Natalie shares some thoughts…
Let me tell you about this woman I know; her father had been seriously hurt in an accident, and had been on the brink of death. Then she discovered she was unexpectedly pregnant, because her secretary forgot to book her in for a contraceptive injection. She knew her husband might not be too happy, but when she told him, He banged his fist on the table, making her jump and stood so abruptly he almost knocked the dining chair over, He screamed at her, “You have one thing, one thing to remember. Sh*t! I don’t f*ucking believe it. How could you be so stupid?”
It doesn’t sound like a good relationship does it? Coupled with the fact he stalked her from before she started the relationship, regularly tracks her phone and tells her what to wear. He even spent time bathing his mentally ill ex-girlfriend in her bath and on the honeymoon covered her body in love bites to ensure she covered up. I know, I know, you’re starting to think this is a relationship straight from one of those misery memoirs, where the woman finally escapes, but not before he has killed her dog and burned down her house.
She is from a book, but it’s not a true life story. She’s called Anastasia Steele and she’s the main character from the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James. I bet you were with me until I said that weren’t you? But now I’ve told you who she is, you’re starting to get all defensive.
Maybe you’ve read the books, maybe you’ve got a partner or girlfriend who’s read them, and you think I’ve got it all wrong, that I’m being prudish and against having kinky sex, but as an expert working to equip individuals and organisations to respond to male violence against women, I can tell you now, all the warning signs are there. She’s isolated, intimidated, controlled and manipulated, by a man she describes as a “control freak”. It’s a text book case of domestic abuse and it’s why I’m working with other campaigners on this campaign.
The books use kinky sex and bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism and masochism (BDSM) as a smokescreen for horrific levels of emotional and psychological violence. We’ve met women and men who enjoy BDSM, or choose it as a way of living their life, and many have said Fifty Shades does not accurately represent kinky sex. In fact, they say, some of it is downright dangerous, which can be seen in the case Steven Lock, a gardener who was cleared of assault in 2013 after chaining a woman “like a dog” and whipping her repeatedly with a rope.
Among those of us campaigning are women who have been abused by their partners; the people they trusted tried to destroy them with insults, violence, manipulation and control. Again and again women tell us how they picked up Fifty Shades of Grey, interested to know what all the hype was about. Within a few chapters they were crying and broken, the books telling a story so like their own that they struggled to read on. This is not people picking up the book with an axe to grind about kinky sex. It is people who have been abused and mistreated and finally escaped, to be told that their nightmarish experiences are being sold to women across the world as desirable and sexy.
The Fifty Shades series is being heralded as pushing new boundaries and liberating women sexually, but all it does is sexes up the age old fairy tale formula of a woman being incapable of living without a man, with added spanking, handcuffs and orgasms. Join us to protest the film, or if you can’t make it, why not start your own protest in your local area? Or perhaps donate the money you would have spent going to the cinema to see the film to a domestic abuse or Rape Crisis service local to you.