The most important thing about the Whittingdale affair is of course the issue of journalistic freedom and how far their silence on his private life was a trade-off for favours returned. Everyone is writing about that far better than I could, so I’m not going to make the attempt. Instead, I’m going to talk about bondage.
Yay! BONDAGE! For many people who try it, they are merely dabbling in role play for the sake of variety. For others, it fulfils a deep psychosexual need. (Sorry – starting to use words like ‘psychosexual’; can’t be helped.) The popularity of bondage fiction shows that clearly: Fifty Shades is the ultimate modern treatise on the subject, or so we are meant to think. The Whittingdale affair actually helps to demonstrate how wrong that is.
In Fifty Shades, the hero Christian Grey is a hugely successful businessman (not sure where he finds the time, what with the demands of his romantic life), damaged from childhood and needing a sexual submissive to satisfy his emotional and sexual urges. A casual glance at the sex lives of the rich and powerful shows this is bullshit. Politicians and top businessmen have vast responsibilities, make decisions daily which affect the lives of millions, and exist under the constant pressures of power. For sex to be a true release, many of them require the SUBMISSIVE role – the power balance flips over, they want and need to be controlled, dominated, punished. This outlet may be so essential that it can exist outside marriage and wives often understand and accommodate it, even if they don’t want to play along.
For the record, this isn’t speculation on my part; a quick scan of the political scandals of recent years emphasises the point, and I do know that any top dominatrix will have a client list of Whittingdale and his ilk. (Though it’s rare for the dominatrix to be taken to public events.)
I don’t intend to moralise about this; what people do in the privacy of their bedroom (or someone else’s bedroom) is up to them. However, they should try to preach what they practice – or, preferably, not preach at all. The main point is that bondage is generally harmless, provided all concerned are consenting adults – but to accept it, we need to understand it. Literary erotica like de Sade and The Story of O cover extremes appropriate only for fantasy, but do at least have the merit of being well-written. Fifty Shades is not merely crap prose, it glorifies a relationship that is profoundly unhealthy. Just as the powerful need to be submissive in sex, so the converse is true. People who have an urge to dominate beyond casual role-playing are the powerless, the inadequate, the frustrated control-freaks.
In extreme cases, serial killers.
Whittingdale’s sex life is pretty standard for a politician and only becomes an issue when it leaves him open to corruption. But to set up Christian Grey as a ‘romantic’ hero is misguided, misleading and potentially dangerous. Because of that, there may be girls who don’t realise that a male obsession with the dominant role in sex – the need for absolute control – is something which could be a real threat to them.