|Posted by Emma and Natalie on October 15, 2016 at 2:35 PM||comments (2)|
He's an enormously successful businessman. He exercises control in everything he does; this isn't a man who likes being told what to do. He's exacting when it comes to women. If he sees a woman he wants, he expects to get her. He's not used to the word "no," after all. Nor is he a big believer in personal boundaries; if you want space from him, you can't guarantee you'll get it. This is a man whose behaviour can seem erratic, but he has an excuse for everything.
But who is this man? Because, from just this description, it could be either of the two men pictured above. Yet, one of those men is rightly dismissed by most of us. We call him a sexist, misogynist control freak with a warped sense of morality, because that is exactly what he is. The other? Millions of women swoon over.
In recent weeks, Donald Trump's behaviour has crossed the line so many times that, to quote Friends, he can't even see the line, anymore. His now infamous rant about grabbing women by their genitals - which he dismissed as merely "locker room talk" - finally caused the scales to fall from many people's eyes; this man is not a decent person. He is not fit to be President of the United States.
But those sexist comments were, of course, defended by many of Trump's supporters. One in question, fomer Republican Congressman Joe Walsh slammed women who were disgusted by Trumps comments, by asking: "if women are so outraged by Trump's dirty talk, then who the hell bought the 80million copies of Fifty Shades of Grey?" He added the petty retort: "Grow up."
As I've already mentioned, if you take the description at the start of this post, it's fair to say that you could use it for either men: Trump or Grey. That is an enormous problem and instead of grossly trying to compare the enjoyment of "erotic" literature to boasting about sexual assault, we should be addressing it.
Because, it's important to state here and now that no matter how much we are opposed to Fifty Shades of Grey in every way possible, we will never accept the suggestion that those who read and enjoyed the books are somehow no longer allowed to express disgust at a hugely powerful man bragging about his ability to intimately touch women without consent, in real life.
It's also important to note that Fifty Shades cannot be said to have "caused" a climate in which men can say disgusting things about assaulting women, yet we're supposed to like it. Trump made his deplorable comments in 2005. Fifty Shades burst onto the scene in 2011. Fifty Shades did not create this climate. It's merely a symptom of it.
We live in a world in which men like Trump can get away with groping women and behaving like a bully. He gets away with it because he has money and power. He has spent decades with the media in his hands, because of his wealth, fame and success. Whilst not all abusers are famous, rich or powerful, in Trump's case, it has certainly helped, as it has for thousands of others like him over the years. Just look at the way Jimmy Savile was able to encourage people to turn a blind eye to his abuse of young people for decades, until it all finally came out after his death. Money talks. Power talks. Men like Trump know it. He even admitted as much in the recently revealed tapes, saying that he was able to get away with grabbing women by their genitals because he was "a star." Savile similarly used his wealth and fame to ensure that nobody spoke out. He also manipulated people by reminding them of the charity work he did.
Our current culture is one in which women are routinely harrassed online if they speak out against sexism. Where we are branded liars or sluts if we make accusations of sexual assault. We live in a culture in which a former Congressman can casually describe an admission of sexual assault as merely "dirty talk."
The media plays a large part in this, as do our attitudes. Despite it being 2016, we still occasionally come across adverts focusing on women's need to protect themselves from rape, rather than targeting potential rapists and making it clear that they should not make the choice to attack a woman, regardless of where she is, how much she's had to drink, or what she happens to be wearing. The fact is that no book has come along to "create" rape culture. We created it ourselves and our media perpetuates it. We should be challenging it, screaming at it and forcing change, because we as a society deserve better.
We deserve better than to live in a world in which anyone can hear Donald Trump casually boast about sexual assault and not be outraged.
But Trump was not some hot, brooding sex God, when he made these comments. He didn't have some tragic backstory to make it all somehow forgiveable. When we look at Donald Trump, we don't think "Phwoar!" We don't swoon over wanting to "fix" him.
Yet, throw in a chisled jaw-line, feed us a few lines about a sad childhood meaning he "doesn't know any better," and suddenly, you have Christian Grey. The same control-freak businessman. The same "if I want it, I'll have it" attitude. The same lack of respect for boundaries. The same empty words about respecting women, about the importance of consent... The same lack of any evidence that those bleeding-heart declarations are even remotely true.
EL James may have created Christian Grey, but our culture made him possible. Our media, our societal attitudes and the general ignorance that surrounds abuse is what allows Christian Grey to exist as the supposed "romantic hero" he is all-too-often perceived as. Because, somehow, we are supposed to forgive the unforgiveable if a person is attractive enough, sorry enough or talented enough. We're meant to accept that men in positions of power can and will do and get whatever they want. We're supposed to conform to type and expect the female lead in an "erotic" novel to be a drippy virgin with no self-esteem and no sexual urges whatsoever, until she meets a man who awakens both in her.
The rape culture that already existed, the lack of education on abuse and the society that views powerful men as being beyond criticism are responsible for what's happening with Donald Trump right now. It's not the fault of a book. It's not the fault of readers who are spoon-fed rubbish about abusive men being excusable if their childhood is tragic enough and their sexual prowess impressive enough. And we are all allowed to be outraged by it. We all should be.
But if we're outraged by this happening in reality - the incredibly rich, enormously powerful businessman, treating women like objects to be used any way he sees fit, excusing his behaviour and never taking responsibility for it - then we need to realise that it's not acceptable to be presented with fiction that expects us to swoon over the exact same thing, just because the packaging is more pleasing to the eye.
We need to tackle our climate of ignorance and victim-blaming. We need to stop fawning over dangerously powerful individuals. We're making a start now, with so many voices raised against Trump's disgusting remarks. But we need to go further. We need to remember that no matter how powerful a person is, no matter how wealthy they are, they have no right to abuse. They have no excuse.
EL James herself hit back against Joe Walsh's comments, by highlighting that her book is fictional (and, laughably, by pointing out that she never uses the word "pussy" in them). But if she - and her army of fans - really want to make a difference to the culture that allows men like Trump to do and say such revolting things, then she needs to start by analysing her own "hero." She needs to recognise that her own work, whilst not being responsible for Trump's "dirty talk" or the culture that allows him to get away with it, is a symptom of the need for change.
Just imagine those 80million voices all raised against abuse. Imagine how powerful that could be.
Let's aim to live in a world in which men like Trump are rightly called out as what they are. And let's stop accepting fiction in which authors are giving those men a younger, prettier face, a tortured past and the title of "hero."
I never did tell you which of those men - Trump or Grey - I was describing at the start of this post. I'll let you decide for yourselves.
|Posted by Emma and Natalie on September 23, 2016 at 1:20 PM||comments (4)|
The first trailer has been seen and the film is set to hit cinemas on February 9th... Yes, it's that time, again, everyone! Time to plan some protest action, to coincide with the release of Fifty Shades Darker.
We protested the original Fifty Shades premiere with great success - we made the papers and were praised by London police for our peaceful demonstration. This time around, we'd like to go even bigger - and better.
In the coming weeks, we will be putting together a downloadable Protest Pack, full of information as to how you can get involved. And, excitingly, whilst we are hoping for a great turnout in London (we expect the premiere to take place on the 9th February or shortly before - details to follow as soon as we know them!), this time, you don't even have to leave your house to get involved. We will be running an event on Twitter in the days leading up to the premiere (and of course on the night itself), during which we aim to get a special hashtag trending.
For obvious reasons, we need to keep our plans under wraps as much as possible at the moment, but we're hoping to build up a database of people who want to get involved. So, if you're interested in either joining us in London, or being part of our event on Twitter, simply DM us via our Twitter page (drop us a tweet if we don't follow you and we'll do so!), or message us via our Facebook page with your email address, and we'll send you a copy of our Protest Pack, just as soon as we've put the finishing touches to it.
We're really excited about our plans for next February's premiere protest and we hope as many of you as possible will support us by joining in, whether in person, or online!
For now, thank you so much for your continued support. Please remember to get in touch if you'd like a copy of our Protest Pack. It'll let you in on precisely what we're planning... ;-)
With lots of love,
Emma & Natalie
|Posted by Emma and Natalie on February 6, 2015 at 5:30 AM||comments (4)|
In order to make it easier for people to comment and engage with our content, we have moved our blog over to Wordpress. You will find it by CLICKING HERE. You can still read all our previous posts here, or pop over to our new Wordpress site and you'll find them all there!
|Posted by Emma and Natalie on February 5, 2015 at 2:55 PM||comments (1)|
Hello and welcome to anyone who has discovered this website following Natalie's appearance on Newsnight. We realise domestic abuse is a difficult subject and the things Natalie mentioned may have been triggering to some viewers. Others may seek to validate the claims she made re abuse statistics. For that reason, we thought it would be helpful to provide some links to those abuse statistics and also to provide links to organisations that can help and support those experiencing domestic abuse themselves.
The statistic on young girls experiencing emotional abuse from a boyfriend by the age of 16 is here: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/research-and-resources/partner-exploitation-and-violence-in-teenage-intimate-relationships/
25% of adult women will experience some form of abuse from a male partner or ex partner at some point in her lifetime: http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-violence-articles.asp?section=00010001002200410001&itemid=1280&itemTitle=Statistics:+how+common+is+domestic+violence
We appreciate the need to be factual when discussing such a sensitive issue, hence providing these links to the statistics used in tonight's broadcast.
If you have any concerns after watching tonight's show and wish to seek help or advice, here are some organisations that can assist you:
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is run 24 hours a day and is free to call on 0808 2000 247. Or you can access their website http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/.
Abuse affects people of all ages. For help, information and guidance tailored specifically for young people who are concerned that they may be experiencing abuse, or who are worried about their own behaviour towards their boy/girlfriend, the government's This Is Abuse website is a great resource: http://thisisabuse.direct.gov.uk/.
If you are a male victim of abuse, or if you feel that you may be a perpetrator of abuse, Respect can help you (http://respect.uk.net/). Their free phone number for men who experience domestic abuse is: 0808 801 0327. You can gain advice online at: http://mensadviceline.org.uk/.
If you are a man who is concerned that you are hurting the person you love, Respect's free helpline is reached on: 0808 802 4040. For online guidance and support, visit http://respectphoneline.org.uk/.
If you are the friend or family member of someone you suspect is experiencing abuse, you can contact 1in4 Woman at http://www.1in4women.com/.
Finally, please remember to be safe online, especially if you are experiencing any form of abuse. Women's Aid has a guide on how to erase your internet history in order to remain safe, which is accessible here: http://www.womensaid.org.uk/page.asp?section=00010001000800010001. Please use it if you feel that you are in danger, having visited any of the above websites, or indeed this one. Stay safe.
Once again, as always, thank you for the enormous support we've received, not only from those who've experienced domestic abuse, but from those members of the BDSM community, whose lifestyle has been so badly misrepresented in Fifty Shades of Grey. We couldn't do this without you.
If you would like to get involved in the Fifty Shades is Abuse campaign, we have various downloadable resources for you to use.
We have a simple poster here: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/Cinema%20Poster.pdf
There are postcards you can download here: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/Postcard.pdf
And a useful FAQ leaflet about our campaign is available here: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/FAQ%20Leaflet.pdf
For more information about the protest we're hoping to arrange for the Fifty Shades of Grey UK film premiere, please click here: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/Protest%20Image.png
We encourage anyone planning on seeing The Fifty Shades of Grey movie to consider donating the cost of a cinema ticket to their local abuse charity instead.
To make a donation to your local branch of Women's Aid, click here: http://www.womensaid.org.uk/azrefuges.asp?section=00010001000800060002&itemTitle=A-Z+of+services
To find your nearest rape crisis centre, visit: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/centres.php
Abuse is not a subject to be romanticised or trivialised. Let's say no to abuse portrayed as romance.
|Posted by Emma and Natalie on February 2, 2015 at 6:15 AM||comments (107)|
Natalie, who set up the "50 Shades is Domestic Abuse" campaign 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.
|Posted by Emma and Natalie on January 28, 2015 at 5:30 AM||comments (3)|
The following blog originally appeared on account co-runner Emma's personal blog (www.theramblingcurl.blogspot.com), whilst our website was down, due to a problem with webs.com. Now that the problem has been recitified, we're reproducing it here, in its proper home:
Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of something we’re passionate about, we can get carried away and lose sight of the fact that not everyone is on board with us. We can dig in our heels and refuse to listen to outside opinion.
That is something we DO NOT want to do with this campaign.
To that end, we do enter into conversation with our critics. We do listen to opposing views. After all, nothing changes if two sides don’t listen to one another. So we make it our business to engage with some of the less-abusive Fifty Shades fans who contact us, in an effort to explain who we are and what we’re about. Sometimes we change minds. Sometimes we at least encourage someone to consider a different viewpoint. And sometimes, with regret, we pull away from the conversation. There’s no use in shouting words into a vacuum, after all.
With only a month to go until the release of the first Fifty Shades movie, we’re receiving a lot more attention – both positive and negative – than usual. And as always, we’re responding to some of that negative attention, in an effort to explain why we feel the way we do and what we’re trying to achieve through this campaign. Or, to put it another way, to dispel some of the myths that surround Fifty Shades Is Abuse.
With that in mind, we decided that now would be a good time to dispel those myths here, providing our supporters (and ourselves!) with a handy link to send to those who insist on perpetuating them. We’re also going to use this blog to focus on some of the abuse myths put forward both in EL James’ trilogy and by fans of it. But first, let’s settle some of the untruths regarding this campaign...
“You’re prudish – you’re equating BDSM with abuse because you don’t know anything of the lifestyle!”
We get this one a lot. Fans of the books know that the BDSM aspect is the part of the trilogy that has provoked the most interest and, in some parts, controversy, so it’s almost understandable that they make the leap from the campaign title – “Fifty Shades Is Abuse” – to the idea that we’re anti-BDSM. That could not be further from the truth.
We are in no way, shape or form against consensual BDSM. Indeed, we have all kinds of people from within the lifestyle who follow and support our campaign. Dom(me)s, subs, switches... You’ll find plenty on our follower list. The reason? They believe, as we do, that the lifestyle has been offensively and dangerously misrepresented by EL James’ trilogy. From the tired old trope of the man only into BDSM because of some tragic, painful past (and who needs to be “fixed”;), to the “Dom” using alcohol and manipulation to coerce a completely naive young woman into agreeing to become his sub; the story throws the BDSM community under the bus.
Fans make a huge mountain out of the importance of consent to Christian, but the fact is, they’re reading what they want to see. Yes, Christian hands Ana a contract and talks about the importance of consent, but when it comes down to it, there is precious little – something which many from the lifestyle itself have highlighted as extremely dangerous. Case in point? Whilst discussing hard limits, Christian deliberately gets Ana drunk. She can’t give full, informed consent in that state and were he a reliable Dom (or just a non-abusive person in general), he would know as much. She also asks him not to control every aspect of her life and he ignores her and continues to monitor her whereabouts and even tries to buy her workplace so he can keep an eye on her there. She tells him “no” during sex in chapter 12 of book 1 and he continues. In book 2, when she tells him she wants to talk, rather than have sex, he tells her “don’t over-think this” and carries on. In book 3, she tells him she’s too tired for sex. He tells her he wants it, so they’ll have it. Ignoring her lack of full consent in this manner has nothing to do with BDSM and it’s an insult when fans insist that it does. Ana never signed the contract; he is not her Master. And even if he were, a lack of consent would never be ignored in a healthy BDSM relationship.
You need only read “Meet Fifty Shades,” which EL James wrote from Christian’s viewpoint, to see that his first reaction when Ana falls into his office is to want to hit her out of anger, not arousal. Indeed, in book 2 of the Fifty Shades trilogy, he even tells Ana that if she doesn’t eat, he’ll hit her in public “and it’ll have nothing to do with my sexual gratification.” In other words, he doesn’t want to give her a consensual spanking. He just wants to hit her because she’s annoying him.
That’s not BDSM. It’s abuse. And we haven’t even talked about how the majority of Grey’s most abusive behaviour takes place in a non-sexual scenario. Much of his abuse is emotional and psychological. The fact that it crosses into sexual and physical abuse at times is just an extension of Christian’s already-abusive tendencies. Our pointing it out is in no way a damning indictment against BDSM as a whole.
We’re not remotely anti-BDSM. But we are against it being misrepresented and used as a cover for abusive behaviour, as it is in Fifty Shades.
We would recommend that anyone wanting to know more about the lifestyle speaks to someone involved in it, reads books on the subject, visits a club and finds out the facts. Because unfortunately, it would appear that EL James didn’t.
“You’re just projecting your own experiences onto Fifty Shades and that’s not fair!”
Sometimes, we reference our own experiences of abuse, as part of highlighting the dangers of real-life Christian Greys. This has led to some fans telling us that we’re “too obsessed” with what happened to us to be able to “understand the love story” that EL James has written. Others have told us that we’re projecting our own experiences onto Ana and Christian’s “healthy” relationship and coming up with a “sick, twisted opinion” on it as a result.
Casting aside how utterly offensive these comments are, they are also completely wrong. The simple fact is that we don’t have any need to project anything onto Fifty Shades. The abuse is there in black and white; not because we’ve imagined it, but because EL James wrote it there.
I don’t have to have personally been stalked in order to recognise that following a woman thousands of miles away when she’s asked for space is invasive and wrong. I don’t have to have been stalked to know that a man already knowing not only your address, but your bank details, medical files and the addresses of your family members is morally reprehensible, not “hot.”
I don’t have to have personal experience of someone I loved and trusted manipulating me with “I can’t help the way I behave; I don’t know any better...” to know it’s a massive, steaming pile of bull, being used to convince a person to stick around and feel responsible for “curing” their abuser. As it happens, I do have experience of that and I mention it only to explain the truth of the situation, not to make the campaign about me, or to justify seeing abuse in Fifty Shades when it’s not actually there.
We’ve written many times about the different types of abuse in Fifty Shades and the dangers of romanticising them, so I’m not going to list examples here, too. You can find them on our website, should you wish to look. But you can rest assured that the examples of abuse are taken directly from the books. Not made up to suit an “agenda” (a recent accusation by a fan), or exaggerated because we’re so over-sensitive because of our pasts, but direct quotes from the books that reference abusive behaviour – be it stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats, isolation or unwanted control – that EL James actually wrote in black and white. We don’t project our own experiences onto the books. The author did that for us.
“You’re telling people what they can and can’t read! That’s against free speech! You’re advocating censorship!”
Wrong. We’ve never called for a ban on the books. We’ve never insisted that all copies should be burned. We’ve never said that nobody should be allowed to read them, or that nobody should see the film.
What we have said is that romanticising abusive behaviour in fiction is highly dangerous and leads to abuse being normalised or missed in reality (emotional and psychological abuse in particular is so insidious that many who experience it don’t even realise they’ve been abused until much later).
What we have said is that romanticising abusive behaviour in fiction can, and from our experience has led to an even greater problem with people believing myths about abuse (more of which later), which in turn causes people to be blind to the very red flags they should be looking out for.
What we have said is that Fifty Shades could be used as a starting point for a public discussion on abuse – what it is, how to recognise it and where to get help – seeing as it depicts an abusive relationship with frightening clarity, yet millions of fans see it as “true love.” Something which is indicative of the fact that we have a long way to go when it comes to abuse-awareness...
As a writer, feminist and human, I am passionately pro free speech. Always have been, always will be. I even believe in the right of other people to ridicule my beliefs. And I believe in my right to speak out against something popular, however much fans of Fifty Shades might dislike me for doing so.
We’re not calling for book-burning. We’re not calling for bans. We’re not telling anyone what they can or can’t read or watch. We’re trying to raise awareness and start a discussion on a subject that very much needs to be brought to the fore.
“What about other books?! You can’t criticise Fifty Shades and not anything else!”
This is an interesting one. Taste is subjective; I might find something offensive, but someone else might not. There are, certainly, several books and films littered throughout history (and on modern shelves, too), whose themes are deeply questionable and could easily be deemed to glorify abuse.
To be clear, we stand against romanticised abuse in fiction full stop. Romanticising abusive behaviour in fiction normalises it in reality and can blind us to the signs.
However, Fifty Shades went past being “just a book” like so many others a long time ago. It went past being “just a book,” when the “find your own Christian Grey” dating sites appeared and when almost every women’s magazine refused to hear a word of criticism against it and began promoting Grey as “the perfect man.”
The trilogy has sunk deeper into public consciousness than almost anything that preceded it. When fans are sending us messages every week, defending Grey and in many cases abusing us personally for speaking against the series, it’s indicative of just how seriously this particular piece of Twilight fan-fiction has been taken. And when something with the potential to be dangerous is taken that seriously and becomes such a deep part of the public consciousness, then it makes sense for an abuse-awareness campaign to focus on it.
We’re not saying that any other book or film that romanticises abusive behaviour is okay. We’re saying that this campaign was set up around Fifty Shades because the trilogy encapsulates so much abuse, it was impossible to ignore. We’re saying that whilst Fifty Shades is so universal, it makes much more logical sense to use it as a starting point for a discussion on abuse than any other book that came before or after it.
“You’re just jealous of EL James!”
There are so many English errors in the entire Fifty Shades trilogy that I genuinely wouldn’t even know where to begin if I tried listing them all. The writing is appalling. Honestly, completely appalling. I say that as a writer myself. I would be embarrassed to put out a trilogy that was so hideously – and vainly – unedited. So if you’re talking about writing ability, I am not jealous and having read some brilliant pieces by the Fifty Shades Is Abuse campaign-founder, Natalie, I am certain that she isn’t either.
We’re not jealous of EL James’ wealth. Neither of us are that shallow. Nor are we envious of her fame.
Let’s also not forget that EL James is the writer who deliberately set out to make it look as though there was no criticism of her books coming from genuine abuse-survivors, when she told an interviewer: “People who see abuse in my books are doing a huge disservice to women who really experience it.”
Here’s the thing, EL. I experienced it. Natalie experienced it. Hundreds of our followers experienced it. We have several abuse charities following us who deal with those who experience it and they see abuse in your books, too. Where’s your answer for us?
So no, we’re not jealous of EL James. To suggest that we’d create a whole campaign centred around a subject as personal and important as domestic abuse, simply because we’re suffering from petty jealousy is ludicrous and offensive.
"EL James didn't deliberately write about abuse. You're demonising her!!"
Wrong again. Unless she's a deeply sick individual, I highly doubt that EL James sat down to write a novel that would romanticise an abusive relationship. After all, Twilight has some of the same abusive patterns as Fifty Shades of Grey does and we know that EL's story started life as fan-fiction. She was probably just taking some of the behaviours from Twilight and, unfortunately, bringing them further into the spotlight.
That said, it's not as though she hasn't been made aware of the abuse in her books. Abuse survivors have contacted her. Abuse charities have contacted her. Her response is to block them on Twitter, so that they can't burst her precious bubble. That's not the reaction of a mature writer who listens to valid concern. It's the reaction of a rather vain person, so deeply in love with her own creation that she's willing to ignore, criticise and minimise those who have anything negative to say about her work.
People from the BDSM community have also spoken out, trying to explain to EL James that she has misrepresented their lifestyle. And she has blocked and ignored them, too.
Let's also remember that for all her cries of "it's just my fantasy!", EL James is happy to sell Grey as the perfect man to anyone who'll listen. She's been more than content to put her name - and that of the Fifty Shades brand - on endless pieces of merchandise, including BDSM-related sex toys, which doesn't exactly do much to dispel the idea that she's selling her "fantasy" as some kind of poorly-researched how-to guide.
I'm a writer. I understand being precious over your work. But I can't - and won't - understand anyone calling themselves a writer, who is prepared to utterly ignore and in some cases publicly insult those who come to her with very real concerns. When you put anything into the public domain, you have to take ownership of it and that involves admitting when you've made mistakes and presented something which could be seen as dangerous or offensive.
EL James is not prepared to take ownership of her work, unless it's to accept praise. We aren't demonising her. But we do seriously question her judgement in this area.
All of which leads me on to the abuse myths that Fifty Shades has itself managed to perpetuate. Abuse is a subject that many people know little about. In some ways, this is understandable. It’s not a pleasant topic and when faced with something so unpalatable, it’s fairly common to develop an “it’ll never happen to me” attitude.
Except it could. And blinding ourselves to the signs is potentially dangerous. On our Twitter page, we often talk about the “abuse myths” or “abuse tropes” in Fifty Shades and why they’re so unhelpful. So here, we’ve chosen to tackle a few of them. And yes, every single myth you’re about to read has been sent to us at some point by a Fifty shades fan, in defence of the series...
“He doesn’t know any better!! You can’t blame him for his behaviour, because he had a terrible childhood. He needs help, not judgement.”
We are in 100% agreement that Christian needs help, just as all abusers do. But an abuser will not change unless he or she recognises that they have a problem and needs to change. Christian sees nothing wrong with his behaviour, in spite of claiming “I’m fifty shades of f*cked up,” as an excuse for it.
And guess what? It’s not an excuse. There is never an excuse for abusing another person. The events that took place in a person’s life prior to their decision to stalk, manipulate, threaten, coerce, isolate, harm or forcibly control someone else, do not negate the abusive effect of these behaviours. My ex told me that he couldn’t help his behaviour towards me, because he’d been abused as a child. I believed him. I stuck around, trying to help him. Only when I realised that actually, he was an adult, with a circle of friends (including couples in healthy relationships), a job in which he had responsibility and several remaining family members, did I come to the horrible conclusion that he knew how he ought to treat me. He simply chose to be abusive instead and used his past as a convenient excuse.
Christian – and men like him – may be troubled and need some help and support. But it does not ever excuse their decision to behave abusively towards their partners. Christian’s sad childhood is no more an excuse for stalking or controlling Ana against her will than my ex’s was for abusing me. An abusive, or tragic past might go some of the way towards explaining a possible propensity to abuse as an adult, but it doesn't excuse it. EVER.
Think about it logically: If a guy butchered his own children and it turned out that he’d been beaten by his parents as a kid, would you spare him a prison sentence, because of his sad past? If a man raped a woman, would you let him off if his mum had died when he was little? Abuse is a crime. No amount of tragedy in an abuser’s past excuses it. It’s a common myth that we can explain away certain abusive behaviours if we find something in the abuser to be sympathetic about. EL James has perpetuated that myth and as a result, we have fans contacting us every week, telling us we’re being unfair, because poor ickle Christian – who owns a billion-dollar company, which he supposedly runs single-handedly – just doesn’t know how to be a big boy. Rubbish.
Manipulation is a key part of abuse. Getting your partner to think that you’re some poor, troubled person who simply can’t help their actions because they’ve never been shown any different, is a hugely common tactic. Why? Because it works.
This is the point at which fans point to Doctor Flynn and insist that Christian is trying to get better. Nope. EL James did about as much research into the kind of therapy Christian would need as she did BDSM. As a result, Flynn is highly unrealistic; a doctor who breaks his oath in order to tell Ana that she’s “doing wonders” for his patient (subtly putting responsibility for fixing Christian on her shoulders rather than his own – more of that later) and who never questions Christian’s behaviour, but enables it.
Frighteningly, whilst the doctor’s character and behaviour is unrealistic, the situation isn’t. Lundy Bancroft – author of “Why Does He Do That?” a book about men who abuse – explains that many abusive people will use their therapy sessions to justify their own behaviour, or to look for sympathy and a reason to blame others, rather than examine their own actions. My ex did the exact same thing, even going as far as to tell me that he used his therapy sessions to explain that he couldn’t help his behaviour; it was everyone else in his life that was wrong, not him. Consequently, I believe my ex is almost certainly still abusive. And so is Christian.
“But her love cures him in the end. They both have to learn, compromise and make sacrifices and that’s what a relationship is about.”
Sure, relationships are about compromise. But tell me: What does Christian sacrifice? His need to control? No, he still dictates to Ana as to when she can see her friends, whether she takes his name when they marry and he attempts to control a whole lot more besides. Does he sacrifice his need for BDSM when Ana expresses a dislike for some aspects? No, because he coerces Ana into going back on pretty much all of her hard limits. The only person who really makes an effort at compromise is Ana.
All of which is beside the point, because this is yet another dangerous – and offensive – abuse myth. The thought of the myth that love can “cure” an abuser being readily accepted by EL James’ fans is genuinely frightening, because this is a manipulative trap that so many people who experience abuse in real life fall into. I did.
When you love a person who has been treating you badly, you want to believe their promises that they’re going to change. When they tell you they can’t help their behaviour, you want to believe that and try to support them in “getting better.” Abusers fixate on that and will encourage their partners to believe that they – and only they – can help them to become a better person. This manipulation causes many people to stay in abusive relationships, thinking that if they just love their abuser the right way, they can get things back to how they were at the start of the relationship, before it all went wrong. Of course, an abuser will always move the goalposts so that there is no “right” way, but the abused person – already manipulated by this point – doesn’t know that and will often keep trying, to the detriment of their own mental and emotional well-being.
Ana – partly because of Christian’s manipulation and partly because of the poorly researched Doctor Flynn – believes that it’s her responsibility to “fix” Christian. It’s not. It’s his. In a healthy relationship, there’s nothing wrong with supporting a partner whilst they work on their issues. But this is not a healthy relationship and Ana is taking all of the responsibility, leaving Christian with none. Her love alone can’t “cure” Christian’s abusive tendencies anymore than love can cure abuse in reality.
By perpetuating the “love cures abuse!” myth, EL James is not only setting her readers up for a potentially dangerous fall, but offending the many women who found the strength to walk away from their abusers, having realised that they couldn’t change them and that staying put them at emotional or physical risk. Perhaps our love just wasn’t good enough, eh EL?
“Ana stays, so the abuse from Christian can’t be that bad. I mean, women who keep going back to an abusive man are pretty much complicit in the abuse, really. If it was that bad, they’d leave.”
From a Fifty Shades standpoint, let’s remind ourselves that within the trilogy, Christian tells Ana (book 1, I believe) that no matter where she ran, he would find her. He even chillingly jokes: “I can track your phone, remember?” All of which negates his promise to let her go when, in book 3, he thinks she’s leaving him. He’s already threatened to stalk her to the ends of the Earth if necessary, so why should we believe that he’s suddenly changed his tune?!
It’s a grotesquely common myth that people who go back to their abusive partners are somehow to blame for the abuse they suffer as a result. The blame for abuse lies squarely on the shoulders of one person: The abuser.
The myth takes no consideration of the level of manipulation and fear being used on the abused person. The abuser may threaten to kill the abused if they leave. They may threaten to kill themselves. They could manipulate family and friends into thinking the abused person is going crazy and needs to stay with them for their own protection. They could restrict the abused person’s access to their bank account or their car, thus making escape much harder. The abused person may be terrified that leaving could make things a hundred times worse.
Or the abuser could try a different tactic. They could make a hundred promises, swearing on their life –or even their children’s lives – that things will change. And with enough “evidence” (through charming behaviour, attention, gifts etc) that the abuser means what he/she says, the abused person may believe them.
The fact that people sometimes stay in – or go back to – abusive relationships does not make it their fault when they are abused. Ana’s decision to stay with a man whose temper she openly admits to being afraid of (chapter 6, book 3) does not mean that there is no abuse in her relationship, or that she is responsible for it.
The level of victim-blaming thrown by Fifty Shades' supposed fans at our campaign has been atrocious.
“Well, she stayed, so if he shouts at her and hits her, it’s not like she didn’t know she had it coming.”
“If she didn’t want marks all over her chest, she shouldn’t have taken her bikini top off on honeymoon. She knew what he was like.”
"He warned her to run. She chose to stay. After that, whatever he does to her, she only has herself to blame."
Victim-blaming is one of the most common, yet most damaging problems society has when it comes to dealing with abuse. And fans sending statements like that are only making it worse.
“It’s a fantasy – Grey is rich, gorgeous and sexy. Real-life abusers aren’t.”
Yes, that’s true. All real-life abusers have to go around in their “I’m An Abuser” t-shirts, with the pit stains on display. They’re usually hideously ugly, stone broke and terrible in bed. Of course no Fifty Shades fan is going to fall for an abuser – they’re incredibly easy to spot!
Um... No. Guess what? Abusers look like ordinary people. They could be rich and powerful. They could be the best sex you’ve ever had in your life. They could be the best-looking people you’ve ever laid eyes on. But they’re still abusers.
The myth that all abusive people are somehow recognisable is as ludicrous as it is dangerous. We already had Fifty Shades to “thank” for the legions of adoring readers willing to overlook hideous behaviour if it’s displayed by a fictional character who’s rich and sexy. Now, we have those same fans contacting us to tell us that abuse is super-easy to spot in real-life and that you’d never find a man like Christian Grey who was actually abusive.
Except... My ex was the hottest guy I’d ever seen in real-life at the time I met him (an opinion that has since been thoroughly revised). I thought he was gorgeous. I had friends who thought the same. And at first, the sex was definitely the best I’d ever had. Neither fact made him less of an abuser, but they did help to blind me to his abuse. Just like fans are blinded to Christian Grey’s abuse by his good looks and ridiculous wealth. Are we all really shallow?! No. We just have this stupid idea – perpetuated by books like Fifty Shades – that attractive, rich people are the good guys. An abuser must be really easy to spot, because he or she will undoubtedly be physically repugnant, grubby and nasty.
The reality is that abusers are skilled in the area of charm. They will put across a version of themselves that they know you’ll fall for. What would be the point of revealing themselves to be abusive right away? Nobody would want to be with them!
It’s time we got away from this utterly foolish societal belief that abusers... Well, look and act like abusers. More often than not, they don’t. That’s the whole point.
Fifty Shades of Grey has perpetuated these myths and more. That’s why we need to speak out. Not because we’re hysterically calling for books to be burned, or because we have any desire to police what people read, but because myths about something as already misunderstood as abuse are dangerous. We need facts. What we don’t need is a man who stalks, coerces, threatens, intimidates, controls and manipulates being presented as some kind of romantic hero. Because he isn’t.
He’s an abuser.
|Posted by Emma and Natalie on January 26, 2015 at 12:15 AM||comments (2)|
With the film release so close, we thought it would be handy to have a printable PDF on our site, which you can download and hand out at cinemas or put up anywhere you feel is appropriate (and legal!). So if you visit our home page (http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/), you'll find a link to download the leaflet. Let's keep showing the world that Fifty Shades is not a love story!
In other news, the fabulous author, Jenny Trout, had a brilliant idea, regarding Cosmopolitan Magazine's Fifty Shades fan-fiction contest. They want short stories, using the hashtag #CosmoFiftyShades to be uploaded onto WattPad - the stories have to be about Fifty Shades in some way, hence "fan-fiction," but Jenny suggested we upload stories that show that the books romanticise abuse! There are plenty of stories already uploaded. Here's a link to the original Cosmo entry, with details of how to get involved following after the story. http://www.wattpad.com/97680359-imagine-you%27re-in-christian-grey%27s-bedrooom/page/2
Let's get involved - be as creative as you like! The more stories Cosmo receives, which focus on abuse, not love, the louder our message will be!
|Posted by Emma and Natalie on November 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM||comments (2)|
It's often hard to discuss an emotive subject without getting drawn into a case of opinion-sharing rather than fact. With that in mind, I asked myself a question this morning: When it comes to Fifty Shades of Grey, how easy is it to separate fact from opinion? What can we prove to be fact?
Fans of the series often comment on our Twitter feed with a similar statement: "Christian Grey isn't abusive. That's just your opinion." But is it?
Tonight, I googled "what is an abusive relationship?" The first website result was http://thisisabuse.direct.gov.uk/worried-about-abuse and this is what the first page suggests about relationship abuse:
Now firstly, this is not a definitive list. Obviously, there are many more forms of abuse than the behaviours listed above. But the fact (and that's what I'm trying to put across, here - facts) is that these behaviours are abusive and are listed on a national, government website as red flags. And these are behaviours that Christian Grey exhibits. Let's take them one by one:
• A partner may try to pressure you into having sex. Just to be very clear on the facts again, sexual coercion is described on http:/loveisrespect.org as being the use of extreme compliments, threats, manipulation/pressure, alcohol or drugs, sulking or anger in order to persuade a person into sexual activity. Love Is Respect also mentions the following, which is crucial:
• So, does Christian pressure Ana into having sex, or more specifically into having a certain kind of sex? Well... Yes. In book 1, when discussing their sexual limits, Christian deliberately plies Ana with wine in order to make her "more honest." As I've just mentioned, using alcohol in this manner is a form of sexual coercion. Not my opinion - a fact. Afterwards, when Ana admits to being a virgin, Christian reacts with anger. Again, this anger is a form of coercion/pressure. Later in the same book, Ana says no to sex after Christian turns up uninvited at her apartment. She uses the word "no" specifically and kicks him away. He tells her that if she struggles, he'll tie her feet and if she screams, he'll gag her. This is a total and completely offensive misrepresentation of BDSM and this response from Christian is not mere coercion, but tantamount to rape. Ana's subsequent enjoyment of the sex they have does not overshadow the fact that she said no and he refused to listen. In book 2, when Ana says no to sex again, Christian says "don't over think this, Ana" and continues until she relents. Again, her subsequent orgasm does not mean it's okay that Christian ignored her original "no" completely, in order to follow his own desires. Christian also uses manipulation ("I need this") to ensure Ana agrees to his sexual demands. He plays on his own abusive childhood and makes Ana believe that he's vulnerable and that his BDSM is something that she needs to do for him, rather than for herself. He also tells her early on in book 1 that he is only interested in a BDSM relationship and that if Ana wants to be with him at all, that's the only way. This piles the pressure on Ana to agree to his demands. When Christian doesn't get what he wants, he becomes sulky and angry, then claims that he doesn't know how to behave any better, in spite of his being a 27 year old CEO of a successful business. His claims are clearly false and his sulky/angry behaviour is just another way in which he pressurises Ana. Ana also knows very little about the BDSM lifestyle and admits that her research into the subject frightens her. Christian does little to fill her in on the subject, instead leaving her to research alone, which means she cannot fully understand what she is consenting to and therefore cannot give full and informed consent. None of this is my opinion. This is evidence taken from the text of the trilogy and linked to government guidance as to what constitutes abuse and advice from an abuse charity on what constitutes sexual coercion. This is, therefore fact.
• They may call you names or threaten to spread rumours about you. Okay, Christian doesn't tend to do this with Ana. If anything, he goes the other way; over-complimenting Ana, e.g. constantly telling her how bright she is, despite little evidence of it in the text. However, he does frequently make comments designed to cause Ana to question herself, such as reminding her of how uncertain of herself she is and how frequently she blushes. This causes Ana to feel off-balance and uncertain for much of their relationship, often questioning whether she deserves Christian's attention. This manipulative behaviour from Christian is symptomatic of an emotionally or psychologically abusive relationship.
• They might try to control you by checking your phone. We barely need to question this one. Before they are even in any kind of relationship, Christian openly admits to tracking Ana's mobile phone in order to decipher her whereabouts. He then turns up unannounced to "rescue" her from Jose, but this "rescue" is far from gallant, considering that Ana has actively told him not to turn up at the bar and also taking into account the fact that Christian takes her away from her friends to a strange place when she's too drunk to consent. She even has to ask whether he had sex with her the next morning, because she was in no state to remember. Christian's obsession with stalking Ana and tracking her phone continues throughout the novel and is simply written off as one of his personality quirks, or worse, as a way of marking him out as a Dom. Stalking and tracking someone's phone is NOT part of a healthy BDSM relationship. Both are illegal, abusive acts. Again, that's a fact, not an opinion and the evidence is taken directly from the text of the trilogy. Of course, Christian's controlling behaviour is not limited to checking Ana's phone. He attempts to buy her workplace and says he'd do the same no matter where she worked. Ana has asked him specifically not to interfere in her career, but he disrespects her entirely by ignoring her request and continuing to control her at work. Christian's "control-freakery" is again presented as an aspect of the BDSM lifestyle. However, had EL James done any research, she would be aware that control in BDSM is given at the sub's discretion. Ana is actively telling Christian "no" and he is overriding her. This is not BDSM, but a massive power imbalance caused by one abusive partner refusing agency to the other. In short, this is abuse. It's important to once again note: The use of excessive and unwanted control in this manner is abuse as recognised by government agencies and abuse charities and my evidence of Christian's stalking and control of Ana comes directly from the trilogy itself. Which, yet again, makes it fact rather than opinion.
• They might try to force you to do things by hitting you. This is the point at which fans will accuse us of being anti BDSM. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, EL James' gross misrepresentation of the BDSM lifestyle causes some huge problems here. Lack of research means that EL seems to believe that threatening Ana with his "twitching palm" is Christian being a playful Dom. However, if you read the original novel, Ana tells Christian that the thought of being spanked or hit as "punishment" makes her frightened and uncomfortable. She is not a willing sub when it comes to this aspect of their sexual relationship and therefore every time Christian tells her "I do believe you're making my palm twitch," he's threatening her with something she has told him she doesn't want or enjoy. A good Dom would never do this. BDSM is something which is supposed to be enjoyable for both parties. Christian also often uses this phrase or threat when he's genuinely angry with Ana for something. Again, in a healthy BDSM relationship, a good Dom knows never to hit his sub out of actual anger. That's crossing a line from play to abuse. Yet Christian frequently uses the threat when Ana has disobeyed some arbitrary rule - usually one she hasn't agreed to or doesn't even know about - and his threat is therefore simply to hit her. He tells her at one point in the trilogy that he doesn't want to hit her to punish her, but adds: "If you'd caught me yesterday it would have been a different story." That's nothing but an admission of a desire to hit Ana out of anger. During a meal, he also tells Ana to eat, adding: "So help me God, Anastasia, if you don't eat, I'll take you over my knee here in this restaurant and it'll have nothing to do with my sexual gratification." That's utterly clear. That's not a sexual offer and it's nothing to do with consensual, healthy BDSM. It's a threat of physical assault. Christian also deliberately bruises his new wife's body whilst they're on honeymoon, as punishment for sunbathing topless. Ana has never consented to having her body marked in this manner, but Christian has no concern for her consent (as always) and he hits her to bruise her purposefully out of anger. I can't stress enough that this is NOT BDSM, but abuse. Hitting or threatening to hit out of anger is abuse as recognised by the government and abuse charities. Christian does this in the novel - it's there in black and white. So once more, this is not my opinion. This is fact.
• They might get angry when you want to spend time with your friends. We see Christian isolating Ana from her friends and family from very early on in their relationship. Christian tells Ana that she must sign an NDA, which means that from the word go, she is unable to discuss her new relationship with her supposed best friend - the only person who might be able to give her advice. Later, once Ana has moved in with Christian, he expects her to ask permission before she goes to see Kate. Although he claims this is for her own safety, due to threats from characters such as Leila and Jack Hyde, Christian makes no effort to involve the police in order to keep the woman he claims to love safe, so his protestations of protection can be immediately seen through as lies to cover his excessive need for control. Indeed, Christian comes home early from a business trip purely because he's discovered that Ana has been out with Kate without his express permission. He's furious because Ana has disobeyed him. This unwanted level of control is not BDSM as it is in no way consensual (Ana has to lie about her whereabouts because she wants to see her friend and is afraid of punishment for it) and is therefore quite clearly abuse.
Finally, taken from the government website, here is a list of questions to be answered by anyone who is concerned that they might be in an abusive relationship.
Try answering those questions as Ana. And even as a fan of Fifty Shades, try answering them honestly as Ana. You will be forced to answer "no" to more than one. The advice is then clear - "if you have answered "no" to any of these questions, you could be in an abusive relationship." Not my opinion. Fact.
Now, for all of the above headings - and it's important to note once again that there are other forms of abuse, the aforementioned is not a definitive list - I have used government and abuse charity guidance as to what constitutes an abusive relationship. That means that these headings are factual examples of abusive behaviours - it's not simply my opinion that to behave in this way is abusive. And the evidence of Christian Grey displaying these abusive behaviours comes directly from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Although the books are fictional, the actions displayed by the title character are written in black and white and are therefore fact in the Fifty Shades universe. For example, it's not an opinion that Grey stalks Ana, because the text literally tells us that he does. Ditto for coercion, threats of assault and manipulation. They happen in the story. It's cannon. It's there.
So, here we encounter a problem. If we've established as fact that Christian Grey's behaviour is abusive, based on evidence from the text and government/abuse charity guidelines, what do we say in response to fans who insist: "That's just your opinion?"
Well, we can immediately provide them with evidence. That's the handy thing about facts; they're provable. We can direct those fans to any number of government or charity websites, detailing what constitutes relationship abuse. And we can provide references taken straight from the text of the Fifty Shades novels, in which Christian Grey is written as displaying those abusive behaviours. And what we will find - in almost every single case (and believe me, I've had to do this a lot since joining the 50 Shades Is Abuse campaign) - is that actually, we really are dealing with a case of fact versus opinion. The fan's opinion that what Grey does is not abusive.
If I had a pound for every time a Fifty Shades fan, spurred on by the author's insistence that her "hero" is not abusive, has said to me: "Well, that's your opinion; I think it's a love story and I don't think Christian is abusive," I could afford to have the movie pulled. And frankly, the world would be a better place for it. But more importantly, every time I hear this argument, I find myself asking a specific question: WHY is that your opinion?
Is it because you've been told by the author via the text that the character of Christian Grey is sexy and rich and that makes it okay? Or is it because Christian had a tragic childhood and simply "can't help" his abusive behaviour? Is it because you believe - despite it being told in the story and almost never actually shown - that Ana's love "cures" Christian of his abusiveness and that that fact turns their relationship from being abusive to being loving? Or it is simply because it's "just a book" and it doesn't matter what Christian's like, because he's not real?
Let's go back to some facts about abuse:
1. Abuse is never okay, no matter who commits it. My own abusive ex was, at least in my eyes at the time, the most beautiful looking man I'd ever met. He was sexy as HELL to me when we met. But that didn't excuse any of what he put me through. It doesn't excuse Christian, either. Nor does his money.
2. A person's past might go some way to explaining their present, but it most certainly does not excuse it. And Christian was adopted at a young age by a loving family. He has excelled in business and sees staff and family members in successful relationships. He knows how to behave properly. He chooses not to. His past - and again, my ex used the same excuse - does not make the way he behaves in the present okay.
3. Love does NOT cure abuse. To suggest as much is offensive to anyone who has ever been in any kind of abusive relationship. Countless people remain in those kind of relationships, hoping that things will change if they love the person enough or in the right way. If an abuser shows you enough of the loving person you want them to be, you find yourself believing that you can bring that out of them more often if you only behave the way they want you to. That dangerous myth keeps people in relationships that could get them killed. That's not an opinion - that's fact. You will not ever be able to love an abusive person into wellness. For an abuser to change, they have to want to. And most abusers don't. If they do, then they will need to take ownership of their behaviour and accept that it's wrong. Only with professional help can they then make big changes. Christian Grey, like most abusers, does not see a problem with his controlling or stalking Ana. He doesn't see a problem with threatening to hit her, calling it BDSM to make it more palatable. This means that he's not owning his own behaviour and therefore cannot change, even if he wants to. The fact that he lets Ana get closer to him than previous partners have is not evidence enough of his being a changed man, because his abusive behaviour continues. Ana's love does not "fix" Christian, because deep down, there is no evidence of Christian Grey truly wanting to change. This incredibly dangerous, offensive trope has no place in fiction, because the reality is so horrendously different.
As for the "just a book" argument. Well, we've talked this through many a time. Romanticising abuse in fiction normalises it in reality. And whatever anyone says about the idea that fiction doesn't influence reality, we have thousands of women saying they want a man just like Christian Grey. And having had one... No they don't. Because the truth of being with a man like that is nothing like the "happy ever after" fiction likes to try to present us with. The fact of being in an abusive relationship is painful. It's soul-destroying, confusing and dangerous. And that's not my opinion. It's accepted fact.
This brings us neatly back to the question of fact and opinion in the case of Fifty Shades. We've seen that the abusive patterns we accuse Christian Grey of following are indeed factual in the text and we've shown that those behaviours he displays are factual examples of abuse. If your opinion is that Christian Grey is not abusive, ask yourself why. Why are you rushing to protect a fictional character? What do you lose if you admit that although you enjoyed the story, the lead character's behaviour is deeply problematic and not something to aspire to in reality? Nothing. The phenomenon has even gone so far that the author would lose little by simply saying "I accept that in reality this wouldn't be romance. But in the context of my fictitious novel, I believe it to be and so do others." She'd merely be stating an opinion, just like her fans. She couldn't be stating a fact, because unfortunately for EL James, she has written the abuse into her novel, unwittingly or not. It's there. There's no "opinion" about our viewpoint at 50 Shades Is Abuse, because stalking is in the trilogy and stalking is abuse. Coercion is in the trilogy and coercion is abuse. Ditto threats, unwanted control and manipulation.
So the facts are simple: Christian Grey displays abusive behaviour throughout the trilogy, as recognised by government agencies, abuse charities and professionals in the field. The evidence for this comes directly from the author's words.
Your opinion may be that Christian Grey is not abusive. Your opinion might be that a relationship with a man like him would be ideal. Nobody can take that opinion away from you, if you so choose to hold onto it. But please do ask yourself why you've chosen to hold onto that in the face of the facts. And if you're holding onto that opinion by avoiding those facts, ask yourself what you gain from doing so.
Knowing the facts of abuse saves lives. To recognise them in fiction helps us to recognise them in reality. And that's just a simple fact.
|Posted by Emma and Natalie on July 29, 2014 at 6:00 AM||comments (3)|
It's one of the most frequent arguments we get from Fifty Shades of Grey fans: "Everything that happens in the stories is consensual!" Even EL James has waded into the debate, quick to point out that Ana is 21 and therefore of an age to consent to Grey's sexual demands. But Ms James? That's not our point.
We've covered the issue of non-consent in Fifty Shades before (in fact, it was our very last blog: http://50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com/apps/blog/show/42434002-consent-in-fifty-shades-). But in response to the constant insistence that Ana freely consents to everything that happens in the trilogy, we felt it was time to look at it from another angle. So, here's how Fifty Shades could have been consensual...
• If Christian had asked to meet up with Ana again at their very first encounter in his office, rather than stalking her to her workplace, without knowing whether she wanted to see him again (and, vitally, had she said yes to that request), that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had respected Ana's wishes and stayed away, rather than tracking her phone and stalking her to the bar she was drinking in with her friends, that would have been consensual.
• If Ana hadn't been so drunk that she passed out shortly after Christian arrived at the bar and had been sober enough to agree to being taken back to his place, that would have been consensual.
• If Ana had been conscious and sober whilst Christian undressed her and put her to bed and had she agreed to those things, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had avoided any manipulative tactics; not played upon his abusive childhood, not warned Ana that he'd be "bad" for her, not played any kind of mind games, just been himself and given her a chance to decide whether she wanted a relationship with him and had she decided that she did, without any manipulation, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had listened when Ana said "no" to his expensive gifts and stopped buying them so as not to make her feel uncomfortable, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had said "hey, I'm into BDSM and I'd love to try it with you. Here are a couple of books I've taken out from the library for you to read. I can take you to a club if you like and I can give you some website addresses, where you can chat to other people in the lifestyle so you can make your mind up. And please know that I won't force you at all; if you say no - and you have every right to - I won't pressure you to change your mind. If we try it and you don't like it, I won't force you to try again..." and had Ana said yes after gaining full understanding of what she was getting into, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had allowed Ana as much time as she liked to decide whether BDSM was for her, rather than manipulating her and playing on her emotions with his "I had a tortured childhood, I need this..." routine (and had Ana agreed to the BDSM without all of that manipulation), that would have been consensual.
• If, when Ana told Christian that she didn't like being spanked, he had refrained from either doing it or threatening to do it, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had taken Ana's list of limits seriously, rather than insisting on pushing them in order to pursue his own desires, that would have been consensual.
• If, when Ana said "no" after Christian initiated sex (having turned up out of the blue after thinking that Ana was ending their relationship), Christian had stopped what he was doing, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had explained what orgasm denial means and asked whether Ana would be okay with that, rather than confusing and upsetting her by doing it to her without permission (and, crucially, if she had agreed to it after discussing it with him), that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had insisted that Ana was sober whilst they discussed hard and soft limits, so she knew exactly what she was getting into and could logically process the information she was being bombarded with to a point where she reached clear agreement to his terms, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had refused to lay a finger on Ana when she was too drunk to give sober agreement, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had listened to Ana telling him that, whilst she might enjoy being dominated in the bedroom, she had no desire to be a 24/7 sub/slave and had therefore stopped trying to control what she wore, what she ate, who she saw and where she went, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had listened to Ana's wishes and stopped treating her like a piece of his property, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had set clear, firm "rules" for Ana to stick to (and had she agreed to those rules), rather than constantly moving the goal posts and leaving her never sure whether her behaviour will see her "punished," that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had listened to Ana's request for some time and space away from him, rather than flying hundreds of miles to stalk her whilst she was visiting her mother, that would have been consensual.
• If Christian had discussed marking Ana's body and whether she wanted that to happen (and had she agreed to it), rather than bruising her body without permission as punishment for sunbathing topless, that would have been consensual.
I could go on and on, but I think you're probably getting the picture...
There is almost no free consent in Fifty Shades of Grey. The consent Ana gives is often the result of being given copious amounts of alcohol, or having been pressured and manipulated by Christian. At other points in the story, Christian doesn't even make any attempt to gain Ana's consent before he acts (such as when he stalks her, accesses her bank account and deposits money in it without her giving him the relevant information and when he chooses to ignore her concerns about certain aspects of BDSM).
Ana may be 21, EL James. But she is a deeply immature and naive 21. I would have trouble believing she was capable of consenting to things she didn't understand even without the use of alcohol and manipulation to coerce her into it. But with those things? She's not giving free consent. And sexual activity without full, sober consent? There's a word for that. And it sure as Hell isn't "hot."
|Posted by Emma and Natalie on June 29, 2014 at 3:05 PM||comments (5)|
Recently I've been thinking a lot about the issue of consent in Fifty Shades. I think we can all agree that it's an issue dealt with pretty appallingly, in as much as very little Christian does happens with Ana's free, non-coerced consent. So you can imagine my horror when I came across this blog ( http /www.modernmom.com/fad99e04-3b45-11e3-8407-bc764e04a41e.html), in which the author suggests that the positive way that consent is dealt with in the books could be used to teach teens about the importance of consent in relationships.
Positive way it was dealt with??!! I was fairly disgusted by the outright lies in the blog and by the suggestion that Christian is even remotely a positive character to use as an example of consent in fiction. So to save you reading the blog, I've copied and pasted the piece on consent and I will use it here to argue against the suggestion that Fifty Shades is anything close to being a good example of consent. From here on out, the writing in italics are direct quotes from the blog. The responses in bold are mine.
"Christian Grey likes things a certain way. He likes control. He likes power. He likes pain. He likes to dominate his sexual relationships. What appears to be an anti-feminist part of the plot (this heartthrob of a man wants his women to want to be dominated in every way) has a silver lining." Does it? There's a silver lining to this "heartthrob" using stalking, manipulation and coercion against an incredibly immature, naive young woman? Oh do go on...
"Christian Grey never touches a woman without her complete, undivided, conscious, sober consent." Um... Okay, where to start??!! How about at the very beginning? When Christian "rescues" Ana from a bar and takes her back to his bed, he does so without her consent. She collapsed unconscious in his arms. She couldn't agree to go back with him, yet he does it anyway. He's not "rescuing" her; if he was, he'd have had her friends take her back to her own bed, so she woke up in familiar surroundings. Instead she wakes up embarrassed and confused and has to ask him whether he had sex with her, because he undressed her without asking if that was okay. The fact that he didn't have sex with her doesn't suddenly make it okay that he stalked her by tracking her cell phone without her consent, turned up unannounced and took her away from all of her friends whilst she was in no position to argue. Once the couple are in a relationship, things don't get any better on the consent front, either. Christian makes out that consent is a huge deal for him, telling her that he won't touch her until she has signed his contract, agreeing to a BDSM relationship. Then, in chapter 8, having banged on about how important it is that she signs, he says "oh, fuck the paperwork" and has sex with her anyway, even though she hasn't signed and has been displaying concern about that part of their relationship, thus undoing all his high and mighty words about consent being important to him. Later on, in chapter 12, Christian arrives unannounced at Ana's apartment, having received an email in which she pretends to be breaking off their relationship. Even though he actually admits that he didn't realise she was joking, he turns up, initiates sex and when Ana says "no," he responds: "If you struggle, I'll tie your feet...If you make a noise, Anastasia, I'll gag you." But consent is REALLY important to him, right, blog author? This is a positive example of consent that we should be showing to teenagers??!! NO. This is an example we should be showing them to illustrate what happens when a man has no consideration for consent. Christian's claims to care about consent are entirely undone in this scene (not that they hadn't already been, several times over). As for sober consent. What about when Ana and Christian are discussing their hard and soft limits in preparation for taking their relationship further into BDSM territory and Christian deliberately plies Ana with wine, because "it's making you honest?" Never mind the fact that he ignores her limits in favour of his own desires (e.g. when Ana says she doesn't want to try anal sex and he says he wants to do it anyway), a drunk person cannot freely give consent. It's coerced consent at best when someone is deliberately given a large amount of alcohol before they agree to something. When you're drunk, you're not as able to rationalise your choices and Christian surely knows this (seeing as he made a big fuss about having not had sex with her when he took her home drunk, earlier in the book). So, this wonderful guy, who apparently would never touch a woman without her complete, undivided, conscious, sober consent, is coercing Ana into consenting to his desires by getting her drunk. And let's not even start on the orgasm denial he does on Ana without her consent (more than once), which confuses and upsets her so much that she's brought to tears. As part of a healthy, CONSENSUAL BDSM relationship, orgasm denial can be enjoyable for both partners. It certainly isn't for Ana. And why? Because she never consented to it. Because Christian never bothered to ask. What a shining example to give to teenagers...
"He does not take advantage of Ana when she’s drunk, and he divulges everything he wants in a sexual relationship before beginning it." Except... You know that scene I just mentioned, in which Ana is plied with alcohol by Christian, so that she agrees to what he wants? Well, guess what happens?! Yep, he takes her to bed. And she's very drunk by this point (she describes feeling fuzzy and being unable to focus). It could also be easily argued that although nothing sexual happened, Christian took advantage of Ana when he first ever took her home from that bar, too. After all, she was hardly in any position to say no; she was unconscious. As for divulging what he wants in a sexual relationship before beginning it, well, not exactly... Christian does show Ana his playroom before he has sex with her for the first time. But up to that point, he has been subtly manipulating her; drawing her near with compliments, deliberately unnerving her and warning her to stay away from him, yet insisting that he can't stay away from her. Ana is incredibly immature and has no sexual experience. Upon discovering that she's a virgin, Christian gets angry and describes her innocence as a "situation" to be dealt with. From that point on, he is fully aware that Ana has no clue about BDSM and it quickly becomes obvious that she's a little nervous about the whole idea. A responsible Dom would step back and recognise that perhaps this girl isn't the right partner. Christian continues to push and manipulate, insisting he needs the kinky aspect of their relationship and playing on Ana's emotions by bringing his abused childhood into it. In short, he might divulge what he wants, but he gives Ana very little real opportunity to say no, by constantly pushing her emotional buttons and coercing her into agreement. Again, what a marvellous example of a romantic hero. We really must teach teenagers this stuff... (Sarcasm coming through, okay?!)
"The types of relationships discussed in detail in these books may be foreign to most of us, and they aren’t likely to be what you want your teen to strive for. However, what your teen does need to know, and can take away from Mr. Fifty Shades, is that mutual consent is not an option - it’s a necessity." We agree on something, oh blog author! Teens DO need to know that consent is a necessity. What a shame you've chosen a character who talks about the importance of consent, then actively ignores it in order to illustrate your point. Christian manipulates Ana, gets her drunk and coerces her. He also piles pressure on with expensive gifts. Ana never signs his contract and she frequently comes across as being unsure about the lifestyle Christian wants her to enter. He almost never listens to her concerns, placing his own desires above Ana's emotional well-being time and time again.
"Our girls need to know that they should never feel pressured to get into any sort of intimate relationship that they are not completely, whole-heartedly comfortable with and ready for. A real man, even Greek-God-who-could-have-any-woman-he-wants Christian Grey, never forces himself on a woman." Except for in chapter 12, when she says no and he threatens to gag her and tie her up. Oh and except for the times he makes threatening comments, such as "do you think that would stop me?" when Ana suggests that they eat in a public place so she feels protected from his advances. Also, I'm part Greek. We do NOT want Christian Grey, thanks. He's no God of any sort. And let's have a look at Ana, shall we? She describes BDSM as being something that Christian needs to be cured of. She talks of "bringing him into the light." And if I had £1 for every time Ana agrees to him spanking her or doing something she's uncertain about because "it's what he needs," rather than what she wants, I'd be rich enough to be writing this on a shiny new laptop, whilst sipping champagne and paying for "CHRISTIAN GREY IS AN ABUSER" to be tattooed onto EL James' forehead. Again, I agree with the point you're making - every girl DOES need to know that a good man would never force himself on her and that she shouldn't feel pressured into a relationship she doesn't want. But you've chosen an example of a man who does force himself on Ana and who manipulates and coerces her into consenting to a lifestyle that she actively says she's not certain she wants to be involved with. Ana even tells Christian that she doesn't think she can be a 24/7 sub and she doesn't want him to control her outside the bedroom. What is his response? He continues to stalk her, manipulate her and control her - stopping her from going out with friends, buying her workplace so that he can control her there too and reminding her constantly of his terrible childhood, so that she'll feel guilty enough to continue doing what she believes he "needs." It's an insult to call that "BDSM." It's an insult to call it fully consensual.
"And our boys need to know that all women want a real man." Which is why no woman in her right mind should want Christian Grey.