Have you ever been in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship?
If not, you probably have a close friend who was. There are so many women who get caught up in abusive relationships and somehow, for some reason we can’t understand, stay in them. They try so unbelievably hard to make it work. Why?
If you want an answer, I beg you to read or watch the Fifty Shades of Grey series.
I beg you to read about how reality gets twisted for a young girl who is infatuated with a narcissistic and dominating man. If you read this series, you’ll understand it from her perspective – you’ll understand how you might not see what’s wrong with his behavior. You’ll understand how you can know something is not right, but you just can’t pull yourself out of it. You’ll understand how you become entirely entrenched in this infatuation, and you begin to lose your sense of self under his domineering command. But despite all this, it feels so good. Because you, like thousands of other readers, will not see through the thick shroud which disguises all this as love.
And unfortunately, so will countless other women in real, abusive relationships.
So what about Fifty Shades of Grey is so wrong?
Let’s start with the infamous Christian Grey.
It’s interesting to me that his childhood abuse is portrayed as a horrific, damaging event which left him traumatized, yet the pain and humiliation he inflicts on Ana is portrayed as a sexual discovery of BDSM.
Let’s be clear. This movie is not about BDSM, unless E. L. James had no idea what she was writing about. BDSM occurs between two people who both like and are aroused by the giving and receiving of pain for the purpose of pleasure. In a BDSM relationship, the submissive partner actually enjoys the pain and welcomes it as a part of their shared sexual experience. It is NOT a relationship between a man who wants to control and brutally punish, and a woman who does not enjoy the pain. That is abuse.
Don’t you think it’s a little odd that, amid all the recent talk of sexual abuse in the #MeToo movement, women everywhere are swooning over the abusive Christian Grey? That the media and viewers alike are calling this a “great love story”?
In fact, I don’t just find it odd. I find it dangerous. It’s dangerous because it romanticizes abuse by creating an unrealistic fairy tale ending for a sadistic man and an innocent college grad.
In Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, Christian changes under the influence of Ana’s love and they eventually get married. In Fifty Shades Freed, she continues to take the abuse because “He no longer wants it, but he needs it.” Apparently, through Ana’s continued obedience and submission, Christian becomes a better person.
While the hopeless romantic in me wants to believe that’s possible, the practical side of me knows it’s not. A truly damaged person such as Christian can’t be changed by submission. In reality, his type of personality quickly becomes bored of a submissive victim and seeks a new novelty. Just like porn addicts, they build a tolerance and continuously seek more intense and cruel stimulation to satisfy their desires. This means that in reality Christian wouldn’t improve – he would become increasingly controlling. The series is sending a totally backwards message that a woman can change a man through subordination. That’s not what happens in the real world, wake up ladies. Women in these types of relationships end up in safe-houses, hospitals, or mental health facilities. Not happily married.
We claim that we want to keep our friends, sisters, and daughters safe from sexual and emotional abuse. We pride ourselves on our progress in equality, and we demand the respect of and independence from our male counterparts.
And yet, we allow Grey to be masqueraded as some sort of romantic hero. We allow our friends, sisters, and daughters to swoon over this horribly abusive man.
We are indignant at the sexist, submissive messages in 1950’s ads, but we condone this sexist, submissive tale as a “great love story. ”
We’re disgusted with the politicians, sports coaches, and producers who have used their wealth and power to assault and abuse so many women. Yet Grey is loved because he uses that same type of wealth and power to manipulate women.
We demand equality and independence in our relationships; we want the freedom to do as we please and have a career. Yet somehow, we’re okay with Ana letting all of those things go for the sake of a man who wishes to dictate her every move.
You see, us viewers get sucked into a mindset similar to that of a girl in an abusive relationship. We are blinded by the romance that warps the decisions of the abused. We rationalize his behavior, just as the abused make excuses for the actions of their significant others.
The problem with this trilogy isn’t that the abuse exists. The problem is that abuse is being portrayed as love.
If you have ever watched a woman go through an abusive relationship, you have seen the confusion in her eyes. You have seen the blinded, hopeless devotion ad you have heard the excuses. You have heard the words, “If I just…he will love me.” You have witnessed a woman let go of her goals to cling to a “Christian Grey” who is incapable of love.
Imagine you have a twenty-one year old daughter with little dating experience and no idea what she wants out of a relationship. Watch the movies again, but replace Ana with your daughter. Now imagine her speaking to a therapist because she has tried to leave but just can’t stay away. Instead of telling her that he needs therapy, the therapist tells her that she can change him. Your daughter asks a friend for advice, and the friend says that this is perfectly normal. Imagine she comes to you for advice. What do you say?
You might argue that nobody would actually give that kind of advice in real life, and that this is a harmless fantasy. But we learn from our culture. We learn socially acceptable behavior from those around us and what we see in the media. We look up to the women in our lives, and public figures who inspire us. Do you really think that this widespread swooning over Christian Grey has no effect on what your daughter will think is acceptable in a relationship?
Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, we need to be a little more careful of the messages we’re sending to our daughters?