The art of describing a touch can convey more than just physical sensations; it can reveal power dynamics, emotional connections, and even plot twists. But with great power comes great responsibility, especially when it comes to writing about intimate moments. While Fifty Shades of Grey may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a great example of how touch can be used to illustrate power play between characters. In this blog post, we’ll explore the nuances of touch in creative writing and how it affects the balance of power.
Types of Touch and Their Meanings
Touch is not a one-size-fits-all type of sensation. It can be gentle, rough, inviting, or aggressive, and each touch can convey different meanings. For example, a light touch on the arm could be flirty or comforting, while a firm grip could be threatening or dominant. In “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Christian Grey’s touch is often described as possessive, dominant, and intimidating, revealing his desire for control over the protagonist, Ana. The use of touch to convey power dynamics is a force to be reckoned with, and young writers must remember that every touch holds different connotations.
The Use (and Abuse) of Touch
While touch can convey emotional or physical connections, it can also hide true intentions or deceive a character. In “Misery” by Stephen King, protagonist Paul Sheldon is held captive by his number one fan, Annie Wilkes, who uses touch to manipulate and control him. She soothes him by touching his forehead but is also capable of causing immense pain through physical abuse. Using touch to mask true intentions is an effective tool, and writers can use it to their advantage when creating suspenseful plots.
The Importance of Consent
One of the problematic aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the questionable consent issues surrounding the protagonist, Ana, and her relationship with Christian Grey. While fictional characters are not subject to the same ethical standards as real-life individuals, writers must be conscious of their works’ message. Unequal power dynamics, such as the one portrayed in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” can romanticize abusive behavior and misconstrue the importance of consent. Young writers must recognize the gravity of writing about intimate moments and be mindful of portraying healthy relationships.
The Power of Sensory Detail
Writing about touch may seem like a straightforward task, but it requires a keen eye for sensory detail. When writing about touch, consider the temperature, texture, and pressure of every stroke. In “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed describes the feeling of a man’s hand on her back like this: “It was like I’d stepped on a live wire; he was electric, burning bright beneath my skin.” Her use of sensory detail conveys the intensity of the touch and the power dynamics between the two characters. By being mindful of sensory detail, young writers can create vivid and powerful scenes.
Balancing Power Dynamics
When writing about touch and power dynamics, it’s important to create a balance between the characters. Shared power and consent are essential for creating healthy relationships, whether they are romantic or platonic. Writers can create a push-and-pull dynamic between characters, where each one holds some level of power. In “Pride and Prejudice,” Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy engage in a witty and flirtatious verbal sparring match, where each character holds their own ground. By creating shared power dynamics, writers can create dynamic relationships that are engaging and empowering.
Touch is a powerful tool in creative writing and can reveal much about the power dynamics between characters. As young writers, it’s important to be mindful of how touch can be used to convey different meanings, from intimacy to deception. While Fifty Shades of Grey may not be a perfect example of healthy relationships, it’s still an interesting study of how touch can be used to illustrate power dynamics.
The point is not to portray an ideal world in eroticism. The world is not ideal, and realistic stories will reflect that. The only important thing is that we don’t idealize sick relationships and thus normalize them at worst. For in doing so, we would be doing literature a disservice.