50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James took the world by rocking the box office with $94.4 million and since Forbes estimates the fictional Christian Grey’s net worth as $2.2 billion that’s barely chump change for Mr. Grey.
Social media is in an uproar over whether or not 50 Shades of Grey is an acceptable work of fiction or if it promotes domestic abuse and stalker tendencies wrapped in the sexy allure of being dominated by a handsome rich man.
In my opinion, way too much time has been spent contemplating the themes and motifs in the plot. This guy has an intriguing piece.
I have to give these people credit for being able to wade through all the blushing, lip biting, and gasping that took over 85% of this book. It took me longer to get through this book than Crime and Punishment my junior year of high-school. I was too annoyed with incestuous word repetition to contemplate the level of Ana’s character development.
It’s easy to chalk this up to another fad called “mommy porn”(I didn’t make that up!). However, I think it’s interesting because of the widespread popularity of the book. The movie The Secretary from 2002 also featured BDSM. To be fair this movie was more of a cult movie, with less popularity than 50 Shades of Grey. And I’ve seen a few responses that The Secretary is different because she was already a submissive and wasn’t being forced into the role.
The internet is aghast with comments about how he sold her vintage car without asking, how he bosses her around constantly and how she really isn’t into Christian Grey’s version of BDSM.
Cue the outrage! This is glamorizing abuse! Everyone’s going to be abused and this movie makes it ok!
I don’t buy it. BDSM is role playing, it’s erotic sensual play. It’s about a kinky relationship involving a variety of sex toys that goes beyond your vanilla fuzzy hand-cuffs. It’s not about complete control over your victim. The line between erotic role-playing and abuse is consent.
In real life, the plot of 50 Shades of Grey seems far fetched. The book makes so many sweeping generalizations I have no other option but to outline them:
- Christian Grey had a weird “That Summer” (Garth Brooks) story where he had some sexual experiences at 15 with his mom’s older woman friend and that sparked his interest into BDSM. I don’t think we should assume everyone that’s into BDSM has had abusive, emotionally damaging relationships as a child.
- Ana isn’t really into being a submissive and resists Christian’s attempts to control her life. BDSM is usually entered into by two willing people, it’s not about one person controlling another’s every waking moment even outside of the bedroom.
- Christian has Ana sign an NDA and contract explicitly outlining her sexual responsibilities. NDA, makes some sense. But, seriously a sexual obligations contract? Which court is this going to hold up in? None.
- Not all dominants (men or women) who are into BDSM are controlling billionaires. Sorry to dash that fantasy.
- There’s basically no rules in the Christian/Ana relationship. Christian controls everything, even creepily buying the company she works at in order to “make sure she’s safe”. Creepy. In typical BDSM relationships there’s rules and boundaries.
- Can we discuss the props? Duct tape, cable ties and ropes! Seriously, Christian, you’re a billionaire, way to skimp on the good stuff. BDSM has a huge retail market with specially made restraints and tape to save your skin.
So is it abuse or not? Notice how I danced around a clear response like a skilled politician on election day? It’s hard to say, it’s a work of fiction so the ending seems unlikely in real life. (Really the whole story seems unlikely in real life). BUT, final answer, no, I don’t think it’s abusive. YET (let’s remember I only read book one). I think it could easily be perceived as abusive, but as we established earlier, it boils down to consent. Ana consents to the relationship and she hasn’t been victimized, yet. There’s still two more volumes to read. Sign me up for 179 more pages of blushing and lip biting.