We’ve all read 50 Shades of Grey. Or at the very least, heard snippets of it or know what it’s about. I myself read it when it first came out, then suddenly everyone was reading it and going crazy. There are many reasons not to read it, buy the books or support the film. Partly that is is horrifically written (I mean seriously, it is appalling), partly that is was originally Twilight fan fiction – which we all know is another franchise that glamorises and romanticises abusive relationships and stalking. And partly because of the disturbing content.
Now there is nothing wrong with erotic literature. It’s a healthy way to express sexuality, and that’s fine. Even having those books in mainstream media and stores is fine. But what is not fine is having this book and the consequent movie, which romanticises and encourages abusive relationships and passes them off as BDSM.
This book adds to rape culture, this book makes sexual assault and abusive relationships seem okay, this book hurts people who practise BDSM, this book tells young men and women that this is okay. This is not okay.
For one thing, this book is available to everyone. Online, in stores, and now in cinemas. I know girls of eleven who have read this and plan to see the movie. This book to be quite honest, isn’t suitable for anyone below sixteen just for the graphic (if laughable) content. Sex is nothing to be ashamed of, but at that age you can’t separate the ‘romance’ from the abuse. Even adults can’t seem to. I know of people all ages who think 50 Shades is a tale of romance and go “Oh, I wish I had someone that cared so much about me” – no, no you don’t.
First of all, how much of a stereotype is Anastasia? She’s introverted, she has father-related issues, only one close friend and apparently no self-sufficiency. Yes, there are people in the world like this. Yes, that is fine. And yes, sometimes they fit into the submissive role well. But come on! People other than that are submissives too. And people like that don’t always need some man to swoop in and help with their sexual awakening.
Secondly, Christian fucking Grey. He is an abusive, misogynistic prick to put it bluntly. He forces this girl – whom he barely knows – to sign a lengthy contract which dictates how she eats, how she maintains her body, what birth control she uses. He’s already gone too far. And the book has already fucked up representation of BDSM.
Thirdly, of course Christian was abused as a child. Of course he was. Because only ‘damaged’ people grow up to enjoy BDSM. Of course. This not only perpetuates a bad stereotype but also makes it seem like there is something wrong with liking BDSM and you have to have a cause for liking it beyond ‘I enjoy it’ or ‘it turns me on’.
Now onto the incredibly sickening and abusive content. Anastasia has no independence or freedom. As stated above, she already had to sign away near enough her own free will, and Christian continues to stalk her obsessively and exercise a dangerous amount of control and jealousy over her. When she models for a photographer friend, Christian buy all of the photos – not because he likes them, but because he doesn’t want anyone else to see her. When she goes to a bar, Christian flies there to make sure she doesn’t do anything he doesn’t agree with. When she gets a new job (the one independent thing she does pretty much) he buys the entire company. I could go on but I would be here for hours. Christian is possessive and jealous, and not in a very mild normal relationship way. In a call the cops way.
“The control he exercises over her does not reflect his love for her; it reflects his objectifying of her. Christian never views Anastasia as a person, let alone an independent woman.” – Fifty Shades of Feminism
This book is encouraging people to act this way, it is suggesting that it is normal and romantic and okay to have someone act this way. Christian exerts so much dominance over Anastasia that she doesn’t even choose her own wedding dress and when asked why she says because she wants to “please” Christian. Don’t get me wrong, it’s normal and fine to want to make your significant other happy. But not because you’re scared of the ramifications if you don’t.
It can also be said that Anastasia wants to try some of his desired ‘BDSM’ because she thinks that will, and she she wants him to, demonstrate his love for her. Whereas Christian wants to do it so he can have power and control over her.
People who enjoy BDSM are not always this extreme. They always use safe words and they always obey them. They rarely have ridiculous contracts which dictate entirely how the other person will live. Yes, some BDSM is about control, power and pain, but it is purely sexual. It is not about damaging the person mentally or having control over their life, it is about having control over them sexually and in that moment.
You may be thinking ‘but they had a safe word’ and yes, yes they did. But when Anastasia uses it Christian guilt-trips her and berates her until she apologises to him. He feels that she did something wrong, that he was the victim and that he deserves her to acknowledge that. He is not concerned about her, or why she used the safe word, only how it affected him. Using a safe word is never wrong.
The co-depency in the book is another point of worry. Being co-dependent is not a good thing. It is romanticised so much in the book but it is not a good thing. There is a huge difference between loving someone and having a healthy relationship together, and being completely co-depedent.
All of Anastasia’s self-worth comes from Christian. Not only is he the only man she’s ever been with, but she takes everything he says to be true. She only feels attractive when he says she is, when he insults her she believes it, and because of him nothing in her life is her own – her job, her home, her sense of self, her self-esteem – she has no independence.
When she tries to break up with him she falls to pieces and gets ill. In turn, Christian only asks her to marry him because she thinks she will leave him and when she reveals her pregnancy, he rages at her and acts like it is entirely her fault.
The relationship is abusive on so many levels. Emotionally abusive relationships are characterised by insults, making you feel worthless and even sudden bursts of anger…
“Christ Ana! You have one thing, one thing to remember. Shit! I don’t fucking believe it. How could you be so stupid?” – Christian Grey
By manipulation and clinginess…
“No, please. I can’t do this, not now. I need some time. Please.”
“Oh Ana, don’t overthink this.” – Christian Grey
By threats and fear for your safety. By privacy invasions and possessiveness…
“Alaska is very cold and no place to run. I would find you. I can track your cell phone, remember?” – Christian Grey
“‘This conversation is not over’ He whispers threateningly.”
By suggesting they know how you feel better than you do, dictating that, and by guilt-tripping…
“So you felt demeaned, debased, abused and assaulted… Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this? Do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me?” – Christian Grey
The book tells people that love alone can ‘fix’ someone, that co-dependency is healthy, that extreme jealousy and possession is romantic and it blurs the lines between abuse and romance. 50 Shades of Grey is the fastest-selling novel of all time. And now it’s been adapted into a film, which is ironically being released on Valentine’s Day. The book is bad enough but the film will undoubtedly cut out the worst of the abuse; already it is trying to be sold off as a romantic drama. Do not buy the book or see the film, do not give any of your time or money to this franchise. This film will inspire a whole new group of people, a whole generation, to think that the Ana-Christian type relationship is healthy and okay. It is not okay. It is abuse.