This book contains many alarming passages and quotes. As someone who has been through a highly abusive relationship, I have been dismayed to see someone who acts just like that ex being held up as an example of the ideal man. Legions of fans swear he’s romantic and “just needs to be fixed” and that he’s not abusive. In reality he is manipulative and has no desire to be fixed. Abusive? A comprehensive study recently published in a legit medical journal and peer-reviewed has something to say about that.
Many fans claim that these books don’t cause harm because they are just fiction. Fiction is a part of pop culture. Pop culture influences society. Humans have a natural tendency to want to fit in. If you stand out, whether it’s by accident or choice, you risk more. The public mindset tends to become the personal mindset. It’s easier to blend in than to go against the grain. If you stay silent and hear enough people say they like this or that, eventually you are likely to as well.
Today’s children are already growing up in a world where their idols “twerk” against married men on stage and expect praise. They’re watching the Kardashians be praised and make fortunes based on how much wedding, divorce, and baby drama they can cause. Young girls are more likely to be fans of the girls on Teen Mom who shirk their responsibility because it’s the “cool” thing to like, and less likely to even remember Jamie Lynn Spears (remember her? – teen mom who dropped from the spotlight to dedicate herself to raising her son). Today’s young people are hearing left and right that Christian Grey is a wonderful man and any woman would be lucky to have him. His actions are excused because he was neglected until he was four years old. Read these ten pieces from the first book:
1) He’d probably like to beat seven shades of shit out of me. The thought is depressing.
2) “Please don’t hit me,” I whisper, pleading.
3) “You scare me when you’re angry,” I breathe, staring at him.
4) I don’t want him to beat me, is that so unreasonable?
5) “Are you having second thoughts?”
He shifts as if uncomfortable.
Holy crap. How did this suddenly become such an intense and meaningful conversation? It’s been sprung on me, like an exam that I’m not prepared for. What do I say? Because I think I love you, and you just see me as a toy. Because I can’t touch you, because I’m too frightened to show you any affection in case you flinch or tell me off or worse – beat me? What can I say?“
6a) “How did you find me?”
“I tracked your cell phone Anastasia.”
Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal?
Without a court order or consent of the tracked, this is very illegal. I’m rolling two more into this one:
6b) He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker wouldn’t.
6c) Of course he doesn’t ask me for my mother’s address. He knows it already, stalker that he is. When he pulls up outside the house, I don’t comment. What’s the point?
7) Next time you’ll be in the cargo hold, bound and gagged in a crate. (Christian to Ana via email)
Holy crap. That’s the problem with Christian’s humor – I can be never be sure if he’s joking or if he’s seriously angry. I suspect on this occasion he’s seriously angry. (Ana’s thoughts)
You can’t write things like that to me – bound and gagged in a crate – (Were you serious or was it a joke?) That scares me… you scare me… (Ana’s reply via e-mail)
8) But his moods… oh – and he wants to hurt me. He says he’ll think about my reservations, but it still scares me.
9) “I wondered what your bedroom would look like,” he says. (Christian did not get permission to enter her home.)
I glance around it, plotting an escape route, no – there’s still only the door or window.
“No,” I protest, trying to kick him off.
“If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.
Keep quiet. Katherine is probably outside listening right now.”
Gag me! Kate! I shut up.
10) You wanted to know why I felt confused after you – which euphemism should we apply – spanked, punished, beat, assaulted me. Well during the whole alarming process I felt demeaned, debased and abused.
Are those really the sort of things we want to lead people to believe are okay? Every single day in the US alone three women die at the hands of men like Christian Grey, jealous, violent men. A third of the murders of women in the US are by the hands of an intimate partner. Don’t think Christian would beat Ana? Look at 1, 2, 4, and 10, above. In the US alone, 35.6% of women and 28.5% of men have experienced domestic violence. Go read that link and be prepared to feel sick by how common violence, stalking, psychological abuse, etc., is. Those two numbers aren’t the highest.
BDSM and Fifty Shades is a post for another day. BDSM doesn’t come with the genuine fear Ana has, and as presented in these books, is not BDSM. This man discusses every instance of sex in these books from the viewpoint of someone who’s lived the Lifestyle for more than two decades.
For the love of this world’s women, can someone please tell me why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to hold Christian up as an example of a good man? Don’t even give me that tripe about how “he changed at the end.” While this is a topic for another post, the short of it is Ana learned to manage his tempter, nothing more. Further, Ana shows signs of Stockholm Syndrome. Jaycee Lee Dugard went through this, a phenomenon named after a hold-up in Sweden in which bank employees, held captive for six days, ended up defending their captors and raised money for their defense (information in the last link). Stockholm is often connected with people held captive.
Something easy to forget is that Ana, while not behind bars or a locked door, was still not free. Christian stalked her (see 6a, 6b, and 6c, above), bought her place of employment and threatened to buy any place else she went to work, and had his security staff constantly trail her. Further, he has a list she didn’t know about at first of people not allowed to see her at all and he expressly forbids her from going out with her friends. She literally has to plan how to escape when she wants to be alone. This is captivity. Captivity with a man who scares her. Find a way to accept it and manage it, or die.
I know some fans who claim she really wanted it because her physiological system functioned and she got aroused and orgasmed. Let’s just skip over how she mentally didn’t want it quite a few times until her body’s instinct took over. Orgasm during rape happens, even with a stranger. Lubrication helps prevent tearing from happening to the vaginal walls. This isn’t the same as wanting it. In fact, when I was in that abusive relationship I mentioned, the common thinking is that rape didn’t happen in relationships and that being in a relationship was consent enough. Thank goodness that’s changed. We now acknowledge that a relationship is not implied consent, and so victims are no longer blamed here. Too bad victims who orgasm during attacks are still shamed and told they wanted it.
Fans defend Christian forcing Ana into sex by claiming she got aroused, therefore she really wanted it, even when she calls her own body traitorous. This is literally blaming a victim. They say she felt feelings of “love,” though don’t seem to realize you can’t control testosterone and estrogen nor the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. The first two result in arousal, and the second two result in feelings of closeness and what we consider to feel like love. These are biological responses. Combine them with Stockholm, and you get a woman who will fight to stay even while she’s frightened.
No one argues that Ana is a smart character. But smart or dumb, she was a victim. Being trapped, scared, spending a lot of time dealing with her body’s instinctive arousal while her head wanted to run, and learning to manage Christian’s temper to prevent him from beating her (and occasionally saying yes to mellow him out, or even from wanting a bit of mild spanking now and then, absolutely does not mean that every time automatically has consent, nor does it mean she can’t be afraid when he won’t respect what she says), do not make for a healthy relationship. We our society is telling women this is ideal, and today’s teens are growing up hearing that this is normal. It’s being drilled into society’s collective mindset. Hear it enough and you’ll believe it.
I don’t know which is more terrifying – the message in these books, or the rampant love and defense of the abuse in them. I hope the movie keeps in every time Ana is scared and crying, every time she tries escaping and he won’t let her, every time he is cold and callus and cares only for himself. Perhaps defenders seeing it in front of their own eyes will realize what’s really happening. If a lot has to be changed, I hope the defenders ask why. Take away the looks and money, and who would defend him then?
I do feel for the women who’ve been abused to the extent that Christian’s action would be preferable to what they experienced. Some women can’t see the abuse because it’s mild compared to what they experienced. I read a post by a woman literally shot by her ex, and another whose head was slammed into a fireplace, and another whose lower jaw and nose were smashed so horribly that several surgeries couldn’t restore her to her pre-assault look. Those women traumatized so severely that a beating with a hand or belt and not being allowed to say no was a “nice” day are the only ones with any excuse for defending these books.
Abuse isn’t romance, and genuine fear in a relationship is always bad. Claiming these books are love stories and nothing more than BDSM is contributing to the belief that abuse is okay as long as the biological processes work, a victim succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome, and she learns to manage his tempter. Let’s hope the pendulum starts swinging back soon and that the ideal partner is one who is caring and respectful instead of abusive.