I haven’t read Fifty Shades of E.L. James’s Screwed-Up Imagination yet, and since I don’t believe in spending money on badly redone fanfiction, may never do so.
What I do know about it, so far, is that a woman who looks a lot like me absolutely detests herself (which I said to my friend Jo, what the hell?) and has somehow, at the age of twenty-one, managed to avoid or remain oblivious to even the most unwanted of crushes. On her, I mean. Look, we already know the girl is based on Kristen Stewart, looks-wise. She ain’t a hag. So I’d kind of like to know how she did it. — Anyway. She meets this Christian Grey guy whose creepy is a little hard to define until he pulls out a whole non-disclosure agreement’s worth of it. Then, and this is the part that says a lot about women today, she does not run a stinking mile.
Jennifer Armintrout linked to Coffee and Prozac, who wrote about the fifty shades of red flags in this… “relationship” between Ana and Christian Grey. So first, I’d like you all to go and read the post in question.
Or I can just get on with it and say that His Kink Is Not OK.
Domestic Violence is not about anger management or just about physical abuse. It’s about power and control over another person. That can be physical control in the form of beating the shit out of someone, or emotional control through threats, isolation, and mind games.
From the first inkling that Ana might be game for his games, Grey decides she’s the perfect game. Virginal? Unsure of herself? (These do not have to go together.) He is essentially teaching her how to love, and what he teaches her is that love comes with contracts, beatings — Ana’s word! Not mine! — and nothing resembling mutual trust.
And I’ll say that at twenty-two, I had to unlearn some really bad lessons before they ate me alive. So if I read this, I’m going to have to get a paper copy and fill it with marginalia, most of which will read “NO”. I talked about this in a locked post, but basically I was in a play that was all about silenced women and the things men have done to them since literally antiquity, and do you know? I couldn’t find my own sliced-out tongue until the end of the run.
Much like Ana, every time I wanted to really end it, he talked me back into an us, and like the lovelorn idiot I was, I went back. I never saw him after that last, disastrous sexual encounter, but I didn’t cut off contact for… nine months? A year? Five years after I met him, I have a hard time rereading our emails. I can check off something like twenty statements listed here (.pdf). Never lent him money, never loved him, let alone wanted to fix him, but he took and took until I had very little of myself left to give. I almost walked away from a career path I very much desired at the time. The only positive thing to come out of that relationship is the three lilac bushes he had mailed to me, and though I love my lilacs, I resent that I didn’t recognize the sender’s name (he used his mother’s card). I resented the gesture. “What does he want?” I asked. “What’s he trying to pull?”
No gift should make a person ask those questions. Unless it’s a severed body part.
A healthy relationship is one where everyone involved knows where she stands and is allowed to stand on her own. It moves in its own time; it isn’t forced, and trust comes naturally. Sex isn’t always perfect, but it doesn’t leave anyone feeling dirty or used unless that was the mutual idea.
And this is not the model we need to be holding up as ideal. We joke about this being “mom porn”, but really, if women want husbands like Grey, they’re not only setting themselves up for failure, they’re showing their daughters just how much a woman is worth to a “good” man. It’s a fantasy. Fantasy is for working this shit out in private. I bet you have fantasies you’d never in a million years enjoy coming true. This book is like that.
Really, it’s not my call or my job (yet) to rescue anyone from her own bad judgment, but can we stop touting this dynamic as the Next Big Thing in relationships? Please? Especially to mainstream media sources, who already get women wrong on a daily basis? We don’t need men pointing to this tripe and telling us, “But she said no before she said yes.”
Because I really never want to have to reinforce “No means NO, asshole” with a well-placed book to the head.