fifty shades of romanticised abuse
The main things to keep in mind about the book and the brouhaha surrounding it:
1. Take the sexual activity and ‘BDSM contracts’ out of the equation and Christian Grey is a controlling boyfriend showing signs of being abusive.
Here are some warning signs of abuse shown in the books:
• Do you feel nervous around your partner? (Ana constantly reports feeling nervous around Christian. She is often scared of how he will react to her)
• Do you have to be careful to control your behaviour to avoid your partner’s anger? (See above)
• Do you feel pressured by your partner when it comes to sex? (‘Sign the BDSM contract or we can’t be together. Oh, and we’re keeping anal in there!’)
• Are you scared of disagreeing with your partner? (Twitching palms?)
• Is your partner always checking up on you or questioning you about what you do without your partner? (Christian stalks Ana via the GPS on her phone and make international flights back from business trips if she ‘disobeys’ him about not going out with her best friend.)
• Does your partner repeatedly and wrongly accuse you of seeing or flirting with other people? (Jose, Paul, Ethan, Jack)
• Does your partner tell you that if you changed, he or she wouldn’t treat you like this? (Christian often blames Ana’s ‘stubborn’ behaviour for his ‘twitching palms’)
• Has your partner ever scared you with violence or threatening behaviour? (‘I like to beat little girls’??????? Ana, at that point you RUN!)
• Does your partner say, ‘I will kill myself if you break up with me’ or ‘I will hurt/kill you if you break up with me’? (Christian’s constant harping on about how broken he was when she left him – he throws that around in a manipulative and threatening manner often enough.)
• Does your partner make excuses for the abusive behaviour? For example saying, ‘It’s because of alcohol or drugs,’ or ‘I can’t control my temper,’ or ‘I was just joking’? (Christian Grey’s childhood is often his excuse for his behaviour)
(For more information, check out the Stanford University webpage about Controlling and abusive relationships here.)
2. The sex depicted in the book is fantastical!
Ana might be able to orgasm ON COMMAND, but the practical realities of sex for a large proportion of the female population are a little different.
If you don’t have mind blowing orgasms from having your nipples tweaked, from vaginal penetration only, without clitoral stimulation, from having a man wiggle his finger around in your vagina… THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! YOU ARE NORMAL! A large number of women have never experienced an orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. For most women, clitoral stimulation is the most effective method of reaching orgasm, and even that can be difficult.
3. This book hopefully shows the media and the sex industry that female sexual desire is a real thing. There is a market for porn, erotica, and sex toys for women. We are big consumers and it is time for that fact to receive mainstream recognition. Hopefully this book starts a conversation about real women wanting real sex, regularly and of a satisfying quality.
This article first appeared on Sara’s blog