Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hookup culture debases women

(CNN) -- In the midst of heated political campaigns and real wars abroad, it is noteworthy that two columnists writing for the most consequential newspaper in the world, The New York Times, took a different tack on Sunday and ended up in the same place: A discussion of sexual nihilism and the modern woman. They are on to something.

Maureen Dowd's column, titled "She's Fit to Be Tied," looks at E.L James's "Fifty Shades of Grey," a trilogy of erotic, bondage-themed fiction. Dowd expressed surprise over the popularity of the books in which a 21-year-old innocent girl becomes a sexual "submissive" of a rich, powerful 27-year-old businessman.

While we're steeped in a so-called "war on women," Dowd wonders "why women are thronging to the story of an innocent who jumps into the arms of a Seattle sadist with a 'Red Room of Pain' full of chains, clamps, whips, canes, flogs and cuffs, falling in love to the soundtrack of the Police's 'King of Pain.'"

Dowd cites the remarkable success of the trilogy among Generation X women -- the contemporaries, allies and beneficiaries of the modern feminist movement. And yet, the narrative flies in the face of women's progress. For example, a contract that the girl signs with the man stipulates that "the Dominant may flog, spank, whip or corporally punish the Submissive as he sees fit, for purposes of discipline, for his own personal enjoyment or for any other reason, which he is not obliged to provide." If this is progress for women, what would regression look like? Read More