Tag Archives: yoga

In Defence of Fifty Shades and Dragons



According to Box Office Mojo, Fifty Shades of Grey grossed $239,670,000 worldwide during its opening weekend. The book itself has sold over 100,000,000 copies worldwide. There are many who have a hard time understanding this phenomenon, believing it a fluke—chalking it up to the power and momentum of hype and suggestion. For fans and devotees of E.L. James, the appeal is obvious, simple. From the other side of the fence, however, there is nothing simple about it. Most of the negative and hostile reviews are written by people who have not seen the film or read the book, however, many have done both and were horrified by what they read and saw. They interpret the messages in the book as reprehensible: rape, forced seduction, restraint, control, manipulation, abuse. Fans beg to differ.

Years ago, I moved to a new city. I didn’t know anyone and after several months, I became lonely and depressed. I used to walk my son to school every morning, and there was always a group of women standing around and chatting long after the bell had rung. I longed to join them. Then the day arrived when they invited me over. It felt like I had been given a glass of crisp spring water after stumbling through a barren, arid desert. At first, I was a little shy and uncertain, but after several mornings, I began to loosen up, laughing and chatting animatedly, enjoying the friendly camaraderie. That is until I told a joke.

One of the women regaled the group with a joke she had heard. It was cute and witty, and I chuckled along with everyone else. I offered up one of my own, one I had recently heard on a radio station. It was provocative, sexy, and a little dirty (seriously, it was really, really, funny). Except, when I delivered the punchline, I was the only one laughing. I was awarded a few polite smiles, and the conversation was diverted. That was a hard limit. Sex was off the table.

I went home that morning in a daze. I wanted desperately to fit in, and given the strict guidelines of the group, I adjusted my behaviour accordingly. I closed off a really fun, witty, playful side of myself in order to toe the line of respectable conservatism.

A part of me died that day.

Let’s flash forward a few years. I taught yoga, and I co-wrote an inspirational book called Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day. I blogged about finding balance, about managing expectations, about finding the beauty and joy in our every moment. In my actions and thoughts, I tried to embody peace and serenity. I strove for balance and attempted to reduce stress in my life. There was an image I was expected to project, and at first, I embraced it willingly, but after a few years, I found myself wanting more. I was missing something. Part of me was still shut off. I was still toeing that line.

Let’s catch up with the present. In addition to Life, I’ve now written a historical fiction, Avelynn, which will be released this fall through St. Martin’s Press. It’s sexy, sensual, gritty, powerful, and compelling. I’ve also written a sexy, short story: Italian Delicacy, which is very yummy. Should I have written under a pen name? Hidden this other side of me? After years of tamping down my vivacious half, I coaxed it out of hiding. I offered it flowers and chocolate, begged it to come out to play. In fact, I’ve pushed so hard against the constraints and limitations that once bound me, that I’ve externalized that journey with a tattoo.

Dragons and Oms

Now, what on earth does all this have to do with Fifty Shades of Grey? Like the dragon and the OM. There are two parts of me. One is calm, the other likes to roar. One is peaceful, while one is rebellious and wild. One is mystical, the other one magical. One is powerful, one surrenders. One is dignified, and one is downright naughty. I am a kaleidoscope of colour and nuance. All women embody that brilliant tapestry. We are sexual and conservative. We can be dignified and respectable, nurturing and matronly, but we can also be playful and mischievous, hot and wild.

Women have a rich internal world and a vibrant external one. But too often, we are expected to live outwardly in a completely opposite fashion from who we really are deep down inside. Let me give you another example. Several years ago, I went out with my husband on a date. After months of spit up and diapers, I wanted to dress up—I wanted to feel sexy again. As I was leaving, kissing my children good-bye, my mother-in-law asked me if I was really going to wear that out. She was referring to a lovely blouse that showed off some considerable breastfeeding cleavage. She said this in front of my eldest. At the time, I was too dumbstruck to speak. It wasn’t until later that I explained to my son that I was a mom, but also a woman, and it was okay to be both.

I was done with shutting down that vibrant part of myself. The world needed to accept all of me. Every part, whether that fit into their expectations or solicited their judgments and disapproval. I was tired of being flat and colourless. I needed to be me. E.L. James fans get this. And they want to be given permission to enjoy the movie without condemnation and censure.

In my opinion, the appeal of Fifty Shades of Grey rests on the broad shoulders of female sexual fantasies. The part of us that we don’t always show to the world, the part that ignites a spark of desire and arousal that might not seem politically or socially acceptable—the dragon.

Studies show 30 – 60% of women have rape fantasies. For a couple interesting articles discussing these findings, feel free to investigate here and here.

To fans, the movie and books are not extolling abuse, but rather are condoning women’s fantasies, bringing to the screen a fantasy that upwards of 60% of women find arousing.

Anne Rice defended women’s fantasies in a recent Facebook post: She wrote: “Lecturing women on their fantasies, telling them NOT to like “Fifty Shades” because it includes abuse is just as bad, in my opinion, as telling women that “nice girls” don’t imagine being kissed, loved, touched, ravaged, swept off their feet. “Nice girls” can imagine anything they want.”

For a unique perspective. Huffington Post recently broke down another study by a team of researchers from the University of North Texas and the University of Notre Dame.

According to the article, there are two schools of thought as to why so many women get aroused by behaviour that the detractors of Fifty Shades of Grey consider deplorable. One is the ‘sexual blame avoidance’ theory, the other, newer, more enlightened theory is an ‘openness to sexual experience.’

The sexual blame avoidance theory proposes that women fantasize about being controlled and forced into having sex because they are unable to own their sexuality and instead worry about how society will perceive them. Being forced into and ultimately enjoying sex because of their submission removes personal responsibility—they couldn’t help themselves, it wasn’t their fault.

The women who fell under the new classification, described themselves as being open to sexual experience and didn’t feel a need to hide or repress their sexuality. They had high self-esteem and while enjoying the idea of being forced into sexual situations similar to what is depicted in Fifty Shades of Grey, they were also just as likely to fantasize about overpowering and forcing a man to surrender sexually against his will.

In Defence of Fifty Shades and Dragons

Fantasies are a natural and very normal part of our sexual lives, for both men and women, and we do ourselves a great disservice when we disavow that part of ourselves. A part of me died the day I hid the sexual, fun, flirty side of my personality. Rather than tamping down the gains we’ve made as women to express ourselves, (thank you, Madonna) to own our sexuality, to admit freely that we enjoy and think about sex as much as men do, we need to embrace all aspects of who we are. We are a dichotomy, and one aspect is not better than the other, we are both, we are all. We can stand against all forms of violence and abuse, whether it be against women, men, children or animals. We can fight injustice and ignorance. But we can also have a rich and varied fantasy life. We can be both the dragon and the OM.

In gratitude,

Marissa xo

Cooking – ABCs of a Passionate Life

Cooking for a Passionate Life by Marissa Campbell
Cooking by Marissa Campbell

Disclaimer: I don’t like cooking.

There. I’ve said it. It’s out in the open (I also dislike cleaning, laundry, and organizing but perhaps that’s best left for another post.)

Here are a few things you might need to know about me:

  1. I teach yoga.
  2. I dislike vegetables.
  3. ‘I don’t like cooking’ is such a weak phrase, I’m going to try that again—I hate cooking.

As a yoga teacher, people often assume that I love nuts and seeds and binge on berries and pomegranate, all the while sitting cross-legged. While I can certainly eat cross-legged, I can’t eat nuts and seeds, since they irritate my IBS and cause all sorts of debilitating intestinal distress, and I really don’t like pomegranates. I love berries, though. You have me there.

The truth of the matter is, I eat like I did growing up. My mother wasn’t a fan of cooking either, and I often lucked out at super time with delicacies like Kraft Dinner and Chef Boyardee. To me, that was fine dining (and way better than the stews and pot roasts my brother and I would occasionally have to endure.) Dinner was often served with canned or frozen peas and/or corn and mashed potatoes. I really hate peas. Even more than I hate cooking.

With such a varied diet, I never developed a taste for vegetables. At all. Couldn’t stand them. I even went to a hypnotist to try and convince myself I liked vegetables. I didn’t work. What did work was a concerted effort to add these foreign substances to my plate, bit by bitter bit. Several years and many failed attempts later, I can now tolerate Caesar salad, garden salad with balsamic and olive oil (this garden salad btw is just lettuce, nothing else, all right, maybe a shredded carrot ribbon or two, but no other weird crunchy substances.) I can abide mushrooms on my pizza, maybe even adding a roasted red pepper or two, or sundried tomatoes with spinach. I’ve even developed a fondness for onions, though only the Vidalia sweet ones. Regular onions continue to haunt me long after I’ve eaten them.

I love potatoes: mashed with garlic, baked with butter, scalloped with cheese, roasted with oil and herbs. I even enjoy sweet potatoes roasted or julienned for French fries. Of course, a nice chipotle mayonnaise dip is a lovely addition too.

Due to my lack of vegetables, I’m happy to fill the void with carbs and sweets. I love cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, ice cream, turnovers, cupcakes, fudge, brownies, chocolate, candy … am I missing anything?

Are you perhaps sensing a theme? I eat like crap. I’ve known for years that my bad eating habits would one day catch up with me, and I knew I had to do something about it. So, I decided to embark on a quest.

I wanted simple eating, cooked simply.

I gobbled up lots of information on the Mediterranean diet, but there were so many recipes that involved nuts, seeds and fish, I couldn’t do it. Oh, did I forget to mention, I dislike fish as well? 🙂

All my research and internet poking and prodding brought me to Lisa Leake and her book: 100 Days of Real Food. http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ Lisa’s book is all about eliminating refined sugars, grains, and cooking oils and focusing on foods that contain a maximum of five ingredients (the number of ingredients are actually flexible, but they should be things you can pronounce and elements you would use in your own kitchen.) This seemed reasonable.

Armed with the book, my husband and I headed to the Whole Foods Market (a thirty minute drive from our house) and bought whole wheat pastas, organic vegetables and fruits, healthy spaghetti sauce, natural white cheeses and whole wheat flour. We even drove thirty minutes in the opposite direction to visit a mill to pick up organic whole wheat pastry flour.

With our cornucopia of plenty, we enlightened our children as to our new diet and met an explosion of discord. They would not give up their granola bars or their chocolate chip cookies. This diet was grounds for mutiny. Things seemed pretty shaky.

After listening to their grievances and realizing the amount of work involved to bake cookies and granola bars to appease their adamant taste buds—all the while juggling a wholesome dinner, oh, yeah and a life outside the kitchen—I decided a compromise was in order.

I loved Lisa’s message. I wanted on that bandwagon, but my family was ready to throw mama from the train. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. When I baked, I would use whole grains (see the gingerbread recipe below.)
  2. I would try and use the bread machine I bought several years ago. Using only whole grains, I was determined to find something that didn’t taste like cardboard.
  3. I would try and cook at least two real, honest-to-goodness nutritious meals a week.
  4. I would blare my music and drink wine while I cooked. Lots and lots of wine.
  5. My kids would eat the strange new food stuffs I was slaving over … for hours … creating a kitchen masterpiece of sauce splashes, scattered diced vegetables, discarded measuring cups and spoons, stockpiled pots and pans, and a smattering of waste products worthy of Jackson Pollock.
  6. My kids could keep one favourite refined, highly-processed treat.
  7. We would try and fill our plates at least ½ full of fruits or vegetables.
  8. I would enjoy more wine. J

This week, I made almond ‘sugar’ cookies http://foodbabe.com/2013/12/22/healthy-sugar-cookie/ and gingerbread cookies http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001536.html. The gingerbread being a bigger hit than the almond ‘sugar’ cookies. With all the strange and new ingredients in the ‘sugar’ cookies, I knew they’d sense something was amiss.

From Lisa’s book, I’ve made Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Quinoa stuffed peppers and you know what? My kids survived. They complained. They wondered what was inside the meatballs: “Is this real meat?” possibly referring to my stint at becoming a vegetarian and only eating tofu. I honestly did try. I survived on tofu nuggets and fruit smoothies.

The concepts in Lisa’s book are not foreign to me. Reducing our consumption of refined, highly-processed foods, eliminating toxins and foods filled with antibodies, hormones, pesticides, and fungicides are things we should all be striving toward. Making time to sit down with our families, enjoying the satisfaction that comes from a meal cooked with love (yes, blood, sweat, and tears too) is a quarry worth pursuing. I can’t say for certain how this scheme is going to end, but this week anyway, I’m determined to give it my all.

So by now, you might be wondering how this affects you. Here’s another C word “Christmas.” In tandem with this festive season comes lofty expectations and constant stressors. Part of that equation might involve cooking for family and friends. For instance, I’m cooking a turkey (truly my nemesis) but I’ve learned that by compromising, by accepting my limitations and not sweating the small stuff, I can make it through this ordeal relatively unscathed.

Turkey is a lot of work, but fortunately, I’ve learned my lesson and my expectations are low. My side dishes will not be ready at the same time as the main event, and the entire process will be long and involved … but I’m not stressing about it. Whatever will be will be. The same with my real-food cooking experiment. Our family met in the middle. I realized cooking for hours every day was going to be impossible and would set up unrealistic expectations that would add a ridiculous amount of stress to my life—something I strive to eliminate and reduce at all costs.

The house doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does the main course and trimmings. Things may not look like what we had in our minds, and often that’s a good thing. We are, many of us, perfectionists by nature and very hard on ourselves when things don’t turn out the way we expected. Lose the image and be happy with whatever manifests. Let go of expectations and the pursuit of perfection. Be flawed. Accept that. Revel in that.

In the grand scheme of things, life is short. Worrying about minor details is trivial and wasted time and energy. Enjoy being with the ones you love and let go of the end result. Living a passionate life is all about going with the flow and loving the moment. Have fun with it. See where things take you.

Remember when you were young? When you used to ride your bicycle down a big hill and you closed your eyes and lifted your hands from the handle bars. Remember the feel of the wind on your face, the sound of the air whooshing past your ears, the sense of freedom, of invincibility, that anything was possible. Life’s meant to feel like that—wondrous, thrilling, exciting, and fun. Find a way to let go of the handle bars. Loosen your grip. Close your eyes and fly.

Who knows where your passionate life will lead you. 🙂 xo

In gratitude,