Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dark Eros: Natural urges to enslave and to submit?

What's up with the virgin locked in the castle? This question introduces a blog post by Stephen Snyder, M.D., "Fifty Shades of Sexual Innocence", in his series Fifty Shades of Grey for Psychology Today . Snyder mentions the book Pamela, published in 1740: "The Pamela of the story is a 15 year old servant girl employed by a powerful but corrupt young English nobleman — who finds her sexually irresistible. As in a dream, we are never told either this nobleman’s first or his last name. Pamela refers to him only as 'my Master.'" Snyder writes that the book was "to encourage premarital chastity" while suggesting its popularity was based on "the kinky sexuality." He continues, "What’s it all about, this kinky stuff that captivated eighteenth century readers? And that still captivates today in romances like Fifty Shades of Grey [by E.L. James]?" He considers two lines of thought:

"The first, as argued passionately by Thomas Moore in his little-read but magnificently argued volume Dark Eros, contends that sexual kinkiness is an inescapable part of human nature — the part that delights in the dangerous dance between predator and prey. To advocates of this point of view, we thrill to the virgin locked in the castle because the urges to enslave and to submit to slavery are part of our darker nature."

The second points to trauma as in The Lesbian Heresy by Sheila Jeffries: "... the virgin in the castle is female sexuality itself, condemned to prison millennia ago for threatening the patriarchal social order.  The sexual fantasy of being locked in a castle may be just an attempt to wring some meager pleasure from the whole sorry affair." Snyder concludes, "In subsequent articles in this series, we’ll try to hold on to both viewpoints at once."