10 Feb 2015

Photo: Focus Features

When the book series 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James became a literary focal point of the under-satisfied, wannabe-controversial members of our society (hoping to live somewhere other than the real world), I didn't take a lot of notice. I was aware of the basic plot, but took a disliking to it on more of a moral basis; questioning whether it should be referred to as 'literature' or not (it was originally written as a piece of Twilight fan fiction). I thought 'Mr Grey' wasn't someone I had to deal with. 

However, as it was announced the best-seller would be turned into a film series, 50 Shades (as I will refer to it from this point), began to slowly creep into my life. When the first advert was released and constantly shared onto my Facebook timeline - not only did I question some of my social media friend choices, but I started to research the upcoming film and develop an interest in the book. 

As my knowledge of the story increased, I realised this is a book romanticising a very serious matter. 'Mr Grey' is someone many women sadly have had to, continue to and will have to deal with in their lives. According to Rape Crisis UK, 1 in 5 women aged 16-59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. A probably-will-be-blockbuster exploiting that fact, and the other realities of sexual and emotionally abusive relationships, is utterly unacceptable. 

At this point, I'd like to highlight that it is not the sexual content of 50 Shades which offends me - but more how this kind of thing is so wrongly portrayed through this medium. A concerning issue is how this will influence modern relationships within our society, particularly amongst younger readers/viewers who have the potential to be more accepting because of their lack of experience in relationships of which they can compare the behaviour of Mr Grey to (be it of a sexual nature or not).

A few things to consider when convicting Christian Grey of abuse in a relationship:

1. He forces Anastasia into signing a contract. 

Not only to protect his identity in case others find out what is happening between them, but also to find reasoning to pressure her to satisfy his sexual needs when she says she doesn't want to - "You signed a contract." To think a healthy relationship can be simplified into such means is ridiculous. Even with the ropes of a 'legal contract' tying someone down - no still means no.

2. His interference in other aspects of her life

Anyone who thinks tracking their partner's phone, stalking them to their workplace and taking away their general independence is okay is wrong. Romanticising this kind of behaviour in front of such a large audience is going to drive modern relationships backwards. 

3. His controlling of (literally) everything she does

As you may already know, within the contract she signs, there are some questionable rules Anastasia has to abide by. She must attend the gym 4 times a week, she can only eat food picked out by Mr Grey and her clothes are to be picked out by him too. For me, this is what really suggests that their 'relationship' isn't the relationship readers perceive it to be, but a relationship where she is more of a slave to his needs. This has produced some myths about what BDSM is actually considered to be - you can find an article on it here.

Another point I'd like to raise is regarding something recently circulating the internet. A phone call where a victim of domestic abuse called emergency services and ordered a pizza. This has been shared numerous times onto my Facebook timeline and, although this kind of abuse is not exactly like that in the relationship portrayed in 50 Shades, it is still abuse. I can't help but question how people can empathise with the woman who called emergency services and support 50 Shades.

I'm unsure whether the people involved in the upcoming film are ignorant toward the perpetuation of rape culture and sexual abuse, or whether they are aware and genuinely believe it is okay. The extent to which the behaviour of Mr Grey is controlling seems to be independent of the sex, but then hidden within that medium in an effort to make his intrusive actions more acceptable - which I find abhorrent and devious. Either way, the relationship between the two main characters in 50 Shades is not a normal, healthy relationship and should never ever be perceived to be.