Recently, a throng of WAG staffers (OK, one) has urged me to weigh in on “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I don’t know why it is that whenever the subject of S&M comes up, the staff naturally thinks of me, but anyhoo, I said, Sure, I’ll get out my metaphorical whip and take a crack at it, seeing as I have never been one to let lack of knowledge get in the way of having an opinion.
For the uninitiated, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the first novel in a trilogy by E.L. James – described by The New York Times as an “English matron,” for that added naughty-librarian spice – about a college student caught up in an erotic tangle with a gorgeous but damaged billionaire entrepreneur. (Is there any other kind?) Guess which gender the young student is and which the controlling exec is? Right, and therein lies the recent hullabaloo.

Do women really want to be spanked, tied up, whipped and dominated, everyone from The Times’ Maureen Dowd (ah, maybe) to Newsweek’s Kate Roiphe (yes, yes, oh, yes) has wondered? Has feminism and all that power and freedom we women now have to work 24 hours a day outside and inside the home made us yearn to surrender the reins? Has the new economy, in which women have become the primary breadwinners, created a backlash? Should English ladies go back to raising primroses and far too many cats?

These questions – especially the one about the cats – are worth pondering as we don our latex and fishnets for a night on the town. (Guys, I’m talking about you here.) But the answer may be simpler. Yes, a perfect storm – bad economy, post-feminism, Internet eroticism (James started out writing “Twilight” fan fiction) – has provided the richly humid clime in which her black orchid could flourish. Still, it may be that fiction is merely providing, as it often does, the safe escape that reality cannot afford. What women really want, James told “Today,” is not a hand cracking the whip but one picking up a towel, not rubber masks but rubber gloves:

“You want someone who does the dishes.”

Hence the popularity of those “Porn for Women” books and calendars that feature (fully clothed) men doing chores and the fond memory of that Swiffer Wet Jet commercial in which a Russell Crowe-style Aussie in short shorts – that would be Russell Crowe in peak “Gladiator” form — wet jets the kitchen floor while the lady of the house relaxes.

For those put out by “Grey,” might I suggest this kind of “porn”? Or perhaps some Internet slash or one of the new romances involving men with other men but written by and for women?

These allow ladies to explore all the issues of dominance and submission they want while remaining firmly – and safely – planted in the driver’s seat.

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