Sunday, 27 January 2013

Standard Rant- Fifty Shades of Grey

Before you dismiss this as the whinging of an introverted and sexually frustrated puritan, I’d like to state the following. I am by no means a prude. I am regularly told off by my friends for being far too open about my life, I don’t have a problem with anybody watching porn (providing that it’s not illegal), and I don’t have a sex drawer- I have 2 drawers, a small suitcase and a shelf in my wardrobe that serves as storage space for my *ahem* toys. Having read that, you’re probably wondering what I have against the “Fifty Shades” series. “It’s all about sex, surely you can’t have anything against that!” It’s a valid point- I don’t have anything against the fact that it’s meant to be erotic literature for women. I don’t have anything against its attempt to liberate women sexually and encourage them to experiment with their sex lives. What I do have a problem with is the way that E.L James has gone about it. For a book that has become a staple in so many women’s lives, I was expecting something that had been properly researched, veered away from the twee nonsense that dominates the female market and featured a main character with some backbone and savvy about her. Unfortunately, what I got was the same generic claptrap featuring a terrible portrayal of a BDSM relationship and a female protagonist who isn’t so much empowering as she is frustratingly meek.  If that alone isn’t a good enough reason to dislike it, just take a look at the following points.

The plotline and writing is both predicable and terrible.

I read the first 3 pages of the first book before audibly groaning and reaching for the rum in a bid to make the rest of the book less excruciatingly painful. All I can say is that you know a book is awful when you’re quite noticeably tipsy and you still get the urge to throw the thing out of a window just to end it all. I understand that “Fifty Shades” began life as fan-fiction for the equally overrated Twilight series, but surely that doesn’t mean that E.L James had to continue writing in the style of a drippy 12 year old loner a la Stephanie Meyer? Considering that the book is allegedly aimed at an adult audience, I’d have thought that the content would have matched the intelligence level of the more mature woman and upgraded from the “high-school romance” element. The plotline is as uninspiring as the writing itself- we barely get through the first chapter before meeting the mysterious billionaire Christian Grey and establishing that Anastasia Steele finds herself sexually attracted to him. Is it wrong to want a bit more of a backstory about the protagonist before moving on to the main plot itself? The rest of the book carries on in a stereotypical Hollywood romance fashion whereby Anastasia can’t work out whether her feelings are reciprocated before eventually having sex with our high powered billionaire. I hear you say “Ok, maybe the plot isn’t that great but at least the sex scenes are titillating!” Wrong. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get hot over dialogue that consists of “He touched my sex”. For a novel that’s supposed to be explicit, the language is reminiscent of an innocent schoolgirl regaling her Saturday night antics to her chums in the playground. It might have been a thrill for me as a 14 year old, but now? Not so much.

Christian Grey is a domineering, insistent, creepy stalker.

Before I read the first “Fifty Shades” book, all I ever heard from other women was how “sexy” and “caring” Christian Grey is towards the na├»ve and almost infuriatingly innocent Anastasia. I’ve yet to work out where that view stemmed from because I found most of his actions throughout the book controlling and sometimes downright terrifying. How can you say that somebody is “caring” when they use the internet to track your location down via a mobile phone, take you back to their house when you aren’t in a position to give consent and then proceed to remove most of your clothing whilst you are, as Mr Grey says himself, “comatose”? Put it into perspective ladies- if you woke up after a night out with a raging hangover in a guy’s house with your clothes missing, you wouldn’t be going “aww, that’s so sweet he must really care about me”, you’d be freaking out and calling the guy a creeper.  Let’s not forget the unnerving part where Anastasia is given a list of rules to which she must adhere to if she wishes to have sexual relations with Christian. I understand that the sex scenes are supposed to be BDSM play, but to instil boundaries on every aspect of Anastasia’s life (including what she may wear, how long she must sleep for and what food she is permitted to eat) is nothing short of psychotic.

It is a terrible introduction to BDSM.

BDSM was seen as a taboo sexual practice before “Fifty Shades” came out and seemingly liberated women from the chains of “vanilla sex” by allowing them to express their sadist/masochist fantasies without fear of controversy. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if the book actually interpreted BDSM play in a healthy and consensual manner, but poor research has made this a terrible foundation to base your future sex life on. Yes, BDSM is about relinquishing control to somebody else or having somebody relinquish all control to you, but that doesn’t mean handing a contract to your partner asking them to agree to engage in “any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant” and to do it “eagerly and without hesitation”. By all means feel free to set aside some rules before you begin, but take the time to communicate with each other and come up with boundaries that you are both comfortable with. It’s also important to give both parties the opportunity to say that they’ve had enough at any time, regardless of what your rules might be. Safe words exist for a reason- whether your safe word is “no” or “banana”, mentioning it at ANY point during foreplay or sex should mean one thing- STOP.

It gives a completely unrealistic expectation of sex.

I have to feel sorry for the men out there whose significant others have read this book, because if these women believe anything about Christian Grey’s sexual prowess they must feel a little cheated when they get frisky with their man. For those of you who don’t know, at the start of the book Anastasia is a virgin who has only been kissed a handful of times in her young life and has never felt the need to play with herself. Yet somehow, even though she herself has no idea what makes her tick and has never experienced an orgasm, sex god Christian Grey manages to make her erupt into orgasm for the first time by merely biting her nipples. That in itself raises questions as to just how much E.L James knows about the average sex life, but the part where Anastasia has sex for the first time really takes the biscuit. For most people, the first time you have sex doesn’t involve you collapsing into each other’s arms with rose petals cascading around you, it’s an awkward fumble proceeded by an equally awkward and sometimes painful experience that leaves you wondering what all the fuss is about. But not for Anastasia- because Grey is apparently a wizard in the sack, he not only makes her first time relatively pain free but also manages to make her orgasm again simply by thrusting into her a couple of times. This sequence continues throughout every single sex scene in the book where Grey apparently has to do very little to Anastasia to make her climax. At one point she is whipped no more than 3 times by Grey before she comes. Some could make the argument that she’s an extremely lucky girl. Others might say that it’s because of Grey’s sexual prowess. I personally think that it’s nothing short of delusion combined with wishful thinking. 

What do you think of the Fifty Shades of Grey series?
 Do you love it or loathe it?

Lush Review

I’ve always been slightly sceptical with regards to Lush’s solid facial cleansers. Don’t get me wrong- I completely embrace their all natural, no cruelty ethics with regards to cosmetics, but having spent the past 2 years using Clinique’s 3-Step Skincare system to keep my troublesome skin vaguely happy I never felt the need to search for an alternative. Even when I visited various Lush stores and had sales assistants plugging their facial cleansers as “miracle workers”, I could never get past the doughy consistency and secretly worried that they’d upset my skin more than actually soothing it. That all changed when Lush launched their 2012 Christmas collection and introduced “Let The Good Times Roll” facial cleanser. Described as an “A Maize In, gentle facial wash” and packed full of delicious ingredients such as popped corn oil, polenta, maize flour and cinnamon, my chronic sweet tooth overrode my preconceptions and I decided that if I was going to try something from Lush’s skincare range, this was going to be the one for me.

I received “Let The Good Times Roll” for Christmas along with a little bottle of “It’s Raining Men” and a free sample of “Ambrosia” shaving cream that I donated to a male friend with sensitive skin, and I can safely say that I was not disappointed. Open opening the pot, I was greeted with a smell reminiscent of butterscotch Angel Delight combined with honey. I spent a good 10 minutes sat in the living room resisting the urge to sneak a taste before putting the actual content to the test. Sure, it smelt like an explosion in a fudge factory but would it actually do anything for my excruciatingly awkward skin?

The instructions were fairly basic- all I had to do was take a small blob of the mixture, dilute it slightly with water so that I could mix it into a paste and then massage it into my face. As I normally wash my face in the shower, I was expecting the mix to run straight off my hands and down the plughole, but the paste was a lot more resilient than my usual liquid face wash and I managed to cleanse without any problems. As well as the mouth-watering butterscotch aroma, I was pleasantly surprised by its ability to cleanse AND exfoliate at the same time without scratching my face to pieces. As I have combination skin, it’s difficult for me to find skincare that does a good job of controlling oil and soothing the dry patches at the same time, but “Let The Good Times Roll” did an amazing job of targeting my shiny areas without irritating the more sensitive areas of my face. As odd as this is going to sound, I was pretty surprised by the taste of it too. Before you go thinking that I’ve reached a new level of low where food is concerned, I didn’t resort to eating a cosmetic product because I was feeling a bit peckish and couldn’t be bothered to nip to the corner shop. It’s just common knowledge that generic soap-based cleansers don’t exactly taste like rainbows and sunshine if you inadvertently get some on your mouth. But “Let The Good Times Roll” not only doubles up as a pretty good lip scrub, it also tastes like caramelised sugar. A cleanser and a tasty treat, who’d have thought it?

I’ve been using it regularly for just under a month now and the difference it’s made to my skin has been nothing short of astounding. I very rarely get spots or blemishes anymore and I don’t feel the need to smother my face in its usual layers of concealer and foundation to mask the redness brought on by dry patches. The only downside I initially had was knowing that Lush would inevitably remove it from their shelves because it was part of their Christmas line. But good news- I had a word with the staff at Lush Leeds who informed me that the product had done so well that they would be keeping it as a permanent fixture in their skincare line all year round- HOORAY!

If you’re looking to try Lush’s skincare out for the first time, want something to keep troublesome skin at bay or just love the idea of smelling like sticky-toffee pudding, I can’t recommend “Let The Good Times Roll” enough. At £5.95 for a 100g pot it is a little more expensive than your standard face wash from Superdrug, but a little goes a long way and the results are definitely worth the extra couple of quid.

"Let The Good Times Roll" is available at any UK Lush Store or from their website
What are your thoughts on Lush products?