There are no ‘shades of grey’ in domestic violence

I’m going to be really honest and tell you l have not read Fifty Shades of Grey.   I tried.  God knows I tried.  But I couldn’t get past the contract. In fact, I threw it across the room in disgust.

We know people went crazy for the books and the hype for the movie is all we’ve seen or heard on the internet over the last little while.

But as domestic violence advocates and in keeping women and children in our community safe, we just can’t condone this piece of literature that is so clearly domestic violence dressed up as erotica.

The books were poorly written by all accounts and the director of the film has openly said she directed it as a feminist work. Unfortunately this is not our interpretation of feminism. Where does Christian Grey ever treat Ana as an equal?

We hear people saying that this is a love story. Well again; we negate that.

Apparently by the end of the trilogy, Christian Grey and Ana are ‘in love’ and she has saved him from the shackles of his own inner torments. But in reality, he hasn’t changed and Ana is trapped in the cycle unable to free herself.

The only thing that Ana has unwittingly fallen into is a situation whereby she is manipulated into a relationship where she is victimized and entrapped by coercive male dominated control, by one Christian Grey.

The glamorization of power and control are not sexy or erotic for us here at Eastern Refuge. The excuses that Christian Grey is a complex character are used as a justification of his coercive control and buys into the way in which women are socialized to believe that if only they would try harder, love more, be patient and submissive, their love will prevail and he will be saved by said love.

This is quite simply a lie. Don’t believe it!

We know that this is a work of fiction. We understand that. But we are concerned that so many people in our society are being lured into the false romantic notion that these kinds of behaviours are both normal and acceptable. They aren’t!

They are quite simply, abuse.

Christian Grey is an abuser. He uses coercive control as a tool to exercise his masculinity and dehumanize Ana’s femininity.  Like many of the women we work with, the tactics used by Christian Grey are initially subtle and then quickly move to the more sinister stalking and control.

He isolates her from family and friendships. He takes her back to his hotel when she is too drunk to consent and uses threatening language before they are even in a relationship.

He manipulates her into agreement about something she knows little or nothing about and he rapes her.

He consistently puts his needs above hers. Her feelings are irrelevant because he doesn’t respect her and even acknowledges that he doesn’t give a toss about her needs, sexual or otherwise.

He twists things and makes her feel guilty for questioning him or reverts to insulting and degrading her when she even attempts to assert herself.

He demands she has an abortion when she falls pregnant and claims her body as his property.

What makes any of that a love story?

He is an abuser of epic proportions.

And while Ana might see the signs, it is her socialized and inherent need to ‘make it work’ that means she falls deeper into an abyss of growing violence and control and brutality.

Real life is not like the ending in these books and this so called romantic fiction does nothing to support the premise that men and women are or should be equal in their relationships.  It is clearly dominance of the most insidious and covert nature.

And let’s also be really clear here that this story is in no way a true and accurate reflection of BDSM or Kink culture.  And to be fair, my own experience of this is limited. But what I do know is that BDSM, when practiced correctly, is a safe experience for both participants. Safe words are adhered to, nothing is undertaken that makes either participant feel unsafe, uncomfortable or violated and safety is always considered of paramount importance, as is consent.

In fact consent and the communication of such is the number one rule in BDSM, as far as I know.

Clearly the author did not do her homework because if she had, Mr Grey would have complied with his own rules of engagement and not ignored Ana’s use of the safe word. Her safety, both physical and psychological, would have been his paramount concern, as they should be in any healthy, safe, supported and equitable relationship, with our without BDSM.

These books in no way correctly align themselves with the culture of BDSM, as we understand it.

Again; this is simply abuse veiled as a love story.

So please before you hand over your hard earned cash to see the movie or buy the books (if you haven’t already) please be discerning about the content and the subtle and not so subtle violent subtext that has and will continue to put women at risk.

Annually Women’s Refuge supports thousands of women whose back stories are entwined with similarities to the context within these books. The psychological damage of coercive control and abusive manipulation mean that our work is long and complex.

The road to healing is also long and arduous. The emotional scars last a lifetime and all too often we work alongside Ana’s of all ethnicities and cultures, who have been victimized, brutalized and abused.

All we ask is that you think about that before you fall into the trap of thinking these books and this movie are a love story.  It’s not. It’s text book domestic violence dressed up to be something very different.

Think about those women who never report their abuse, because it seems socially acceptable to be abused and who society lies to by implying that this kind of behaviour is actually OK because everyone is fawning over a crappy little fantasy that is badly written, badly directed and badly acted, if the reviews are anything to go by.

It is the wolf dressed in grandma’s nightgown.

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