via: Relevant Magazine – Kristen O’Neal
By this point, all of us have heard of E.L. James’ bestselling erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. The book has sold over 100 million copies around the world, and the movie is set to open at $60 million.
I’m sure many of you, like myself, have sat on public transportation silently judging those around you who toted around the paperback, wondering at the appeal of the depiction of a BDSM relationship in this Twilight fanfiction. I made fun of the snippets of prose I heard and wrinkled my nose at descriptions of the plot.
In my shallow judgment, however, I overlooked several key problems in the text. Although I correctly characterized it as pornographic, I didn’t make the link that so often comes with pornography: the encouragement of violence against women. Upon closer inspection, Fifty Shades of Grey is not just harmless “mommy porn.” it clearly depicts a deeply abusive relationship in which its protagonist suffers emotional and physical violence at the hands of her partner. And, worst of all, it doesn’t seem to realize this.
Amy Bonomi, professor and chairperson of Michigan State University’s Department of Human Development and Family studies, has made some disturbing findings. A thorough 2013 study of the book concludes that “emotional and sexual abuse is pervasive in the novel,” appearing in almost every interaction between the protagonists, Anastasia and Christian. Both exhibit textbook signs of abuse: Christian, the so-called love interest, actively stalks Ana, purchasing her place of work and tracking her whereabouts through an app on her phone (“No place to run. I would find you. I can track your cell phone—remember?”). He controls her behaviors, her food intake, and dictates who she is allowed to spend her time with, isolating her from friends and family. He belittles her, threatens her and blames her. As a consequence, Ana is afraid of making Christian angry, afraid to talk to her friends, and insecure in her own personhood (“He’d probably like to beat seven shades of s*** out of me. The thought is depressing”).
Far from “empowering,” Fifty Shades seeks to remove agency. Even though it’s supposed to seem “sexy,” the book even includes several instances of rape, where Ana is coerced into or outright forced to have sex. The BDSM community itself has been outspoken on the issue, distancing itself from the horrific lack of safety or consent in the novel: “Fifty Shades is not about fun,” says BDSM practitioner, Sophie Morgan, in The Guardian. “It’s about abuse.”
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