Issues of Abuse, Consent, and Rape in “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Warning: This article contains quotes from Fifty Shades of Grey and other adult content which may not be suitable for minors or may be triggering to survivors of abuse.

This article is only to prove that the character Christian Grey:
A. has a dangerous personality,
B. performs illegal actions through stalking and verbal threats,
C. abuses and rapes Anastasia Steele, who withdraws consent

Let’s get started.

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A. Christian Grey has a toxic personality, which makes him dangerous. 
Christian Grey is a narcissist – someone who is egocentric, has a lack of empathy for others, has a strong sense of entitlement, is an extravagant spender, and is preoccupied with fantasy. Some examples of this behavior exhibited by Christian include:
Chapter 5 – buys Ana lingerie (before they have even started forming any sort of relationship).
Chapter 13 – buys Ana a car
Chapter 21: “’It’s my company, it’s my jet.’ He sounds almost wounded.”
Chapter 22 – “I work exceptionally hard, so I can spend my money as I see fit.”

Christian clearly spends his money without a second thought, not to spoil Ana, but to gain ways to control her and to increase his feelings of ownership over – and her feelings of indebtedness to him. Narcissists are not fun to be around. They are controlling, and some are even dangerous. Of course, these actions are only red flags; nothing abusive or illegal has been done… yet.

B. Christian Grey performs dangerous and illegal behavior through stalking and verbal threats.
Let’s begin by looking at the legal definition of stalking:
“Two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about, a person, or interferes with a person’s property. (1)

Christian tracks Ana’s doings and whereabouts:
Chapter 4:
“‘How did you find me?’
‘I tracked your cell phone, Anastasia.’
Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain…”
Chapter 16:
An email from Christian to Ana: “Take some Advil – this is not a request. And don’t drive your Beetle again. I will know.”
Chapter 26:
“I want you to follow the rules – all the time. Then I know you’ll be safe, and I’ll be able to have you anytime I wish.”
Chapter 12: He enters Ana’s home without permission or invitation:
“I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker wouldn’t.” (Chapter 6)

He threatens Ana:
Chapter 13:
“’I think we should stay in public, on neutral ground.’
He smiles sardonically.
‘Do you think that would stop me?’”

He controls Ana’s relationships with others:
Chapter 19: Ana mentions she has been thinking about going to visit her mother, and Christian is upset that it came out in a conversation with friends rather than as a private request. “‘This conversation is not over,’ he whispers threateningly as we enter the dining room. “

Christian wants to control every aspect of Ana’s life – her sleep, diet, clothing, exercise, hygiene, and behavior – both when she is with Christian and on her own time:
Chapter 7:
“The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of seven hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant.
The Submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and well being from a prescribed list of foods
During the Term, the Submissive will wear clothing only approved by the Dominant. The Dominant will provide a clothing budget for the Submissive, which the Submissive shall utilize.
The Dominant shall provide the Submissive with a personal trainer four times a week in hour-long sessions at times to be mutually agreed between the personal trainer and the Submissive. The personal trainer will report to the Dominant on the Submissive’s progress.
The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times. The Submissive will visit a beauty salon of the Dominant’s choosing at times to be decided by the Dominant, and undergo whatever treatments the Dominant sees fit.
She shall be held accountable for any misdeeds, wrongdoings, and misbehavior committed when not in the presence of the Dominant.
Failure to comply with any of the above will result in immediate punishment, the nature of which shall be determined by the Dominant.”

In Chapter 12, Anna then emails Christian her thoughts on what concerns she has about his rules. She does not want to eat from a list of prescribed foods, and wants to know what Christian means by “obeying in all things” and “using her body as he sees fit – sexually or otherwise.” Christian responds in Chapter 13 by sending Ana the dictionary definition of “submissive.”

He buys her place of work in  the second book, Fifty Shades Darker.

I haven’t even gotten into the sexual aspect of the first book, and it is already quite clear that were Christian a real person, he has already broken stalking laws in several ways, and would likely be arrested or at the very least be issued a restraining order. Being stalked and controlled is not romantic.

C. Christian Grey abuses, assaults, and rapes Anastasia Steele, who withdrew consent:
Fans of Fifty Shades of Grey argue that the book is about BDSM culture (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism). Women’s Health Magazine quotes Gloria Brame, Ph.D., who is a sex therapist and author, saying that BDSM is about “consensual play” while Fifty Shades of Grey shows Christian Grey pressuring Anastasia and blurring the line of consent. She even says “Most BDSM endorsers aren’t really fans of the book.” (2) Katherine O’Clare perhaps said it best in her article “Why I Hate Fifty Shades of Grey (It’s not for the Reasons You Think).” She describes BDSM and her own personal experience of being raped by her partner and why Fifty Shades of Grey is closer to rape than it is to BDSM. O’Clare says, “BDSM is about mutual care, mutual pleasure, and mutual respect.” (3) What does Christian Grey have to say about mutuality?

“‘The more you submit, the greater my joy – it’s a very simple equation.’
‘Okay, and what do I get out of this?’
He shrugs and looks almost apologetic.
‘Me,’ he says simply.” (Chapter 7)
This doesn’t sound very mutual at all.

The argument that Fifty Shades of Grey is simply about BDSM does not hold up.

Now that we know a little more about what BDSM is and is not, let’s look at the legal definition for domestic abuse:
“A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.” (4) 

There is one more legal definition I’d like to cover – the legal definition of rape:
“Nonconsensual oral, anal, or vaginal penetration of the victim by body parts or objects using force, threats of bodily harm, or by taking advantage of a victim who is incapacitated or otherwise incapable of giving consent. Incapacitation may include mental or cognitive disability, self-induced or forced intoxication, status as minor, or any other condition defined by law that voids an individual’s ability to give consent.” (5)

It is clear that Christian uses alcohol to sway Ana’s consent, which, as we just read, makes Christian legally guilty of rape. Once again, if Christian were a real person, he could be sent to prison.
Chapter 15:
“Would you like another drink? It’s making you brave.”
Chapter 16:
“‘Did you get me tipsy on purpose?’
‘Yes.’
‘Why?’
“Because you over-think everything.'”

Christian creates a consent form for Ana to sign. I think this is where many people become confused between what is and is not consensual in the book. At first glance, everything seems to be in order; Ana seems to give the okay by reading and signing. However, if you truly think on Christian’s wording, you see that he ultimately takes away her future freedom to say “No.” Here are some examples:
Chapter 7:
“The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation.” (This means Ana cannot think about Christian’s future demands and whether she is okay with them or not; she must fulfill them immediately.)
Chapter 11:
“She shall without query or hesitation offer the Dominant such pleasure as he may require and she shall accept without query or hesitation his training, guidance and discipline in whatever form it may take.” (Ana cannot even ask Christian questions about his demands.)
“The Dominant reserves the right to dismiss the Submissive from his service at any time and for any reason. The Submissive may request her release at any time, such request to be granted at the discretion of the Dominant.” (This means Christian can leave Ana whenever he wants. Ana cannot leave Christian unless he gives her permission. This clearly constricts consent.)
“The Dominant may flog, spank, whip or corporeally punish the Submissive as he sees fit, for purposes of discipline, for his own personal enjoyment, or for any other reason, which he is not obliged to provide.” (Again, if Christian proves to be unreasonable in his future actions, he will not allow Ana to have any say in the matter.)
Chapter 13:
“I will f*ck you, any time, any way, I want – anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up.”
“The ‘or otherwise’ – again it’s to help you get into the mindset, it means anything goes.” 
Chapter 18:
“’When you’re in here, you are completely mine,’ he breathes, each word slow and measured. ‘To do with as I see fit.”

Let me put it this way: A girl and a guy go out on a date. The guy starts making moves and asking to have sex. The girl consents. She says, “Yes.” They start getting physical, and the girl begins to feel anxious or guilty or afraid. She stops the guy and says, “Wait. I’m not ready. I can’t do this.” The guy replies, “You already said ‘yes’.” And he forces her to have sex. Is it rape? Of course. She told him no. It doesn’t matter that she consented in the beginning. Anyone with a conscience would agree that this is rape. Yet, this is exactly what happens in Fifty Shades of Grey, and fans cheer.

I have heard from many fans that Ana never actually said anything that meant “No,” or “Stop,” or “Don’t.” Let’s look at a few scenes and quotes directly from the book, and I’ll underline the key words:

Chapter 12: Ana emails Christian after reading his list of rules, telling him she is breaking off the relationship. She is only saying this to see Christian’s reaction; she is not actually meaning to break things off, but Christian is unaware of this. What is Christian’s reaction? Suddenly appearing in her house. He came in her house without invitation and without permission. He then tries to win her back by forcing her to have sex.
“‘No,’ I protest, trying to kick him off.
He stops. ‘If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.'”

Let me repeat – she said “No!”

Chapter 13:
“‘I need some distance.’
‘I could make you stay,’ he threatens.”

Chapter 15: Ana again attempts to set a boundary but is ignored.
“’We can work up to that.’
‘Or not do it at all,’ I whisper.
‘This is part of the deal, baby.'”

“’Please don’t be angry with me,’ I whisper.
His gaze is impassive; his gray eyes cold shards of smoky glass.
‘I’m sorry about the car and the books,’ I trail off. He remains silent and brooding. ‘You scare me when you’re angry,’ I breathe, staring at him.” 

Chapter 16:
“Holy f*ck it hurts. I make no sound, my face screwed up against the pain. I try and wriggle away from the blows – spurred on by adrenaline spiking and coursing through my body. “Aargh!” I cry out on the tenth slap – and I’m unaware that I have been mentally counting the blows.
‘I’m just getting warmed up.’
And he hits me again and again. From somewhere deep inside, I want to beg him to stop. But I don’t. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction. He continues the unrelenting rhythm. I cry out six more times. Eighteen slaps in total.”

I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience, in fact, I would still go a long way to avoid it.”

Later in Chapter 16, Ana’s friend, Kate, notices Ana is hurt and asks Ana if she is okay. Ana replies, “I fell over and landed on my behind.” Does this not sound like a cover-up story that battered women give?

Chapter 16:
He actually hit me. I’ve never been hit in my life. What have I gotten myself into?”

“’How did you feel while I was hitting you and after?’
‘I didn’t like it. I’d rather you didn’t do it again.’
‘You weren’t meant to like it.’”

I don’t want him to beat me, is that so unreasonable?”

Chapter 17:
“‘You wanted to know why I felt confused after you – which euphemism should we apply – spanked, punished, beat, assaulted me. Well during the whole alarming process I felt demeaned, debased and abused.’
‘If that is how you feel, do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? That’s what a submissive would do. For the record – you stood beside me knowing what I was going to do… You didn’t at any time ask me to stop.'”

Ana did tell Christian to stop. She said she did not like it and does not want to repeat it. She used the words “beat” and “assaulted.” She said she felt “demeaned, debased, and abused.” And what is Christian’s response? To embrace those horrible feelings! And then he participates in victim blaming, which involves encouraging the victim to believe that what happened is her fault (6). It truly cannot be much more clear that Christian has abused Ana and gone past her consent.

Chapter 19:
Ana and Christian are in public, having dinner with friends and family. He tries to feel her up under the table.
“I flush and shift, trying to pull away from him. His hand clamps down on my thigh, stilling me.” 

Chapter 20:
The following occurs because of the way Ana pulled away from Christian at the dinner table in the earlier chapter:
“’Please don’t hit me,’ I whisper, pleading….
‘I want you, and I want you now. And if you’re not going to let me spank you – which you deserve – I’m going to f*ck you on the couch this minute, quickly, for my pleasure, not yours.'”

And Christian does exactly that. There is nothing else to call this scene other than a rape scene. Ana pulled away. She told him not to hit her. So he raped her instead.

Ana then tells Christian she needs a break from him. “Because I can’t touch you, because I’m too frightened to show you any affection in case you flinch or tell me off or worse – beat me? What can I say?”

Chapter 22:
Ana sets a boundary… again. “You can’t write things like that to me – bound and gagged in a crate – (Were you serious or was it a joke?) That scares me… you scare me…”
She later says, “I think I’ll suck at it and end up black and blue – and I don’t relish that idea at all.” Translation – as if one is needed –  She does not want to be hit.

Chapter 26: Let’s prove one more time that Ana is not enjoying or wanting to submit to Christian:
“’Five.’ My voice is more a choked, strangled sob, and in this moment, I think I hate him. One more, I can do one more. My backside feels as if it’s on fire.
‘Six,’ I whisper as the blistering pain cuts across me again, and I hear him drop the belt behind me, and he’s pulling me into his arms, all breathless and compassionate… and I want none of him… ‘Don’t touch me‘ I hiss.”

Christian Grey is obviously a man with a disturbing personality. Combining quotes from the book with the legal definitions of stalking, domestic violence, and rape make it an undeniable fact that these criminal actions exist in Fifty Shades of Grey, which is better suited for horror than it is for romance.

To read more about pornography and its effects, click here.
My next article will discuss why Fifty Shades of Grey, which is fiction, has a harmful effect in reality.

Works Cited:

James, E. L. Fifty Shades of Grey. New York: Vintage, 2012.

(1) The Model Stalking Code Revisited: Responding to the New Realities of Stalking. Washington, DC: National Center for Victims of Crime, 2007. 24,25. Print.

(2) Sollee, Kristin. “5 Major Myths About BDSM.” Womenshealthmag.com. Rodale Inc, 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

(3) O’Clare, Katherine. “Why I Hate Fifty Shades Of Grey (It’s Not For The Reasons You Think).” Crushable RSS. Defy Media LLC, 30 July 2012. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

(4) “Domestic Violence.” Domestic Violence. 23 July 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

(5) “Rape and Sexual Violence.” National Institute of Justice. 26 Oct. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

(6) “Avoiding Victim Blaming.” Center For Relationship Abuse Awareness. 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

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6 thoughts on “Issues of Abuse, Consent, and Rape in “Fifty Shades of Grey”

  1. Pingback: Really Recommended Posts 2/27/15- Egalitarian Black Women, Diatoms, and more! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason"

  2. Pingback: Christian Resources on Fifty Shades of Grey | The Domain for Truth

    • If he bought her a car to simply give her a gift, of course it would be no problem. However, Christian is doing this not to please Ana, but to show her how powerful he is. He has lots of money. He gets what he wants. And of all the things he gives her, he expects favors in return. In this case, sexual favors.

      The sad thing is, I have witnessed this in reality.

      I do admit I did a poor job explaining why Christian’s gift-giving is a red flag. Sorry for that.

  3. Thanks for providing this excellent summary of how this book does not promote consent. The relationship is clearly abusive and I think it is reinforcing standards of what it is okay for men to do. We have seen the symptom of this in our culture by the fact that we elected an admitted rapist as our president. The fact that any other woman would either vote for Trump or fantasize about someone like the character in this book is still baffling to me… I guess our culture purveys a lot of self-hatred for women and we sometimes can’t help but internalize it. I grew up with a very strong, proud mother and sister and they taught me self-respect above all else. Anyway, thanks again for doing the work of writing out this analysis. I found it on the first page of google results by searching for “lack of consent 50 shades”

    • I actually did vote for Trump, but I had reasons that I felt outweighed my issues with how he treats women (and that’s saying a lot). Voting day was a very, very difficult day for me.

      I agree with you completely that this book and the movies are confusing the standards we are giving men.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I love hearing from readers! I can’t believe it was on the first page of Google!

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