There are many things said about our campaign. Some positive, some negative. On the negative side, there is a statement made by fans of Fifty Shades that has long irritated us. And it irritates us, because it’s simply not true. That statement is: “You’re not doing any good. your campaign is pointless. Nobody cares.”
The fact is, we believe that by raising awareness of what constitutes abuse, we are doing some good. We believe that by creating a discussion about whether it’s healthy or even acceptable to create fiction in which abusive behaviour is romanticised, we’re making our point heard. And we know, from speaking to our incredible supporters, that many people do care.
But don’t take our word for it. Take the words of those supporters we just mentioned…
It seemed to us that the very best way of highlighting that our campaign has a point – and that it’s an important one – was to hand a blog over to the people who follow us on Twitter or Facebook. The people who recognise the abuse in Fifty Shades, often because they’ve lived it, themselves. The members of the BDSM community, who’ve seen their lifestyle grossly misrepresented. The charity workers who dedicate their time to stamping out abuse, only to see a toxic relationship held up as a romantic ideal. To those people, we dedicate this blog. Thank you for your incredibly honest words. And thank you for your support.
The testimonials that follow were sent to us over the last fortnight and are shown here with permission from the authors. Some have requested to remain anonymous. For obvious reasons, there is a trigger warning for some of the following content.
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“As someone who practises BDSM, Fifty Shades does not depict anything I recognise as being safe or consensual kink. If any Dom tried to behave towards me as Christian behaves towards Ana, I’d be calling the police – he’s a stalker.”
“I read Fifty Shades because my sister-in-law recommended it to me. She went on and on about this book series, so I purchased the bundle pack, which is all three books in one and downloaded it to my tablet. I started reading and right from the start, I was reading one of my previous relationships. It started when I was in High School. He was so nice and sweet to me. He would make sure I ate. He took care of me. Then he slowly turned into this monster that I didn’t recognise. He stalked me. He followed me around school. He would walk by my classes to make sure I was there. If I wasn’t, he would find me and yell at me for not being where I said I would be. He would call my home over and over again. when I was at home, I had to be in my room on my computer with my web-cam on, so he could see me at all times. He wouldn’t let me ride the bus home, because I might talk to other boys. If I wouldn’t eat, he would put a knife to his neck and tell me to eat, or he would kill himself and his death would be my fault. He started to hit me. It started off as a smack here and there and then it moved to him punching and kicking me. Shortly after he changed into a monster, he raped me. Reading the rape scene in Fifty Shades had me wondering if what I’ve remembered for 11 years was real or not. Did he really rape me? The answer was “yes, he did.” He tried to have sex with me and I said no. I kicked him off and then he threatened to tie me down and gag me. He overpowered me. He raped me. He always told me he loved me, but he had a bad childhood and so he showed love in a different way.
After he raped me, I begged my parents to let me go and visit family in another state. I never told them why, but seeing as it was Summer vacation, they let me. I was three states away, but my ex found me. I never told him or anyone else where I was. He just happened to bump into me when I was out with my Aunt. I couldn’t run and I couldn’t hide from him.
These books make it seem like what I went through was romantic. I am saying it is not romantic. It’s scary to fear for your life. It’s scary not knowing what will set him off this time. I hate the idea that young girls are reading these books and thinking they want a guy like that.
Thank you so much to the Fifty Shades Is Abuse campaign for spreading the word.”
“Fifty Shades isn’t ‘just a book.’ It has normalised abuse and set it as something to aspire to. It romanticises rape culture. Your campaign made me realise I’m not alone in recognising the abuse. Seeing you and your supporters calling it out gives me hope. So thank you and please keep it up – it’s too important not to.”
“Christian Grey has many similarities to the partner of someone I know. But he’s not rich or handsome and I’m sure that with him, people would agree he was abusive. Emotionally abusive – and that really is a thing. In some ways, it’s almost more serious than physical abuse, as it’s not so readily accepted as abuse, by the person experiencing it or by others. I have seen the damage it can do, though. I’ve seen a woman who was once bubbly, with a good sense of humour, who had a social life and cared for others, become miserable since her partner moved in. Over twenty years, she’s become more isolated from her friends and family. She and her partner eat when and what he wants. He decides what they do on their time off together and where they go on holiday. She has to account to him what money she spends. She’s had to lie about seeing her own children, or buying them Christmas presents. It’s obvious she’s had to match her own personality to his in order to survive. Occasionally, she lets slip that he doesn’t make her happy, but she needs to live a lie in order to cope, so then she’ll make a point of praising him and defending him from any negativity. Anyone who dares speak the truth about her partner is cut off from her life, even if she agrees with them. He’s been physically abusive on occasion, although rarely, thankfully. He doesn’t “need” to do it, as she co-operates with his wishes and so she dismisses the emotional abuse as it’s not so bad. She rationalizes that it’s “just his way” or explains that it’s “the way he was brought up,” so everyone else is in the wrong for criticising him. But we can see she’s unhappy and she’s ending up more and more alone as he turns her against those closest to her.
That is control. That’s the reality of Fifty Shades. It’s not romantic. It’s abuse.”
“I want to express my sincerest thanks for your campaign. I am embarrassed to say that my rabid dislike of Fifty Shades (on the grounds of it being horrible writing and truly insulting to the BDSM community) blinded me to the terrifying power it wielded in the public arena.
As both a member of the BDSM community and an abuse survivor, I got the heebee geebees just from reading the description and hearing about it from acquaintances. When I finally sat down to read it for myself, I gave up after the first chapter. In turn, this meant that though I expressed my negative opinion to those who asked me, since I couldn’t make it beyond the first chapter of the book, I felt that I had no ground to stand on. Finally, I just put up blinkers and did my best to will the whole, horrible fad away. Obviously that has not worked as well as I had hoped. Finding your campaign blog was a godsend! I am now sending the link to my friends who asked me about the books (and who I gave sincere, but poorly cited answers to) so that they can see for themselves how damaging they are, to not only the BDSM community, but abuse victims and women in general.
Thank you for what you are doing; for all the work you’ve put into this and for standing your ground against people who try to shout you down.”
“Reading Fifty Shades was literally painful. I found myself shaking, feeling sick and unable to sleep afterwards. Why? Because it was like being handed a version of the relationship that half-killed me and being told it was actually a beautiful, sexy love story and I just wasn’t as good as Ana was. It was like being told that my abuser “couldn’t help it” and I was cruel for walking away. That’s the message that these books give. That if you have a man in your life who wants to threaten, coerce, manipulate and control you, then you should bend to his whims, because the poor thing just doesn’t know any better. And if you do as he wishes, he’ll change and you’ll live happily ever after. If people can’t see how dangerous that is, then I am seriously worried for future generations, growing up with this kind of “romance” being portrayed as an ideal. I’m so glad your campaign exists.”
“I was with a man like Christian Grey. I’m also a member of the BDSM community. One of those things is abuse and one isn’t. And I can tell you that it’s Grey who’s the abuser.”
“I hate seeing women saying they want a man like Christian Grey. You all deserve better than him. A million times better. You deserve space when you ask for it. You deserve to order your own food if you go out to eat. You deserve to have your needs and wishes respected. You deserve not to be treated like a possession by a jealous partner. I read somewhere that Fifty Shades is educational for men. Well, the only thing I learned from it is how never to treat women.”
“I’m a Dom and I can tell you now that if I treated a sub the way Christian Grey treats Ana – and I mean outside of the bedroom, not just in – I would be rightly thrown out of the community. It’s an insult to suggest that Doms come to BDSM because of damaged childhoods. It’s an insult to suggest that being a Dom means we manipulate someone into doing things she’s not sure she wants to. It’s sick to see stalking and possessive tendencies being written about as though that has any place in healthy, consensual BDSM. Thank you for speaking out. I only wish more people would.”