Wednesday, July 25, 2012

50 Shades of Revolution

Right now, America's middle class workers have a long row to hoe to reclaim their democracy, being in a situation roughly analogous to the one seen above. Image source:

As I mentioned in a previous post, I found one article about 50 Shades of Gray downright fascinating and thought-provoking. This one, by Anne Parramore, that ran on Alternet, which compared Ana and Christian's relationship to the relationship between the one percenters and the rest of us.

Way back in 2007 I had explored the same topic, though without the touchstone of 50 Shades of Gray. In this early post I pointed out the issues that dominance/submission behavior can create in politics. A short time later, I wrote this post, about the relationship between culture and politics, which essentially said that the rules of culture were murky, unwritten and voluntary and the rules of politics were much clearer but also tended to be matters of one group imposing its will on another in a nonconsensual manner.

In that article I promised a subsequent article on the Grand Pooh-Bah of hidden memes which relates to bondage. But I never delivered on that article, because, "look a slavegirl wearing a butt-plug shaped like a fluffy tail!" It was a hard article to write, because it dealt with how dominance and submission behavior is imbued throughout human behavior and culture and how the culture that has evolved to deal with sexual dominance and submission behavior has some really subversive implications for the dominance and submission behavior that exists in human culture generally.

Hell, it's a hard article to describe, much less write.

"Come and see the sexiness inherent in the system!" Image source:

So you can see where Parramore's article really lit me up. It sort of APPROACHED the theme I was working at way back then but then missed it entirely. Parramore's mistake resulted in some minor flaws and one major one in her article, both products of her missing the Grand Pooh-Bah meme. The most glaring minor flaw ... Ana NEVER signs the contract that Christian offers, though Parramore claims she did. Ana instead negotiates with Christian, essentially using his fascination for her as her leverage, to eventually wind up in a contract-free relationship of something like equals even though she continues to enjoy the smutty, submissive-y sex. The book is a lot more subversive than Parramore realizes it is.

In fact, it is this very subversiveness, largely unrecognized by the unobservant readers (like Parramore, sadly) that may account for its popularity. 50 Shades of Gray says that even if you are young and powerless, you are worthwhile, and you can use your worthwhile-ness to negotiate something like equality with those around you who may be more powerful than you. You can humanize and improve the world around you. No wonder it is so popular!

Which relates to the major flaw in Parramore's article. Humans in almost any organization tend to organize themselves into hierarchies, with some having power over others. Parramore "got" the parallels between corporatist billionaire Christian Gray and the One Percenters, which worked well for her critique of the relationship between the One Percenters and the rest of us, but she missed the more universal application of dominance/submission behavior to human institutions of all kinds.

In a dominance/submission relationship, the submissive GIVES power to the dominant, and it is incumbent on the dominant to return that gift by treating the submissive in ways that he or she will enjoy. If he or she does not, the submissive can simply walk away, withdrawing the power that he or she gave the dominant.

In most real-world relationships it is not so easy to withdraw the gift of power. If your boss mistreats you, you can quit your job, but where will you find another one, and what will you use for money while you look? And what guarantee do you have of finding a better boss, especially in times like these which encourage every abuse by corporate bosses?

Clearly, most of us can't just quit, we have to negotiate. And one way to begin is to look at your boss and ask, "Has he or she earned the power he or she has been gifted with? What sort of boss would be worthy of the gift of power they have? How would they behave?"

Assume your boss' power is your gift to him or her, even though it is in fact not a consensual gift at all. Then work to make your boss into the person who would deserve such a gift. They do not need to be informed that that is what you are doing. It would probably be better for you if they were not. You can then proceed to subvert the relationship between your boss and you into something more human, because you will know what you are doing, and they will not. The changes in the relationship may be very subtle to start with, but over time could change radically.

And if you have subordinates, you could perhaps stand to ask yourself, "Have I earnd the trust they have given me? What could I do to be worthy of the gift of power here?"

I guess what I am saying is, absorb the lesson that 50 Shades of Gray and, more generally dominance/submission sexuality, teaches about power relationships. Then think globally and act locally. Could have some revolutionary implications!

Someday, the American worker's plight might be a little more like this, as this worker's trust is being earned senseless! Image source: Sex and

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