As far as I can tell, about 90% of people reckon the book was a poorly written heap of bollocks that nonetheless showed us something about women and eroticism and sex and money and power and gender relationships and feminism, or something. About 80% of people reckon the movie is a mild improvement (by cutting out some of the more ludicrously written lines in the book) but nonetheless is still a filmed heap of bollocks that shows us something about women and eroticism and sex and ...etc.
However, given that few women in their 20's are ever going to be seduced by handsome young billionaires with fetishes and an even bigger obsession with contract law, I find it very difficult to conclude that the film really reliably tells us much at all.
And one of the more over-wrought bits of writing about it seems to have come from Ross Douthat, who takes the opportunity to propose that the sexual revolution:
...looks more like a permission slip for the strong and privileged to prey upon the weak and easily exploited. This is the sexual revolution of Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt and Joe Francis and roughly 98 percent of the online pornography consumed by young men. It’s the revolution that’s been better for fraternity brothers than their female guests, better for the rich than the poor, better for the beautiful than the plain, better for liberated adults than fatherless children ... and so on down a long, depressing list. At times, as the French writer Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry recently suggested, this side of sexual revolution looks more like “sexual reaction,” a step way back toward a libertinism more like that of pre-Christian Rome — anti-egalitarian and hierarchical, privileging men over women, adults over children, the upper class over the lower orders.I'm distinctly unconvinced.
Look, the "sexual revolution" (a thing of unclear definition in itself) is tied up with changes in technology, economies, and feminism, and making it easier for men to have sex with a quite low risk of pregnancy is of obvious "benefit" to them - just that that benefit is surely spread around all classes, not just the rich, who I don't think have ever had that much of a problem finding lovers.
Sure, I'm sympathetic to the view that prostitution is inherently exploitative, and undesirable, and I dislike quasi-feminist justification of it as empowering; but I would have thought the sexual revolution has lowered its prevalence in most countries, rather than increased it.
And as for the young being exploited: while there is no doubt more parent tolerated, open sex amongst teenagers today than 50 years ago, I can't say that I have noticed any big cultural move towards approving of guys in their 20's (or older) having sex with girls under 16. (Some changes which have been mooted to age of consent laws - making the age difference a key issue, rather than mere age of one partner - is actually sensible in terms of what is deservedly criminalised.)
There are, no doubt, winners and losers in the recent changes in Western attitudes to sex. I think culturally, there are clearly matters to regret, particularly on the issue of commitment in a relationship and the downgrading of marriage.
But to suggest it's turned back into pre-Christian Rome, where men could sleep with a slave (be it male or female) as part of his ownership rights: I don't think so.....