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The real Fifty Shades of Grey
I'm in a shop surrounded by thousand-pound sex toys, eating sushi, sipping champagne and listening to a couple of extracts from The Diary of a Submissive - not my usual Wednesday night. In fact, maybe as recently as a year ago I wouldn't even be at this event in the first place, let alone writing about it.
We all know about 'that' book, the one that had women all over the world scrambling to get a copy to read; the book that had men everywhere secretly scouring the pages themselves and wondering if had it been aimed at men instead, it would have been as accepted; the book that has people talking more openly about 'taboo' sex topics. But that book was just fiction, and that's where The Diary of a Submissive claims to have the trump card.
The book being described as a 'real-life' Fifty Shades of Grey (the 2011 best seller written by EL James), is a personal account of living in a submissive relationship with a dominant man, and it has publisher Penguin excited. Not least because the book is expected to fly off the shelves after the popularity of the Fifty Shades trilogy (it's already reached the number one spot in the non-fiction book bestseller's chart), but also because it is the publishing house's first book of this kind.
The Diary of a Submissive is written by Sophie Morgan, a 33-year-old journalist working for a newspaper in England. For her, Fifty Shades of Grey may have succeeded in making people talking more openly about sex and Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM), but the way in which it has portrayed being a submissive is misleading and harmful.
In her book, Morgan aims to show readers that in the real world men with fast cars, helicopters and a great fashion sense are unlikely to knock on your front door, whisk you off to their million-pound dungeon and persuade you to partake in a BDSM relationship. In the real world, you can be both a submissive partner in a relationship but a headstrong woman in the workplace and in your social life. And most importantly, you can be a submissive and a feminist at the same time.
Morgan recently wrote an article for the Guardian in which she describes her frustrations with the success of Fifty Shades of Grey: "there is so much of the main relationship that plays into the misconception that a sexual relationship based around BDSM is, at its core, an abusive one. As such, feminists, quite rightly, have a massive problem with it. But while I'd agree with their summation of that (admittedly fictional) relationship, it's as different to my relationship with my partner as night is to day."
She goes on to say "The sexual aspect of my relationship is completely separate from other aspects of it - I am in control of my finances, my reproductive health, my career, my social life and all the other things that feminism has fought for. I genuinely believe it's the fundamental misunderstanding of what BDSM is that contributes a lot to feminists' opposition to dominant/submissive relationships - and this misunderstanding is perpetuated in epic fashion across EL James's trilogy."
It's hard not to look at The Diary of a Submissive and wonder whether it's the result of another person jumping on that never-ending bandwagon. Morgan tackled this question herself in an interview with The Atlantic Wire, saying: 'What I'd like to point out is that I'm not doing that, so much as running alongside the bandwagon, waving my arms and shouting "let me show you what BDSM is really like, sexually and romantically, and what I get out of it. And no, my boyfriend doesn't have a red room of pain..."'
And I'm inclined to believe her. Although I'm sure the book will earn Sophie a pound or two, and if it wasn't for the trilogy she probably wouldn't be releasing it at all, but I think it's also important that other people respond to - and not copy - Fifty Shades of Grey. We don't need more wistful stories about multimillionaire men who have model-like looks and are mean in the bedroom. Instead, in my opinion, people need to realise that Fifty Shades has probably been given more credit than it is due and it's time for a reality check.
The Diary of a Submissive is released today and we'd suggest you go and pick up a copy, even if it's just out of curiosity.