For the last year, as we have raised awareness of the abuse within the Fifty Shades trilogy, we have faced ridicule, scorn and abuse. Fans of the book told us we were wrong; the books are not abusive and depict a consensual BDSM relationship. Others assumed we were “prudes” or pro-censorship, and yet others mocked us for stating that the books perpetuate domestic abuse.
So we are extremely pleased that a study entitled “Double Crap! Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey” by three US professors, Amy Bonomi, Lauren Altenburger and Nicole Walton from Ohio State University, has been published. The report studied the first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy and concluded tha,t “Emotional abuse was present in nearly every interaction, including stalking, intimidation, isolation and humiliation.” The study also states that “Fifty Shades of Grey perpetuates dangerous abuse patterns” and uses the measures of intimate partner violence developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in establishing the levels of abuse within the book.
The study seems to clearly separate the alternative sexuality and BDSM portrayed within the books with the abuse the main character Christian Grey perpetrates against Ana Steele, with Professor Bonomi being quoted as saying “This book is perpetuating dangerous abuse standards and yet it’s being cast as this romantic, erotic book for women” and also “The erotic content could have been accomplished without the theme of abuse.”
The study has been published in the US-based Journal of Women’s Health and comments on Ana Steele’s responses to Christian Grey’s behaviour within the book as typical of someone who has experienced abuse. The Business Standard states that the study found “Anastasia suffers reactions consistent with those of abused women. She feels a constant sense of threat and loss of self-identity, changes her behaviours to keep peace in the relationship such as withholding information about her whereabouts to avoid Christian’s anger, and becomes disempowered and entrapped in the relationship as her behaviours become mechanized in response to Christian’s abusive patterns”.
We are extremely grateful to the three professors Amy Bonomi, Lauren Altenburger and Nicole Walton for their work on this study and we hope that it will enable people to see that Fifty Shade of Grey is not primarily an erotic novel or “mummy porn” but instead is perpetuating attitudes and beliefs about domestic abuse. With 25% of women across the UK and the US suffering domestic abuse, which is part of the global crisis of male violence against women, we all need to do more to challenge abusive messages, wherever we see them.