Katie Beswick is author of the blog Reasons To Be Single
I have never read Fifty Shades of Grey. I had been single for well over half a decade when the book came out and the last thing I needed was a literary reminder that everyone was having more sex than me - including fictional characters with unlikely fetishes. Also, I didn’t want to get myself all worked up and horny when I had limited options for release. So, instead, I read the unsexiest book on my bookshelf (1984), ate cold baked beans straight from the tin and tried not to wallow in the tragedy of my own solitude.
Flash forward. I’m in a North London cinema, having miraculously managed to find a last-minute Valentine’s date (which was, believe me, no easy feat). He’s 5’7, caramel skinned and cheerful. And for our first date we will watch Fifty Shades of Grey. The sex movie. My suggestion - and potentially a misguided move. Injecting sex into the equation before you know whether you want to sleep with someone sends out mixed signals. It’s definitely the kind of behaviour that would get you labelled a tease, if you were still dating unreconstructed, testosterone fuelled twenty-somethings. Which I, thankfully, am not.
My salt-and-pepper date and I were not rocking the same vibe as the rest of the Fifty Shades crowd. The cinema was bursting at the seams with hormonal, sex-starved, post-adolescent women - giddy on popcorn and the promise of arousal. I tried to distract him from our incongruity by gibbering incessantly throughout the trailers, giggling at the promo for the new Simon Pegg film and making generous yet witty remarks about the attractiveness of Sienna Miller, who is looking very well indeed in her latest flick. It is, in hindsight, entirely possible that my date thought I was on cocaine - an impression I did not allay by nipping to the loo every fifteen minutes, because those massive cups of 7up will do that to a lady.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to see a sex movie with a guy you’ve just met (I’ll presume you haven’t), but I can tell you from my recent experience that it’s rather unsettling. You become hyper aware of every movement, every muscle twitch, every sideways glance. Is he finding this a turn on? You wonder. Oh God! Does he think I’m finding it a turn on - which I am definitely not, for the most part? It’s like when you watch a sex scene with your parents, except with a greatly increased likelihood that you’ll be expected to re-enact it later.
Are there women out there who want to be trussed up, whacked with riding whip and done from behind, on a weekday? Don’t most of us just want an orgasm by the easiest means possible (missonary’ll do, babe) and a plate of roast chicken afterwards?
And if you did want whips and chains and extended cunnilingus, Christian Grey, the corporate nightmare at the centre of the Fifty Shades ‘plot’, would be the last man you’d choose as a lover. Despite being chisel-jawed and ripped, he has the sex-appeal of a naked Ken doll. Glassy eyed and aloof, he does little but sit in the executive suite of Grey Towers - the sky-scraper that houses his offices – perusing his billion dollar bank account and buying cars. He is cold, calculating and without charisma. When Anastasia Steele, a college student with big blue eyes and inexpertly applied lipstick, arrives at his offices, Grey begins, almost immediately, grooming her as his ‘submissive’ (a BDSM thing, which means she signs a contract permitting him to commit all manner of physical, sexual and emotional abuse against her). What a total arse.
Would you get involved with a man like that, even if he bought you a computer and an Audi? No, you would not.
The most ludicrous moment in the whole ludicrous film is when Ana arrives for the first time at Grey Towers. She’s young and naive, awed by the thrust of the big city. As she exits her car she stares up at the steel and glass façade and gasps, audibly, as though Grey Towers were Christian’s giant erect penis, and not, in fact, an office block.
Ana gasps a lot, and I resented her for it.
‘Well,’ I said to my date, afterwards, as we supped Manhattans at the Sky Lounge and looked out over the sprawl of London, ‘What did you reckon?’
‘I can’t see what all the fuss is about, myself.’ He replied, to my relief. ‘It just wasn’t sexy, was it?’
I nodded sagely, in agreement, and looked out and across at the new skyscrapers carving a line through London. Now they were pretty sexy. Although I didn’t gasp.
And as for me and my date, the movie certainly acted as an ice-breaker. It's good to get sex out in the open, so it doesn't bubble under the surface like a 19th century Taboo. But we preferred sensuality over sex, of course. We drank cocktails until London was cloaked in darkness. He walked me to the station, like a gentleman, and followed up with an immediate text message. Which is a good sign. Even if it's not, quite, bondage.