“Grey”: Chapter One (Monday, May 9, 2011)

Grey

If you’ve been online today, you may have heard the news that EL James is releasing yet another book next month.  Darker is the sequel to Grey, and will re-tell the events of Fifty Shades Darker from Christian Grey’s viewpoint (in case you thought she’d come up with literally anything original… Nope).

Here at Fifty Shades Is Abuse HQ, we believe in knowing what we’re criticising.  That’s why we’ve read all three of the original Fifty Shades novels.  But I’ll level with you: I could never finish Grey.  I tried (oh, how I tried), but when you’re a survivor of abuse, it’s just ever so slightly distasteful to read a novel in which an author is writing as an abuser, but explaining away and excusing his behaviour on every page.  It was horrible.  So, I stopped.

But with Darker just around the corner, I realised that I was going to have to climb back onto that horse.  So, today, I have the dubious honour of starting the Grey chapter-by-chapter recaps.  Because if we’re going to continue to debate these books with fans, then we really ought to have studied them in full.  That includes the money-grabbing re-telling of the story from Christian’s point of view.

Before I get into the first recap, I’ll just set out a couple of things.  For the interest of clarity, all text from Grey will be in italics in this blog.  If any of the actual text from the source material happens to be in italics, I’ll put it in bold.  Especially abusive moments will be typed in red.

It also stands to reason that every single one of these posts comes with a trigger warning.

Okay.  I can’t put this off any longer, can I?!  Time to dive in…

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Monday, May 9 2011

I have three cars.

Spoiler!  This isn’t adult Grey, boasting about his wealth!  Nope, this is poor ickle boy Christian.  Because we couldn’t possibly start a book from his viewpoint, without immediately presenting him as the sad, tragic child, given that he uses his childhood as an excuse for the way he abuses people…

In this highly dramatic, eventful opening (which, if you hadn’t guessed, was a dream), we discover that the green car is his favourite, but it gets stuck under the sofa and his mother doesn’t retrieve it for him.  What a cow.  She calls him “Maggot,” which is, I don’t know, totally out of character, given that the other memories we’re presented with in the first three books paint Christian’s mother as an addict who does her best for her son, despite her own problems; making him a birthday cake and trying to take care of him.

Mommy stays on the couch, staring at the wall.  Mommy.  My car.  She doesn’t hear me.  Mommy.  I pull her hand and she lies back and closes her eyes.  Not now, Maggot.  Not now, she says.  My green car stays under the couch… I can never reach it.  My green car is lost.  Lost.  And I can never play with it again.

I…  I’m moved to tears.  It’s okay, Christian.  Abuse whoever you need to.  You must avenge this horror.

Okay, seriously, I feel for any child who suffers any kind of abuse.  I don’t want to trivialise it and sound as though I genuinely don’t give a toss about a child whose mother is apparently ignoring her young son, possibly due to being high on drugs.  But one of the biggest problems I have with the entire Fifty Shades franchise, is that it sets up Christian as this poor, damaged boy who grew into a man who can’t help but abuse others.  That’s just utter crap.  It’s an insult to the millions of people who experience abuse as a child and who don’t go on to become abusive adults, themselves.  So, whilst fans of the original trilogy will have read this opening and thought “aw, poor baby Christian,” my sentiments are more: “aw, appalling writer attempts to justify abusive adult character by portraying him as a sad, neglected child.”  It rankles.

Anyway, moving on…

Christian wakes up from his dream and briefly wonders what it was all about.

Dismissing it, like I do most mornings, I climb out of bed and find some newly laundered sweats in my walk-in closet.

See, that’s the problem.  EL James probably hopes that casually tossing “like I do most mornings” in at this point will make the reader realise that poor Christian is tormented by these dreadful dreams every single night, but he bravely carries on with his day, anyway.  But if you’ve read the first three books, you know that Christian Grey is an arrogant sod who, despite having a therapist, chooses to blame others for his problems/behaviour and fails to ever really look within himself or question his own behaiour.  That line, therefore, just reminds me that we’re dealing with someone who could analyse himself and his inner thoughts and perhaps become a better person as a result, but who resolutely chooses not to do so.

Christian, being the heart-stopping beefcake that he is, heads straight to his treadmill as he ponders the day ahead.  He thinks about calling Elena (Mrs Robinson) to arrange dinner later that week and he also contemplates being challenged by his personal trainer, Claude Bastille.

Next thing we know, he’s actually finished that training session with Claude and is in his office.  Claude suggests they play golf later in the week and Grey’s arrogance resurfaces again (does it ever go away?!):

Bastille grins with easy arrogance, knowing that his victory on the golf course is assured.

I scowl at him as he turns and leaves.  His parting words rub salt into my wounds because, despite my heroic efforts during our workout today, my personal trainer has kicked my ass.  

HEROIC?!  Waaaay to think too much of yourself, Grey.  Also, Claude?  Good job on the ass kicking.  Give him one from me.

Speaking of heroism, Grey informs the reader that the only things that interests him right now are the two freighters of cargo he’s decided to send to Sudan.  So, he’s a hero in and out of his personal training sessions.  Swoon.

But before Christian can focus on his cargo, he has a pesky interview to get over with.  He internally moans about Katherine Kavanagh (Ana’s roommate, Kate) who is supposed to be coming to interview him, continuing the “Christian Grey Hates Kate” theme that we loved so very much in the first three books.  But of course, it’s not Kate who arrives at his office…

A commotion at the door brings me to my feet as a whirl of long, chestnut hair, pale limbs and brown boots dives headfirst into my office.  Repressing my natural annoyance at such clumsiness, I hurry over to the girl who has landed on her hands and knees on the floor.

ANA HAS ARRIVED!  WAVE YOUR FLAGS, EVERYONE!

Side note: Clumsiness is occasionally annoying, if, for example, someone has knocked over your drink, or bumped into you and caused you to fall.  But “natural annoyance” at clumsiness in general just makes Grey seem like an asshole.  Which he is, so… Great job with your characterisation, EL!

When Grey looks into Ana’s eyes, he feels “exposed,” as though she can see straight through him.  He feels uncomfortable, so he dismisses the thought immediately.

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Aaand, now I wish I was recapping Crazy Ex Girlfriend instead.  Or just watching it.  Or listening to the songs from it.  Or…

Fiiiine, I’ll carry on recapping this disaster.

Seconds after having met Ana, Grey wonders what her skin would look like if it was made pink with a cane.  It would look… Pink, I imagine.  But way to make yourself look like an even bigger creep, dude, particularly because he then insists internally that Ana is much too young.  Um… Isn’t she 21?  And Grey’s 27?  That’s hardly the age gap to end all age gaps.

Ana “gapes” at Christian and his internal monologue is just desperate to beat us over the head with his arrogance:

She gapes at me and I resist rolling my eyes.  Yeah, yeah baby.  It’s just a face and it’s only skin deep.

Yep – the inside of him is gross, Ana.  At least he recognises as much.

He deliberately calls her “Miss Kavanagh,” despite the fact that his assistant has already told him by this point that it’s “Miss Anastasia Steele” who’s coming to do the interview.  Why?  Because he’s a dick, that’s why.  His demeanour throughout this section is of someone mocking the person they’re talking to, rather than that of someone genuinely enthralled by a beautiful woman he’s considering any kind of relationship with.

A bashful, bookish type, eh?  She looks it: poorly dressed, her slight frame hidden beneath a shapeless sweater, an A-line brown skirt and utilitarian boots.  Does she have any sense of style at all?  She looks nervously around my office – everywhere but at me, I note, with amused irony.

I really love it when the first thing the “romantic hero” in the book does is essentially bitch about how bad the heroine looks.  It’s exactly what I go for, when I’m reading erotica or romance.

Excuse me, I just rolled my eyes so hard, I think one of them got sucked into my nose.

These early scenes (the whole chapter, in fact) read like a cat playing with a mouse.  Obviously, this is supposed to set up the dynamic of their relationship, but frankly, it leaves me utterly cold.  Particularly as he goes on to think of her as meek and unassertive, submissive.  So, this woman he thinks is physically beautiful (although he slags off her outfit, by this point he’s internally raved over her delicate profile, slender figure and powder-blue eyes) is also someone he appears to think of as weak.  And this makes him think she’d be a great submissive.  Which, just… Ew.

Ana continues her clumsiness which, just in case we’d forgotten, Grey reminds us would usually irritate the hell out of him, but Ana is just so gosh darn special, he thinks it’s funny and charming and I’m starting to wonder whether he’s seeing little cartoon forest animals following her around, too.  But before long, his thoughts go straight back to sex:

As she fumbles and grows more flustered, it occurs to me that I could refine her motor skills with the aid of a riding crop.  Adeptly used, it can bring even the most skittish to heel.

Look, we’ve all met a stranger and thought PHWOAR, but Grey’s internal monologue is really skeeving me out, at this point.  It’s just endless sexualisation of a girl he has literally just met.  Coupled with how he’s purposefully intimidating/mocking her, it’s just really grim.  He goes on to think about how sexy her mouth is and never mind how Ana might feel, I feel uncomfortable just reading this rubbish.

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Grey continues to mock her, until Ana gives him a major case of sad-eyes and he feels an unfamiliar twinge of guilt.  Because, what we really want in a romantic hero, is a dude who normally doesn’t give a toss about who he upsets, right ladies?!

Of course, Ana doesn’t appear to have done much research on him, so Christian is immediately less interested.  Because arrogant, did I mention he’s arrogant?!  In fact, as soon as he decides she’s not as clued up as he expects her to be, he thinks:

Let’s make her squirm.

My knickers have exploded with lust at the thought of this dickhead God of love.

He becomes internally enraged when Ana suggests his business success might be down to luck and the conversation takes a turn from there:

“You sound like a control freak,” she says, and she’s perfectly serious.

What the hell?  Maybe she can see through me.

‘Control’ is my middle name, sweetheart.

I glare at her, hoping to intimidate her.  “Oh, I exercise control in all things, Miss Steele.”  And I’d like to exercise it over you, right here, right now.

Sooooo…  Is he threatening to rape her or beat her, there?  Because it really could be either.

His internal annoyance at her continues to grow, until she appears impressed at his “immense power” over his employees.  He explains that if he gave up his business, twenty thousand people would struggle to pay their mortgages within a month.

Her mouth pops open.  That’s more like it.  Suck it up, baby.  I feel my equilibrium returning.

Christian Grey can only feel calm and in control when people are openly impressed by him.  What a sad little man-child he is.

He realises that she knows he’s annoyed and the thought pleases him.  He continues to picture her in his playroom and, when she asks him what he does to “chill out” when he’s not working, his internal thought is, amongst other things such as sailing and flying, bringing “attractive little brunettes” to heel.  I can’t help thinking he’d come across as less of a potential murderer if he maybe joined a choir, or dabbled in pottery.  Because right now, his mind really seems as though it has one track and one track alone: ME LIKES KINKY SEX.  It’s hard to be interested in this guy when he’s solidly coming across as a lecherous moron, unable to hold a conversation for longer than three seconds before he has to start mentally flogging the person he’s talking to.

Ana asks him why he invests so heavily in manufacturing and after he explains, she tells him that it sounds like it’s his heart talking rather than his business head.  This leads to my first laugh-out-loud moment:

Heart?  Me?  Oh no, baby.

My heart was savaged beyond recognition a long time ago.

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Oh my.  I wrote better crap than that when I was a hormonal fifteen year old.

Anyway, Creepstian Grey continues to imagine Ana in various sexual poses as she attempts to carry on with the interview and honestly, I’m glad I had that laugh, because this is just cringeworthy.  He’s constantly mentally undressing her and picturing doing sexual things to her and it’s not remotely arousing to read, because as of this moment, the shy, awkward girl he’s sexualising has given him no consent and very little sign – beyond blushing – that she’s interested in him.  He’s coming across as the kind of guy who sits on park benches, wearing nothing but a rain coat.  I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I don’t get my jollies picturing myself being leered over by that guy.

Just to throw us off the creepy scent, however, Grey notices that Ana’s clothes aren’t as snazzy as his designer togs and thinks that he could “take care” of her.  We’re supposed to find this adorable, but a) the thought surprises him, so it’s just further evidence that he usually doesn’t care about anyone and b) in this version of the story, we know nothing of Ana.  And more importantly, neither does he.  Why is he insinuating that she needs to be taken care of, just because her clothes aren’t as expensive as his?!

I mean, because he’s a douche, obviously, but I figured I’d ask, anyway.

Carrying on with the interview, Ana asks whether being adopted shaped the person he is.

What does this have to do with the price of oil?  What a ridiculous question.  If I’d stayed with the crack whore, I’d probably be dead.  I blow her off with a non-answer, trying to keep my voice level, but she pushes me, demanding to know how old I was when I was adopted.

Shut her down, Grey!

Okay, brace yourselves, guys, we’re getting to a vile bit.  We know from the original book that when Ana asks if Christian is gay, he doesn’t seem exactly pleased, but in this one…  Things are about to get grim.  She asks if he’s gay and…

What the hell!

I cannot believe she’s said that out loud!  Ironically, the question my own family will not ask.  How dare she!  I have a sudden urge to drag her out of her seat, bend her over my knee, spank her, and then fuck her over my desk with her hands tied behind her back.  That would answer her ridiculous question.  I take a deep, calming breath.  To my vindictive delight, she seems mortified by her own question.

Rape.  Dragging someone out of their seat and fucking them in anger, without consent?  That’s rape.  It might be considered an inappropriate question, but his reaction is far worse.  I can remember reading this the first time I attempted to get through Grey and that moment that was the first of many that caused me to give up.  It’s said that EL James wrote Grey partly to explain his behaviour (and excuse it), in order for us to sympathise more with him, since we’d understand him better.  But in that moment?  I understand him perfectly well.  And he has zero sympathy from me.

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Still, despite his mood yoyo-ing from angry to aroused and back again in less than the time it takes me to scream into a pillow over this rubbish, Christian is soon back to thinking how attractive Ana is and he cancels his next meeting, in order to spend more time with her.

He decides it’s his turn to interview her and hey!  Who was missing the HUGE levels of arrogance?!  Well, it’s your lucky day, because THEY’RE BACK!

“I want to know about you.  I think that’s only fair.”  As I lean back and press my fingers to my lips, her eyes flick to my mouth and she swallows.  Oh yes – the usual effect.  And it is gratifying to know she isn’t completely oblivious to my charms.

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I AM, GREY.

At this point, I am already convinced that Ana can never love this man as much as he loves himself.

Still, Grey tries to encourage Ana to stay longer and when she says she has a long drive home, he’s internally annoyed that he can’t forbid her to drive in the rain.  He thinks about how he doesn’t want her to go, but I’m still thinking about the fact that she’s a stranger to him and he’s already fantasising about being able to control everything she does.  It’s killing my lady-boner, I must say.

The interview is officially over and Ana is leaving:

“Thank you for the interview, Mr Grey.”

“The pleasure’s been all mine,” I respond – truthfully.  I haven’t been this fascinated by anyone for a while.  The thought is unsettling.  She stands and I extend my hand, eager to touch her.

“Until we meet again, Miss Steele.”  My voice is low as she places her hand in mine.  Yes, I want to flog and fuck this girl in my playroom.  Have her bound and wanting… needing me, trusting me.  I swallow.

It ain’t going to happen, Grey.

We all know it is, but I find it really uncomfortable that he is so intent on sexualising this person he just met.  Like I said, we all do it to some degree, when we meet a stranger we find attractive, but to this extent?  It’s gross.

And the worst bit?  He’s vile about women who find him attractive!  He refers to his assistant Olivia as “annoying – mooning over me, all the time.”   If you feel that way when someone does it to you, asshole, maybe don’t to it to this student you’ve just met and whose shy awkwardness you’ve spent ages discussing in your own head!  But we know he wants Ana to be made uncomfortable.  He says so himself.  He admits that he wants to intimidate her.  And in doing so, he comes across as a grade A creep.

Ana flinches at his touch, as Christian helps her into her jacket.  He’s thrilled that she’s “affected” by him, but let’s be really honest: some guy has been deliberately snappy, intimidating and mocking towards her whilst she’s been trying to interview him and he’s probably not exactly hidden the fact that he’s been mentally undressing her at the same time.  I would flinch at his touch, too.  Out of revulsion.  We can’t forget that at this point, Christian doesn’t really know whether Ana is romantically or sexually interested in him.  She blushes throughout their time together, but she is clearly awkward and nervous – not necessarily enamoured.  And yet, these tiny little signs – the flinch at his touch, her mouth popping open when she looks at him and so on – are all slipped in here so that we, the reader, think it’s perfectly acceptable when Grey starts to stalk her shortly after this point.  Yes, we know she is interested, because we’ve read the story from her perspective, but in this book, we’re going solely on what Christian knows.  And he only has a few little reactions to suggest that Ana wants to be with him in any kind of physical sense.  The fact is, he’s decided he wants her and he’s going to have her, regardless.

This is made evident by his oh-so-romantic gesture right at the end of this chapter:

“Welch, I need a background check.”

Yep, those are the words the first chapter ends on.  Our “hero,” having just met this clumsy, nervous, awkward young woman, has decided that fantasising about raping her isn’t enough; he wants a background check on her, so he can invade her privacy in every way.

Swoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Grey”: Chapter One (Monday, May 9, 2011)

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!

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

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