My previous article offered evidence that domestic violence and rape exist in Fifty Shades of Grey. The most common response I’m receiving is, “So what? It’s not real.”
Correct. Fifty Shades of Grey is fiction.
Have you ever read a piece of fiction and been affected by it? I know I have. Most literature-lovers thrive on fiction because of its effect on them. I read fiction to temporarily “escape” from my life. It’s how I de-stress. Many readers turn to fiction for escape. If fiction can have a positive effect on people’s lives, why can’t it have a negative effect? If some pieces of fiction create a safe escape, can’t some fiction create an unsafe escape?
First, I point out that succumbing to illegal stalking, domestic violence, and rape is not any sort of enjoyment or escape at all. Of course, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the sexual content of the books and movie; we’re human. But when you take away all the glam, what’s left isn’t very pretty… or healthy.
Second, I point out that while Fifty Shades of Grey is a fictional story, its contents are reality for many women. This is a fact that simply should not be ignored, both for the future prevention of this treatment and in respect for women who have survived sexual abuse.
In real life, men like Christian Grey don’t end up married to a wife “happy” to be submissive. Men like Christian Grey end up in court – or worse. Women like Anastasia don’t ‘save’ or ‘change’ a dangerous man; they end up in women’s shelters and in counseling. Five of my friends have shared the details with me of the rape they were put through, and some of the men ended up with restraining orders or prison. Two of my friends ended up in women’s shelters. Most have needed years of counseling. Meanwhile, the fictional character of Christian Grey shares many of the traits of these very real criminals. It is irresponsible and reprehensible of E.L. James to give the impression that women should risk becoming the victim of a crime to help a man ‘heal.’
It is tempting to reach out to wounded men. Most women have a natural need to nurture. It’s easy to be like Anastasia’s character. I know, because it happened to me.
I was sexually assaulted for two years at the ages of 12 and 13 by a boy at my church. This was a guy who was seen as an outcast. He had no friends. There was trouble at home. I didn’t want him to feel alone, so I reached out to him.
As we became friends, he wanted more. He started saying inappropriate things to me, such as asking my size in lingerie. (Christian bought Anastasia lingerie before they were sexual in chapter 5.) He also said other sexual things to me that are so close to things Christian said to Ana, it is as if E.L. James interviewed and quoted my assaulter.
A few months into our friendship, this guy began asking me for sex. I told him I didn’t want to do it. I said I wanted to wait until I was married. I said I was uncomfortable talking about it. But he continued to bring it up. One day, he threatened to kill himself if I didn’t have sex with him, and he had a friend convince me that he had gone through with his threat, revealing the “joke” to me only after I began to call the police.
The sexual talk and touching continued. I told him “No.” In Fifty Shades of Grey Ana tells Christian, “No” (chapter 12) and “Don’t touch me!” (chapter 26).
When he touched me, I sometimes fought back physically. I pushed him through a door, I pushed him down a flight of stairs, and I pushed him over a railing. None of this made him stop. In Fifty Shades of Grey, Ana kicks Christian (chapter 12), and she pulls away from him (chapter 19).
Sometimes I didn’t fight back or say anything. Sometimes I was too worn and too dejected to try. I silently waited for it to be over. Ana does this several times. (Chapter 16: “I want to beg him to stop, but I don’t.) If Ana is seen as giving consent, does that mean what happened to me wasn’t wrong?
When we were together at church youth group events, I always made sure I was never alone with him, but that made no difference. He would still grab me and touch me. (In chapter 13, Ana requests to remain in public, and Christian responds “Do you think that would stop me?”)
The one thing I did not do that I should have done was tell someone. Why didn’t I? I didn’t want this guy to get kicked out of the church youth group. I didn’t want to be the one to push him even farther away from God. I was one of his few friends, and I wanted to help him. Once this all ended after my freshmen year in high school, I still told no one what I had been through out of shame and embarrassment. How could I have been so stupid? How did I let this happen? I decided this should remain a secret.
When I was 21, I got engaged. I realized I had to deal with what I had been through. I told my fiance, and then I told my parents. My first year of marriage to my wonderful husband was filled with hauntings of what I had been through. I finally received counseling at the age of 23 – ten years after the assault had ended. After two years of counseling, I am finally in a place where I can see that he was the abuser, I was the victim, and now I am the survivor. This article is the first time I have mentioned this publicly.
How many girls will go through what I went through – and worse – because they want to be like Anastasia Steele? How many men will not stop at “No” (be it verbal or body language)?
Before you think that Fifty Shades of Grey could never affect the behavior of people in reality, check the news. The Chicago Tribune reports an account of a couple, who had been intimate before, who decided to reenact Fifty Shades of Grey. Once into the process, the girl said she didn’t like it, and to stop. But the guy, Mohammad Hossain, did not stop. He assaulted and raped her.
What does his defense attorney have to say? “He would say it was consensual.” As I stated in my previous article, Anastasia did give consent sometimes, only to retract it when she realized she was not okay with what was happening to her. The same exact thing happened between Mohammad Hossain and his date. Christian Grey is praised, and Hossain has been charged with sexual assault and is in in jail with bail set at $500,000.
Fictional Fifty Shades of Grey is entertainment, but real reenactments of Fifty Shades of Grey is a crime. This doesn’t add up. Wrong is wrong. There is no grey here.
The difference between Fifty Shades of Grey and other books and movies that have sexual violence is simply this: Most entertainment does not show sexual violence in a way that condones it. Fifty Shades of Grey encourages sexual violence because it falsely disguises it as consensual BDSM. I do agree, however, that media that does condone sexual violence are just as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey.
Why am I attacking Fifty Shades of Grey specifically? Because people are having difficulty seeing truth with the books and movies. Because of my personal experiences. Because of its current popularity. Because of people like Mohammad Hossain.
What do I ask of my readers?
- Consider the evidence I gave in the previous article of Christian Grey’s illegal stalking, domestic violence and rape.
- Show respect to women who have been sexually assaulted and/or raped by raising awareness about the violence and rape in Fifty Shades of Grey rather than being sexually entertained by it and financially supporting it by spending money on books and tickets.
- Prevent future incidents like the one between Hossain and his date by raising awareness about the real effects of this work of fiction.
To read more about the effect of pornography on individuals, relationships, and society, click here.