It’s one of the most frequent arguments we get from Fifty Shades of Grey fans: “Everything that happens in the stories is consensual!” Even EL James has waded into the debate, quick to point out that Ana is 21 and therefore of an age to consent to Grey’s sexual demands. But Ms James? That’s not our point.
We’ve covered the issue of non-consent in Fifty Shades before (in fact, it was our very last blog: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/apps/blog/show/42434002-consent-in-fifty-shades-). But in response to the constant insistence that Ana freely consents to everything that happens in the trilogy, we felt it was time to look at it from another angle. So, here’s how Fifty Shades could have been consensual…
• If Christian had asked to meet up with Ana again at their very first encounter in his office, rather than stalking her to her workplace, without knowing whether she wanted to see him again (and, vitally, had she said yes to that request), that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had respected Ana’s wishes and stayed away, rather than tracking her phone and stalking her to the bar she was drinking in with her friends, that would have been consensual.
• If Ana hadn’t been so drunk that she passed out shortly after Christian arrived at the bar and had been sober enough to agree to being taken back to his place, that would have been consensual.
• If Ana had been conscious and sober whilst Christian undressed her and put her to bed and had she agreed to those things, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had avoided any manipulative tactics; not played upon his abusive childhood, not warned Ana that he’d be “bad” for her, not played any kind of mind games, just been himself and given her a chance to decide whether she wanted a relationship with him and had she decided that she did, without any manipulation, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had listened when Ana said “no” to his expensive gifts and stopped buying them so as not to make her feel uncomfortable, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had said “hey, I’m into BDSM and I’d love to try it with you. Here are a couple of books I’ve taken out from the library for you to read. I can take you to a club if you like and I can give you some website addresses, where you can chat to other people in the lifestyle so you can make your mind up. And please know that I won’t force you at all; if you say no – and you have every right to – I won’t pressure you to change your mind. If we try it and you don’t like it, I won’t force you to try again…” and had Ana said yes after gaining full understanding of what she was getting into, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had allowed Ana as much time as she liked to decide whether BDSM was for her, rather than manipulating her and playing on her emotions with his “I had a tortured childhood, I need this…” routine (and had Ana agreed to the BDSM without all of that manipulation), that would have been consensual.
• If, when Ana told Christian that she didn’t like being spanked, he had refrained from either doing it or threatening to do it, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had taken Ana’s list of limits seriously, rather than insisting on pushing them in order to pursue his own desires, that would have been consensual.
• If, when Ana said “no” after Christian initiated sex (having turned up out of the blue after thinking that Ana was ending their relationship), Christian had stopped what he was doing, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had explained what orgasm denial means and asked whether Ana would be okay with that, rather than confusing and upsetting her by doing it to her without permission (and, crucially, if she had agreed to it after discussing it with him), that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had insisted that Ana was sober whilst they discussed hard and soft limits, so she knew exactly what she was getting into and could logically process the information she was being bombarded with to a point where she reached clear agreement to his terms, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had refused to lay a finger on Ana when she was too drunk to give sober agreement, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had listened to Ana telling him that, whilst she might enjoy being dominated in the bedroom, she had no desire to be a 24/7 sub/slave and had therefore stopped trying to control what she wore, what she ate, who she saw and where she went, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had listened to Ana’s wishes and stopped treating her like a piece of his property, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had set clear, firm “rules” for Ana to stick to (and had she agreed to those rules), rather than constantly moving the goal posts and leaving her never sure whether her behaviour will see her “punished,” that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had listened to Ana’s request for some time and space away from him, rather than flying hundreds of miles to stalk her whilst she was visiting her mother, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had discussed marking Ana’s body and whether she wanted that to happen (and had she agreed to it), rather than bruising her body without permission as punishment for sunbathing topless, that would have been consensual.
I could go on and on, but I think you’re probably getting the picture…
There is almost no free consent in Fifty Shades of Grey. The consent Ana gives is often the result of being given copious amounts of alcohol, or having been pressured and manipulated by Christian. At other points in the story, Christian doesn’t even make any attempt to gain Ana’s consent before he acts (such as when he stalks her, accesses her bank account and deposits money in it without her giving him the relevant information and when he chooses to ignore her concerns about certain aspects of BDSM).
Ana may be 21, EL James. But she is a deeply immature and naive 21. I would have trouble believing she was capable of consenting to things she didn’t understand even without the use of alcohol and manipulation to coerce her into it. But with those things? She’s not giving free consent. And sexual activity without full, sober consent? There’s a word for that. And it sure as Hell isn’t “hot.”