As a general rule, I avoid discussing controversial subjects, because I’m content to just keep my head down and write code. I’m choosing to speak up on this, because abuse of this sort is wrong, and when society is uplifting it as desirable, it makes me sick.
This is a statement written by my best friend and life partner, which I’ve re-posted here with permission.
As we all know, Fifty Shades of Grey is coming to theaters this weekend. My news feed is blowing up with articles about what the critics have to say, as well as blog posts alternately decrying and praising the sexual nature of the books or the BDSM content, and many people have asked me whether I plan to see the film.
My answer is unequivocally NO.
Not because of the bad writing or the plagiarism of which the author is frequently accused, although I agree that these aspects are distasteful.
Not because of the sex (come on, people, even the Bible contains erotica).
Not because of the BDSM. The motto of BDSM culture is Safe, Sane, and Consensual; these relationships require a foundation of deep trust and mutual respect. Intense communication, pre-established boundaries, safewords, and a commitment to aftercare ensure that both parties are safe, healthy, and fulfilled by their experiences. Christian Grey’s treatment of Ana violates every single one of these guidelines.
My problem with the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is the blatant, pervasive, unapologetic ABUSE that permeates Christian and Ana’s entire relationship.
Christian is extraordinarily possessive and controlling of Ana, stalking her, purchasing her place of work to better “keep an eye on her,” buying her gifts that she does not want, telling her what to eat, forcing her to take birth control, isolating her from her friends, and attempting to coerce her into signing a non-disclosure agreement that prevents her from telling anyone about the relationship.
He has intense and unpredictable mood swings that keep Ana constantly off-balance and feeling unsafe, and a vicious temper, which he uses to excuse his physical and sexual violence towards her.
He presents her with a “submissive contract” (which is actually mislabeled – such 24/7 live-in commitments are for slaves, not submissives), and although she never actually signs, he uses the contract to pressure Ana to remain in the relationship, even though she is clearly not a submissive. Rather than experiencing pleasure and excitement about the power dynamics of a BDSM relationship, she views it as something frightening and unpleasant that she is required to endure in exchange for having Christian in her life.
Very few of their sexual encounters take place within a defined “scene” with pre-determined boundaries; typically when Christian is angry, he “disciplines” Ana with sexual violence whether she provides her consent or not. At least twice he legitimately rapes her: Once when she provides a clear “No” prior to sex, to which he responds with threats to restrain and gag her, and once when she uses her safeword – a clear indication that she has withdrawn her consent – and he not only continues with the encounter, but becomes angry with her for communicating her limits.
The fact that all of this takes place in a book that is marketed as a ROMANCE is extremely problematic for me. As an abuse survivor, believe me when I tell you that these behaviors are NOT romantic. They are destructive. My abuse ended over four years ago, and I am now in a safe, healthy, loving relationship with a wonderfully patient, devoted, emotionally accessible man.
I still have PTSD. I am still in therapy. I still have triggers.
I do not support the normalization of abuse, manipulation, coercion, and controlling behaviors as “romantic.” The idealization of an abuser like Christian Grey is what causes people like me to end up in therapy, battered persons’ shelters, or hospitals. Some commit suicide, some are murdered when they try to leave or when their abuse becomes life-threatening, some never leave and spend their lives suffering. I’ve heard of a campaign called #50dollarsnot50shades that encourages donating the money you would have spent to see the movie to a domestic violence shelter instead. While I don’t agree with all of the philosophies of the various groups who created this campaign, I do like that idea and offer it for your consideration.
So will I be paying to see this movie? No, I will not. I hope I’ve adequately explained why. Love and light to you all this Valentine’s Day week.
For those of you who read all the way through…thank you. For those who are brave enough to publicly decry abuse, thank you.
If you’d like to dig a bit deeper into why my partner and I make these statements, the Elite Daily post on this is a good place to start. There’s a psmag post you can read for a more in-depth look, and if you’d like a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the Fifty Shades book, jennytrout has that for you (scroll down to “Jenny reads 50 Shades of Grey”).
If you would like information on the warning signs of abuse, the 50shadesofabuse warning signs page has an informative list.
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