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Fifty shades of abuse

"Where is my Christian Grey?" Jail, hopefully.

Katrina Hatami

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Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James has been a hotbed of controversy in the literary world since the novel’s release in 2011.

The book, described as an “erotic novel,” traces the story of 21-year-old college student and journalist named Anastasia Steele, and the 27-year-old allusive business mogul Christian Grey as they maneuver through a deeply problematic and abusive relationship.

The relationship that develops between the two is neither loving nor healthy. Grey affirms that he is not one for romantic love, and tells Steele that he is interested only in a sexual relationship, even drawing up contracts to impose a submissive role upon Steele in the relationship.

Grey manipulates her both physically and emotionally into sex or other activities with which she adamantly expresses her discomfort and pain.”

Throughout the novel, Grey pulls Steele deeper and deeper into what is, quite frankly, a horrifically abusive relationship. He ignores her when she says no, tells him she is uncomfortable, or uses the “safe” word, a term agreed upon to put a stop to uncomfortable or threatening activity.

When Steele refuses his advancements, he threatens to hit her, has her followed by his security guard, or stalks her himself. Throughout the novel, he relentlessly manipulates her both physically and emotionally into sex or other activities with which she adamantly expresses her discomfort and pain.

The book met with many negative reviews, some focusing on the underwhelming style of prose, but more often focusing on the novel’s unhealthy depiction of the BDSM lifestyle. Critics argue that proper participation involves adherence to the safe word at all times and aftercare for more intense activities. In Fifty Shades of Grey, Grey ignores the safe word on almost every usage, and Steele is often left unaided to deal with the traumatizing effects of Grey’s domineering abuse.

Grey’s behavior sets off nearly every red flag warning in showing the signs of an abuser. He uses humiliation to coerce Steele into situations she clearly does not want to participate in by bringing up past wrongdoings to guilt her into doing whatever he says. He instills fear in her by violently threatening her when she doesn’t submit to his every whim.

Grey is also highly controlling of Steele. He even admits to needing control of literally every aspect of his life, a telltale sign of any abuser. He micromanages everything in his and Steele’s “relationship,” drawing up contracts, stalking her, overseeing everyone she comes into contact with, and barring her association with those he doesn’t like.

Steele shows many signs of being a victim of abuse. She views every encounter with Grey as threatening or intimidating, and continuously fears him.”

 

These control tactics take a huge toll on Steele, making her feel trapped in the situation. When she feels discomfort and tries to ignore Grey’s advances, he stalks her and either leaves fancy gifts or threatens to harm her, reminding her that she essentially belongs to him. His behavior influences her to believe that she is obligated to stay with him and that she has no other choice in the matter.

In turn, Steele shows many signs of being a victim of abuse. She views every encounter with Grey as threatening or intimidating, and continuously fears him throughout the story. Her internal monologue throughout the novel is disturbing, as she is scared for her life, feels like running away and screaming, and believes he truly wants to hurt her. She constantly worries about Grey’s mood and admits to being terrified of him and his sporadic behavior, always on edge for fear he’ll hurt her.

She then manages these threat perceptions by altering herself to respond placidly to his behavior, another sign of a victim of abuse. She keeps secrets from him and avoids speaking to certain people in an attempt to avoid his anger. She becomes almost completely isolated and lacks clarity and sense of self, more common signs of suffering from abuse.

It’s sad to see the media and popular culture continue to depict women in degrading roles.”

What may be even more troubling is the response Fifty Shades of Grey got from women, particularly of the younger generation. An astounding number of girls in high school find the book romantic. I feel sorry for these young women. It’s sad to see the media and popular culture continue to depict women in degrading roles.

The film version of the book was released on Valentine’s Day weekend, further conveying the false impression that this is a romance. The movie’s actors — Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele — have even publicly expressed their discomfort with the content.

In an interview with US Magazine, Dornan admitted that he “had to do stuff to [Johnson/Steele]  that [he] would never choose to do to a woman.” Due to its inappropriate content, Johnson admitted that she “doesn’t want [her] family to see the movie.”

I highly suggest avoiding the movie and the franchise as a whole. Think twice about contributing your time and money to the glorification of abusive relationships, sexual harassment, and demeaning portrayals of women.

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