Recently I was asked to sit on a panel and answer questions about the ever so popular 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. While the panel is tomorrow, I felt this was an appropriate time to write this blog. Many have asked my opinion about the movie/books. Fifty shades eroticizes violence against women. No matter how you look at it, at the end of the day, the book and movie are about abuse, power and control and violence. Every interaction with Christian and Anastasia involves abuse. He stalks, intimidates her and socially isolates her. At times, Ana tells him she feels demeaned and abused, but Christian tells her to embrace and deal with the feelings. Throughout the book, Christian uses alcohol to impair her consent and begins most of his sexual interactions with her while he is angry with her and she is under the influence. If those aren't red flags, then I don't know what is.
The fact is that people will associate this as being a normal healthy relationship. There is already one situation at the University of Illinois where a Freshman has been arrested. He stated that he was reenacting the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. We have to think about the messages we are sending. I'm not saying that 'Fifty Shades" causes these behaviors, but the abuse message creates a context that normalizes abuse. There are many messages in television and music that normalize abuse, this one just really took it to a different level. For those who are at risk for abuse or experience abuse, it makes it difficult to recognize it when it happens.
A lot of people think that 'Fifty Shades' is just showing what a BDSM relationship looks like. 'Fifty Shades' is far from a normal BDSM relationship. In a BDSM relationship, both parties are consenting to the activity. Drugs and alcohol negate consent. Both parties also mutually agree upon what activities will be performed before engaging in the activities. Many times in 'Fifty Shades', alcohol is used and Ana is pressured into doing things she is uncomfortable with.
Here are the facts. Christian Grey is a stalker. In almost every chapter of the three books, he is stalking Ana in some form. In Chapter two of the first book he shows up at Ana's workplace, which is way out of his way. He is possessive of Ana before they are even considered to be a couple. Driving three hours from his home to pop up at her work is just strange. He is manipulative and intimidating from the very first date. During the first date he uses manipulation to make Ana question herself. He requires her to call him Mr. Grey or Sir, while he can call her Ana. He continuously gets her drunk to make things easier. One cannot give consent while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so we are already looking at sexual assault within the first five chapters. Christian uses threatening language telling her "If you were mine, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday." She had went out with her friends, which one is allowed to do even in a dating relationship. But not when you are controlled by an abuser. Christian isolates her from family and friends, like most abusers do. This gives them more power and control and limits her ability to tell anyone what is really going on.
Christian wants Ana to think he cares for her, but he has no consideration for her well being. During his second sexual encounter with her, he makes the statement to her that every time she moves, he wants her to be reminded that he has been there. Following that statement with "you are mine".
Christian rapes Ana. She tells him him no, and starts kicking him. Instead of respecting her, he tells her that if she struggles he will tie her feet together and that if she makes a noise he will gag her. While E.L James thinks this might be enjoyable, in most states, when a women says no, it means no. Rape is rape. Ana realizes she needs space, but Christian refuses to give it to her. Even when she finally gets away to visit her mother, he shows up uninvited.
Christian expects Ana to be his side for everything, and uses threats to control her and make her feel that this is her fault. When she doesn't want to do as he says, he threatens to abuse her in public. Reminder that only his feelings matter and he doesn't care if he humiliates her.
Our goal for this panel tomorrow is to help you understand how this book promotes abuse and that this is not healthy. Many of the women we work with live in this type of hell. It isn't their choice and they sure as hell don't want to stay. Mr Grey is the man that many women are terrified of. If you or someone you know is in this type of relationship, please seek help. You can contact the Sexual Assault Center at 706-802-0580.