Almost a week since Fifty Shades of Grey came to the big screen here in SA and this world wide phenomenon doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere soon. Fifty Shades of Grey started online in 2010 and was released as an e-book in May 2011, but didn’t really start garnering press attention until early 2012 when the third book in the trilogy was released and all three were published in paperback.
Those that accuse Fifty Shades of Grey Glorifying Abuse are growing more and more now than they were three years ago. There are still many who argue that the movie is nothing more than fantasy fun Newsweek‘s Katie Roiphe and Salon‘s Tracy Clark-Flory, both of which are feminist writers, drilled into the books and wrote their in depth review and thoughts on the book in 2012, neither of which mentioned abuse or violence even once. Katie wrote in regards to Christian: “He is also extremely solicitous and apologetic for a sadist, always asking the book’s young heroine, Anastasia Steele, about every minute gradation of her feelings, and bringing her all kinds of creams and lotions to soothe her after spanking her. He is, in other words, the easiest difficult man of all time.”
Even when the “Today Show” posed the question of whether the books portrayed some kind of abuse in 2012 when they gained the peak of their popularity, respected relationship expert Logan Levkoff stated that she didn’t think the book was at all showcasing abuse in anyway, that instead it showed a consensual relationship, and that it’s “really about women using their imaginations to turn on. That’s why women enjoy erotica. It’s not visual. You can use your imagination.”
However on the other side of this arguement Amy Bonomi, the chair of Michigan State University’s department of human development and family studies, has been studying Fifty Shades since the book came out and has found it’s message to be rather alarming. According to her research, the story glamorizes emotional abuse and could teach young people the wrong lesson about relationships.
Bonomi has run two different studies on the Fifty Shades of Grey books and is now working on a new one centered around the movie. In one study, she concluded that Ana and Christian’s relationship was abusive under guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in another, she found that young women who had read Fifty Shadeswere more likely to have signs of eating disorders and verbally abusive partners.
Ana loses any sense of empowerment and feels trapped in her relationship with Christian, Bonomi argues, and changes her behavior to avoid angering him. She also feels like her self-identity is threatened, and all these behaviors are consistent with a victim of emotional abuse. “This book is perpetuating dangerous abuse standards and yet it’s being cast as this romantic, erotic book for women,” Bonomi said back in 2013. She told Business Insider this week that it’s not just a BDSM relationship, because consent is violated with alcohol and pressure from Christian.
Now that the movie is out, she’s worried about what it will teach younger, college-age women. “This is the age where women are trying out new relationships and forming their ideas of love and sexuality,” she told the Detroit News. She and her colleagues are now taking women to theaters to watch the movie for focus groups studying how women analyze Christian and Ana’s relationship.
What are your thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey glorifying abuse?