February 5, 2015
The mass media and throngs of women are swooning over the twisted “love story” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but this cultural phenomenon’s impact on society will serve only to glamorize sexual violence and romanticize domestic abuse.
While millions of women are fantasizing about the controlling and abusive Christian Grey of fiction, there are many other women dealing with the horrors of actually living with men like him.
In the book, and now the soon-to-be released film, Christian uses manipulation, jealousy, intimidation and violence to control the naive Ana. Most fans overlook and romanticize this because of his powerful position, handsome looks and nice suits. But women like Ana in real life will tell you that a seemingly perfect exterior does not necessarily mirror one’s psychological health or mean that he possesses a moral compass.
A college student, one of many I’ve heard from in my role as executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, wrote to me that Christian is just suffering the consequences of his own abuse, acting out in the only way he knows, and that Ana’s patient, loving behavior helps him overcome his abusive tendencies. Christian is so easily and quickly forgiven for his violent behavior. But forgiveness and devotion to an aggressor who inflicts violence is not sexy. Violence is violence. Sexual violence is worse.
While this should be a black-and-white truth, E.L. James is selling it in all shades of gray. Even worse, over 100 million women are buying it — in over 50 languages.
The reality is that if you take away the glamour, “Fifty Shades” is just a sensationalized lie, telling women that they can, and should, fix violent and controlling men by being obedient and devoted, and that, somehow, this is romantic. It is no surprise that Hollywood is betting millions of dollars that now is the right time to offer sexual abuse and sexual violence against women as mainstream entertainment.
The popularity of “Fifty Shades of Grey” among women also sends a message to men that unrestrained domination is what women want. And, educated by porn, they know how to do it. A majority of men have been getting a regular diet of this kind of violent sex and degradation through porn for years. In it, women are tied up and treated like animals and objects. Much of it is rape-themed.
One of the most popular BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) websites advertises its content as “the sexual persecution of women and young teenage girls.” Ana Bridges, a researcher at the University of Arkansas, conducted a study that found that 89 percent of the most popular porn scenes involved violence, most of which was directed at women by men.
Porn will show you that women enjoy torture and violence, and now “Fifty Shades” is tacking on an unrealistic fairy-tale ending, convincing droves of women that this type of relationship is normal, and that they should just give in.
This is not entertainment or a fairy tale, as Hollywood is claiming. This is glamorization of violence and abuse. Society pays a price when we teach men to be turned on by women in pain. As a result, sexual violence is on the rise in our military, colleges, families and on the street. When violence is made to be sexy, it is no wonder that these are the consequences.
It is time we speak up and stop obscuring the facts by allowing pornographers, like “Fifty Shades” author E.L. James, to lure us into viewing this lifestyle as attractive, harmless and empowering.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has a website, fiftyshadesisabuse.com, that details 50 problems with this disturbing trend in entertainment media. This project comes in an effort to educate the public on how sexual exploitation affects society on both individual and public health levels. The site also features the #50DollarsNot50Shades campaign and urges patrons to support survivors of abuse and help educate the public on the realities of “Fifty Shades” relationships.
Hold up a mirror to Christian Grey and you’ll see the reflection of a culture saturated in exposure to violent pornography. This is the porn that has and continues to groom the next generation of men to believe that they are entitled to violent sexual behavior, and that women should enjoy it. “Fifty Shades of Grey” models and reinforces this, while Hollywood is cashing the check. We will not accept what Hollywood is offering.
Glamorizing sexual abuse is not an appropriate topic for entertainment. Remove the glamour and facade of the Christian-Ana relationship and ask yourself if this is the twisted lie you want to tell yourself, your daughter and your friends.
Dawn Hawkins is executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Her organization exposes the seamless connection between all forms of sexual exploitation. Find her group on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter@porn_harms.