Introducing an exciting new project: ART AGAINST ABUSE.

art quote

You may have heard recently that there are charity shops being inundated with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels.  Indeed, one Oxfam store in Swansea, Wales, even built a fort out of their unwanted copies.

Whilst the thought that a series that romanticises stalking, threats and emotional abuse is cluttering up charity shop shelves, unsold and unwanted, is obviously enough to put a smirk on our faces, Natalie and I began to realise that simply recycling the books is something of a missed opportunity.  Why not use them?

Art – in all its glorious forms – is a wonderful way of spreading a powerful message.  Paintings, sculptures, sonnets and musical compositions have a way of getting under our skin and forcing us to confront issues.  So, why not use all of those unwanted copies of Fifty Shades… to create works of art?

This is where you come in!

We’ve hit upon the idea of creating a movement that rises out of all of those unwanted books, piled up on charity shop shelves.  We want to encourage as many of you as possible to go to your local charity shop, buy a copy of one of the Fifty Shades… books and turn it into a piece of art that stands against abuse.  Then, we’d like you to take a high quality photo of your artwork (or video, if you choose to record a song or make a film!) and send it to us, along with a short description (max. 200 words) of what you’ve created and why you felt you wanted to get involved.  You can either tweet photos/video directly to us on Twitter at @50shadesabuse, via our Facebook page, or even send them to us via email (50shadesabuse@gmail.com).  If you send your artwork to us on Twitter, please don’t forget the all-important hashtag, #ArtAgainstAbuse!  We’ll be sharing all of your creations with the same hashtag, in the hope of sending our message viral and we’ll be creating a public Facebook photo album of everything we receive, too.

art quote 2

Please remember that to get involved, you don’t have to be a fabulous painter, or an expert in sculpture (although if you are, please do join in!).  Your art can be anything you like.  Some ideas include:

  • Using the pages to create a paper mache sculpture
  • Creating a collage from the pages
  • Making up a poem using the actual text from the books
  • Writing a song using the text as the lyrics
  • Painting a picture, using the book pages in the painting
  • Book-folding
  • Drawing sketches over the pages
  • Building a sculpture from the books themselves
  • Acting out scenes, focusing on the abuse.
  • Origami using the pages

 

If you need added inspiration, there is a gallery of images of books that have been turned into various different works of art here – although we don’t want to put pressure on anyone to be creating something massive (unless you want to!).

Our current intention with Art Against Abuse is to simply get the hashtag trending and spread the movement as far and wide as possible, so please, if you know anyone who paints, sculpts, draws, designs, writes or makes music, send them this blog and encourage them to get involved if they can!  We really want to turn all of these unwanted copies of Fifty Shades… into creations that speak out against the very thing that the books romanticise – abuse.

With time, we’d love to look into displaying a collection of the artwork that’s created during the Art Against Abuse project (ideally to coincide with the release of the next film), or even to produce a book of photos of all the artwork,  plus quotes from contributors as to why they wanted to get involved.  But first and foremost – let’s get this idea off the ground!

Please, please have a think about joining in with Art Against Abuse.  Pick up a pencil, a paintbrush or a pair of scissors and just see what happens!  Or, if you’re musically creative, pick up an instrument and have a think about how the books’ text could form lyrics and make us a video of the song you write as a result!  Recycle these books into something beautiful that sends a powerful message: we will not tolerate seeing abuse romanticised in fiction.

The project starts TODAY, so there’s no better time to get yourselves down to your local charity shop and start creating your masterpiece!  Send whatever you create to us with the hashtag #ArtAgainstAbuse and we’ll share it.  And PLEASE remember – we’re looking for ALL kinds of art.  If all you can offer is a simple doodle on a page, that’s fine.  We just want as many people as possible to join in!

Oh, and yes, we’ll be making our own works of art, too. 😉

Thanks as always for your amazing support and here’s to seeing what we all create!

Emma & Natalie

#ArtAgainstAbuse

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Introducing an exciting new project: ART AGAINST ABUSE.

Rebutting The Rebuttal – Why Even Fans’ Defences Prove That Fifty Shades IS Abuse

Black and white

AMMENDMENT: Having been contacted on Twitter by the author of the original argument against there being abuse in Fifty Shades, we would like to offer an apology for suggesting that the author was discussing abuse in the books, when in fact, she was apparently discussing whether there was abuse in the films.  We were not initially aware of this and for clarification, would like to make readers aware that we are addressing the issues in the book.  However, we also fail to see how stalking, threats, coercion, manipulation and unwanted control are different depending on which medium they are presented in.  We hope that this clarification clears up any misunderstanding and would again like to apologise to the original author for any offence caused in mis-wording this post.  As always, we would also like to thank our followers on Twitter and Facebook for their continued encouragement and support.  Our original rebuttal continues below.

Recently, a fan page called Laters Baby came up with a post in which they claimed to tackle several arguments for abuse in Fifty Shades.  The link to the post is here, although we warn you that the writer claims in the opening to the piece that those who see abuse may be “making things up” and for very obvious reasons, we suggest you avoid reading the comments.

The trouble with this rebuttal of the arguments for abuse in the text (and we should stress that the original image that led to this piece being written was not created by us), is that it falls back on very common defences for abusive behaviour and is written by someone who has already convinced themselves that Christian Grey is not an abuser.  Whilst you could argue that we are writing this response from the viewpoint of someone convinced that he is, it should be remembered that the Fifty Shades Is Abuse campaign was set up by people who did not go looking for abuse in the series, but instead, were shocked to read the books and find it there in black and white.  So we’re not writing this on the defensive, in the manner that the original piece was.  We’re simply writing facts.

From this point, all text in italics, unless otherwise specified, are quotes from the original piece, arguing against there being abuse in the trilogy.  Here is the original image that led to the piece being written:

 

The first sign on the list is:

  • Monitors what you do all the time.

The piece refuting abuse in Fifty Shades has this to say:

“First, I’m not sure that 4 times over several weeks qualifies as “all the time.”

Okay.  Let’s remember that Fifty Shades is a story that takes place in a very short space of time.  There are barely more than six weeks from the start of the story to the end of the first book.  So actually, four times in around a month?  Is creepy at best, abusive at worst.  Imagine you’d met a new guy.  You’ve only known him for a month, but he has already stalked you hundreds of miles away, turned up at your house uninvited, appeared at your workplace out of the blue and tracked your phone in order to show up whilst you’re on a night out with friends.  That’s not romantic behaviour, nor is it behaviour to be dismissed, simply because it’s not “all the time.”  It’s worth noting that abused people often console themselves with the thought that their abuser is not abusive “all the time.”  If abusers never showed another side to themselves, their partners would be less inclined to stay, after all.  So this argument of “but it doesn’t happen very often,” which the writer uses as a defence in this piece, is actually evidence of the lack of knowledge many people have about abuse.  It doesn’t have to be happening “all the time” for it to be abuse.  And one instance is too many.  The original image goes on to mention Christian tracking Ana to a bar as the first instance of abuse (stalking).  Here’s what the fan defence is:

“Yes, he does track her to the bar when he becomes concerned about her safety because she is extremely drunk.  While they were more like acquaintances at this point, I hope my friends would do the same for me if they thought I was in danger.  As for removing her, she was fine with leaving with him once Kate knew.  And she was passed out, was he supposed to leave her on the floor?”

He tracks her to the bar because he’s angry that she’s drunk, not because he’s deeply concerned for her safety.  His wording the next day (“if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled last night”) clarifies this.  “I do it to protect you” is a really common excuse used by abusers and to see it being accepted and used by fans in this way is incredibly frightening, not to mention further evidence that education on what constitutes abuse is massively required.

Christian is also told “no” by Ana and turns up anyway.  Ana expressly tells him that she DOES NOT WANT HIM TO COME to “rescue” her, but he ignores her, tracks her phone and and turns up anyway.  That’s abusive.

And no, he shouldn’t have left Ana on the floor.  But as the fan actually admits, Ana was passed out.  She could not give consent to going back to Christian’s at that point and she certainly could not give consent to being undressed and put to bed with him.  He should have taken her home, especially seeing as he’d already found out where she lived.

The next point raised is that Christian Stalks Ana to Georgia.  Here’s the fan defence:

“He went to Georgia after Ana said she missed him and wished he was there.”

She also told him she needed space from him in order to clear her head.  She didn’t – at any point – say “please come to Georgia” outright.  She simply tells him in an email that she misses him.  If Christian had emailed back and said “do you want me to come to see you?”  There would be no problem.  But instead, he finds out personal information (her mother’s address, the hotel they’re at etc), turns up out of the blue and watches her in a bar before creepily texting her to ask how much alcohol she intends to drink.  That’s not romantic.  It’s called stalking.  And again, these defences are weak at best.

The next point under this first heading is that he tracks Ana at her workplace.  The fan defence says:

“Tracks is a strong word.  He was curious about her and went to where she worked to create an opening to see her again.  This is like walking by a cute boy or girl’s house, desk, locker etc and hoping you can generate a conversation.  He could have easily found out where she works from Kate’s father, whom he has done business with.  Where she worked wasn’t hard information to come by.”

“Tracks” is not a “strong” word.  It’s an accurate word.  Ana does not work anywhere near to where Grey lives or works and so it is literally nothing like walking past a cute person’s house (although this does make me wonder if the writer of this piece is a teenager, because that kind of behaviour should no longer be defensible by the time you’re out of your teens…).  Christian discovers Ana’s workplace by ordering a background check on her, within minutes of meeting her.  In Grey, when we see this scene from Christian’s perspective, the writing makes it absolutely clear that he has travelled out of his way to stalk Ana.  He even uses the word “stalking” and wonders what his therapist would make of it.  He goes in there intending to intimidate her and immediately starts putting pressure on her and warning off men like Paul and Jose.  This is not some cute, uncertain man timidly turning up on the off-chance of seeing a girl he likes.  It’s a very calculated move and the novel from his own POV proves this.

The final point under the first heading in the image is that Christian uses the phrase: “I’m incapable of leaving you alone.”  The fan argues:

“He’s explaining his need to explore a relationship with her, not an actual attempt to track her every move.”

Which doesn’t explain why he does go on to attempt to track her every move, really, does it?  The word “incapable” also conveniently absolves him of any blame for his own behaviour. It’s another way of saying “I can’t help it.”  Another common tactic used by abusers.

Moving on to the next heading in the original image:

  • Prevents/discourages you from seeing friends/family: Tells Ana not to see Jose or Paul.

The fan has this to say:

“He never says anything about Paul.  It’s Ana who doesn’t want to see Paul.  As for Jose, he did discourage her from seeing Jose.  Jose is the man that Christian witnessed trying to kiss Ana when Ana was very drunk and telling him no.  I was in a similar situation once and I would have been mad if my friends thought it wasn’t a big deal and the person was ok to hang out with.  And a boyfriend or romantic interest and the only thing they know about the guy is that he tried to force you to kiss them and then left you with an acquaintance when you were throwing up?  Frankly I’m shocked that anyone discussing abuse in Fifty Shades of Grey would use this as an example as it’s counter to their own arguments.”

Except it isn’t.  Because whilst we agree that Jose’s actions were revolting and that Ana has every right to not want to see him again, she actually decides that she does want to remain friends.  She describes at length the “warm feeling” his voice gives her when they speak on the phone.  We might not agree with her choice, but it is hers to make.  And let’s not paint Christian as some romantic saviour, here.  He “rescues” Ana from Jose and then his own behaviour is just as bad; taking her to his hotel and undressing her when she was unconscious and could not consent.  He is no better than Jose – they are both abusive.  His later treatment of Jose is less about his protective feelings towards Ana and much more about his obsession with her belonging to him alone.  If Ana makes the choice to see Jose, that is hers to make and Christian plays on the “you are mine” line much more than the “he tried to kiss you” line.  Christian is not the “good guy” in all of this.  He’s just another bad one.

On to the next point…

  • Controls your use of needed medications: Oral contraceptives are part of the contract.

The defence says:

“I’m not sure this qualifies as “needed” medication.  But, birth control is the responsibility of both parties. This was listed in the contract and was negotiable like the rest of the contract.  Ana negotiated several parts of the contract, but never brought this one up.  Furthermore, if Christian was trying to control Ana, it’s more likely he would have wanted her pregnant, so he could have a tie to her.”

It’s hard to read that with a straight face, isn’t it?  Christian wanting Ana pregnant?  Has this person read book three, when he becomes violently angry about her having a baby?!

Anyway, no Ana does not negotiate birth control.  She’s a virgin and incredibly naive.  She is also not given a choice.  Christian arranges her gynecological appointment without asking her about it first.  The writer is correct that birth control is the responsibility of both parties, which is why in a healthy relationship, it is DISCUSSED.  That simply doesn’t happen here; it’s Christian’s choice and Ana has to go along with it.  When he changes her method of contraception to the injection, again, Ana isn’t consulted.  Christian simply decides what’s best for her.  Contraception might have been in their contract – which she NEVER SIGNS – but when putting any kind of medication into another person’s body, that person, unless they’re in a coma or otherwise medically unable to, should have a say in what form that medication takes.  Christian denies Ana this.  He tells her that he knows her body and it belongs to him and she – ludicrously – tells him that he knows it better than she does.  An example of a massively manipulated woman if ever there was one.  Nobody knows your own body better than you and EL James should be ashamed for writing such crap about women.

  • Decides things for you that you should be able to decide.

There are five instances of this, according to the image used, so we’ll take them one by one.

1. Limits alcohol intake. 

The fan says:

“This is in the contract and only says she can’t drink to excess. This is in line with the recommendations of the government and is in general good advice.”

That would be the contract that she NEVER SIGNSwould it?!  Ana never signs and therefore we cannot assume her agreement to every clause.  And good advice or not, her alcohol intake is hers to decide, seeing as she has not agreed to Christian controlling every aspect of her life.  In fact, she actively asks him not to control every aspect of her life and he still tries to.  There’s a word for that and, funnily enough, that word is “abuse.”

2. Sets lists of prescribed foods.

The fan says:

“This was mentioned in the contract, but never enforced.  The discussion of this was cut from the book to the movie.”

Christian may not enforce a list of foods on Ana, but he does force her to eat when she isn’t hungry.  Book two: “if you don’t eat, I’ll take you over my knee right here in this restaurant and it’ll have nothing to do with my sexual gratification.”  i.e. I want you to eat and I will hit you in a non-sexual, non-consensual capacity if you don’t.  Nobody can argue that that line is not abusive, because it 100% is.

3. Sells car without consent.

The fan actually agrees with us on this one, so we’ll move on…

4. Withholds money.

The fan defence:

“This never happened.  If anything, he offers her stuff to decrease her financial burden.  When she asks for money for the car, he says he’ll send her a check.”

This isn’t an area we’ve focused on, however we will highlight that Grey uses his money to financially abuse Ana, by introducing her to a world she could never afford on her own and using his wealth to flatter and intimidate her.  His expensive gifts – the Blackberry and laptop etc – are usually tools with which to keep an eye on her and to ensure she is constantly in touch, therefore not free to live her life without him at any time.  If anything, the reverse of this accusation is actually true.

4. Forcefully removes Ana from a nightclub:

The fan argues:

“When he got there, she was so drunk, she was throwing up.  I’ve been that drunk.  when you’re that drunk, you’re not really able to make good decisions.  Then she passed out.  You can’t make decisions when you’re passed out. Christian made a good call on that to take her home.  Kate already knew that he was taking her home.”

Except he DID NOT TAKE HER TO HER OWN HOME.  This argument is so flawed I can’t even…  The fan hits the nail on the head; Ana wasn’t able to make a decision.  Therefore, she wasn’t able to consent to being taken to a strange place, by a man she barely knew, who then stripped her and slept with her.  She had to ask him if they’d had sex the next day!  A non-abusive man would have told Kate: “She needs to go home; does she have her keys on her, so I can take her back to your place, or can you take her there?”  He would not have taken her miles away without consent.  All of this also conveniently ignores that she told him NOT to turn up at the nightclub in the first place!

The next point is…

  • Humiliates you in front of others.

The first instance of this listed is:

1. Removes Ana from a nightclub

And the fan insists:

“When she’s so drunk she passed out, and after telling her friend.  He didn’t drag her or force her to leave with him so I don’t know that this qualifies as humiliation.”

Well, she was passed out, so she didn’t exactly consent to leaving and going to his place.  This isn’t so much humiliation as is his behaviour after the event, when he constantly berates her for being drunk on a night out.  That is humiliation.  He’s putting her down and criticising her in order to make her feel bad about herself and to create a dependency on him.

2. Follows Ana to Georgia.

The fan argues:

“She said she missed him and wished he was there. How is this humiliating her? The only person who knew was his mother, who seemed impressed that he came.”

Again, she never actually asked him to come.  She asked him for space to clear her head.  And his creepy text message (“how many of those are you going to drink?”) was intended to humiliate her, as she became aware that he was watching her, when she thought she was free to do as she pleased.  She then felt compelled to alter her natural behaviour as a result of his presence.

On to the next point:

  • Hurts you.

This is where we get into BDSM territory, so let’s see how the fans “defend” (consensual BDSM does not require a defence) a lifestyle their beloved author has completely thrown to the wolves, shall we?!

“I’ll address three of these as one (the crop, the spanking and flogger) – they were all done consensually and are regular parts of sexual and BDSM relationships.  Furthermore, she enjoyed the flogger and the crop.  The only scene that is actually worth listing is the scene with the 6 lashes of the belt.  Ana made a bad choice in asking for the belt  and did not communicate her feelings to Christian. However, she specifically asked for that, Christian did not force or even initiate that.”

Beautiful job of victim blaming, there…

Ana was entirely naive as to how painful being hit with a belt would be.  She asked for Christian to show him “the worst” there was.  At this point, Christian should have been a responsible Dom and spoken to her about this in more detail.  He should have reminded her of her safeword, told her that he would stop at any time if she needed him to and asked whether she was absolutely certain she wanted him to do anything.  Once the scene began, Ana was quickly in tears.  Christian should have been aware of what she was experiencing and, seeing as she was entirely new to actual physical pain being inflicted on her at such a level, he should have checked to see if she was coping even without her having to use her safe word.  Some members of the BDSM community have placed some blame on Ana for asking to be given the worst, but many more blame Christian for following through on it, when Ana had no idea of the pain she might experience, whereas he did.  This all points to EL James lack of actual research into BDSM.

Next point…

  • Threatens/uses weapons against you. 5 lashes with a crop. 6 lashes with a belt. 3 lashes with a flogger.

The fan responds:

“Again all three were used in a consensual manner and insinuating that there (sic) use was abuse is calling anyone who participates in the use of these an abuser.”

Wrong.  Our campaign is supported by many members of the BDSM community.  Whilst we don’t believe that consensual use of crops, floggers, belts or anything else constitutes abuse, we also don’t believe that Christian Grey is a responsible Dominant, who practises safe, sane, consensual BDSM.  We aren’t calling anyone who practises BDSM consensually an abuser and it’s a massive insult to suggest otherwise.  Ana agrees to much of the BDSM element of her relationship with Christian as a result of manipulation or coercion through alcohol.  Neither makes the outcome truly consensual – consent should be informed.  Ana is not truly informed as to what BDSM will entail.  She also negotiates her limits whilst under the influence of alcohol, which Christian openly admits to giving her deliberately, saying it makes her “honest.”  As the fan herself actually acknowledges, you cannot make a clear, informed decision when under the influence of alcohol.  Christian, as a supposed Dom of many years’ experience, should know this and should never be plying a potential sub with alcohol during a conversation which requires concentration and real honesty (without alcohol clouding judgement).  He would also not continually manipulate Ana (“I need this” and “this is the only kind of relationship I’m interested in”) if she showed any kind of resistance to the form of sexual relationship he was proposing, as that also negates consent.

So to reiterate yet again:  We are not saying and never will say that safe, consensual BDSM between informed partners equates to abuse.  We are saying that Christian Grey is an abuser using BDSM as an excuse for his many different forms of abusive behaviour.

Next point…

  • Controls your birth control or insists you get pregnant.

The fan says:

“Oral contraception are (sic) part of the contract.  I addressed this above, but I will reiterate that the decision to have children is the choice of both people, so yes, a man has the right to express his opinion on contraceptives.  If Ana could not or did not want an oral contraceptive, she could have refused this as she did several other things in the contract.”

Again, we’re referencing the contract that ANA NEVER SIGNS.  And let’s look at the situation:  She refused anal sex.  Christian told her that they’d build up to it, because he wanted to “claim (your) ass.”  So she said no to something and he ignored her.  There are other examples of this, so it’s not quite so simple to claim that she could have said no to this and actually been listened to.  Let’s not forget that Ana’s request for some space to think things through led to Christian stalking her to Georgia.  It’s not like Christian Grey is a man well-known for listening to and respecting the decisions of others.  In his own words, he exercises “control in all things.”

And let’s remember that crucially, Ana does not get a say in the contraception she has to have.  She hasn’t signed the contract (and never does), so we can’t use that as a defence.  Christian merely organises it without Ana having a say.  Something as personal as a woman’s contraception should be her choice.  Christian denies Ana that choice by inflicting his decision on her.  Saying “Ana could have said no” is victim-blaming.  It is also ignoring the fact that Ana has been thoroughly manipulated by Christian and is therefore highly likely to agree to his demands (and it should be noted that she has already shown signs of altering her behaviour out of fear of his temper, too).

The fan goes on to remind readers of the piece that Fifty Shades is not real; it’s just fiction, or as she puts it: “A fun fantasy to escape to.”

But for thousands of women, there was no “fun fantasy” within the pages of this trilogy.  For thousands of women, there was merely a deeply triggering account of an abusive relationship, portrayed as abuse.  And sadly, many of these “defences” rely on abuse stereotypes:

  • “She could have said no.  She could have walked away.  She let him…”
  • “He only does it a few times…”
  • “He didn’t drag her or force her…”
  • “He’s worried about her safety and that’s why he behaved the way he did…”

All of these are common excuses made for abuse.  So it’s worth reiterating:

  • A person can only say “no” if they feel it’s safe to do so.  In Fifty Shades, Christian tells Ana that he’ll find her no matter where she runs.  To suggest that she could just leave is merely apportioning blame onto Ana’s shoulders, which is not where it belongs.
  • ONE instance of abusive behaviour is too many.
  • Abuse is not merely physical or sexual.  It also incorporates manipulation (which is prevalent throughout Fifty Shades; each time Christian uses his tragic past s an excuse, he is manipulating Ana into not questioning his behaviour), threats (Christian threatens Ana many times; one example is given above in book 2, when he threatens to hit her for not eating), coercion and control.  ALL feature in this “LOVE story.”
  • Many abusers suggest that their behaviour is only a result of wanting to keep the abused person “safe,” or borne out of a love they can’t control.  These are not excuses for abuse.

Whilst we appreciate that the fan defence features a request that there is to be no name-calling or nastiness in the comments section and that they hope to have a respectful discussion (and we applaud that), we find it very difficult that so many fans have sent us abusive messages since our campaign began.  We’ve even had rape/assault threats.  And of course, the worst offender is the book’s author, who does not want a respectful discussion and instead blocks and ignores the legitimate concerns of abuse survivors, advocates and charities.

Lastly, we are aware that Fifty Shades is fiction.  But it is fiction that has become all-encompassing.  It has led to fans using common myths to defend the behaviour of a fictional character to real-life survivors of abuse triggered by the series.  It has led to women and girls claiming that Christian Grey is the perfect man.  It has led to “Future Mrs Christian Grey” t-shirts, key-rings and a whole host of other items of merchandise.  It has led to an enormous amount of anguish when those abuse survivors have tried to speak out, only to be silenced by the author and her fans.

Fiction has the power to influence societal views and vice versa.  That’s why we must speak out when fiction romanticises abuse in the manner that Fifty Shades has.  And this is not a matter of opinion:  Stalking, threats, coercion, manipulation and unwanted control all feature in Fifty Shades.  And all of those things are abuse.

Fifty Shades is abuse.

Rebutting The Rebuttal – Why Even Fans’ Defences Prove That Fifty Shades IS Abuse

Announcing Our “Grey” Protest Campaign!

grey-fifty-shades

No copyright intended.

Unless you’ve been living in blissful ignorance, by now you’re probably well aware that the release of EL James’ “Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as told by Christian” is just nine days away.

Here at Fifty Shades Is Abuse HQ, we are deeply troubled by the prospect of this book.

The original Fifty Shades trilogy romanticises hugely abusive behaviour, such as stalking, manipulation, coercion, unwanted control, lack of BDSM aftercare and threats of non-consensual assault.  This is horrendous enough on its own, but the books also take the worrying (and hugely dangerous) route of excusing this behaviour and attempting to explain it away in a sympathetic manner.  Christian Grey’s bad childhood is blamed for his controlling, threatening ways.  His molester, “Mrs Robinson,” is “blamed” for his sexual preferences (which is offensive to the many people who enjoy BDSM as part of healthy, consensual relationships and who were not drawn to the lifestyle as the result of any kind of trauma).  His girlfriend (and later, wife) Ana is given the responsibility of “fixing” Christian.

Yes, this is fiction.  But unfortunately, relationships like the one between Christian and Ana are very real.  And abusers like Christian frequently blame anything but themselves for their behaviour.  Relying on a sob-story to “explain” their own abuse is incredibly common.  Having spoken to countless survivors, it’s frightening how many were given the “I can’t help it; I don’t know any other way to behave” speech.  On a personal note, I was given the exact same speech from my own abuser.  And like thousands of others in relationships like mine, I believed it.

We are often quick to believe the words of those we love.  We want to believe that someone doesn’t mean to hurt us.  That they can’t help it.

But the reality is that they can.  Abuse is a choice.  Always.  Whilst past experiences can influence a person’s behaviour, they always have the option of not abusing their partners.  The “I can’t help it” lie is one of the most common excuses given by abusers and that is why our biggest fear is that Grey will continue to perpetuate this dangerous myth, first presented to the reader in Fifty Shades of Grey and repeated throughout the series.

Abuse is already misunderstood and there are many dangerous myths surrounding the subject.  Absolving the abuser of any blame based on a “tragic” past is not something we should be doing in this day and age, even in fiction.

For that reason, here at Fifty Shades Is Abuse, we’d like to recommend a different book.

wdhdthatbook

Lundy Bancroft is a consultant on domestic abuse and his book, Why Does He Do That? (Inside the minds of Angry & Controlling Men) is an incredible piece of writing, unpicking some of the lies told by abusers and dismissing the “I can’t help it” myth completely.  It is a powerful book, which many survivors – myself included – have read and felt it was written about them, such is the level of detail when describing the mindset of the abuser and the person they target.  Why Does He Do That? is the truth of a relationship like Christian and Ana’s.  The book describes the early warning signs of abuse (many of which are seen in Fifty Shades), lists different abusive personality types, explains how to tell whether an abuser is genuinely changing their behaviour and, crucially, how to leave the relationship safely.  It even discusses the “I don’t know any better; I had a bad childhood” myth in great detail, explaining why this is never an excuse.  We recommend this book to everyone – whether you have experienced abuse, know someone who has, or are simply keen to educate yourself.

Buy “Why Does He Do That?” on Ebay

That is the most important thing – education.  Knowing the warning signs of abuse can save lives.  We cannot stress that strongly enough!  Books like Fifty Shades and, by extension, Grey, do nothing to help end the misconceptions that surround abuse.  In fact, they do the opposite, by perpetuating dangerous myths.

So we would like to suggest that, rather than buying a copy of Grey, we promote Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That? instead.  Rather than a book that promotes unhelpful, dangerous myths about abuse and attempts to paint the abuser in a sympathetic – even heroic – light, we feel it’s vitally important to celebrate a book that helps people by telling the truth about men like Christian Grey.

As of today, we will be using the hashtags #LundynotFifty and #educateyourself on Facebook and Twitter.  We would like to urge all of you to share this blog post and use the hashtags.  If we can get this trending, then perhaps we can make people realise that perpetuating dangerous abuse myths has got to stop; it helps nobody.  Education is desperately needed in place of books like Fifty Shades and Grey.

We don’t want to stop at one book, either.  For those of you who’ve already read Why Does He Do That?, we’d like to offer a list of our Top Ten books that deal with the subject of abuse, all of which are free from unhelpful lies or romanticism.  Some of these books are incredible pieces of fiction.  Others are true stories or educational, factual works.  We hope this list is beneficial to anyone who wants to educate themselves on what is a sorely misunderstood and misrepresented subject, despite its prevalence in our society.

So please feel free to peruse this list in your own time:

  1. Everyday Victim Blaming – Louise Pennington & Jo Costello (buy here)
  2. Coercive Control – Evan Stark (buy here)
  3. The Woman Who Walked Into Doors – Roddy Doyle (buy here)
  4. Dragonslippers – Rosalind B Penfold (buy here)
  5. Living With The Dominator – Pat Craven (buy here)
  6. Delusions of Gender – Cordelia Fine (buy here)
  7. Honour Killing And Violence – Aisha Gill (buy here)
  8. Loving To Survive – Dee Graham (buy here)
  9. Femicide – Gill Radford (buy here)
  10. Violent Fathering And The Risks To Children – Lynne Harne (buy here)

Thank you all for your incredible support.  We hope that these books will be helpful to some of you and remember – #educateyourself #LundyNotFifty.

With thanks,

Emma & Natalie

Announcing Our “Grey” Protest Campaign!

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