, whatever floats your boat. its the idea the bliss can be found in women submitting themselves to men in general, which, now that I think about, is probably a fantasy implanted by the patriarchy into women to keep men in power.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2012 at 2:40 am

    One thing my Facebook feed always likes to remind me of is that some women really do want that for themselves–to be dominated, controlled, kept at home and away from others by jealous husbands.

    Now they all have three kids and go to church every Wednesday. Bleeagghh

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