When I’ve had minutes here and there where I couldn’t write or critique, basically time at stop lights or laying in bed thinking about how I should be sleeping, I’ve been reading recaps of 50 Shades of Grey at Jennifer Armintrout’s blog. I’ve already got no interest in reading the series, and even less now. It’s all the bad things about Edward Cullen magnified and includes literal rape. If a woman says no and a man keeps going until her physiological responses kick in and she starts getting into it*, it’s still rape. But somehow Christian Grey is seen by millions as the most ideal man ever. I’m thoroughly disgusted that these books are some of the best-sellig in history. Romanticizing abuse is disgusting.
Barely a hundred years ago we fought to escape second-class citizenship to have the right to vote. We’re still fighting for equal rights today. The Violence Against Women Act is about to expire at a time when abuse against women is being held up as the ideal by women…who’ve never been there.
I had to stop reading one of Jennifer’s recaps to go cry. Ana didn’t want sex. She wanted to talk about her relationship with Christian. Did he listen? Nope. He wanted sex, so forced her. I posted on Facebook about this, and some of my own friends said that she got into it, so it was okay. What if she hadn’t? Women have orgasmed through rape-by-stranger rape. They are no less victims. Our bodies can lubricate when we’re raped so that we are injured less. How horrible that physiological functions working to protect us can be used as evidence against us being victims! I was shocked, appalled, and upset that only a couple people agreed with me and the rest who posted saw no problem.
Look, Ana hasn’t been willingly consenting to what’s going on. She’s been manipulated. Sometimes she gives pseudo consent only to avoid worse happening. Consent by manipulation isn’t consent. If a rapist threatens to kill a woman if she doesn’t stay still, is she no longer a victim because she did what was necessary to save her life? Or should we expect her to fight and die to prove she’s a victim?
Shall we start in on how Christian has tried controlling who she sees with threats of violence, has her so terrified that as soon as he enters a room, she’s thinking about how to get away because she’s scared of being hurt, he bought the company she worked for so he could be in charge of her, has her on a technological leash (I’ve had a couple people claim that you can’t track someone like he tracks her – au contraire, iPhones have this “Find My iPhone” app you can use to track movement if the app has been installed on the iPhone, and for evidence of this, google people finding the locations of their stolen iPhones by logging into icloud and taking a look, and similar apps are available for other Smartphones). In later books he has someone buy all her clothes subject to his approval, won’t let her do her own shopping, and bruises her body because he decides he disapproves of the clothing he picked out and it’s her fault. He picks her birth control and gives her no chance to say no (how romantic to wake up and find out your boyfriend has a doctor waiting in his apartment to give you a Depo shot you didn’t say yes to, and sitting still while in shock isn’t consent), and then blames her when it fails. He orders her food for her, picks their activities, where they will live, everything. Ana is expected to obey without question. What control does she ever have in anything? Except to not eat. I’m surprised he hasn’t had a tube shoved into her to force her to eat when she refuses. But her name, Ana, being the pet name for anorexia in the eating disorder community (don’t ask me how I know from personal experience and am still actively struggling), and Ana Steele having clear eating issues including not eating must be coincidental, as if the name of Christian’s Alice-like sister, Mia. Ana and Mia, short for AN[A]rexic and buliMIA. Does he still sound so romantic? This hasn’t even touched on the sex aspects.
Unless you’re intimately aware of how BDSM works, seeing the problems in the sex in the book will be harder to get anyone to understand. I’ll be frank. I used to be entertainment at a certain club in San Francisco. I’ve seen and participated in things that most people would only see on a BDSM video. So yeah, I have some authority on the topic. The lack of trust and level of genuine fear with the “love means not needing a safe word” all crosses the line. But what do I know, according to some friends of mine who’ve never participated in any of this. I have, but they’re 50 Shades fans, so obviously know better than the one who was into real life BDSM in a safe situation. Even without debating this part of it, Christian’s out-of-the-bedroom activities are abusive.
I’m truly concerned that this series and the defense of Christian’s actions are helping keep women in bad relationships. If a woman, say, Jane Doe, is being hurt like a novel’s victim, but so many others wish they could be the Ana in that book and have Jane’s relationship, how easy do you think it will be for Jane to find support in leaving because she’s leaving a life they want? It’s going to be isolating being the lone women not wanting that, not wanting what you have, and wondering if there’s something wrong with you for wanting to leave what everyone else wants. Peer pressure is powerful, even among adults.
I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world where men are told to be like a rapist and women are told it’s the most romantic thing ever. We’re sliding backward. Instead of running more toward women being strong and capable, we’re starting to go back to a time when women are property and need someone to take care of us. Or at least this is the way of novels. Let’s not get into politics. Let’s keep this to novels. The popular novels read by women and teens (50 Shades has a massive TEENAGE fan-base) have a repeated theme of women needing to be saved.
I’m sure I’ve said it before, so I may be repeating myself in my fuzzy-headed, bleary-eyed state (thank you, red lines, for letting me know when I misspell something), but the sole reason I started writing these books is to counter the dangerous message today’s popular lit is telling women to expect. My goal is to present some popular books that tell women that they deserve better than abuse, and they don’t have to take it, and that it’s perfectly fine to be a woman who opens a can of whoop-ass. You can be a strong woman and still have times where you let someone you trust be strong for you. That women don’t have to be “on” all the time, nor should they always be “off.”
Women need an example of a good relationship where a man cares for his significant other without suffocating her, where he may falter and sometimes be a bit overprotective, but that minor imperfections are okay. Christian Grey refusing to let Anastasia Steele leave her workplace, even though part of her job is running errands, after he bought the company she was working for to control her for her “safety,” is terrible. Tristan Larocque (rhyming fist names wasn’t intentional – I named Tristan after an old schoolmate of mine) trying to talk Juliette St. Claire into not going on a dangerous journey because he’s afraid she’ll get hurt, but ultimately realizing he needs to respect her and trust her to make decisions like this for herself is good.
Christian and Ana have fights that result in her being “beaten” (her word, not mine) and afraid. Ana is scared to death of angering Christian. Tristan and Juliette have some fights, but work through them. She does have instinctive fear of being hit because of her relationship with Nathaniel, but she trusts that Tristan won’t hurt her. She is not afraid of him. Bella was too plain mindless to fear Edward, and accepted his actions without thinking. Ana is scared to death and often wants to escape when Christian enters the room. Juliette knows she’s safe, and Tristan doesn’t hurt her.
I’m somewhat worried that Juliette’s relationship with Nathaniel, the abusive one, will be the ones readers will dream about. I hope that what happens to bring their relationship to an end will signal to readers that he, and everything he does, it wrong. I want it to open dialog and for women to say that living in fear of being hit isn’t romantic and that rape is terrible. I can’t even believe that, at the end of 2012, I even have to mention that we should be calling rape a horrible thing instead of idealizing a rapist and condoning rape by doing so.
I also can’t believe that a fanfic version of Edward can be so bad that the original Edward Cullen is Prince Charming by comparison. Yes, 50 Shades is Twilight fanfic. It even had the names of Edward and Bella. The recaps show just how closely the two series parallel each other down to similar names and the non-white friend of Ana/Bella working on her car that was once owned by Jacob’s/Jose’s single parent. And it manages to be worse, much worse, in every way.
I really hope that, should my books be published, that readers take away the message that abuse is terrible and that they guy they should want all guys to be like is Tristan, not Edward of Christian. If we had more Tristans in the world, we’d have less abuse. Should we all not be hoping for this?
Now my eyes are watering from exhaustion. Long day ahead of me starting with going to the Oregon Ballet Theater’s opening performance of The Nutcracker. Then day-job work, then critiquing and hopefully some time to finish a chapter I’m working on. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll fit a glass of birthday wine in there.