I first stumbled upon Fifty Shades of Grey when I was 18, and almost immediately saw its central relationship for what it really is: domestic abuse. But even three years later, when I tell people this, they say I'm too young to understand BDSM.
To see if they were right, I decided to do some research. What I discovered was that my age was irrelevant to my understanding of Anastasia and Christian's relationship. The world of BDSM is one based on trust and respect, and is a world apart from the one depicted in Fifty Shades.
Would you be happy with a partner who micro-managed your life, dictated what you ate, what contraceptive you used, required you to exercise a certain amount of days a week, and cut you off from your friends and family? Add some good looks, a six pack and billionaire status and voila: you have Christian Grey.
I’s not even ambiguous that Christian is abusive. Personally, I can’t believe that this is even being framed as a debate.
If you took the manipulation and threat making out of his dialogue then he would have less to say than Silent Bob. Don’t believe me? Then let’s have a look at some of the things EL James has him say and do:
Not only is this a completely unsubtle threat of violence, but the "stunt" Ana has "pulled" is to go out with her friends and get drunk. This is is legal. Tracking someone’s phone and stalking them (which Christian does in response) is not.
Can someone explain how this is sexy? For me, the alarm bells couldn’t be sounding any louder.
At this point in the book, Christian has met Ana just three times. Is "phone-tracking...stalker" really the way a potential love interest should be presented?
Just imagine for a second that your friend tells you that a man, who she'd never given her address to, has turned up at her house. This is the same man who later will carry on having sex with her after she has asked him to stop. Wouldn’t you tell them to run?
That would be my advice, but for fans of Fifty Shades this doesn’t seen to be the case. People around the world think Christian and Ana’s relationship is one to be desired, and I have no idea why.
As part of my research, I spoke to some wonderful people who are in submissive/dominant relationships. In one sentence they summed up “sub/dom” dynamics perfectly. “Respect from the dominant side and trust from the submissive side are the two key elements to a BDSM relationship.”
Another thing I learnt was about the importance of “aftercare”. After the acts of BDSM take place, one or both of the parties involved might need some emotional support to transition out of sub/dom roles. None of this happens in the books. In fact, Christian is cold, controlling and manipulative. This is not the story of a fun BDSM loving couple, but an emotionally abusive relationship.
According to Women's Aid, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. And it’s not just women: 1 in 6 men will too. What's more, two women are killed by a current or ex-partner every week.
Millions of people will watch the film over the next week, but just imagine if they all knew these statistics, and were encouraged to help abused individuals, instead of investing in a film that only normalises their suffering. That's is why I’ll be skipping the film this Valentine’s day, and I implore you do the same.
To help victims of domestic abuse you can donate to: