In its ongoing mission to “epater le bourgeois,” the NYT Style section features an essay by a woman who decides to give sado-masochism a try. (Wanting to Be Dominated, But Not Quite Like That, Aly Tadros 6/10) She tells us about her previous travails - boiler-plate issues with an immigrant father who didn’t understand her, his illness and death, her drinking and her rejection by a previous boyfriend - none of these either extraordinary or interesting. The woman claims not to be a masochist yet she is willing to be bitten hard, whipped with a belt and treated as just one of this man’s submissive playthings outside of his relationship with the woman he lives with and presumably loves. Part of it is explained by her having the freedom to scream, cry and release all the emotions she previously hid or submerged in alcohol, but part is also the titillation of Fifty Shades of Gray and the ongoing acceptance of deviancy as a suitable subject for mainstream media. The subtext is that it’s restorative to behave like a child whose tantrums will be tolerated rather than a grown woman who is expected to control emotional outbursts and deal with common life situations.
It’s not important to know whether this story is real or fabricated because on its own, it doesn’t merit a second thought. It’s only worth noting as part of the Times’ determination to force recognition and acceptance of all sorts of what used to be called “perverse behavior.” How much of its newsprint is devoted to transgender issues - in education, the military, the arts - how much respectful attention it gave to porn star Stormy Daniels, the front page review a year ago by critic Alistair Macaulay of dance that included anal penetration as part of its choreography. All this from the old grey lady that used to be called the newspaper of record.
At the conclusion of the piece on domination, the woman realizes how liberating that was but determines to now find a monogamous partner, an aspiration at such a low bar that I felt more depressed by that than at her buying in to S & M propaganda. Memo to self: If Mexicans are offended by the appropriation of sombreros, how do blacks feel about play-acting slavery? In a recent film, “Mary Shelley,” we see the eponymous child of Mary Wolstencraft and William Godwin - two individuals who personified radical thought in the early 19th century - grow up to be a precocious writer (Frankenstein) who runs off with the poet without benefit of marriage or parental approval. Eventually she comes to understand how hollow “free love” turns out to be and how important the concept of marriage is. This insight occurred 200 years ago but women today are still puzzling over it, unfortunately influenced by a media that confuses degradation with liberation.
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