Fifty Shades of Nothing A Path To Feminist Empowerment?

I think I am turning into a dreadful cynic.

But when you encounter a load of old tosh that people like Robin Rinaldi peddle as some kind of credible alternative thinking, I reckon you just have to call it for what it is. For those who might never have heard of Robin Rinaldi firstly, you aren’t missing much in the ideas department. There is nothing personal meant by this. It’s her ideas that are under the microscope here. For the sake of clarity, I should enlighten you on who she is. Robin Rinaldi is a journalist and a writer who just published a book called The Wild Oats Project. Now if you unravel the tortured logic which is the premise for this book, Rinaldi is saying that being childless and having promiscuous sex with a lot of different men and some women is an expression of her “femininity” and presumably every other woman who might follow her lead. Sorry I don’t buy it.

Apparently this all stems, or so Rinaldi tells us, from when as a young woman and newly engaged to a man called Scott, she visited a marriage guidance counsellor who in my opinion gave her really, really bad advice. Having said that, I secretly suspect Rinaldi would have charted the course she took irrespective of what anyone might have told her.

Rinaldi wanted children. Her husband to be did not. The marriage guidance counsellor told her: “ I don’t know whether you two will end up having kids. But my feeling, Robin, is that if you eventually want children badly enough, Scott will get on board.”

Funnily enough, Scott did not get on board at all with that idea. Not only did he not get on board, he also had a vasectomy just to make sure. It was then that Rinaldi decided, if she couldn’t have children, then she should at least have lots of sex with different men and women and sometimes men and women together. It doesn’t make any sense but that is what she did.

Now she told husband, Scott about this who, contrary to the reaction that most sane, sensible people might have, agreed to an open marriage for a year.

Let me just place it on the record. I not only understand, but concur with women who say they are completely fulfilled without becoming a mother. These women still have great careers, lives and relationships. Having children is not some necessary exercise in personal completion or wholeness. It is simply a choice. You do or you don’t. Clearly, Robin Rinaldi is not one of these women. For her not having a child has made her bitter, twisted and resentful. And Rinaldi makes no effort to conceal that resentment. She admits to doting on the children of relatives and friends even going to the extent of excusing herself from adult conversation just so that she can go and converse with kids. I don’t think you would be drawing a long bow to say that the Wild Oats project is her attempt at escaping the emptiness she feels at being childless. Instead she takes promiscuous sex as a source of comfort and calls it feminist empowerment.

Rinaldi, now aged 50, tells us that she always considered herself a ‘good girl’ and ‘pretty conservative.’ She had only slept with three other men before she met her husband.

“Sexually, I was experiencing what happens to a lot of women in their late 30s and early 40s … I was approaching my sexual peak and was relaxing into myself,” she told the New York Post. “As the door to motherhood closed, I found myself rushing towards this whole other outlet of heightened female experience – taking lovers,” she said. “I refuse to go to my grave with no children and only four lovers … If I can’t have one, I must have the other.”

Which begs the question why must you? I’m sorry but there is no way logically that this hangs together except in Rinaldi’s headspace.

Rinaldi says, at the start, she and her husband drew up rules for their so-called open marriage: they wouldn’t sleep with mutual friends, get into serious relationships or have unprotected sex. And they would only ever have three dates with each partner.Of course rules are meant to be broken and break them they did.

Under the terms of their agreement, Rinaldi rented an apartment Monday to Friday as a location for her various trysts. On the weekends she returned to her husband where they would live as a married couple without ever asking each other what they did while they were apart.

Rinaldi wrote how she started out by posting an online ad, entitled Good Girl Seeks Experience. In the ad, she wrote: ‘I’m a 44-year-old professional, educated, attractive woman in an open marriage, seeking single men age 35-50 to help me explore my sexuality.’

You can imagine the response. The next day, she had 23 offers.

She tells us her first encounter was with a 40-year-old lawyer, who she slept with in her apartment on the second date. Describing the night, she wrote: ‘We stumbled to the bed, where he turned me onto my hands and knees and took me from behind. ‘We had intercourse twice and, after he left, I felt satiated.’

Next she tried much younger men, and even describes texting her husband goodnight from a Las Vegas hotel room moments after a 23-year-old lover had left the room. Two of her 12 encounters were with women, one of which was a threesome. Describing another encounter, she writes about taking a newfound pleasure in fellatio, which she describes in lurid detail.

Needless to say this has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘feminist empowerment’ and everything to do with selling and marketing her book.

After a year of this, surprise, surprise the marriage to Scott disintegrated and they divorced. Rinaldi was contacted out of the blue, by one of her old lovers. who she says she is now living with in a monogamous relationship, if that can be believed. See, I told you I am a cynic.

Rinaldi writes and we are expected to believe that this experience has given her a new-found inner peace.

She writes: “I’m grateful I experienced my marriage to Scott … but now, for this part of my life, I believe being with someonewho is the most temperamentally like me is where I can learn more. As for not having children, I’m at peace with that, too. “First I channelled the creativity I would have used to become a mom into my sexuality, and then I channelled it into writing my memoir. As my story shows, there are many different ways in life to find passion and fulfillment…… I learned I didn’t need a man or a child in order to experience true womanhood.”

Hang on a minute. Let’s just retrace our steps here.

Rinaldi ends this book and her experience divorced, childless and in a relationship with one of the men she picked up and had an affair with along the way. How could that be described as a net gain? If anything she has gone backwards in terms of her innermost desire. She is never, ever going to have kids. And we are meant to believe this has given her a new found security? I say pull the other one.

If this is the path to enlightenment I am happy to remain in blissful ignorance. But I am not a woman so I don’t count. In any case I don’t think deep down Rinaldi believes any of it.

At the front of the book she dedicates her writing to “Ruby” the child she never had. I rest my case.