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The Results are In: We Want More than a Whip from Fifty Shades

Fifty Shades of Grey: feminist, anti-feminist, horrible for your relationship, great for your sex life, or the dumbest thing that has ever been written. I am worn out thinking about all of the implications of this novel turned film. As someone who identifies herself as a feminist, it is hard to let all of the opinions just slip right by without some emerging thoughts. Maybe I just read too much Cosmopolitan or almost every woman feels the same way as I do. We all have some feelings about it, and how could you not? It’s the first time that something considered taboo according to popular culture has become mainstream enough to be released on Valentine’s Day. Oh yeah, there is that part about a college girl who signs a contract agreeing to take part in BDSM.

There are plenty of opinion pieces swirling around the internet, but I wanted know what women in the South are thinking –not what someone is telling them to think. I am not a professional surveyor, but some interesting trends emerged from my little experiment.

Overall, the data for every category was a rough bell-curve, which is slightly frustrating for me, considering I wanted to shock the South with the mind blowing results. But one thing is for sure: women seem to be unimpressed with Fifty Shades of Grey. As a concept, there are about fifty shades of opinion, but in reality Fifty Shades doesn’t complete the package. One of the responses was “I think 50 Shades is an interesting concept, but not a new one, this book just got more notoriety than similar ones.” If the kinky sex didn’t get the best of them, then the dialogue was a sure miss. One respondent who read the first book said “Every time I read the words ‘inner goddess’ I died a thousand deaths.” Needless to say there wasn’t enough depth for her to read the second.

On a similar note, feminists are trying to connect the dots between the submissive nature of Ana and consensual sex.


We want to know why there has to be a tradeoff for a crazy sexual extravaganza and a strong (or at least not puny) female character? Yeah, I know submission is the point of Ana’s role but that’s not the point in real life relationships.


Whether or not it is seen as a progressive part of the feminist movement depends on the context of how one is being asked. Most women say that the relationship portrayed in the novel is unhealthy and not to be considered feminist; however, the pure fact the Ana is exploring outside of the norms of a woman’s sexuality is something to celebrate.

Alexis Brost, a student at Auburn, says “It can be considered feminist because Ana edits the contract to better suit her desires; however, she does gives up her vision [career] for a man.”

Ironically, Ana’s sexual identity just happens to be the submission to a man (what a novel idea!), and that’s where we come across more issues. Like the idea of “faux feminism.” 

I highly recommend that you read this article on faux feminism.

As for the Free the Nipple campaigners and nudity in the media, there were no strong opinions on full frontal nudity. Those that were for full frontal said being naked is a natural thing and that’s what you should expect from a movie based on a book like Fifty Shades. On the other hand, those who were opposed said being naked is more grotesque in reality so leave it to the imagination, besides you can find the nakedness somewhere more private (referring to pornography).

Speaking of pornography, something that is supposed to be a male dominated industry and considered a secretive affair, thirty eight percent of the women interviewed admitted to at least watching it once. One female admits she watches pornography once a week. The data almost lines up with forty two percent of women believing it is acceptable for men to watch pornography no matter what their reason, which makes sense, but it is surprising.

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Only twenty four percent believe that it is morally wrong, but almost everyone agreed that the industry can cause unhealthy habits and lead to impossible expectations during sex. However, those who did think it was acceptable also said that it can be educational.

“It is only okay in moderation, just like any healthy habit.”

How does this relate to Fifty Shades? Women are becoming more curious about their sexuality and it is becoming more social acceptable. Fifty Shades just happens to be the front runner by adding a few bells and whistles (a love story and a pretty boy) to market it to the masses. Yes, it is a little contradictory to our cultural norms, i.e. males watching pornography in private, and the movie met many plenty of critics for the same reason.  

Interestingly enough, there is no correlation between the women who thought that Fifty Shades represents an unhealthy relationship and those who would or would not take part in BDSM related activities. Forty one percent of respondents said they would take part in BDSM related activities, and eighteen percent said that they would do it if their significant other wanted to do it too.

What we do know for sure is that women do want to explore their sexuality more, whether or not they agreed with the film’s ideals. Fifty Shades is the guinea pig for making it acceptable according to society and depending the success of the film, so far it is kicking butt in the box office, it unfortunately means that the overall submissive female character will become a trend, not just for her role in the sheets, like this woman’s career, but for her relationships as well. Hopefully, since it is a new concept to the cinema, it will evolve over time to improve the role of the female character to meet all of our needs. Can’t I have the whip and a great guy?




The details of the Fifty Shades of Grey survey:

Results were collected before the movie premiered for approximately one week

A mixture of people took the survey -Facebook friends and a group of young women part of the same organization

Multiple choice and open ended questions were asked, see link for more details

The survey was voluntary and questions did not have to be completed


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Lindy Olive is known for being a foodie health-nut hybrid, who thinks the best things in life happen in the kitchen. She is a senior at Auburn University, majoring in Nutrition & Wellness and minoring in Sustainability. She wrote for Her Campus Auburn for three years before taking on a role as Campus Corespondent. If you ever need her, you can find her in front of a computer, in a garden, or at the gym. Lindy likes to dream big, and right now, that dream consists of owning a garden-bakery while writing agriculture public policy or working for a test kitchen. When she isn't thinking about food, which is apparently rare, she is hiking with her boyfriend and dog, on a feminist rant, or having deep conversations with her best friends Bailey and Melissa.
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