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‘Fifty shades’ of romanticized abuse

by Katie Koach, Contributor

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Despite making more than $85 million on its opening weekend, the critical response to “Fifty Shades of Grey” is less than impressive. IMDb shows a dismal 4.1 over 10 rating with more than 72 thousand reviews. Even with these ratings, weeks after its release the erotic film continues to make headlines as its books fly off the shelves.

The movie features Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey, the sexually adventurous billionaire, and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele, the virgin college girl, in an abusive relationship that is glamorized as BDSM.

The culture associated with BDSM includes erotic lingo such as dominant and submissive, roleplaying and bondage. At the core of practicing BDSM is mutual consent. However, it’s this concept of “consent” which is missing from “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Christian Grey starts with pushing Ana Steele for her consent — showing up to her workplace unannounced, insisting on dinner — soon after he gets it. He slowly goes outside of her boundaries to the point of abuse.

Clare Phillipson, director of Wearside Women in Need, told Alison Flood of The Guardian that the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series perpetrates the myth that women seek to be submissive and hurt.

“[Fifty Shades of Grey] really is about a domestic violence perpetrator, taking someone who is less powerful, inexperienced, not entirely confident about the area of life she is being led into, and then spinning her a yarn,” Flood said. “Then he starts doing absolutely horrific sexual things to her … He gradually moves her boundaries, normalizing the violence against her. It’s the whole mythology that women want to be hurt.”

The idea of women wanting to be hurt is rooted in the elementary school mentality of showing affection through abuse. Do we remember when, as little girls, we were told that the boy only threw sand at her because he liked her? If so, the one can see where this mentality comes from.

Adult sexual relationships are more complicated than sand box feuds, but the woman is more likely to stay in an abusive relationship because of the sand-box boy from her youth. He hurt me, but he must like me. This is the mentality that “Fifty Shades” follows.

The hordes of young adults that see the movie will have grave misconceptions of BDSM and consent.  Stalking, emotional manipulation and date rape are not part of BDSM.

Stephanie Marcus of Huff Post Entertainment said,

“’Fifty Shades’ isn’t really a BDSM movie (because), at its core, the film rejects [D]iscipline, [S]adism and [M]asochist. Anastasia is down for some light bondage, and even a little over-the-knee spanking, but she just can’t understand why Christian wants to ‘punish’ and inflict pain on her.”

BDSM is about pleasure from pain. Wanting to hurt a sexual partner just for them to be hurt is not BDSM. It’s simply abuse.

“I think that (Christian and Ana’s relationship) is abuse,” English with ALI Fernanda Costa said. “He can do whatever he wants to do with her. She can’t say anything. She just has to accept things…. I think he takes advantage and takes what he wants. I think he takes care of everything in their relationship and she just submits”

People need proper sex education so they do not end up in fifty shades of abusive relationships.

Sadly, sex education is never really about sex. It heavily concentrates on abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, menstrual cycles and some more abstinence.

The lack of the “sex talk” in school doesn’t mean a child will not learn about sex or only practice abstinence. It means a child will end up with the wrong perception of sex, getting educated by movies such as “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

In fact, false education doesn’t just start and end at the film. Individuals can still understand the concept from the commercials and surrounding conversations. Children carry these ideas into their teenage years.

Jasmin Enriquez, founder and executive director of Only with Consent, has first hand experience about how teens are affected by this.

“I have a younger sister who’s 17 and going off to college … She knows about consent because of me, but she tells me about the stories about her friends who don’t know,” Enriquez said. “They think that they just want to be in a relationship like (Fifty Shades) and they want to be cool and have that hot-steamy sex like what they see on TV, but that’s not the case,”

When the media misrepresents BDSM, people end up staying in abusive relationships because they do not understand that what they have is abuse. Movies and books that portray abusive relationships romantically have a larger impact than one might think.

A study by Amy Bonomi, chairperson and professor of Michigan State University’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, revealed that those who read the novel over those who didn’t, were 25 percent more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them; 34 percent more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies; and more than 75 percent more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours.

These statistics demonstrate that movies and books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” can have very real and very destructive influences in reality.

When people say, “it’s just a movie,” they are wrong. It is a movie that features domestic violence and encourages it.

Domestic violence, abuse and rape while in a relationship are going to be over looked by some naïve person because they thought “Fifty Shades of Grey” was a healthy BDSM relationship.

We need to stop romanticizing Christian Grey and see him for what he really is: an abuser and one of the many perpetrators of the wider culture of abuse that hurts women across the world every day.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “‘Fifty shades’ of romanticized abuse”

  1. Catherine on March 10th, 2015 7:39 am

    You are right, of course… But, the really disturbing thing about this movie/books is that they were written by accident by someone who didn’t mean to write about abuse because they didn’t know about much about BDSM. 50 Shades is no more about BDSM than Twilight was about Vampires. It is proof of how warped the obsessions of so many OLDER Twilight fans were so many years ago. What happened with The Twilight Saga is VERY RARE professionally-negligent publishing – NOT ‘Free Speech’. There are real amateur literary reasons why Twilight messed with so many people’s heads – and we are the ones who get called ‘crazy’ for it. (Unless we manage to write a XXX blockbuster based on this negligence that makes a handful of people money.) SEARCH explaintwilightbreakingdawnending on blogspot for all the details on how a romantic sparkling vamp accidentally inspired Christian Grey.

  2. Tom Johnson on March 23rd, 2015 7:34 pm

    For many child abuse activists, the elephant in the room with respect to this movie and all the intensive discussion thereof is how inadequately protected minors are from the kind of treatment Ana receives as a consenting adult.

    It’s worth noting that if Mr. Grey were a high school principal in, say, Texas, he could routinely and severely spank teenage girls–including those 18 or over–without breaking any laws. The only consent he might need is that of the girls’ parents. (For illustration, look up the federal court case of Serafin v. School of Excellence in Education.)

    See related also: fiftyshadesofchildabuse.org

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