Disclaimer: This article discusses reasons why Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t a loving and consensual relationship and refers to things that may make the reader uncomfortable as a result.
I’m in no way trying to police people’s literary or film choices, but here’s the thing: Fifty Shades of Grey is not a romantic story. With the final part of the trilogy finally being released in cinemas (around Valentine’s Day, of course), I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the central story of the series. Christian Grey, a rich, troubled, mysterious man, stalks the young, virginal Anastasia Steele. He’s controlling, manipulative, and tries to make her sign a contract giving him control over what she wears, what and when she can eat, and when he gets to have sex with her.
Here are just a few quotes that show maybe, just maybe, their relationship isn’t the most functional or loving:
“You need to learn to manage my expectations. I am not a patient man.”
“He pulls up outside my duplex. 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.”
“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…”
“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.”
Christian Grey consistently threatens violence, turns up to where she is unannounced, and without her having told him where she is, and leaves Ana feeling altogether not very loved or cared for. Not exactly what you want in a partner, I guess.
There has been a lot of anger from the BDSM community towards this series, particularly around their relationship being promoted as something loving – and especially at the franchise associating itself with Valentine’s Day every time a film comes out. In a Submissive/Dominant relationship, it only works with trust from the “Sub” and respect from the “Dom”. Aftercare is super important – after any BDSM, the parties involved may need emotional support to get out of their sub/dom roles.
Christian is not like this. He’s controlling. He’s manipulative. There are endless signs of an unhealthy relationship portrayed throughout the series, like Anastasia not being allowed to talk about their relationship with anyone, his intimidation of her, and most clearly the breaking of consent. He coerces her into doing things she’s not comfortable doing and gets angry if she rejects him. While being denied something you really want may be frustrating, there’s absolutely no excuse for coercing and manipulating someone, either physically or emotionally, into doing something they don’t want to do.
So many people hold up this series as being romantic, they think Christian is so loving and mysterious when actually, it’s anything but that. According to research from Women’s Aid, 1 in 4 women will be victims of domestic abuse, and 1 in 6 men. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation made a petition to boycott the first film’s release which got 53,000 signatures, and encouraged people to join the #50DollarsNot50Shades campaign and donate to women’s shelters instead of paying to see the film.
Millions have watched the films, and will continue to, investing in a film that normalises abuse in relationships. Below are some links to organisations that help those affected by abusive relationships: