Isabella Tesler explores why we’re all suddenly looking for our Mr. Grey…
I don’t fully understand how my 3am internet trawls, tea cup in hand, plate of supermarket own brand ginger nuts at side, ended up on the blog ‘Bodicerippers‘. As I scrolled down past the outrageously camp header, the unicorn search bar and elaborate pun titles, one word practically begged for my bleary eyes to fall upon it: Grey. Mr Grey. Find your own Mr Grey. Explore the complex character of the wonderful Mr Grey. Here he was, in size 12 comic sans font, lovingly sprawled across the pages. The writers praised him, adored him, analysed him. Christian Grey the force; the enigma created for us to decipher and ultimately love.
Whilst the blog was an easy laugh for a sleep-deprived student, on later thought, I began to wonder. This Mr. Grey is more than just a reference on a cheap thrills website, more than simply a character. Over the past few years, his presence has seeped into the media at an alarming rate. So, why do men want to be him, and why do women want to fuck him? Is he really worth the hype? Has the world got a Mr. Grey complex?
Mr. Grey, of the Christian variety, is not the first of his kind however. Lying hidden underneath an exterior of subculture, and the black sheep of society’s Internet histories, lies other Greys. For example, the dominant Mr. Grey featuring in the 2002 Film The Secretary, a film exploring the sub/dom relationship between a certain E. Edward Grey, and a Miss Lee Holloway. The powerhouse company, Kink, single handedly ruling the world of alt porn, showcases a dominative male actor, named Owen Grey. And, of course, he features in the naughty mummy soft porn of 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L James, the Grey of all Greys. Does the female mind house some deep Freudian excuse for seeing Grey as something overly erotic? What is in a name?
To fully understand the concept of the Mr. Grey Complex, one must first decipher that all-important colour, Grey, itself. Colour psychology, and its counter therapy, is in fact a very real field of research: Faber Birren states that our sense, language, forms, and personality define an association with colour. The influence of colour demonstrates feelings, which attach themselves to our physiological make up in a wholly unnoticeable way. Grey, for example, is often thought of as an unemotional colour. It is detached and neutral. From the perspective of colour psychology, it represents compromise in its transitional state of two non-colours. Grey is solid, stable, creating a sense of calm and composure, relief from a chaotic world.
Thus, its real life alternative, the metaphorical Mr. Grey is calm, and composed, an unsettling sphere of an unachievable, perfect bodied, spanking hunk of a man. The briefest touch of his hand provokes women to cum in a burst of fireworks, his humping makes jack rabbit pumping seem a distant memory, and his muscles and mind work in perfect harmony to create a crescendo of classical music and sweaty, rapturous orgasm. Now, lets be honest. Sex is messy. Sex is awkward. Sex more often ends in a cheeky cigarette and a pile of Poundland tissues, rather than feeling akin to the Greek Mythological character of Icarus “flying too close to the sun”. Mr. Grey’s charms lie simply in his perfection. Grey is the equivalent of a Rabbit vibrator, yet one attached to man with money and good looks: an allusion of perfect eroticised masculinity.
The English Oxford Dictionary defines ‘masculine’ as “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men… strength and aggressiveness”. This definition of Masculinity is arguably traditional- masculinity in the axe swinging, dominant trope. Grey fits this concept of masculinity down to a tee. He is both mentally and sexually challenging, aggressive, in control constantly. His demonstration of the masculine ideal, and of a dominant, is not only detrimental to male readers and female expectation, but also of the BDSM culture as a whole.
I can’t count the times I’ve heard friends weigh up their lovers to Mr. Grey, describe their longing for a Grey of their own or the times I’ve read articles giving men tips on how to be more ‘Grey’. Even a memorable encounter with a ‘Grow your own Grey’ doll at a shop in London comes to mind. Media criticises the porn industry for helping provide false ideals to viewers, yet heralds a fictional sex God and his deeds. The distortion of a female fantasy has not only re-instated a constrictive definition of masculinity, but also has disregarded a large aspect of a dom/sub relationship itself, through its lack of attention to consent and trust. The word ‘consent’ is barely uttered once in the entire film 50 shades of Grey: perhaps most worrying because, arguably in this day and age, mainstream films reach more people than a book ever will.
Moreover, this complex could also be seen as a catalyst of nonconsensual sexual abuse. A newspaper article recently described the case of one university student, whom, during a one-night stand, was tied up, whipped and bitten, without her consent. The man in question, only 19 years old, responded to questioning by stating that he thought ‘she would be into it’, as he thought ‘every girl wanted men to be like Mr. Grey’. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not pinpointing the entire male race as ignorant sexually aggressive fiends. Yet, surely bombarding men with a stylised version of BDSM, and a character such as Mr. Grey achieves nothing but negative repercussions, not only in the wrongly idealisation of such a character, but also in warped representation of BDSM relationships and culture as a whole. To some, the complex could promote sexual experimentation; however, it is not unrealistic to suggest that it could also promote this wrong image of sex and relationships – one that could easily be acted upon.
In this sense, Mr. Grey inspires an unattainable goal for both men, and women. What Grey determines in his initial factor of masculine dominance, he lacks in his unrealistic approach to relationships, sex, personality, and body image. Society has been masked by a Grey haze that needs to be tamed, a haze fuelled by the ‘Bodicerippers’ of our society. So next time you find yourself tempted by a ‘Grow your own Grey doll’ on a shopping trip, remember, Mr. Grey is not real, and never will be. And hey: real life men are a whole lot sexier.
Follow Isabella on twitter: @izzytez
Illustration: Esme Lonsdale