10 Reasons Why Fifty Shades of Grey should never Tie any Self-Respecting Woman Down.

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 23, 2012
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Why are so many women turned on by dominance?

Excerpt, Fifty Shades of Grey:

“Christian is standing over me grasping a plaited, leather riding crop.

He’s wearing old, faded, ripped Levis and that’s all. He flicks the crop slowly into his palm as he gazes down at me. He’s smiling, triumphant. I cannot move. I am BLEEP and BLEEP, BLEEP on a large four-poster bed.

Reaching forward, he trails the tip of the crop from my forehead down the length of my nose, so I can smell leather, and over my BLEEP, BLEEP lips. He pushes the BLEEP, BLEEP BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP etc…”

Every month, elephant inherits a few angry comments from readers who hate the fact that we write about sex (a lot). We get nasty comments vilifying us for sins like “objectification.”

…And then, today, and yesterday, and last week, and the week before…I hear from my interns, Kate our editor, Kate our editor again, and—you know—millions of women that they’re all reading, loving, and—you know—getting off on some dehumanizing trashy bdsm “porn for mommies” novel called…

“Fifty Shades of Grey,” the erotic novel by E L James, features cliche characters, highly implausible plot turns and dialogue that alternately induces cringes and giggles. (Sample line: “ ‘Look at me,’ he breathes, and I stare into his smoldering gaze . . . cold, hard and sexy as hell, seven shades of sin in one enticing look.”)

…Another benefit of a book such as “Fifty Shades” is that it just may get your mind off work pressures, the laundry or having to make the kids’ lunches — and back into the bedroom.

Speaking of gagging…

So save yourself 10 hours: go have some mutually-respectful awesome sex with someone you love.

Or if you want to “read” some porn, god bless, go get yourself some Anais Nin. She’s amazing.

{drum roll}

But now it’s time for my list: 10 Reasons why Empowered Women should find something more Empowering to do.

Deflowering a Poorly-Written Opiate for the Masses: 10 Reasons Why Fifty Shades of Grey should never Tie any Self-Respecting Woman Down.

This list is too easy.

1. You’re a hypocrite: Shades of Grey is (I hear) a glorified airport romance novel that is so a cliché-ridden and poorly written, it gives Twihards fifty shades of self-respect.

2. By romance, I mean abusive sado-masochistic 100-years-of-feminism-f*cking fantasy.

3. Not having read the book, I’m out of ideas.


PS: to all you angry masochists ready to comment and say “don’t tell me what to do, young man,” don’t worry—unlike, say, Christian the Somehow-Sexy Abusive Billionaire, I’d never think of bossing a woman around. This is my kind of play.



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


106 Responses to “10 Reasons Why Fifty Shades of Grey should never Tie any Self-Respecting Woman Down.”

  1. elephantjournal says:

    Well, I'm not sexist, and my mother is empowered.

    To the first point, I find this notion of submission and "fun pain" far less respectful, sexism-wise—intimate, wholesome, loving sex is, personally-speaking, a turn on.

  2. ravenguerrero says:

    "I'm too busy responding to self-serious comments."

    I hope, someday, that you can find it within yourself to actually listen. And listen with humility. If people call you out on your sh*t maybe it's not because they're "self-serious" or "angry masochists". Maybe you're not as "feminist" as you think you are. Maybe you, like everybody else, still have stuff to learn.
    Again, namaste, with much self-seriousness.

  3. Mymlen says:

    Definitely each to his and her own. So why suggest that people who enjoy BDSM are lacking in self-respect, or unable to enjoy intimacy? By all means , go ahead and criticize Fifty Shades of Grey, it is a poorly written book, but don't lash out against people who enjoy BDSM. It does not stand in opposition to feminism, and can be just as mutually-respectful and awesome as so-called vanilla sex. BDSM is actually very common among feministst.

  4. ravenguerrero says:

    "Well, I'm not sexist, and my mother is empowered. "

    Well that's great, man. But just because you're not sexist doesn't mean you can't say sexist stuff.
    And again, I don't doubt that your mother is empowered, in the same way that I don't doubt somebody actually has black friends. I'm just saying having an empowered mother doesn't make you immune to the occasional sexism, in the same way that having black friends do not make you immune from the occasional racism.

    And really, nobody begrudges you your personal tastes. But the point is, you seem to be begrudging other people theirs. Even going so far as telling them they should be ashamed of it. Even going so far as to make a list out of it.

  5. tinamariebernard says:

    The only thing wrong with your article Waylon is the title. It should be "Why Fifty Shades is Romantrash." Otherwise, you are spot on. I say this as 1) a feminist 2) a writer and author whose main subject is sexuality 3) a reviewer of erotica and 4) a fan of literature that leaves me hot and bothered. Oh, yeah, I am also a woman.

    If you want erotica recommendations, I have those is spades. The one good thing I can say about the book is that at least mainstream America is talking about the genre. If they think Fifty Shades represents the artform, they are sadly mistaken. It's like comparing marriage to a poorly written romance novel.

    Not sure why other men are giving you heat for saying what needs to be said.

    Oh, I've also written about feminism and BDSM, so I suppose that combined with my having a vagina gives me some authority to say that YOU ARE SPOT ON.

  6. ravenguerrero says:

    "Not sure why other men are giving you heat for saying what needs to be said. "

    Because "Fifty shades of Grey is poorly written BDSM porn" is fundamentally different from "Women who enjoy reading poorly written BDSM in their private lives are disempowered and as a feminist man, I know what they ought to be doing instead."

  7. Megan says:

    As someone who has also written about feminism and BDSM, as well as being a pretty hard-core feminist AND sexually submissive and kinky…OH and I have a vagina…I believe I also have some authority to say that he is wrong.

  8. Amy says:

    Feminism = Women in control of their choices. That includes enjoying the surrender of reading fantasies or even the surrender of control in the bedroom, if they choose. It includes not doing so if it isn't your thing. Feminism SHOULD = not judging women on the things that fufill them- their work, parenting, politics, spirituality, sexual choices-all included.

  9. tinamariebernard says:

    Is that what the author is saying in your opinion? Because I don't see that (perhaps it's in the comment sections?) I read his article as the former – a statement about THIS book, not about BDSM or feminist. In my opinion, suggesting Anais Nin shows me he is clear on those distinctions.

  10. tinamariebernard says:

    You liked this book then? That's a matter of opinion, but seriously, if you have read any erotica, then you've got to know this is a poor substitute for good writing! I stand by my support for the author – in my opinion, he is spot on and he isn't criticizing feminists, submission, BDSM (no issues there) but this fifty shades of crapping excuse for those important topics.

  11. tinamariebernard says:

    IT's a slipperly slope though. We've got to be able to discuss a book about this topic and be able to critique it. What does it say about women when a formulaic written book breaks this genre wide open? When there are literally thousands of amazing erotic stories out there worthy of this level of success because the quality of the writing is supreme, unlike fifty shades? Perhaps that's what bothers me most of all. The salivation over a book that is mediocre at best.

  12. tinamariebernard says:

    Repeating something I wrote below because I think it applies here too: What bothers me most is the salivation over something that is a mediocre representation at best. I wonder – why this book? Why not one of the many number of superbly written erotic books that are feminist and cover BDSM?

  13. ravenguerrero says:

    "Is that what the author is saying in your opinion? Because I don't see that "

    yes it's what I think the author is saying in my opinion. Case in point:
    "10 Reasons why Empowered Women should find something more Empowering to do."
    Does this not translate to "Stop disempowering yourself by enjoying bad BDSM porn and I'm gonna tell you what to do instead?"
    Followed, of course, by statements like "live and let live". It's a bit confusing.
    I guess I could go through the other stuff, but as the author said, he was just expressing that his personal tastes doesn't include BDSM. Maybe it is just a case of poor articulation.

  14. Alamar says:

    Reading A plain & simple sexual scene, in privacy of the Mind, is an aphrodisiac & Vibrator all in one..

  15. @zenkink says:

    great, so you can add lazy journalist to your bio, next to lazy yogi. You wrote a lousy, poorly constructed article about a lousy book that you haven't even read, just to "foment discussion". is traffic to the site so bad, that you have to stoop to attacking alternative sexualities? why the vanilla sexuality manifesto? people who are into BDSM know that it is ok to be vanilla, we actually accept people's proclivities without paying lip service to them. What can we expect next from the elephant? a post where you talk about how its ok for you to be heterosexual, because you don't find homosexuality "sexy" ? maybe you'll give us examples of gay people who were molested in childhood, and use that as proof that homosexuality is somehow the activity of the damaged. Really, I think you protest too much, cause really no one cares one bit about your sexuality. You are starting to remind me of right wing fundamentalist who attacks gay people and then gets caught with a rentboy. I would not be surprised in the slightest, if some pictures get leaked of our dear waylon chained down in leather, with his junk in a hemp rope harness, gleefully licking the boot of a urdhva dhanurasana yoga goddess. and that is totally cool. you get yours waylon, you kinky freak.

  16. elephantjournal says:

    I would love more recommendations! We just put out a few posts re Anais Nin, but would love to show that we're all about sex, even kinky sex, as long as 1) it's respectful and 2) the writing is tolerable.

    As for men (and some women) shouting me down, here, as one commenter pointed out, if I'd have put out a blog recommending the book, a chorus of Shades of Grey haters would have shouted me down. Human nature + anonymity + devil's advocacy = lose, lose. Good thing I'm not playing to win.

  17. elephantjournal says:

    I think you've got it backwards. I can rail against those who, in my college town, wear high heels when it's icey out, or mini skirts in the winter, not because I dislike women, but because I love (and respect) them. I dislike the culture of aggression seen as cool, naughty, fun.

  18. elephantjournal says:

    Maybe you don't know much about me.

  19. elephantjournal says:

    Amen to that.

  20. elephantjournal says:

    Well, you can add anonymous insulter to yours.

    I may remind you of a right-winger…only because you know nothing about me. I've written literally hundreds, upon hundreds, of gay rights posts—it's the civil rights cause of our era, and one I and I hope the whole of our generation will play some role in setting right.

  21. ravenguerrero says:

    I encourage you to examine what kind of man spends time railing against what women want to wear.
    It's their clothes, man. It's their bodies. If they want to wear mini skirts in winter what's that got to do with you? Just as an aside, I once asked an ex-lover why she spends so much time wearing makeup since she was gorgeous to me as is (and she was). Without batting an eyelash, she replied "I'm putting make up for me, not for you."
    Again, humility, brother.

  22. ravenguerrero says:

    My god, man. Nobody's trying to "shout you down". If you think everybody who's criticizing you are "self-serious angry masochists" who are out to "shout you down", then you've essentially just thrown out any space for yourself to grow.
    Maybe you're right, you're not playing to win. You sure as hell aren't playing to learn.
    And through all this, I hope you grow to understand that this really isn't about your critique of "Fifty shades" (is there really anybody here who thinks "fifty shades" is well written?). This is about your attempt to lecture women on what they should and shouldn't be doing with their own sexual desires.

  23. Well, as someone who did read it and blogged about it myself:

    I get that it's helping some women enjoy talking about sex (whatever variety) with friends, husbands, lovers, if they didn't feel comfortable before, and that's great.

    What I don't get (and will probably never get) is why any woman with any amount of self-respect would be turned on by being degraded, bound, beaten or dominated. Sure, to each her own…but really? How can you justify saying "feminism means women can choose whatever they want" and then choose this?

    Isn't that kind of like saying, "I'm a feminist and I choose to stay in an abusive relationship?" I know…it's not the same. But…it's not that different either.

  24. Sagejessica says:

    I just recently bitch slapped you (in a sort of nice zen stick kind of way) for the half naked images that litter Elephant like the post cards advertising strip clubs that litter a Las Vegas sidewalk.

    And I have to say that here I agree with you. I refuse to buy the book for a variety of reasons. Number one: Bad writing. (I’d rather suffer through a Dan Brown book.)

    Number two: Sure seems like a sorry bit of mysogynistic pulp porn fiction I can do without. Why read about men dominating women when I can easily log onto xxxvideos and watch it for free! Hey, I mean whatever your pleasure ladies- have at it. I just would have preferred that most erotic novel to thrill “mommies” everywhere would be a little more empowering and a little less “take me now I’m yours!”

    Haven’t we been exposed to that sorry old story long enough? I bought pink a neck tie a few years back. It makes a great accessory as it is quite versatile. Why the man always has to be the one doing the tying and dominating I can’t be sure. The last thing this country needs is any more pillow princesses.

    Just wait until the movie comes out and the woman who plays the main character is young, stick-thin, and virtually mute. (Kristin stewart would be a great fit. After all she already gave up her life as human to be with a man in one movie. Why not let another one tie her up and tease her for a while?)

    I’m going to have to ask you to delete this comment one day lest it show up in google searches under my name.

  25. elephantjournal says:

    You mean, like these half naked images? (Guess which half): http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/05/your-ugly-

    Seriously, I'm all for sexy, I celebrate it, if it's fun, empowering. Clearly, thanks to the comments here, I need to be open and to learn more about BDSM—even if it's not for me, if it's respectful and safe, I'm all for it.

  26. sagejessica says:

    Wait a minute- You rail against women in heels? But why? There is a "yoga goddess" to the left of this post doing a back bend in heels. So it is not okay for them to walk on your streets but it is okay for you to use them to sell yoga and your stories?

    Hmmm…what an interesting conundrum.

  27. Ha! Yup. That plus Anastasia bites her lip. And bites her lip again. And Christian glares or is steely eyed. Yeah…my inner goddess doesn't need a spanking.

  28. sagejessica says:

    Nice plug.

    Sure yeah more sex! Bring it on! Have some fun. Dominate and be dominated.

    Just don't keep manufacturing the same old, boring package. Male domination. Female submission. Half naked, incredibly thin, young women. Skinny women dressed like prostitutes doing yoga. Half naked skinny women selling me food. Half naked skinny women selling me pills to keep me from eating food. Half naked skinny women selling me cars. Half naked skinny women selling me movies and magazines and furniture and cigarettes and beer and wine and dewrinklers, and tanners and creamers and bronzers and lifters and tuckers. Half naked skinny women selling me Oprah and organics and buddhism and health. Half naked skinny women selling me some idea of what I am supposed to look like to be a success in this world. To be desirable in this world. To have desire in this world.

    It's all a scam sham, man!!!! And you and me and us- we are all in the thick of it.

    Like I said- I get your point. I don't think women should be ashamed to read the book- unless they feel ashamed consuming bad writing. But any woman who notices that something isn't right with how we (women) are depicted in advertising and in movies and television time and time again- should certainly take note that this book plays into the same old story. I would have much preferred the thing to be a gigantic success if it were well written and balanced in its exchanges. But alas, why should it surprise me that it is only more of the same?

  29. ravenguerrero says:

    I don't. Which is why I don't call you names. Like "angry masochist".

  30. cleverclover1127 says:

    OMG! I'm glad someone is saying this!! I have NO desire to read 50 Shades… I lived it (well, except for the billionaire part). Women, PLEASE, this behavior is not love, it is not sexy, it is ABUSE.

  31. Annette says:

    Perimenoposal, libido in the dumps, 30 yr monogamous relationship. Read Fifty Shades. Big cat-got-the-cream grins on both our faces. Biggest threat to Viagra and HRT in years. 'nuff said.

  32. Megan says:

    I have not read the book (though, as it has been repeatedly pointed out, neither has the writer of this article). What I felt was being said that was wrong was this:

    "Oh, I've also written about feminism and BDSM, so I suppose that combined with my having a vagina gives me some authority to say that YOU ARE SPOT ON."

    I, too, have written about bdsm and feminism, and I, too, have a vagina. I've also been "playing" for 10+ years and find nothing shameful or anti-feminist about it. Nor do I find it empowering. I don't have to. I find it insanely fun, and that's all.

    Anytime you would like to read superbly written bdsm erotica let me know, I have a whole shelf full of it. My personal recommendation is "Carrie's Story" by Molly Weatherfield.

  33. Megan says:

    In order to discuss a book on this topic, we first need to read the book. The writer isn't discussing the book, he's passing broad-based judgement on the sex lives of women he doesn't know, using the book as a thinly-veiled excuse to do so. He has admitted he hasn't read the book.

    "What does it say about women when a formulaic written book breaks this genre wide open?"

    It says the same thing about women that it says about anyone who likes formulaic crap, including Twilight, Titanic, any number of action films or video games, House, sitcoms, etc. It says that people, by and large, like stupid formulaic crap over things with substance.

  34. […] article (and Waylon’s article), talk about how a lot of moms or middle-aged women are reading this book as a guilty pleasure. […]

  35. […] shitty prose and avoid it; how to see poor editing and avoid it; how to discern when you are being feed a line of misogynistic shit and not be surprised that it comes from one of your […]

  36. yogasamurai says:

    "Unless you trust them" And unless there's an agreed upon "safety" word or gesture? You should probably insist on that. It keeps the "submissive" empowered. It's the "no" — or "stop." I guess some people dispense with it?

  37. yogasamurai says:

    Frankly, many perfectly respectable but highly asymmetrical emotional love arrangements and toxic marriages are just BDSM relationships in vanilla drag?

    People are torturing themselves and each other to death and no one's happy anyway.

    A whip and some ropes might actually help?

  38. THEDOLLFACE says:

    I personally love the book. I am a submissive female is a D/s relationship and I am offended by the suggestion that my relationship is somehow invalid because of its nature. My Dom is very caring, loving and warm toward me and everything we do is agreed upon. It is okay to want to be dominated. It is okay to dress up and be the naughty schoolgirl. Why shouldn’t I? I submit to him because I want to. As long as there are two consenting adults there is not reason to trash bdsm relationships. Btw bdsm is a hugeeeee range of things tbat people have an annkying habit of over simplifying.

  39. WLewis8MyBalls says:

    "So save yourself 10 hours: go have some mutually-respectful awesome sex with someone you love."

    I don't know how to tell you his, but that 'awesome sex' probably is not as 'awesome' as you think it is. Its probably terrible & boring, and that partner probably goes onto have sex with someone who is willing to tie her up if she desires it {because its simply much better than all that 'awesome' sex your having.}

  40. Guest says:

    Like you know anything.

  41. […] 10 Reasons Why Fifty Shades of Grey should never Tie any Self-Respecting Woman Down. ~Waylon Lewis […]

  42. […] you’re in the same boat, skip Fifty Shades and check out this flowchart from teach.com to find yourself a new […]

  43. Coco says:

    Yes, yes and yes.

  44. Coco says:

    The writing in 50 Shades of Grey is terrible to the point of embarrassment, and it's also mildly entertaining!

    I'm a (self-respecting) feminist yoga-freak as well as a kinkster. My long term D/s relationship is incredibly satisfying and healthy; surrendering to one man doesn't mean you become a doormat to all men. I doubt there is a soul alive that would describe me as having a submissive personality but I'm wired to respond to a man who can grab me by the throat and tell me what he wants me to do.

    I tried dating vanilla men for much of my adult life, which is not unlike being gay and trying to date like a heterosexual. I was unsatisfied by these otherwise fantastic men and thought there must be something wrong with me.

    I was born this way, and as a feminist I was taught not to let others shame me for having sexual preferences and needs. This is how my fiancé and I express Love.


    If I denied who I am, wouldn't it be disrespectful to the generations before me who fought for women's voices to be heard?

  45. Coco says:

    "Woman can choose whatever they want."
    -That's how you can justify it.

    Not "according to what YOU think is best for others"

  46. […] never heard Tupac urging his male counterparts to respect women because we all came from a […]

  47. memegirly says:

    What is miss leading in the book is that you do need to trust and love the person who is spanking you!
    I do think they jumped into BDSM a bit quickly with out knowing each other they just went off of pure sexual vibes.
    Not healthy at all. However if you trust someone.. then being gagged or spanked or tied up is just fun! not fun when it's with people whom you don't trust. If you don't like that well i guess you don't have to live that type of life. Thus I will live my own life my way.! I really don't need to tell you that tho do i!!!
    Take Care