For the past week or so, every spare minute of mine has been spent reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I read it on my way to work, I read it while waiting for my capoeira class to begin, I’ve even broken my cardinal rule and read it on the pot. Fifty Shades of Grey explores the subjects of sexual politics, power play and finding love in a world of kinks.
My friends and I like to think of ourselves as alpha women—strong-willed, independent and intelligent. I used to think I knew what independence meant. Socially, an independent woman is someone who holds her own. She’s not her partner’s plus one—not at parties and definitely not on his credit cards. Sexually, an independent woman isn’t shy of screaming in orgasm, neighbours be damned. An independent woman can be a studio boss, a neurosurgeon or a Pulitzer-winning journalist. But an independent woman is never submissive in bed.
Who gets to decide that the whip-wielding woman becomes the poster-girl for feminism, but a handcuffed and hogtied one must stay hidden in her dungeon? Is the problem the women who choose to be subservient, or are we, the dominatrixes of the kinky world, the actual problem?
Recently, I accompanied a friend for her annual gynaecological check-up. My heart leapt in my throat when I saw the doctor’s forehead wrinkle in a frown. “I don’t know what you’re doing and who you’re doing, but your vaginal walls look positively frayed. Buy yourself a lubricant, will you?” the doc admonished my mortified friend and a shoulders-shaking-with-laughter me as she showed us out of her office.
That night at dinner, the topic (as usual) turned to sexual acrobatics in the boudoir. The Frayed Friend (the joke’s still funny to us) admitted that she had recently forayed into the land of S&M. Now if you knew FF, you’d assume that she’s the one cracking the whip and tying those knots we learnt as girl guides. It just fits her investment banker persona. Among all the women I know, FF is most likely to be referred to as the ‘one with balls’. Tungsten ones, at that, which clang when she walks. But this time round, FF is the one playing the beck-and-call girl—the one who asks how high when her partner asks her to lift her ass in the air.
I couldn’t understand why. “Because I don’t need to use sex to feel powerful. I have men by their balls every time I tell them what to do with their life’s savings. Being in control all the time is boring.”
In a weird way, it does make sense. There are times when I don’t want to make love, I simply want to be fucked hard. I’ve had days when I’ve wanted to scream in exasperation as the dude decided to take the long scenic route to heaven; times when I’ve had to stop myself from ordering him to quit hovering near the pearly gates and just enter. I used to think my sexual liberation was a personality trait. What if it’s not? What if it’s just my way of compensating for what’s lacking outside my bedroom… Maybe it’s because of the isolated nature of my work. A pen is mightier than a sword, yes, but let’s be real—some weeks, the most powerful thing I do is scream at the new infotech kid for daring to put me on the limited-access network.
Since FF’s declaration, I’ve wondered about the safety factor. I’ve wondered if it’s the danger that she thrives on, the thrill of the unknown... “How is it dangerous?” FF asked me. “You have to have immense faith that the person won’t hurt you in lasting ways. My relationship is probably more honest than yours.” This last statement was an even more difficult one to digest.
Last night, as I sucked my tummy in every time the dude’s hands wandered south, I wondered whether I was really the ‘woman on top’. It’s true, FF’s relationship—with her partner and her body—is probably more honest than mine. She might be the one taking orders, but I’m the shrinking violet here. I don’t have concluding thoughts on this subject. It’s kind of a work-in-progress in my mind. So I leave you with one of my favourite quotes. “Whenever commandments are given, they create difficulties for people. Because by the time they are given, they’re already outdated.” —Osho