Fifty Shades Is Abuse: Testimonials

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.

*                             *                             *                            *

“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.” 

Emily Rose

“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.”

Nichole B

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.”

K.

“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.”

Anonymous

“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.”

Kelsey

“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.”

Emmy.J.

“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.”

Anonymous

“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.”

Michael

“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.”

Anonymous

Fifty Shades Is Abuse: Testimonials

Guest Post: Fifty Shades Movie Review by Kit Majka

One of our fabulous Twitter followers recently saw the Fifty Shades of Grey movie.  This is what she had to say about it…

Fifty shades of grey review

By Kit Majka

The tagline read “Curious?”, and I have to admit I was.

It wasn’t excitement, or even the most basic sexual curiosity that compelled me to buy tickets for opening night, but rather an obsessive need to see this franchise through. I read the series – the entire trilogy, because no matter my impatience with the pinnacle of poor writing or my horror at the content, I know the basic rule of hating and debating is to educate yourself with the material.

In a similar vein, fans of the series continue to claim that Christian “gets better” by book three. I had also seen a few people who had gone to advance screenings of the movie claim that the abusive elements of the book had been all but eradicated on-screen. Incidentally, both of these claims prove to be untrue, and because of my experience with the former, I figured I’d best test the latter as well.

By the time the credits rolled, my initial reaction is best described as follows: The grandfatherly type sitting next to me had spent much of the two hours muttering “Hmm” in tones of intrigue, concern, and confusion, sentiments which I emulated. He was like a metaphor for my own experience watching the film.

My intrigue was due solely to the performances. Dakota Johnson gives a rather riveting one, adding humor and depth to the otherwise dull, lifeless, and absurdly named Anastasia Steele. As pleasantly surprised as I was, though, I was often distracted by her haircut, all the while wondering who let their six-year-old take the safety scissors to Johnson’s bangs.

Meanwhile, Jamie Dornan’s brow remains stoically furrowed throughout the film, giving him a look of preoccupation that I’m sure is due to his concern about his professional reputation, or perhaps worry that his American accent doesn’t quite take. (It doesn’t.)

It is painfully clear that the actors don’t much care for each other or the project they’re working on. Cue the lack of sexual tension that the audience is forced to sit through when they’ve been promised erotica. Although, considering the source material doesn’t deliver on that so much as it does on the unhealthy, abusive relationship, we probably shouldn’t have expected much.

Also much like the book, the scenes that don’t focus on Christian and Ana are rushed – a film adaptation of endless page breaks that make Christian’s behavior seem even more erratic and almost comical. In fact, for about the first quarter of the movie, I was sure the filmmakers had succeeded in creating a dark comedy, whether intentional or not.

Christian’s initial indecisiveness is so truly laughable, it almost seems a parody of the source material, a theory that would perhaps come to a more satisfying fruition had E.L. James’s presence on set been more limited. As it is, James – who is as controlling and deaf to criticism as her romantic hero – was in fact a producer who caused much on-set trouble. Considering her Mean Girls attitude when she deals with her critics, I can’t say I’m surprised, but rather even more curious as to how the movie would have turned out if James had behaved like a self-respecting, professional author and relinquished her baby to people who actually know what they’re doing.

After all, much of the film stays true to the book, a fact which would have undoubtedly remained without James, due to the series’ immense fan following. True, Ana’s “inner goddess” and her dubiously named “subconscious” do not make an appearance (for which I was disappointed, as I had been hoping for an homage to Lizzie McGuire’s cartoonish inner monologues), but the removal of pseudo-characters won’t break the box office. The film was an instant moneymaker, and if you want the audience to come back for the sequels, you’ll give them what they want. And what the fans want is their Christian Grey, untainted in all of his controlling, possessive, and abusive glory.

Let’s take Ana’s trip to the bar, for instance. Ana drunk-dials Christian to complain about his should-I-shouldn’t-I? attitude towards her (a bit of dialogue that Dakota Johnson knocks out of the park, making this jaunt to the theater worthwhile for all of thirty seconds). Naturally, after she hangs up, Christian immediately calls back and delivers the swoon-worthy “I know where you are. I’m coming to get you.”

Keeping in mind that the two have met three times, twice in professional settings and once at Ana’s job, and because Ana is a fully capable adult out with her trusted friends, Christian’s reaction is totally unwarranted. Not to mention the ominous undertones of his declaration – “Even though you just made your frustration with me perfectly clear and did not disclose your location or ask for my help, I know where you are and am coming to get you” – well, I half-expected a plot twist in which Christian turns out to be Ghostface.

But, like most of my hopes for this movie, that plot twist doesn’t come to pass, and I’m forced to move on to the next scene in which Christian berates Ana for acting like a college senior. We have yet to feel any sexual tension between the two, and I’ve really given up until, for no reason and in one fluid motion, Christian pulls his shirt over his head, glides panther-like across the bed towards Ana, and… rips her toast in half with his teeth. (At this point, my friend Lauren told me later, she was ready to throw her hands up and walk out of the theater in pure exasperation at the ridiculousness of the movie thus far.)

Why I actually expected any quality from this film is a testament to what remains of my childlike naïveté that insists that humanity is, at its core, a good and benevolent thing.

I did continue to have some hope. After all, twice we are treated to a zoomed-in shot of Ana pressing a Grey House pencil against her lip, which I can only assume is a direct metaphor for Christian’s pencil dick. Which would probably explain some of his extreme desire to prove his masculinity, and why neither he nor Ana appear to orgasm in any of the sex scenes.

Of course, staying true to the book’s vision, we also get treated to Christian’s “kinky fuckery” (a line which was thankfully stricken from the script). The Red Room of Pain is filled with equipment that, for the most part, goes unused throughout the film, a good thing when you remember that Christian fails to explain any of this to Ana before unlocking the door and letting her in. (How can anyone consent without knowing what they’re consenting to? is a recurring theme here.) He attempts to finger her under the table during dinner with his parents. He shows up once again, unasked, to Ana’s apartment, ties her up and has otherwise vanilla sex with her that neither of them seem to enjoy, perhaps because the actors’ disdain for each other was just too much to overcome.

For all of Christian’s so-disturbing-it-borders-on-humorous behavior in the film, there are two scenes in particular that hit a speed bump on the humor and catapult us right back into the abusive nature of the book.

To begin, we have Ana’s first experience with Christian the Dom (however inaccurate that title may be when applied to this twisted caricature of what BDSM actually is). It’s a rather light experience, in which Christian spanks Ana a couple of times because she rolled her eyes at him. Immediately after she sits up straight, Christian leaves with hardly an explanation and certainly no aftercare. However light the experience, aftercare is essential, and yet Christian abandons Ana to deal with her feelings on her own.

But what really got to me about this scene is Ana’s phone call with her mother once Christian is gone. She is tearfully unable to tell her mother whether or not Christian makes her happy, and ultimately says that their relationship is “complicated.” If your partner leaves you confused, upset, and unsure of what your relationship is, that’s a red flag if I ever saw one.

And then we come to the end scene, the one those of us who have read the books expect to be upsetting (although fans and critics will say it’s for different reasons). Per Ana’s request, Christian takes her into the Red Room of Pain to show her exactly how much his version of BDSM can hurt – not for Ana’s pleasure, but for her punishment should Christian deem her worthy of it. There is no mention of Ana’s limits, no discussion, and the end result is truly horrifying. All throughout the aftermath of Ana’s beating – it’s not spanking, it’s not pleasurable, it’s cruel and unnecessary – she is forced to tell Christian to “stop” and “don’t,” she is hurt and confused and he offers no explanation but intense puppy eyes and “This is the way I am.”

Excuse me while I call bullshit on this whole thing.

I wanted the first quarter of the movie back – the erratic pacing, the ridiculous dialogue, the accidental parody. It is so much easier to mock the absurd than it is to face the actual danger and trauma that lies in the foundation of Fifty Shades of Grey.

“Curious?” Well, yes, I was. But perhaps a better, more apt tagline would have read “Run.” But that’s what you get when an author-turned-producer is so outspokenly unconcerned about the dangerous themes of her work because, as her Twitter bio reads: “Author of the Fifty Shades Trilogy: a LOVE story.”

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. But I suppose coming from an author who can’t properly define “subconscious,” it should come as no surprise to me that she doesn’t really know what love looks like, either.

Guest Post: Fifty Shades Movie Review by Kit Majka

Guest Post: Consent is a muddy dirty puddle

This is a guest post, by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.  

*Warning this post contains content that may cause a trigger. It is utterly not my intention to cause a trigger but I do feel that this content needs to be shared, for such a time as this. Please don’t suffer in silence get help here or here or here. You are not alone and things can change, I promise*

Valentine’s Day is a coming and this year in all its marketing genius it will also see the launch of the new 50 Shades of Grey Film (I won’t link to it!) based on the book of the same name that released in 2011 and has sold over a 100 millions copies. Named by some as ‘Erotic Romance’ and others as ‘Mummy Porn’ read by thousands of everyday women (and men) across the world. In my own community it became the talk of the staff room at the local school; primary school teachers sharing with each other what bit they were reading and normalising the contents over a skinny latte and a tuna sandwich. Even my mum read the series (she’s a 51yr old widower), I saw it being read on the bus, in the coffee shop and it was even talked about in circles of my Christian friends.

When it first came out I was having a conversation with a few women in my family of a similar age to me with them saying…

‘But secretly every woman finds it such a turn on the whole not being in control and having someone dominate you. No wonder it’s making so much money it’s what every women dreams about!’

My reply caught them a little off guard, perhaps I shouldn’t have said it but the words kinda fell out like word vomit…

‘Glad my torture and reoccurring nightmares could net millions.’

The conversation quickly changed.

As the launch of the film comes I have had many a fascinating conversation on the topic of consent. The standard throw away line when it comes to people talking about this film and normalising its contents is ‘but it’s between consenting adults’. The lofty ideal that in a relationship where two people make informed choices everything is healthy and good and as such. I have seen people openly sharing the trailer on their social media, even celebrating that they are booking tickets to see it as their Valentine’s Date.

But I think this sense of normalisation is a little distressing. As a youth worker who is passionate about seeing young people thrive I think we should consider how we discuss the issues this film presents and as a parent of a tween age girl I think its essential that we shout, “THIS IS NOT NORMAL!”

Just a few weeks ago my daughter and her friend were chased by a young man they did not know. On catching up with them he pinned my daughter’s friend to the wall and pressing his face against hers told her in an aggressive tone that he loved her. The girls are 12 yrs old and this happened on the school premises.

They were not given the option to consent.

When we talked about this later, my 12 yr old daughter normalised it. She said ‘well he didn’t really hurt her’ and ‘other people saw it and didn’t say anything so it’s ok’ and even ‘it could have been worse’. They had also decided not to tell a teacher because they didn’t know his name. My beautiful little girl said ‘we will try and stay away from him’.

They were not given an option to consent to this and by the tender age of 12 they were rationalising it and normalising it, finding strategies to alter their behavior to stop it happening to them again.

This is not what I want her to consider as a normal part of ‘consenting adult relationships’.

My experience of a consenting adult relationship may not be the same as yours but it is sadly not unique. I fell for a guy a little older than myself.  We didn’t really do the dating thing (its not a very English thing to do) so we jumped straight into a full on relationship.

Some would say that I consented to that, I guess at that initial stage I did.

We are all hard wired to be wanted and it feels good to be desired.

But what does consent really look like within the context of a relationship?

Do we really seek permission to every advance on our partner? Whilst it might be cute to ask your partner for the first time ‘is it ok to kiss you?’ When do we stop asking and start assuming?

And what happens when you add into that conversation the power dynamics that some relationships have or add in a sense of fear or obligation?

Very quickly the lines can get more and more blurry.

I know of plenty of mature, sensible women who have found themselves in situations where they have felt obliged to have sex. Most of the time consent is not explicitly asked for and even if consent is asked for, how do people say ‘no thank you’ when this may mean they are then in an even more vulnerable position.

What if you are staying at someone’s house and have no way of getting home?

What if they are your boss?

What if they hold something over you that you desperately don’t want others to find out about?

The term consenting adults can quickly become a bit of a lofty ideal that in truth presents in practice as a rather dirty muddy puddle!

So whilst I may have consented to be his girlfriend and to engage in some initial loving acts of physical affection, much of what unfolded I did not consent to.

I did not consent to be spat on.

I did not consent to being urinated on.

I did not consent to being bitten.

I did not consent to his hands round my throat strangling me .

I did not consent to a penis being forced inside of various parts of me.

I did not consent to being a punch bag.

But then again I was never asked in order that I might actually give consent, or withhold it. We have this lofty ideal of what consent looks like but in practice it is rarely exercised within a relationship. When was the last time you asked your partner ‘is it ok if I do …?’

But I didn’t scream and shout in protest against these things either. The majority of the time I silently sobbed for the duration.

Many have said that my silence and seeming lack of protest to the situation demonstrated that I was consenting; like the silence in a relationship means an implied and unwritten consent. Had he offered me up the menu choices at the start I would have politely declined, but like many I quickly learned that declining was not an option and often any protest would result in a not just an entree but a full on 3 course banquet that lasted hours and had effects for days.

When you turn up with massive bites on your face and neck people assume you have been having ‘a wildly happy consenting adult time’ they don’t stop to ask whether you wanted to be bitten.  Well not in my case anyway. Now I view bites, scratches, bruises on others a little differently.

It’s taken a long time to work though what not saying no has meant and I stand by the place I have reached now.

I was an adult.

I was in an adult relationship.

I did not consent to these things.

I did not with enthusiasm say ‘Yes please, that would make my dreams come true’.

Not all of what goes on behind closed doors is what we would traditionally consider as being between consenting adults however shiny or sparkly you package it.

Consent is a muddy dirty puddle and I do not want my daughter to grow up in a world where we normalise things such as 50 Shades of Grey and make the content of it a topic of discussion over lunch in the staff room.

So if like me you want to do something proactive to challenge the status quo why not join in with this or use your power and influence to educate others on what active consent looks like. Have the awkward conversation with people around you about what ‘consenting adults’ looks like and be bold enough to ask your partner tonight ‘are you ok with this?’

Guest Post: Consent is a muddy dirty puddle

Helpful Information

Hello and welcome to anyone who has discovered this website following Natalie’s appearance onNewsnight. We realise domestic abuse is a difficult subject and the things Natalie mentioned may have been triggering to some viewers. Others may seek to validate the claims she made re abuse statistics. For that reason, we thought it would be helpful to provide some links to those abuse statistics and also to provide links to organisations that can help and support those experiencing domestic abuse themselves.

The statistic on young girls experiencing emotional abuse from a boyfriend by the age of 16 is here: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/research-and-resources/partner-exploitation-and-violence-in-teenage-intimate-relationships/

25% of adult women will experience some form of abuse from a male partner or ex partner at some point in her lifetime: http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-violence-articles.asp?section=00010001002200410001&itemid=1280&itemTitle=Statistics:+how+common+is+domestic+violence

We appreciate the need to be factual when discussing such a sensitive issue, hence providing these links to the statistics used in tonight’s broadcast.

If you have any concerns after watching tonight’s show and wish to seek help or advice, here are some organisations that can assist you:

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is run 24 hours a day and is free to call on 0808 2000 247. Or you can access their website http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/.

Abuse affects people of all ages.  For help, information and guidance tailored specifically for young people who are concerned that they may be experiencing abuse, or who are worried about their own behaviour towards their boy/girlfriend, the government’s This Is Abuse website is a great resource:http://thisisabuse.direct.gov.uk/.

If you are a male victim of abuse, or if you feel that you may be a perpetrator of abuse, Respect can help you (http://respect.uk.net/). Their free phone number for men who experience domestic abuse is: 0808 801 0327. You can gain advice online at: http://mensadviceline.org.uk/.

If you are a man who is concerned that you are hurting the person you love, Respect’s free helpline is reached on: 0808 802 4040. For online guidance and support, visit http://respectphoneline.org.uk/.

If you are the friend or family member of someone you suspect is experiencing abuse, you can contact 1in4 Woman at http://www.1in4women.com/.

Finally, please remember to be safe online, especially if you are experiencing any form of abuse. Women’s Aid has a guide on how to erase your internet history in order to remain safe, which is accessible here: http://www.womensaid.org.uk/page.asp?section=00010001000800010001. Please use it if you feel that you are in danger, having visited any of the above websites, or indeed this one. Stay safe.

Once again, as always, thank you for the enormous support we’ve received, not only from those who’ve experienced domestic abuse, but from those members of the BDSM community, whose lifestyle has been so badly misrepresented in Fifty Shades of Grey. We couldn’t do this without you.

If you would like to get involved in the Fifty Shades is Abuse campaign, we have various downloadable resources for you to use.

We have a simple poster here: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/Cinema%20Poster.pdf

There are postcards you can download here: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/Postcard.pdf

And a useful FAQ leaflet about our campaign is available here: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/FAQ%20Leaflet.pdf

For more information about the protest we’re hoping to arrange for the Fifty Shades of Grey UK film premiere, please click here: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/Protest%20Image.png

We encourage anyone planning on seeing The Fifty Shades of Grey movie to consider donating the cost of a cinema ticket to their local abuse charity instead.

To make a donation to your local branch of Women’s Aid, click here: http://www.womensaid.org.uk/azrefuges.asp?section=00010001000800060002&itemTitle=A-Z+of+services

To find your nearest rape crisis centre, visit: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/centres.php

Abuse is not a subject to be romanticised or trivialised.  Let’s say no to abuse portrayed as romance

Helpful Information

This Woman I Know

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.

This Woman I Know

Myth Busting!

The following blog originally appeared on account co-runner Emma’s personal blog (www.theramblingcurl.blogspot.com), whilst our website was down, due to a problem with webs.com. Now that the problem has been recitified, we’re reproducing it here, in its proper home:

Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of something we’re passionate about, we can get carried away and lose sight of the fact that not everyone is on board with us. We can dig in our heels and refuse to listen to outside opinion.

That is something we DO NOT want to do with this campaign.

To that end, we do enter into conversation with our critics. We do listen to opposing views. After all, nothing changes if two sides don’t listen to one another. So we make it our business to engage with some of the less-abusive Fifty Shades fans who contact us, in an effort to explain who we are and what we’re about. Sometimes we change minds. Sometimes we at least encourage someone to consider a different viewpoint. And sometimes, with regret, we pull away from the conversation. There’s no use in shouting words into a vacuum, after all.

With only a month to go until the release of the first Fifty Shades movie, we’re receiving a lot more attention – both positive and negative – than usual. And as always, we’re responding to some of that negative attention, in an effort to explain why we feel the way we do and what we’re trying to achieve through this campaign. Or, to put it another way, to dispel some of the myths that surround Fifty Shades Is Abuse.

With that in mind, we decided that now would be a good time to dispel those myths here, providing our supporters (and ourselves!) with a handy link to send to those who insist on perpetuating them. We’re also going to use this blog to focus on some of the abuse myths put forward both in EL James’ trilogy and by fans of it. But first, let’s settle some of the untruths regarding this campaign…

“You’re prudish – you’re equating BDSM with abuse because you don’t know anything of the lifestyle!”

We get this one a lot. Fans of the books know that the BDSM aspect is the part of the trilogy that has provoked the most interest and, in some parts, controversy, so it’s almost understandable that they make the leap from the campaign title – “Fifty Shades Is Abuse” – to the idea that we’re anti-BDSM. That could not be further from the truth.

We are in no way, shape or form against consensual BDSM. Indeed, we have all kinds of people from within the lifestyle who follow and support our campaign. Dom(me)s, subs, switches… You’ll find plenty on our follower list. The reason? They believe, as we do, that the lifestyle has been offensively and dangerously misrepresented by EL James’ trilogy. From the tired old trope of the man only into BDSM because of some tragic, painful past (and who needs to be “fixed”;), to the “Dom” using alcohol and manipulation to coerce a completely naive young woman into agreeing to become his sub; the story throws the BDSM community under the bus.

Fans make a huge mountain out of the importance of consent to Christian, but the fact is, they’re reading what they want to see. Yes, Christian hands Ana a contract and talks about the importance of consent, but when it comes down to it, there is precious little – something which many from the lifestyle itself have highlighted as extremely dangerous. Case in point? Whilst discussing hard limits, Christian deliberately gets Ana drunk. She can’t give full, informed consent in that state and were he a reliable Dom (or just a non-abusive person in general), he would know as much. She also asks him not to control every aspect of her life and he ignores her and continues to monitor her whereabouts and even tries to buy her workplace so he can keep an eye on her there. She tells him “no” during sex in chapter 12 of book 1 and he continues. In book 2, when she tells him she wants to talk, rather than have sex, he tells her “don’t over-think this” and carries on. In book 3, she tells him she’s too tired for sex. He tells her he wants it, so they’ll have it. Ignoring her lack of full consent in this manner has nothing to do with BDSM and it’s an insult when fans insist that it does. Ana never signed the contract; he is not her Master. And even if he were, a lack of consent would never be ignored in a healthy BDSM relationship.

You need only read “Meet Fifty Shades,” which EL James wrote from Christian’s viewpoint, to see that his first reaction when Ana falls into his office is to want to hit her out of anger, not arousal. Indeed, in book 2 of the Fifty Shades trilogy, he even tells Ana that if she doesn’t eat, he’ll hit her in public “and it’ll have nothing to do with my sexual gratification.” In other words, he doesn’t want to give her a consensual spanking. He just wants to hit her because she’s annoying him.

That’s not BDSM. It’s abuse. And we haven’t even talked about how the majority of Grey’s most abusive behaviour takes place in a non-sexual scenario. Much of his abuse is emotional and psychological. The fact that it crosses into sexual and physical abuse at times is just an extension of Christian’s already-abusive tendencies. Our pointing it out is in no way a damning indictment against BDSM as a whole.

We’re not remotely anti-BDSM. But we are against it being misrepresented and used as a cover for abusive behaviour, as it is in Fifty Shades.

We would recommend that anyone wanting to know more about the lifestyle speaks to someone involved in it, reads books on the subject, visits a club and finds out the facts. Because unfortunately, it would appear that EL James didn’t.

“You’re just projecting your own experiences onto Fifty Shades and that’s not fair!”

Sometimes, we reference our own experiences of abuse, as part of highlighting the dangers of real-life Christian Greys. This has led to some fans telling us that we’re “too obsessed” with what happened to us to be able to “understand the love story” that EL James has written. Others have told us that we’re projecting our own experiences onto Ana and Christian’s “healthy” relationship and coming up with a “sick, twisted opinion” on it as a result.

Casting aside how utterly offensive these comments are, they are also completely wrong. The simple fact is that we don’t have any need to project anything onto Fifty Shades. The abuse is there in black and white; not because we’ve imagined it, but because EL James wrote it there.

I don’t have to have personally been stalked in order to recognise that following a woman thousands of miles away when she’s asked for space is invasive and wrong. I don’t have to have been stalked to know that a man already knowing not only your address, but your bank details, medical files and the addresses of your family members is morally reprehensible, not “hot.”

I don’t have to have personal experience of someone I loved and trusted manipulating me with “I can’t help the way I behave; I don’t know any better…” to know it’s a massive, steaming pile of bull, being used to convince a person to stick around and feel responsible for “curing” their abuser. As it happens, I do have experience of that and I mention it only to explain the truth of the situation, not to make the campaign about me, or to justify seeing abuse in Fifty Shades when it’s not actually there.

We’ve written many times about the different types of abuse in Fifty Shades and the dangers of romanticising them, so I’m not going to list examples here, too. You can find them on our website, should you wish to look. But you can rest assured that the examples of abuse are taken directly from the books. Not made up to suit an “agenda” (a recent accusation by a fan), or exaggerated because we’re so over-sensitive because of our pasts, but direct quotes from the books that reference abusive behaviour – be it stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats, isolation or unwanted control – that EL James actually wrote in black and white. We don’t project our own experiences onto the books. The author did that for us.

“You’re telling people what they can and can’t read! That’s against free speech! You’re advocating censorship!”

Wrong. We’ve never called for a ban on the books. We’ve never insisted that all copies should be burned. We’ve never said that nobody should be allowed to read them, or that nobody should see the film.

What we have said is that romanticising abusive behaviour in fiction is highly dangerous and leads to abuse being normalised or missed in reality (emotional and psychological abuse in particular is so insidious that many who experience it don’t even realise they’ve been abused until much later).

What we have said is that romanticising abusive behaviour in fiction can, and from our experience has led to an even greater problem with people believing myths about abuse (more of which later), which in turn causes people to be blind to the very red flags they should be looking out for.

What we have said is that Fifty Shades could be used as a starting point for a public discussion on abuse – what it is, how to recognise it and where to get help – seeing as it depicts an abusive relationship with frightening clarity, yet millions of fans see it as “true love.” Something which is indicative of the fact that we have a long way to go when it comes to abuse-awareness…

As a writer, feminist and human, I am passionately pro free speech. Always have been, always will be. I even believe in the right of other people to ridicule my beliefs. And I believe in my right to speak out against something popular, however much fans of Fifty Shades might dislike me for doing so.

We’re not calling for book-burning. We’re not calling for bans. We’re not telling anyone what they can or can’t read or watch. We’re trying to raise awareness and start a discussion on a subject that very much needs to be brought to the fore.

“But aren’t you insulting readers’ intelligence?  They can separate fact from fiction!”

We’ve never said that having read these books, we believe women are going to rush out into relationships with abusive men or anything similar.  The last thing we want to do is insult anyone’s intelligence, as we are not about criticising fans of the books.  However, as we’ve said above, abuse is insidious.  Many don’t recognise emotional and psychological abuse even when they’re going through it (I didn’t).  There is no shame in admitting to this – it’s merely evidence that greater awareness is needed.  We very much hope that most readers of Fifty Shades would absolutely recognise that stalking, coercion, manipulation and threats are, in reality, deeply abusive behaviours, which are inexcusable.  When we say that these behaviours are being normalised by the books, however, we refer to the fact that emotional abuse often goes below the radar and it could become less easy to spot in reality, if society is conditioned to believe it’s romantic in fiction.

We don’t for a second believe that women who read and enjoy Fifty Shades are somehow less intelligent than those who do see the abuse in the books.  We simply want to reach out and start a discourse – only through discussion and awareness raising do we get any kind of change in societal attitudes, after all.

“What about other books?! You can’t criticise Fifty Shades and not anything else!”

This is an interesting one. Taste is subjective; I might find something offensive, but someone else might not. There are, certainly, several books and films littered throughout history (and on modern shelves, too), whose themes are deeply questionable and could easily be deemed to glorify abuse.

To be clear, we stand against romanticised abuse in fiction full stop. Romanticising abusive behaviour in fiction normalises it in reality and can blind us to the signs.

However, Fifty Shades went past being “just a book” like so many others a long time ago. It went past being “just a book,” when the “find your own Christian Grey” dating sites appeared and when almost every women’s magazine refused to hear a word of criticism against it and began promoting Grey as “the perfect man.”

The trilogy has sunk deeper into public consciousness than almost anything that preceded it. When fans are sending us messages every week, defending Grey and in many cases abusing us personally for speaking against the series, it’s indicative of just how seriously this particular piece of Twilight fan-fiction has been taken. And when something with the potential to be dangerous is taken that seriously and becomes such a deep part of the public consciousness, then it makes sense for an abuse-awareness campaign to focus on it.

We’re not saying that any other book or film that romanticises abusive behaviour is okay. We’re saying that this campaign was set up around Fifty Shades because the trilogy encapsulates so much abuse, it was impossible to ignore. We’re saying that whilst Fifty Shades is so universal, it makes much more logical sense to use it as a starting point for a discussion on abuse than any other book that came before or after it.

“You’re just jealous of EL James!”

Ahahahahahaahaaaaaa. Ahem.

There are so many English errors in the entire Fifty Shades trilogy that I genuinely wouldn’t even know where to begin if I tried listing them all. The writing is appalling. Honestly, completely appalling. I say that as a writer myself. I would be embarrassed to put out a trilogy that was so hideously – and vainly – unedited. So if you’re talking about writing ability, I am not jealous and having read some brilliant pieces by the Fifty Shades Is Abuse campaign-founder, Natalie, I am certain that she isn’t either.

We’re not jealous of EL James’ wealth. Neither of us are that shallow. Nor are we envious of her fame.

Let’s also not forget that EL James is the writer who deliberately set out to make it look as though there was no criticism of her books coming from genuine abuse-survivors, when she told an interviewer: “People who see abuse in my books are doing a huge disservice to women who really experience it.”

Here’s the thing, EL. I experienced it. Natalie experienced it. Hundreds of our followers experienced it. We have several abuse charities following us who deal with those who experience it and they see abuse in your books, too. Where’s your answer for us?

So no, we’re not jealous of EL James. To suggest that we’d create a whole campaign centred around a subject as personal and important as domestic abuse, simply because we’re suffering from petty jealousy is ludicrous and offensive.

“EL James didn’t deliberately write about abuse. You’re demonising her!!”

Wrong again. Unless she’s a deeply sick individual, I highly doubt that EL James sat down to write a novel that would romanticise an abusive relationship. After all, Twilight has some of the same abusive patterns as Fifty Shades of Grey does and we know that EL’s story started life as fan-fiction. She was probably just taking some of the behaviours from Twilight and, unfortunately, bringing them further into the spotlight.

That said, it’s not as though she hasn’t been made aware of the abuse in her books. Abuse survivors have contacted her. Abuse charities have contacted her. Her response is to block them on Twitter, so that they can’t burst her precious bubble. That’s not the reaction of a mature writer who listens to valid concern. It’s the reaction of a rather vain person, so deeply in love with her own creation that she’s willing to ignore, criticise and minimise those who have anything negative to say about her work.

People from the BDSM community have also spoken out, trying to explain to EL James that she has misrepresented their lifestyle. And she has blocked and ignored them, too.

Let’s also remember that for all her cries of “it’s just my fantasy!”, EL James is happy to sell Grey as the perfect man to anyone who’ll listen. She’s been more than content to put her name – and that of the Fifty Shades brand – on endless pieces of merchandise, including BDSM-related sex toys, which doesn’t exactly do much to dispel the idea that she’s selling her “fantasy” as some kind of poorly-researched how-to guide.

I’m a writer. I understand being precious over your work. But I can’t – and won’t – understand anyone calling themselves a writer, who is prepared to utterly ignore and in some cases publicly insult those who come to her with very real concerns. When you put anything into the public domain, you have to take ownership of it and that involves admitting when you’ve made mistakes and presented something which could be seen as dangerous or offensive.

EL James is not prepared to take ownership of her work, unless it’s to accept praise. We aren’t demonising her. But we do seriously question her judgement in this area.

All of which leads me on to the abuse myths that Fifty Shades has itself managed to perpetuate. Abuse is a subject that many people know little about. In some ways, this is understandable. It’s not a pleasant topic and when faced with something so unpalatable, it’s fairly common to develop an “it’ll never happen to me” attitude.

Except it could. And blinding ourselves to the signs is potentially dangerous. On our Twitter page, we often talk about the “abuse myths” or “abuse tropes” in Fifty Shades and why they’re so unhelpful. So here, we’ve chosen to tackle a few of them. And yes, every single myth you’re about to read has been sent to us at some point by a Fifty shades fan, in defence of the series…

“He doesn’t know any better!! You can’t blame him for his behaviour, because he had a terrible childhood. He needs help, not judgement.”

We are in 100% agreement that Christian needs help, just as all abusers do. But an abuser will not change unless he or she recognises that they have a problem and needs to change. Christian sees nothing wrong with his behaviour, in spite of claiming “I’m fifty shades of f*cked up,” as an excuse for it.

And guess what? It’s not an excuse. There is never an excuse for abusing another person. The events that took place in a person’s life prior to their decision to stalk, manipulate, threaten, coerce, isolate, harm or forcibly control someone else, do not negate the abusive effect of these behaviours. My ex told me that he couldn’t help his behaviour towards me, because he’d been abused as a child. I believed him. I stuck around, trying to help him. Only when I realised that actually, he was an adult, with a circle of friends (including couples in healthy relationships), a job in which he had responsibility and several remaining family members, did I come to the horrible conclusion that he knew how he ought to treat me. He simply chose to be abusive instead and used his past as a convenient excuse.

Christian – and men like him – may be troubled and need some help and support. But it does not ever excuse their decision to behave abusively towards their partners. Christian’s sad childhood is no more an excuse for stalking or controlling Ana against her will than my ex’s was for abusing me. An abusive, or tragic past might go some of the way towards explaining a possible propensity to abuse as an adult, but it doesn’t excuse it. EVER.

Think about it logically: If a guy butchered his own children and it turned out that he’d been beaten by his parents as a kid, would you spare him a prison sentence, because of his sad past? If a man raped a woman, would you let him off if his mum had died when he was little? Abuse is a crime. No amount of tragedy in an abuser’s past excuses it. It’s a common myth that we can explain away certain abusive behaviours if we find something in the abuser to be sympathetic about. EL James has perpetuated that myth and as a result, we have fans contacting us every week, telling us we’re being unfair, because poor ickle Christian – who owns a billion-dollar company, which he supposedly runs single-handedly – just doesn’t know how to be a big boy. Rubbish.

Manipulation is a key part of abuse. Getting your partner to think that you’re some poor, troubled person who simply can’t help their actions because they’ve never been shown any different, is a hugely common tactic. Why? Because it works.

This is the point at which fans point to Doctor Flynn and insist that Christian is trying to get better. Nope. EL James did about as much research into the kind of therapy Christian would need as she did BDSM. As a result, Flynn is highly unrealistic; a doctor who breaks his oath in order to tell Ana that she’s “doing wonders” for his patient (subtly putting responsibility for fixing Christian on her shoulders rather than his own – more of that later) and who never questions Christian’s behaviour, but enables it.

Frighteningly, whilst the doctor’s character and behaviour is unrealistic, the situation isn’t. Lundy Bancroft – author of “Why Does He Do That?” a book about men who abuse – explains that many abusive people will use their therapy sessions to justify their own behaviour, or to look for sympathy and a reason to blame others, rather than examine their own actions. My ex did the exact same thing, even going as far as to tell me that he used his therapy sessions to explain that he couldn’t help his behaviour; it was everyone else in his life that was wrong, not him. Consequently, I believe my ex is almost certainly still abusive. And so is Christian.

“But her love cures him in the end. They both have to learn, compromise and make sacrifices and that’s what a relationship is about.”

Sure, relationships are about compromise. But tell me: What does Christian sacrifice? His need to control? No, he still dictates to Ana as to when she can see her friends, whether she takes his name when they marry and he attempts to control a whole lot more besides. Does he sacrifice his need for BDSM when Ana expresses a dislike for some aspects? No, because he coerces Ana into going back on pretty much all of her hard limits. The only person who really makes an effort at compromise is Ana.

All of which is beside the point, because this is yet another dangerous – and offensive – abuse myth. The thought of the myth that love can “cure” an abuser being readily accepted by EL James’ fans is genuinely frightening, because this is a manipulative trap that so many people who experience abuse in real life fall into. I did.

When you love a person who has been treating you badly, you want to believe their promises that they’re going to change. When they tell you they can’t help their behaviour, you want to believe that and try to support them in “getting better.” Abusers fixate on that and will encourage their partners to believe that they – and only they – can help them to become a better person. This manipulation causes many people to stay in abusive relationships, thinking that if they just love their abuser the right way, they can get things back to how they were at the start of the relationship, before it all went wrong. Of course, an abuser will always move the goalposts so that there is no “right” way, but the abused person – already manipulated by this point – doesn’t know that and will often keep trying, to the detriment of their own mental and emotional well-being.

Ana – partly because of Christian’s manipulation and partly because of the poorly researched Doctor Flynn – believes that it’s her responsibility to “fix” Christian. It’s not. It’s his. In a healthy relationship, there’s nothing wrong with supporting a partner whilst they work on their issues. But this is not a healthy relationship and Ana is taking all of the responsibility, leaving Christian with none. Her love alone can’t “cure” Christian’s abusive tendencies anymore than love can cure abuse in reality.

By perpetuating the “love cures abuse!” myth, EL James is not only setting her readers up for a potentially dangerous fall, but offending the many women who found the strength to walk away from their abusers, having realised that they couldn’t change them and that staying put them at emotional or physical risk. Perhaps our love just wasn’t good enough, eh EL?

“Ana stays, so the abuse from Christian can’t be that bad. I mean, women who keep going back to an abusive man are pretty much complicit in the abuse, really. If it was that bad, they’d leave.”

From a Fifty Shades standpoint, let’s remind ourselves that within the trilogy, Christian tells Ana (book 1, I believe) that no matter where she ran, he would find her. He even chillingly jokes: “I can track your phone, remember?” All of which negates his promise to let her go when, in book 3, he thinks she’s leaving him. He’s already threatened to stalk her to the ends of the Earth if necessary, so why should we believe that he’s suddenly changed his tune?!

It’s a grotesquely common myth that people who go back to their abusive partners are somehow to blame for the abuse they suffer as a result. The blame for abuse lies squarely on the shoulders of one person: The abuser.

The myth takes no consideration of the level of manipulation and fear being used on the abused person. The abuser may threaten to kill the abused if they leave. They may threaten to kill themselves. They could manipulate family and friends into thinking the abused person is going crazy and needs to stay with them for their own protection. They could restrict the abused person’s access to their bank account or their car, thus making escape much harder. The abused person may be terrified that leaving could make things a hundred times worse.

Or the abuser could try a different tactic. They could make a hundred promises, swearing on their life –or even their children’s lives – that things will change. And with enough “evidence” (through charming behaviour, attention, gifts etc) that the abuser means what he/she says, the abused person may believe them.

The fact that people sometimes stay in – or go back to – abusive relationships does not make it their fault when they are abused. Ana’s decision to stay with a man whose temper she openly admits to being afraid of (chapter 6, book 3) does not mean that there is no abuse in her relationship, or that she is responsible for it.

The level of victim-blaming thrown by Fifty Shades’ supposed fans at our campaign has been atrocious.

“Well, she stayed, so if he shouts at her and hits her, it’s not like she didn’t know she had it coming.”

“If she didn’t want marks all over her chest, she shouldn’t have taken her bikini top off on honeymoon. She knew what he was like.”

“He warned her to run. She chose to stay. After that, whatever he does to her, she only has herself to blame.”

Victim-blaming is one of the most common, yet most damaging problems society has when it comes to dealing with abuse. And fans sending statements like that are only making it worse.

“It’s a fantasy – Grey is rich, gorgeous and sexy. Real-life abusers aren’t.”

Yes, that’s true. All real-life abusers have to go around in their “I’m An Abuser” t-shirts, with the pit stains on display. They’re usually hideously ugly, stone broke and terrible in bed. Of course no Fifty Shades fan is going to fall for an abuser – they’re incredibly easy to spot!

Except no.  That attitude (which came from a fan) actually harms the Fifty Shades fandom by insulting their fellow fans’ intelligence.  Most fans are aware that men (and women) who abuse can come from all walks of life and don’t necessary look like an abuser.  Whatever that even means…

Abusers look like ordinary people. They could be rich and powerful. They could be the best sex you’ve ever had in your life. They could be the best-looking people you’ve ever laid eyes on. But they’re still abusers.

The myth that all abusive people are somehow recognisable is as ludicrous as it is dangerous. We already had Fifty Shades to “thank” for the legions of adoring readers willing to overlook hideous behaviour if it’s displayed by a fictional character who’s rich and sexy. Now, we have those same fans contacting us to tell us that abuse is super-easy to spot in real-life and that you’d never find a man like Christian Grey who was actually abusive.

Except… My ex was the hottest guy I’d ever seen in real-life at the time I met him (an opinion that has since been thoroughly revised). I thought he was gorgeous. I had friends who thought the same. And at first, the sex was definitely the best I’d ever had. Neither fact made him less of an abuser, but they did help to blind me to his abuse. Just like fans are blinded to Christian Grey’s abuse by his good looks and ridiculous wealth. Are we all really shallow?! No. We just have this stupid idea – perpetuated by books like Fifty Shades – that attractive, rich people are the good guys. An abuser must be really easy to spot, because he or she will undoubtedly be physically repugnant, grubby and nasty.

The reality is that abusers are skilled in the area of charm. They will put across a version of themselves that they know you’ll fall for. What would be the point of revealing themselves to be abusive right away? Nobody would want to be with them!

It’s time we got away from this utterly foolish societal belief that abusers… Well, look and act like abusers. More often than not, they don’t. That’s the whole point.

Fifty Shades of Grey has perpetuated these myths and more. That’s why we need to speak out. Not because we’re hysterically calling for books to be burned, or because we have any desire to police what people read, but because myths about something as already misunderstood as abuse are dangerous. We need facts. What we don’t need is a man who stalks, coerces, threatens, intimidates, controls and manipulates being presented as some kind of romantic hero. Because he isn’t.

He’s an abuser.

Myth Busting!