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Sexuality and Contemporary Literature By Joel Gwynne and Angelia Poon ...

Chapter 1:  Toni Bentley’s The Surrender
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Sexuality and Contemporary Literature

Chapter 1

Toni Bentley’s The Surrender

Postfeminism, Pornography,
and the Complication of Agency

Joel Gwynne

On April 16, 2012, in her Newsweek article “Spanking Goes Mainstream,” Katie Roiphe reflected on Christian Grey, the sadist-antagonist of E. L. James’s runaway bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey (2011). “Extremely solicitous and apologetic for a sadist,” Grey is, Roiphe decrees, the “easiest difficult man of all time,” (Roiphe 2012), as signified by his application of lotions and creams to the buttocks of Anastasia Steele shortly after viciously abusing her. This form of power dynamic—where fixed victim and oppressor subject positions dissolve into indeterminacy through Grey’s nurturing proclivities—is the product of the aftermath of contesting waves of feminism and is, of course, distinctly postfeminist. Postfeminism is a controversial and divisive term which, according to Angela McRobbie, “positively draws on and invokes feminism” as a movement that has been “taken into account,” purporting the insidious notion that equality is achieved “in order to install a whole repertoire of new meanings which emphasize that [feminism] is no