|"Lose Control" the poster says.|
I think there is a connection between Fifty Shades of Grey and the Islamic State, and it's not the obvious one: the fact that devout Muslims, like devout Christians, would see sexual perversion and pornography as decadent and sinful. No, there's something deeper than that.
Concerning Fifty Shades of Grey, I recently wrote to a friend of mine ...
The young secular women I know see absolutely nothing wrong with it. It's porn with a story, which is the kind of porn women like. [Men prefer their porn without a story; women prefer theirs with a story].Having not seen it, I can only judge from what I'm hearing. It is, first of all, shocking that perversion has become so mainstream that normal suburban young women get a thrill out of the degradation of women that BDSM portrays. ...
Of course, defenders of the movie say that the story is about a consensual relationship, that if a woman submits to being degraded and abused, it's OK as long as she does so willingly.The movie also shows up the contradiction at the heart of liberalism. The left wants both uninhibited lust and also respect for the dignity of women. You can't have both. You can't even have men with dignity under these conditions.
But that's exactly the point. Masochism is thrilling because it's a form of willful submission. It's like riding a roller coaster. You can have the excitement of being swept up and down and side to side while being safely locked in to your seat. The vacillations of the ride itself are beyond your control, but choosing to experience these thrills are within your control, and that bar is in place, giving you an assurance of safety.
It is that willful submission that is the key to the link with radical Islam.
Joseph Sciambria writes of how horrifying and pathological the real world of BDSM actually is, and Chris Hedges grapples with his disturbing realization that all pornography tends toward child porn, and is ultimately about not only the degradation of women, but about dehumanization and the abuse of the innocent, but both articles miss the allure that this sort of thing has, even for otherwise normal people.
Joseph Heschmeyer comes closer in arguing that Fifty Shades is a reaction against gender neutrality and an indication that young women are longing for men who take control, even if that control is expressed as sadism. And here Graeme Wood comes the closest, while not writing on Fifty Shades at all, ending his long piece on the Islamic State by quoting from George Orwell ...
Fascism ... is psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.
The emotional appeal of the radicals of the Islamic State is that they take their religion seriously, and that it is a religion that calls for radical submission and that promises both a temporal and an eternal fulfillment. It is a religion that appeals to a deep need in human nature. It is a religion of black and white, with zero shades of gray.
But what we are learning from the soccer moms who masturbate to BDSM porn-with-a-story is that it's not the gray that appeals to them emotionally. It's something of a far darker and a far deeper shade. It is something, in fact, that would not be dark, nor would it be deeply buried, if it were properly channeled and worked out in the world.
This masochistic urge, this desire willfully to place ourselves in a situation where our will is limited and constrained, is deeply and mysteriously connected to submission (which is what the word "Islam" means), to the desire to humble oneself before something or someone greater. When that need is frustrated, it turns very dark, and men like Hitler and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - and the fictional Christian Grey - take advantage of it.
For when we have no god to submit to, and no men to admire, the world slides from gray to black very quickly.