Friday, February 20, 2015

50 shades of abuse.

Today I got into an argument about "50 Shades of Grey" with my friends telling me that I can't preach the horribleness of it without having actually read the books/seen the movie. Which is a great point: how to form an educated opinion on something without actually delving deep into its intricacies?
But the thing about 50 shades is that lots of people, far better educated and informed than me, have read it and published their opinions on the web. Along with tons of source material to the point of nearly publishing the entire books. And I concur, you don't have to listen to me but I really feel the need to make my point to you and hopefully make you think about the horrors that mainstream media spoonfeeds you.

Okay so for some background info that you maybe knew, maybe didn't.
"50 Shades of Grey" was written in 2011 by E. L. James whose actual name is Erika Mitchell. The novel started out as a twilight erotica fanfiction (if you don't know, fanfiction is a fan-published free work that uses the characters from popular movies, books, games, tv-shows etc and creates new stories around these characters. There are many sites for publishing such works) this particular fic was published in 2009 on and the author used the pen name "Snowqueen's icedragon"

Now, the book itself mainly uses themes from the BDSM culture such as bondage, dominance/submission and even sadism/masochism. And well, it goes without saying that it is essentially pornography. Which is probably exactly why it sold so well.
Porn in our culture is still widely frowned upon. Specially in America, where abstinence is actually taught in schools and where the church tells you that masturbation is the highest kind of sin. A book that's sold in bookstores and that everyone reads, however, is fair game. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Human sexuality should not be considered a taboo. The problem, however, arises from the same place where the problems with the entire porn industry arise: women are almost always treated as sexual objects for mens desire. Violence against them is the norm, it's even encouraged.
Upon closer inspection, Fifty Shades of Grey is not just harmless “mommy porn.” it clearly depicts a deeply abusive relationship in which its protagonist suffers emotional and physical violence at the hands of her partner. And, worst of all, it doesn’t seem to realize this.
And this isn't just people pulling "facts" out of their asses:
Amy Bonomi, professor and chairperson of Michigan State University’s Department of Human Development and Family studies, has made some disturbing findings. A thorough 2013 study of the book concludes that “emotional and sexual abuse is pervasive in the novel,” appearing in almost every interaction between the protagonists, Anastasia and Christian. Both exhibit textbook signs of abuse: Christian, the so-called love interest, actively stalks Ana, purchasing her place of work and tracking her whereabouts through an app on her phone (“No place to run. I would find you. I can track your cell phone—remember?”). He controls her behaviors, her food intake, and dictates who she is allowed to spend her time with, isolating her from friends and family. He belittles her, threatens her and blames her. As a consequence, Ana is afraid of making Christian angry, afraid to talk to her friends, and insecure in her own personhood (“He’d probably like to beat seven shades of s*** out of me. The thought is depressing”).
I know no-one is going to bother reading it but here is the 2013 study titled "‘‘Double Crap!’’ Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey" and it is extremely detailed. At least glance at it, I beg of you.

The book itself prays on safe middle-aged women who have no knowledge of anything BDSM-related. It advocates itself as BDSM but in reality is very far from it. Properly conducted BDSM "scenes" are about trust and consent. Of course there are bad apples and abusive partners within that community but that is something that needs to be seriously talked about and not glorified. Forgive me for citing wikipedia on this but that does't make it any less credible.
Aside from the general advice related to safe sex, BDSM sessions often require a wider array of safety precautions than vanilla sex (sexual behavior without BDSM elements). In theory, to ensure consent related to BDSM activity, pre-play negotiations are commonplace, especially among partners who do not know each other very well. In practice, pick-up scenes at clubs or parties may sometimes be low in negotiation (much as pick-up sex from singles bars may not involve much negotiation or disclosure). Ideally, these negotiations concern the interests and fantasies of each partner and establish a framework of both acceptable and unacceptable activities. This kind of discussion is a typical "unique selling proposition" of BDSM sessions and quite commonplace. Additionally, safewords are often arranged to provide for an immediate stop of any activity if any participant should so desire.
And yes, it does say that in practice, in clubs, negotiatons leave something to be desired but we are not talking about a one-time "scene" here, we are talking about a man who wished something far more permanent. And you may argue that he had a contract for Anastasia but it was entirely composed by HIM, taking into account only what HE wanted and she had no say in it whatsoever. That is not healthy by any means. No matter how you look at it, he was pressuring her into things she didn't wish to do.

Again, while BDSM can include power and pain exchanges outside of the bedroom (e.g., ordering a partner to eat), typically these exchanges involve consenting parties and those who have worked out an egalitarian negotiation process. The interlocking pattern of control used by Christian—including stalking, intimidation, isolation, and humiliation—begin before the couple even establishes a connection, in Christian’s initial stalking of Anastasia at the hardware store. This early example of stalking, intimidation, humiliation, and isolation sets the couple up for a gross power imbalance in their relationship, which continues throughout their interactions.

After their formal dinner to negotiate the terms of the BDSM contract, Anastasia enters her car and cries: ‘‘Soon tears are streaming down my face, and I don’t understand why I’m crying. I was holding my own.He wants me.I need him to want me like I want and need him.deep down I know that’s not possible. I am just overwhelmed’’ (p.229). Before a formal contract is negotiated, Anastasia is spanked 18 times for rolling her eyes at Christian. After this incident, Anastasia is confused and admits to herself that she ‘‘can’t say that [she] enjoyed the experience. In fact, [she] would still go a long way to avoid it.’’ (p. 277)

Raincheck: she is clearly extremely uncomfortable with what is going on, in emotional turmoil and left hanging after each of their sexual encounters. In BDSM done right, this should not be so: the partners involved should deal with the fallout as well, not just worry about getting their rocks off:
In the context of the sexual practice of BDSM, aftercare is the process of attending to one another after intense feelings of a physical or psychological nature relating to BDSM activities.
BDSM experiences can be exhausting; and drain the participants of mental, emotional or physical energy. As a result, one or all participants may require emotional support, comfort, reassurance, and/or physical tenderness. Along with this, they may experience everything from an exhilaration to traumatization. Aftercare also may include a review or “debriefing” of the activities from experiences of both the dominant and the submissive.

All of this is in the end nicely spun into "but she totally wanted it in the end" which, in the eyes of the rest of the world, apparently means that everything is a-okay.
Reprehensible threats and behavior are represented as playful fun; force ends up being acceptable because, although it starts with Anastasia’s terror, it ends with her enjoyment. This is what women want, says Fifty Shades of Grey: the perpetuation of violent rape culture. Here, coercion is acceptable, abuse is extolled, and consent is ignored. Psychiatrist Dr. Miriam Grossman sums it up well: “Fifty Shades of Grey teaches your daughter that pain and humiliation are erotic, and your son, that girls want a guy who controls, intimidates and threatens.”
~Relevant Magazine
And you may argue that it's just a book but as the author of this article in Relevant Magazine says: "The argument that “Fifty Shades of Grey is just fantasy!” has been popular in defending the movie’s treatment of its protagonist, but it doesn’t quite ring true. Unfortunately, for one in four American women, Fifty Shades is a brutal reality."
We are actually spreading the toxic idea that rape is enjoyable, abusive realtionships are something that you just need to accept.

I could go on, I think. I have a million tabs open for cross-refrencing but in the end I just made myself sad thinking about all of the impressionable young women who go into movie theaters to gobble up this dirt topped with a nice ribbon. They open themselves up for terrifying experiences that could potentially ruin their self-love and give them trust issues for life. We are far too easy to manipulate, we never stop to think whether we should accept something as truth or not, we just do.

Yes, I haven't read the books and no I'm still not going to pay to watch that movie. It endorses everything I, as a human being, as a woman, stand against. It scares me. It terrifies me. There have been several actual deaths related to this book:

Swedish man accused of killing girlfriend in Fifty Shades of Grey-style sado-masochistic sex game
Real-Life '50 Shades of Grey' Murder Details Emerge in CA Homicide

You don't have to take my word or even listen to it. But please, please, please at least glance at some of these sources that I have listed. And educate yourself on safe sexual practices. Please. Whatever your stance on "50 Shades of Grey", at least make a point of knowing better. Even wikipedia articles are better than nothing, they offer at least a basic rundown of what is safe, sane and consensual and what really, really isn't.


Relevant Magazine "The Real Abuse at the Heart of "Fifty shades of grey""
"Double Crap!" Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey
BDSM article on wikipedia
Forbes: "Review - 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Is Abusive Gender Roles Disguised As Faux-Feminism"


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