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.
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.
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:
- Everyday Victim Blaming – Louise Pennington & Jo Costello (buy here)
- Coercive Control – Evan Stark (buy here)
- The Woman Who Walked Into Doors – Roddy Doyle (buy here)
- Dragonslippers – Rosalind B Penfold (buy here)
- Living With The Dominator – Pat Craven (buy here)
- Delusions of Gender – Cordelia Fine (buy here)
- Honour Killing And Violence – Aisha Gill (buy here)
- Loving To Survive – Dee Graham (buy here)
- Femicide – Gill Radford (buy here)
- 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.
Emma & Natalie