I’ve seen a few responses now to the #50shadesisabuse campaign. Most, really supportive. Others, downright ridiculous.
From those who dislike the campaign, the rationale seems to be simple. It is, they argue, only a book. Just a bit of fun. After all, we’re in 2015 now. Who cares about a bit of sexually explicit dialogue?
The thing is, 50 Shades is much more than a bit of fun. If erotic literature is your thing, you can read far better examples. You know, examples that are vaguely well written, for a start.
50 shades isn’t a bit of fn. 50 shades is dangerous. It’s dangerous because it glorifies an abusive relationship that centres on manipulation, sexual assault, stalking, phyisical punishment and threats. And before anyone argues that it’s just BDSM – google really is your friend. BDSM is based on informed, mutual consent. This relationship appears to be based on a cess pit. It’s really not attractive.
I know I’m harping on about this. But the reason is that it’s all too personal. No, I’ve not been stalked by a helicopter pilot multi-billionaire with his own playroom, but I have been part of an abusive relationship. As a teenager with low self esteem, I thought I deserved nothing better. He told me he loved me after all, so of course I listened. And what started off as comments on what I wore and how I did my hair spiralled into isiolation from friends and family. And from there, it was pretty easy to become abusive physically and sexually. After all, he loved me, right?
And so, when I read 50 Shades, I don’t read it as even remotely erotic. I see Ana Steele, young, inexperienced, and naive, being manipulated and assaulted by Christian Grey. And we’re promoting this. We’re telling people that it’s great, something to be longed for. Who doesn’t want a man to control them after all?
And I want to turn to the others. The silent women who can’t speak out. The ones who see the hype, and don’t get turned on. Instead they weep, because this is their story, and this is their pain. And they watch this nonsense – the adverts, the discussions – and the knife gets twisted in just that little bit deeper. Because we’re telling them that their pain, their experiences don’t matter.
I want to shout and scream and tell them the truth. That it was never their fault. That they are precious and worthy and so, so deeply loved and loveable. That a real man doesn’t look at them as an object, but as a person. That they have a voice, and that voice is worthy of listening to and of respect.
The problem is, it’s not likely to work. Because the culture at the moment is screaming louder. It’s telling us all that this is normal. This is what a man looks like. This is what we should aspire to.
And as I see this going on, I want to weep. Because it’s taken me several years, and the steadfast and grace-filled love of my incredible husband, to realise that I don’t deserve abuse. And for those who are watching the 50 Shades of Grey nonsense and fearing this is as good as it gets, I’m scared. I’m scared because we’re running out of time. I’m scared because women die when they believe these lies. I’m scared because children are traumatised. And i’m scared because we pass down our values to our children, and I’m desperate that mine never settle for this parody of a relastionship for the best the world has to offer.
50 Shades is abuse. Full stop.