No longer are erotica and sadomasochism to be found lurking in the shady shelves of seedy sex shops. You can find them at family-friendly Target. Vibrating rings men can put on to generate powerful vibrations, blindfolds to introduce light bondage, and lubricants to make the ride slippery smooth. That’s right. It’s the “Fifty Shades of Grey” Pleasure Collection. And you won’t locate it among the condoms and KY lubes, which are usually near the pharmacy. You’ll find it among women’s beauty products or next to the men’s razors and cologne. Where else can you snag the Target shopper: Women of all ages hot for Christian Grey and his Red Room of Pain?
For those of you who might be a bit confused at this point, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is E.L. James’ erotica trilogy featuring BDSM themes. That stands for bondage and discipline, sadomasochism and masochism. Picture whips, chains, anal probes, genital clamps, and you get the idea. Safe words are involved. Usually not “Kelly Clarkson,” though.
It’s probably safe to say that a lot of women didn’t know much about BDSM until the “Fifty Shades” trilogy came out, roping in “Twilight” fans and satisfying their hunger for a darker edge to the sexually benign vampire love story. But they certainly do now. And Target is capitalizing on it—just doing its part to normalize deviancy.
What’s The Target?
The packaging of the products, with their black, sleek boxes and easily recognizable gray print, lures shoppers (of any age) in with a line or two from the books and then a seductive description of the product.
Here’s what you find on the blindfolds box:
‘He reaches down, lifts my chin, and plants a soft kiss on my lips before slipping the blindfold over my eyes. I can see nothing. Oh my. I’m so aroused…already. I am ready, eager to feel his touch.’
Two luxury blindfolds, one silver and one black, ideal for couples who want to introduce light bondage play and excitement to the bedroom.
From the massage candle:
‘Christian lifts me, carries me over to the bed and lays me down on the cool satin sheets. After a moment, his hands, still oiled, gently rub the backs of my thighs, my knees, my calves, and my shoulders.’
Light your Fifty Shades of Grey Massage Me Massage Candle to fill the air with Christian Grey’s intoxicating scent and set the mise en scene for a night of sensual caresses.
And the vibrating ring:
‘“Feel it, baby,” Christian whispers in my ear. I pant against him, wanting…. needing. On cue, like the apprentice I am, I let go, and we find our release together.’
A smooth, silicone love ring with the addition of powerful vibrations for shared stimulation and enhanced lovemaking. Slide the strong and stretchy ring on and at the press of a button, enjoy incredible sensations from the vibrations. Use with plenty of water-based lubricant for heightened pleasure.
Includes a satin storage bag.
Who knew shopping at Target could be so much fun?!
Target Promotes Unhealthy Deviancy
Now, a lot of you might be shrugging your shoulders right now, saying, “What’s the big deal? You’re overreacting. It’s just vibrating rings and blindfolds. What does it matter what people do in their own bedrooms? It’s not your business. Live and let live.” Well, evidently, what people do in their bedrooms is pretty big business. E.L. James must be raking it in with this stuff. And Target, of course.
It’s not that the products themselves are offensive or that they even promote, directly, the BDSM that’s in the books. Of course, grownups can do whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes. If you’re into genital clamps, hey, who am I to question that? Sex should be fun, and if you’re into that, then you go right ahead and clamp away. But “Fifty Shades” has popularized behavior that used to be considered unhealthy and deviant, and Target and other retailers are selling products linked to that deviancy, and, as a result, subtly promoting it—in a family-friendly environment. Can anyone honestly say that this kinkification of culture is good?
While blindfolds and vibrating rings aren’t any big deal (it’s not like chains, dog collars, whips, or the dreaded nipple clamps), these particular blindfolds and vibrating rings are being sold in connection with a book series that is about BDSM. Yes, I know there’s more to the story (I can just hear the squeals now, “But don’t you know they fall in love at the end, and, well, you know, that makes it all okay!”), so don’t write me that I am wrongly characterizing it. However, BDSM is a big part of the trilogy, and it has brought into the mainstream deviant behavior that just a few years ago would have been read and talked about only in whispers or in the privacy of one’s own bedroom. As for the products, you would’ve needed to head over to Adam & Eve. Target wouldn’t have been your first stop.
‘Fifty Shades’: One Big Marketing Scam
It has long been the practice of marketers to get customers to buy products that aren’t good for them or don’t deliver what they promise. Ad men learned long ago that if you want to sell cream to the ladies, don’t just tell them it’s good for their skin. Tell them it will make them beautiful. Then they’ll pay a hundred bucks for it instead of ten. And they’ll keep coming back even when it doesn’t make them look 18 again. They’ve fallen for the lie. Expensive cream equals beauty.
“Fifty Shades” has been one big marketing scam, selling deviancy to bored women who need sexual titillation in their humdrum lives. The old romantic stories that involve run-of-the-mill kisses and sex just aren’t cutting it anymore (Fabio has taken a backseat to whip-cracking Christian Grey). They need something more daring, more dangerous, darker, even if it makes them cringe as they read about a young virgin agreeing to get beaten in the Red Room of Pain.
BDSM is about inflicting pain to heighten arousal. Lots of people—evidently—are into it. This doesn’t make them bad people. You can be a good person and engage in unhealthy behaviors. Yes, wanting someone to intentionally hurt you (or worse, wanting to hurt another person) during, or as a prelude, to sex is not healthy. It is a deviation from what is normal for any human being. Love (which should be the context of sex) and intentionally inflicting pain do not correlate. The desire for this reveals a psychological disconnect, as one needs to inflict (or receive) pain when he or she should be giving love. Such behavior is not without consequence.
Wanting Pain Shows Something’s Wrong
As Judy Kuriansky, a sex psychologist, says, “There is a triumvirate of guilt, embarrassment, and fear of intimacy for these people [who practice BDSM]… It’s rare that all of a sudden they can give up on being interested in pain and suddenly be capable of being loved.”
But, of course, humans have a penchant for stripping sex of intimacy and making it all about taking, instead of giving—about power, instead of love. Since the dawn of time, people have been acting out power plays and kink in the bedroom, so the behavior itself is nothing new. What is new is that it has been normalized—packaged in glitz and glam—and it is being sold at your local retail store right next to the Gillette razors and Burt’s Bees lip balm.
But it’s not only there. Planned Parenthood is promoting BDSM to young girls. You got it. Leave it to Planned Parenthood to jump on popularized deviancy and spread the word to our daughters. It’s not enough that housewives and aging 50-somethings are dreaming of Christian Grey beating them with his “long-fingered hands” and wanting to act it out. Teenagers can join the party, too. Take a moment to watch this BDSM “educational” video “in partnership” with Planned Parenthood. The host is so cute, you just want to pinch her!
Over-Sexualizing Women and Girls Hurts Them
While we can talk about what adults are free to do between themselves (and, yes, they are free to do whatever they want, and I’m not advocating government intervention here, so please save your “I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT WITH MY OWN BODY!” comments for someone else), the effect of sexualization on women and girls through movies, books, and advertising has had devastating results. A comprehensive report by the American Psychological Association in 2010 found that “the message from advertisers and the mass media to girls is they should always be sexually available, always have sex on their minds, be willing to be dominated and even sexually aggressed against, and they will be gazed on as sexual objects.”
This sexualizing “undermines confidence in and comfort with one’s own body, leading to a host of negative emotional consequences, such as shame, anxiety, and even self-disgust. . . . Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.”
Now, I’m not saying that if you buy “Fifty Shades” vibrating rings at Target you’re doomed to a life of throwing up in the toilet, but the media and advertising promotion of sexual images, actual sex, and now deviant sex has a corrosive effect on the health and well-being of women and girls.
It is also highly subversive, as women who would normally not be interested in kinky sex or deviant behaviors are seduced, through popular books, clever advertising, and sex toys sold in satin bags (just like their makeup and jewelry), to think it is normal and good. The message to women is, “You really should read ‘Fifty Shades,’ buy ‘Fifty Shades’ products, and maybe even try out some BDSM because it’s what everyone is doing. You don’t have to go hardcore. Start off with some blindfolds. It’s cool, it’s hip. It will make your boring life so much more exciting! It doesn’t matter if your husband isn’t into it. He’ll catch on. If he doesn’t, well, maybe you’ll find someone who does…..”
Ladies, you’ve been scammed. The ‘Fifty Shades’ Pleasure Collection is the snake oil of sex (not to mention expensive—$15 for a bottle of lube!). It won’t fill up the emptiness inside. It won’t miraculously transform your love life or enrich your marriage. It won’t make you cool. It won’t bring excitement that lasts. It’s just an advertising gimmick, playing on the worst of our natures.