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Consensual BDSM is not abuse. Fifty Shades IS.

Posted by Emma and Natalie on April 27, 2014 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

I have a few reservations about writing on the subject of BDSM.  I openly admit that I've never personally been involved in the scene and am therefore what many would term "vanilla."  Discussing an aspect of life that I'm largely unfamiliar with is difficult and I'm conscious of the need to be as respectful and as accurate as possible.  With all of that in mind, I'd like to talk frankly about why BDSM is an inappropriate label for much of what happens in Fifty Shades.

When we speak out against EL James' best-selling trilogy, highlighting that the story is one of abuse rather than romance, we quickly receive criticism from the books' fans, telling us that we don't understand kink.  I suppose you could argue that, due to my inexperience, there are aspects of truth to that claim.  But I do understand abuse.  And I understand that there is a massive difference between consensual BDSM - where partners take account of safety, respect one another's limits and enjoy mutually pleasing one another, either through dominance or submission - and the "BDSM" portrayed in Fifty Shades; much of which is unsafe, not entirely consensual and obviously written with little knowledge of the lifestyle.

If two people wish to engage in a D/s relationship, it is nobody's place to stop them (providing they are of legal age and are not harming anyone/anything that has not consented or is unable to consent).  Here at 50 Shades Is Abuse, we are not about to start judging anyone for the lifestyle they have chosen and we know that many people are happily involved in BDSM relationships that bring them an enormous amount of pleasure.  That is great.  But in a BDSM relationship, there is - as with any "vanilla" relationship - the risk that one partner may become abusive.  Unfortunately, in Fifty Shades, BDSM is little more than a very convenient cover for Christian's abuse of Ana; she knows nothing of the lifestyle and is embarrassed even to research it.  This allows Christian to behave however he wants to, under the guise of being her Dominant.  

It's my firm belief that EL James did next to no research before writing her Twilight fan-fiction.  This might have been something that she could easily have gotten away with, had the piece on not become so famous.  Once those words were out in the wider world, EL James should have tightened them up and done some homework.  She should have done a lot more than simply change the name "Bella" to "Anastasia" and "Edward" to "Christian."  Why?  Because not doing so gives a false impression of BDSM.  And that - when you're talking about a world where physical punishment can be meted out - is dangerous.  Again, consensual BDSM is fine.  But with Ana's naivety and Christian's unwillingness to teach her properly (because keeping her blind to her rights enables him to abuse her), we are not given a portrait of a consensual BDSM relationship.  Instead, we're looking at an attempt at Total Power Exchange by manipulative, coercive consent at best.  An imbalance of power that Ana - the so-called "sub" - makes very clear that she is unhappy with from the start.  And with this portrayal being the only one some fans of Fifty shades have seen of the BDSM lifestyle, it leaves women searching for their own Christian Grey open to abuse at the hands of those only too happy to use BDSM as their cover, too.  Recently, we received word from a worried member of the BDSM community, who has witnessed the fallout from women becoming involved with abusive Dominants, thanks to Fifty Shades giving them a completely warped perspective of what the lifestyle entails.  Indeed, a quick search on a few BDSM forums this afternoon led me to find a number of "personal ads" from females identifying themselves as "newbie subs" - most of these posts had dozens of replies from Doms very willing to show them the literal ropes.

Now, I am not saying that all new submissives will be abused by Doms, or that all Doms who take interest in a sub new to the lifestyle are looking to abuse them.  To suggest as much would be offensive and disrespectful.  But there is a risk that if Fifty Shades is all fans know of BDSM, that they cannot be said to have a real handle on what they're getting involved in.  Those "newbie subs" may never have read the books, but I found several posts on forums from women who had.  Luckily, there were replies from members of the community telling them to find out more and not base their knowledge on just those books, but the other replies left me concerned for fans who seriously think that what they've read in Fifty Shades is an accurate depiction of what BDSM is.  The simply truth is, it's not.  The books are not a manual.  They are poorly researched fiction.  Please, if you've gotten this far through this post and you're a fan of the books, looking to take a newfound interest further, don't simply rely on what's contained within those pages for information.  My advice to anyone considering getting into BDSM is to research; go to meet-ups, visit clubs, speak to those already in the lifestyle, join forums, read books...  Find out what is acceptable and what isn't.  Know what your limits are and be very firm with anyone who sets about trying to break them.

Fans of Fifty Shades are quick to point out that Ana enjoys Christian's "kinky fuckery."  I'll agree that some of the sex scenes make it appear as though Ana is very much a willing participant in events.  But crucially, this does not apply to all sex scenes.  Also, Christian does not want the BDSM aspect of their relationship to remain confined to the bedroom.  He wants to dominate Ana in all areas of her life.  This is something that she does not consent to, but which he continues to push for.  Fans tell us that Christian can't help this; he needs to control.  He is a grown man, responsible for his behaviour.  If he needs to control someone 24/7, then he needs to look for someone who wants that too.  Ana does not.  Pushing her, manipulating her to change her mind, makes him an abuser, not a Dom.

I visited the blog BDSM For Dummies today and quickly found a list of abusive behaviours, which have no place in the world of BDSM.  Read them and ask yourself:  How many of these does Christian tick?!

 Ana is often depicted as being afraid of Christian.  Ana has also been hit and even bruised (book three) by Christian when he was angry, rather than sexually aroused.  She often tiptoes around him, hoping to avoid his temper, fearful of upsetting him.  Christian prevents Ana from seeing Kate - he claims this is for her own protection, but his actions up to this point do not match up with a caring partner.  He also becomes angry when she receives a call from Jose.  When Ana says she doesn't want to try anal, Christian says they'll do it anyway.  He ignores her desire not to be controlled all of the time.  Kate expresses her concern about Christian's behaviour towards Ana...  The warning signs are all there in the text.

A second website, features their own list of warning signs:

Christian tells Ana that unless she submits to him, there will be no relationship, saying "this is the only kind of relationship I'm interested in" (book 1).  He threatens to spank her when she doesn't immediately do as he tells her.  He buys her expensive gifts - a Blackberry, a laptop, a car - most of which can be traced back to his needs, rather than Ana's.  Christian uses the utterly ludicrous line: "Lovers don't need safewords" and becomes angry and upset when Ana uses hers.

Christian Grey is not a Dom.  He is an abuser.  I am tired of fans making the connection between what they read in these books and actual, consensual BDSM.  The two are worlds apart.  Confusing the two could have potentially disastrous consequences and I am not prepapred to shut up and wait for those consequences to happen.

"Fifty Shades Is..." Let's Take Over Twitter!

Posted by Emma and Natalie on March 26, 2014 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

We love all the support we've had on Twitter and we love that together, we're all joining as one to tell the world that abuse is NOT love.  But words are just one way of getting our message across and now it's time to get visual!!

We want you guys to help us to take over Twitter throughout the month of April.  We want to know what YOU think of Fifty Shades.  We have a handy PDF for you to download and print off ( which reads "Fifty Shades is..." and features our Twitter handle.  So we want to know:  What IS Fifty Shades to you?  A glorification of abuse?  An offensive, inaccurate depiction of BDSM?  Tell us and tell the world!  Tweet your photos (and please @ us in your tweet so we can see!), using the hashtag "FiftyShadesIsAbuse" and let's see how many powerful images we can send out there.

As an extra bit of visual campaigning, we'll be putting all the pictures you tweet into a video, which we hope to release in the coming weeks.

You can decorate your paper, you can write anything you want and you can have YOUR say.  So get creative and let's take over Twitter!

Letters To Ana/Christian (Part 4)

Posted by Emma and Natalie on March 22, 2014 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy Friday everyone!  Or indeed, happy whatever day it happens to be when you read this...

Throughout March, we've been posting letters to Ana and/or Christian from Fifty Shades, with the aim of giving you all a chance to have your voices and opinions heard.  Today, we're sharing a letter from @50shadesabuse founder, Natalie, who addresses Christian himself...


"Dear Christian,


You don’t fool me. Your money and good looks may hide the truth from some; may provide a mask of respectability for you to hide behind. But I see you. A hunger for power and control that leaks from every pore. Your creator may be convinced your behaviour is about sexual fantasy, about sexual pleasure. I know that’s not true. Your control and domination isn’t found in the bedroom or in the pleasure of those you dominate. It’s rooted in your beliefs.


Sexual dominants don’t look for naïve, innocent virgins and try to coerce them into signing a contract of pain. They don’t prevent them having space to think about choices. They don’t keep files on their partner without permission. They want a partner who is equally as interested in kinky sex as they are. You are not a dominant. You’re an abuser.


Then there’s your justification of your abuse of women. I don’t use the term abuse with any exaggeration or without full understanding of its meaning. Your mother’s treatment of you isn’t a reason for treating someone disrespectfully. It’s a reason to choose to live differently.


Also, I would suggest you sack your therapist Dr Flynn. His collusion with your abusive behaviours is doing you no favours. Therapy won’t help you. Therapy keeps the focus on your feelings and other people’s action. What you need is to focus on your actions and other people’s feelings. Your behaviour is rooted in beliefs of ownership and entitlement. You believe that women are there to be your possessions. They are not equals to be trusted and treated with respect. They are objects to provide you with pleasure.


Your money and good looks may fool some Mr Grey, but they don’t fool me. You’re an abuser through and through.




A Concerned Reader."

There's still just over a week left of March, so if you want to get involved and write your own letter to Ana or Christian, you can do so and send it to us at [email protected] - we'll publish it here for you.  Thanks again to all of you for your continued support!

Letters To Ana/Christian (Part 3)

Posted by Emma and Natalie on March 16, 2014 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Hello again, everyone!

Over the last couple of weeks, we've been publishing some of your letters to Ana/Christian from the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.  Tonight's letter is written by our account co-runner, Emma.  In her letter to Ana, she references her own experiences of sustained emotional abuse, so there is a trigger warning for some of the content.  

Please do keep those letters coming in and we'll post them on the blog!

"Dear Ana,

You're besotted with him, aren't you?  Christian occupies pretty much your every waking thought.  You've never met anyone like him.  You never even wanted to kiss anyone, until he came into your life.  I understand that level of devotion towards your partner.  I understand it, but I'm also a little wary of it.  You see, I felt that way about my ex.

You were a naive virgin when you met Christian.  I know you feel that your inexperience weighs heavily on you at times, when compared to Christian's understanding of all things sexual.  I felt similar.  I wasn't a virgin, but I had been single - and celibate - for a long time when I met my ex and I had only had one previous partner.  My ex, like Christian, was far more worldly.  And, much like in your case, my ex introduced me to experiences I had never had before.  You came into christian's world, not knowing anything about the kind of relationship he wanted to have with you.  Similarly, when I met my ex, I had never experienced the kind of relationship he expected us to have.  No, he didn't want to whip me in his Red Room of Pain.  He wanted me to be his "friend with benefits."  He expected me to be sexually available to him at all times - much like Christian expects the same of you - but he also wanted me to be fine with being pushed aside in favour of another girl at any given time.  He wanted me to be okay with listening to him brag about his sexual exploits with others.  And, just as you wrestled with your decision as to whether or not you could be involved in a BDSM relationship when you were so utterly unaware of what it would entail, I wondered whether I could possibly be okay with that kind of casual set-up with someone I was already falling so hard for (he didn't tell me what sort of relationship he expected us to have until we'd been seeing each other for five months).  And, just like you, I ignored my better judgement.  After all, we share a common attribute - my self esteem has taken many knocks over the years and it's fair to say that I was dazzled by the fact that a gorgeous guy like my ex wanted me.  ME!  Of all people!  And so, in spite of my reservations, I stuck around.  And I did so for a reason you'll be familiar with...

You see, my ex was a lot like Christian in many respects.  When he opened up to me about how he was abused as a child, I realised that I couldn't walk away from him.  He needed me!  He warned me off him, told me he wasn't a good man.  But by that time, I'd seen evidence of how wrong I believed he was.  He was funny, thoughtful and intelligent; why didn't he see those positive traits in himself?!  He needed me to show him.  He told me he couldn't help the way he behaved.  And, like you do with Christian, I believed him.  After all, he had no idea what real love was!  He had suffered horrible things that I wouldn't wish on anyone.  So of course he couldn't help the way he behaved.

He couldn't help it when he mocked me for being "stupid" or "pathetic."  He was just lashing out because I'd gotten too close to him and he didn't know how to deal with it.  He couldn't help it when I tried to hold him at night and he physically pushed me away and told me I was "desperate and clingy."  He had no experience of what a healthy relationship was; he'd had no choice but to build up barriers around himself.  He couldn't help it when he told me he loved me and never wanted me to leave him, then, with his next breath, told me I was just a girl he happened to be f*cking.  He was scared of admitting how he really felt; that's why he followed up a compliment or declaration of love with a casual insult.  He was trying to protect himself.  He couldn't help it when he made me perform sex acts on him, then told me afterwards that I made him feel physically sick and laughed at the idea of satisfying my sexual needs, before rolling over and warning me not to touch him.  He needed sex as a release and then afterwards he felt exposed and afraid and would verbally lash out.  He couldn't help it when he deliberately wound me up to the point of tears and then smugly told me how unattractive and unlovable it was when I cried, or became frustrated and angry.  He was so full of anger because of what had happened to him.  He couldn't help it when he humiliated me and talked down to me.  He had never been treated any differently.

Except the truth is, of course he could help it.  He chose to hurt me.  He chose to abuse me, emotionally, psychologically and sexually.  He made a CHOICE, Ana.  And that's what Christian is doing.  You truly believe that his childhood made him the man he is today and he now cannot help his own behaviour.  But look at him, Ana.  Christian Grey runs a hugely successful company.  He makes decisions, deals with other business people and manages his staff.  He has employees at home as well as at work.  You don't get to where he is by being so emotionally crippled that you don't know what is or isn't acceptable behaviour.  He has adoptive parents whose marriage seems to be a happy one.  He knows how adult relationships work.  He isn't clueless, Ana.  He's very intelligent.  And he has you excusing whatever he does, because he has chosen to allow you to believe that he knows no better, when of course that isn't true.  In other words, he has manipulated you, just like my ex manipulated me.  Oh, I know what you'll say.  He uses up all his energy, appearing normal and healthy at work, then breaks down once he gets home.  Even if that were true - which I can tell you from experience, almost certainly isn't - you're not his therapist, Ana.  Neither are you his punching bag, verbally or otherwise.  Everything he does to you, he chooses to do.  Because he does know better.

He chooses to stalk you, no matter where you go.  That's not an example of his passion for you, or evidence that he's so damaged that he doesn't understand personal boundaries.  It's evidence of a man using his wealth and power to make sure you don't escape.   He chooses to ignore whether or not you've given consent, before he commits a sexual act.  Not because he's so overcome with desire that he can't help himself, but because you are - as you yourself once pointed out - just a vessel to be filled at his whim.  He chooses to bruise your body without permission, not because he is into BDSM, but because he is obsessed with controlling every aspect of your life and he genuinely cannot stand to see you make your own choices.  He chooses to throw you off balance with his remarks, not because he doesn't know how to talk to someone normally, but because he wants you off balance.  That way, you're much easier to manipulate.

I know you don't want to hear this, Ana.  Believe me, neither did I.  If I accepted that he was choosing to behave the way he was, it would mean that he didn't care about me as much as he claimed - how could he?!  And of course I wanted to believe his declarations of love.  Don't we all?  The thought of losing him was unbearable and, like you, I just wanted to try harder to make it work.  I felt as though it was up to me to make everything better.  I know you know how that feels, Ana.

You so often say that you feel scared, confused or alone.  I know those feelings all too well, Ana.  It's not how a healthy relationship is supposed to make you feel.  You need to listen to yourself.  When you feel anxious or uncertain, that's your body's way of telling you that you're in a bad situation and you need to get out.  That little voice in your head, screaming at you that something isn't right, is the only one you need to listen to.  Not your "Inner Goddess," or your very conscious "Subconscious."  Not even me, writing this letter.  You need to listen to yourself.  Believe me, I know how hard it is to force yourself to hear what your body is trying to tell you.  I ignored the sinking feeling I had in my belly every time my ex pushed me away.  I ignored the voice of doubt, asking me whether I was even really happy.  All because I was so manipulated by my ex, that I believed that it was me that had the problem in the relationship and me that needed to fix it all, because he was too damaged and vulnerable to get by without me.  He needed me!

It sounds cruel, Ana, but you're not different to anyone else.  You're not the special, magical woman who will "fix" this man.  Christian might tell you that you're the one who's gotten closer to him than anyone ever has before, but they're just words.  I remember them very clearly.  It was only after I walked away that I realised that the words he spoke meant absolutely nothing.  Because when someone tells you they love you and that you're special, they back it up with actions.  Not fancy, expensive gifts that you don't even want.  Real actions.  They encourage you to be yourself and to spend time with your friends.  They don't try to shoe-horn you into an ideal they've decided is the only acceptable form of you.  They want you to spread your wings and forge a career, if that's what you want.  They don't buy your company so that they can control you in the workplace.  They listen to your needs and they respect you when you say "no," rather than trying to coerce you into coming round to their way of thinking, or forcing their desires on you in spite of your reservations.

You think you've found someone who loves and needs you.  You think you will never love another man the way you love Christian Grey.  You think that if you walk away, his world will shatter.  Trust me, Ana.  I thought the same.

He'll find someone else to manipulate before you even realise what's going on.  He'll show you his true colours and the scales will fall from your eyes.  You've been blinded to his abuse, just like I was when I was with my ex.  You've seen his good points and you cling on to the hope that one day, they'll be ALL you'll see.  That that sinking feeling, that fear and confusion will evaporate.  It won't, Ana.  If this relationship was healthy, those feelings wouldn't have been there in the first place.  And the longer you stay, the worse they're going to get, because the worse Christian will get.  Why?  Because he'll think he can get away with it, because you're not going anywhere.

Prove him wrong, Ana.  

I know how hard it is.  I know you think you'll never be able to cope without him.  I know you'll wrestle with feelings of guilt and you'll wonder if you should have tried harder.  You'll blame yourself.  I'm not going to lie to you; it's not going to be easy.  But you can do it.  You can rebuild your life and live it your way.  You can be free from control.  You can learn to like yourself, without needing his approval.  You have friends and family who will support you in entering a new phase of your life.   And there are charities and organisations who will help keep you safe and who will make you see - more than I probably have in this letter - that what you think is "love" on Christian's behalf, is abuse and you do NOT deserve it.  Trust me, Ana.  You're only twenty one.  You have the whole of your life ahead of you.  Live it in freedom.

I wish you the best of luck."

Letters to Ana/Christian (Part 2)

Posted by Emma and Natalie on March 6, 2014 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Hello again everyone!  Before we post the second of your amazing letters to the lead characters in Fifty Shades, we have a couple of little plugs:

1. Next month, we want to turn Twitter into a series of photos from our fabulous followers, telling the world what Fifty Shades is to them.  Please, please do get involved.  Here's how to go about it: We're really hoping to see this one fly, so please do download the PDF and join in when we start posting photos in April.  All photos will be used in a campaign video (unless any contributor specifically asks us not to use theirs) and we're very excited about seeing how much attention this campaign will get! :D

2.  After reading that fans have started a petition to request that the forthcoming Fifty Shades film gets an earlier release date, because they're just SO excited about seeing the "love story" on screen, we decided to start our own online petition to have the movie either pulled, or screened with a content warning regarding the romanticised abuse.  Please do give it a quick sign!" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://

So, onto the next of your letters to Ana/Christian.  Following the last one, written to Christian by a fellow Dom, here's a letter to Ana, from a female survivor of an abusive relationship.  Again, thank you to those of you who've been sending your letters in to us for this.  There's still a little time to get yours to us: [email protected] if you want to take part.

"Dear Ana,

We're not so dissimilar, you and I.  I have long brown hair and big eyes, too.  I studied English at college and like you were, I was pretty niave about sex and relationships.  And like you, I met an abusive man who took advantage and abused me.

Hear me out, Ana.  I know you don't see your "Fifty Shades" as being abusive.  But everything he says and does to you scares me.  Why?  Because I've been there, done that and had the therapy as a result.

For instance, you say Christian uses sex as a weapon.  My ex did the same.  And just like you, it didn't really matter what I wanted in the bedroom, as long as he was getting his way.  It didn't matter if I said no.  Ana, when a man forces himself on you, it's rape, not BDSM or anything else you want to call it.  When he only cares about his sexual desires and treats you like an object to be used, it's abuse.

You "joke" that Christian is a stalker.  There's nothing funny about it.  I remember my ex turning up outside my new house and being paralysed with fear.  I'd never given him my address, just like you'd never given Christian yours, the first time he went to your home.  It's not romance, or passion.  Tracing your cell phone, or turning up unannounced is creepy, Ana.

Just like I did, time after time you tell Christian "no" and he ignores you.  You say "no" to anal sex.  He says yes.  You say "no" to being a 24/7 submissive, but he controls every aspect of your life anyway.  You say "no" to having your skin marked during "punishment sex" on your honeymoon and he buys you expensive jewelry to make it all better again.  He's not sorry, Ana.  He's only sorry you kicked up a fuss about it.

None of what is happening is your fault.  You're inexperienced and Christian has manipulated you into thinking you're responsible for "fixing" him.  You're not.  He is.  And he doesn't want to be fixed.

Ana, we're pretty alike, you and I.  I got out of my abusive relationship, once I recognised that's what it was.  You can too.  Open your eyes to the way your "Fifty Shades" treats you.  Get some help and get as far away from him as possible.  He's not a "white knight" as you once called him.  There's nothing heroic about abuse."

Letters To Ana/Christian (Part 1)

Posted by Emma and Natalie on March 3, 2014 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (20)

Over the last few weeks, we've been asking our fantastic followers on Twitter and Facebook to email us with a letter written to either Ana or Christian from the Fifty Shades trilogy.  We told them they could write whatever they liked, from whatever perspective they wanted.  Throughout the month of March, we'll be posting these letters on our blog (usually anonymously, unless specifically asked to use the contributors' names).  Should you wish to get involved and are worried you're too late - don't panic!  We can probably squeeze in a few more, so if there's anything you'd like to say to Ana or Christian, email us at [email protected] and we'll post your letter on here for you.

Our first letter comes from a Dom, who addresses Christian's behaviour...


"Dear Christian,


It must seem odd to you to receive so much unsolicited advice. There again, you're a fictional character, so it's not as if you're going to ask the police to deal with all these people harassing you..

Let me tell you a little about me.

Like you, I enjoy dominating those whom I have sex with.

Unlike you, I regard consent as being absolutely necessary, and I don't believe that any woman can be made to be submissive - life is better, I find, if one deals only with those who know they are submissive and seeking a BDSM relationship.

That's not really why I'm writing to you though Christian - lots of people will tackle the issue of whether what you do is BDSM, or legitimate, or just a kind of stylish rape, but I want to tackle who you are.


In the books Christian, we're told lots of stuff about your childhood, and abuse, and early sexual experiences that may not have been entirely consensual, as if that contextualizes the fact that you're a rapist and a stalker.


Now, I believe those accounts of your childhood Christian, even if I wonder about the motives of your creator. I believe them, and I want to share with you some of my experiences of living through my childhood experiences.


I know you'll feel that your experiences are unique, and of course they're different to my experiences, but that's not the issue. Whether your mother was a crack whore, or my virginity was taken by a man three times my age who didn't care that I was not yet a teenager, and was quite probably aroused by that fact, each of us was a victim.

Learning not to explain my mistakes in later life by reference to my childhood experiences was not easy, but it had to be done. You need to make that step too.You have to, because you are accountable for the things you do, and the things you overlook, like consent.


I know you're a fictional character Christian, and you only really exist to enable a rather turgid plot to move through a series of melodramatic episodes that are shallower than the average summer time puddle, but the point has to be made. You would have no reason to complain if Ana called the police on you, and no defence. Repeating your childhood history won't help.


Take responsibility Christian. Take responsibility for the things you do, and put your childhood behind you, not as if you can forget it, but so you can keep it in its context."



We want to say a massive thank you to the author of this letter.  We'll be posting more as the month progresses.  Watch this space and remember, if you want to send your own letter to Ana or Christian, drop us an email at [email protected]

If writing's not your thing, you can still get involved in raising awareness.  In April, we aim to take over Twitter with a photo campaign, telling the world exactly what we think of Fifty Shades.  The photos will then be collected and used in a video, which we hope will take our message even further.  The photo doesn't have to feature your face and can therefore be totally anonymous.  If you want to get involved, all the details you'll need are here:

The Cult of Fifty Shades?

Posted by Emma and Natalie on March 2, 2014 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Something happened on Twitter last night.  I (Emma) tweeted from my personal account that I had noticed that Christian Grey was trending and I lamented over women falling for such a manipulative, stalking, threatening character.  I had two responses from fans.

The first suggested that it's just "human nature" to find a man like Christian Grey attractive.  When I responded that actually, my survival instict is to naturally avoid someone who threatens to hurt me or control me against my will, they told me I was getting needlessly angry and they couldn't work out why, when it was just a book (a common response from fans who don't understand why romanticising abusive behaviour in literature is wrong).  I explained that I had been in an abusive relationship with a man much like Grey.  They then said:

"So you were in a relationship with someone like that - you've just contradicted everything you've said.  You must have wanted a man like Christian at some point."

You are intelligent enough to not need me to explain why that was a massively offensive thing to say, but assuming a Fifty Shades fan stumbles upon this blog and agrees with the sentiment, let me say:  I did not ever want an abusive man in my life.  I didn't actively seek someone who would manipulate me, treat me as though I was a worthless object, or place responsibility for "curing" him of his abusive ways on my shoulders.  I fell in love with someone and that's what I ended up with.  It's entirely different to going out and saying "I want a man who'll do those things."  Yet, in the eyes of this Fifty Shades defender, I must have known exactly what I was getting into when I met my ex and I must have somehow consented.

I blocked the sender of the tweet.  And then a second fan got in touch and it got a whole lot worse.

The second fan - who called herself "greysessed" (as an aside, if words were objects, I'd stamp on that one until it broke into a zillion pieces and then hurl it off a cliff) - told me it was "obvious" that I hadn't read the books.  Presumably because I was finding fault with them and straying from the "Christian Grey is the perfect man" mantra that fans have adopted.  When I responded that I actually had read them, they persisted in suggesting I didn't know what I was talking about.  I explained - for the second time that evening - that I had been in an abusive relationship and recognised abuse in the books.  The fan replied with:

"Sorry, but comments like that are just an insult to people who experience abuse."

So...  I'm insulting myself?  This person clearly had no consideration for what they were saying and hadn't taken the time to think - even for a second - that when a person says they've been abused and they recognise the signs, that perhaps responding sensitively might be a good idea.  Instead, this fan completely denied my experince by claiming that I was insulting abused people (therefore not counting me as one of those people) and attempted to give herself the moral highground by making it look as though she was concerned for those who experience abuse.  of course, that moral highground shattered the instant I pointed out the vileness of what she had just done (intentionally or not) and she responded by denying her words and patronising me (as well as another Twitter user who also highlighted that she had just horribly gaslighted a survivor of abuse), saying: "I don't think that's what I said, do you?  Why not click that little block button?"

The reason I'm speaking about this today isn't because I'm angry or upset, although I was and am.  It's because when I had stopped shaking and feeling completely diminished by such horrible reactions from the books' supporters, I had a sudden realisation:  Who first suggested that seeing abuse in the books does a disservice to abuse victims?  The author.  

Yes, EL James was quoted as saying that those who see abuse in the books are demonising people who enjoy BDSM and doing a disservice to women who experience abuse.  And she said that after she had blocked plenty of people who'd contacted her to say that they'd been reminded of their own abusive relationships after reading the books - I know, because I was one of those people - so she was well aware that actually, it was the very people she was claiming to care about that were speaking out, but she utterly minimised them by suggesting that their genuine concerns were somehow doing a disservice to those who live through abuse.  Now her fans are doing the very same thing.

My question is this:  Why are fans so wrapped up in the fantasy world that James has created, that they cannot break rank and listen to an opposite opinion?  Why are they trotting out the same, deeply offensive responses when told by abuse survivors that they can recognise the red flags throughout the Fifty Shades trilogy?  I can almost - and it only almost - understand EL James doing the equivalent of sticking her fingers in her ears and going "la la la."  She has made millions from this story and it's still massively hyped.  Although the ability to look objectively at your work is, in my eyes, a must for any writer, she has done okay out of refusing point blank to do so, so why should she stop now, eh?  Common decency?  Pah.  But her fans have nothing to gain from repeating her "seeing abuse in my books is doing a disservice to abuse victims" bullshit (excuse my language, but I'm angry).  So why are they bleating it out, like well trained sheep?

I'm a fan of many things - bands,TV shows etc.  But if someone criticises one of the things I love, I will usually consider why they're saying it, even if I leap to defend it.  If someone gave me actual evidence that say, a song by a band I love might actually romanticise abuse, I would look at it objectively and want to at the very least show that I was taking the person's concern seriously.  If the person told me they had been abused and they found the song triggering, I'd want to show respect and empathy for that person, rather than blindly defend the lyrical content.  

So why are Fifty Shades fans unable - or unwilling - to do this?  Answers on a postcard...

When You Wish For Your Own Christian Grey, What Are You Really Going To Get?

Posted by Emma and Natalie on February 23, 2014 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (99)

It's something we see on Twitter, Facebook and on blogs written by Fifty Shades fans, day in, day out.  "Oh how I wish I had my own Christian Grey."  But what are these people really wishing for?  A ridiculously handsome guy?  That's harmless enough.  A man so rich he could buy you absolutely anything you ever wanted?  Perhaps that's a little shallow, but ultimately, it's still harmless.  What's not harmless is qualifying that dream man by saying you actually want Christian Grey.  Sure, he's portrayed as having the looks and the money, but look beyond that to his actual behaviour.  Imagine what a relationship with him would really be like...

Imagine living with a partner who checks up on you at work to keep you "in your place."  Who tells you that he intends to buy any company you're employed by, in order to have constant control over you, whether you like it or not.  Your professional life would no longer be your own.  It would be entirely under his control.

Imagine your home life being equally restricted.  You are told what to eat, what to wear and how to behave, in spite of trying to argue against this level of excessive, unwanted control.  You aren't given your own free choices.  Imagine that when your life is put in danger, your partner's obsession for control means he refuses to involve the police, in spite of claiming that he wants to protect you.  You are now someone else's puppet, both at home and at work; everything in your life is dictated by someone else.

Imagine your social life taking a nose-dive, as well.  You're made to seek permission from your partner before you can agree to a night out with friends.  You feel fearful of his reaction if he finds out you've been on a night out after he has forbidden it.  You can't go away to visit family, without him turning up out of the blue to ensure you don't have any respite from him.  He becomes jealous and possessive every time you speak to a male friend and he slowly isolates you from your female ones, too.

Imagine that, whilst being controlled in everything you do, there are punishments for stepping out of line.  Punishments you've not agreed to.  Punishments you've actively told your partner you do not want.  Imagine being threatened with physical violence (NOT BDSM) if you break your partner's "rules."  Being told you'll be hit "and it'll have nothing whatsoever to do with my sexual gratification" because you're not hungry enough to eat dinner.  Being bruised all over your chest and having your wrists and ankles hurt as punishment for sunbathing topless.  Being picked up and dragged through the streets when you've said no to going with your partner.  None of the above is accurate or safe BDSM.  All are abusive acts.  All are present in Fifty Shades.

Imagine saying no to sex and trying to kick your partner away, then having him tell you that if you struggle, he'll tie your feet together and gag you so that you can't make a sound.  That's not "kinky fuckery."  It's rape.

Imagine telling your partner that you find aspects of your sex life less than enjoyable.  Imagine telling him that he's making you feel "abused" and "humiliated."  And then imagine him telling you to deal with it.

Imagine your partner using emotional manipulation to encourage you to think that he can't help the way he treats you.  Imagine believing that he doesn't know any better.  Imagine feeling responsible for "fixing" him.  Imagine wondering whether it's you who has the problem.

The fact is, the life described above is exactly what Ana has with Christian Grey.  And it's also what 1 in 4 women experience day in, day out.  Being controlled, threatened and manipulated.  It's not love.  It's not "kinky fuckery."  It's abuse.

And yes, I'm sure there are Fifty Shades fans who'll be oh so eager to tell me of Christian's good points.  The way he buys gifts for Ana, or the flowery words he gives her - his promises of love.  News flash:  Abusers do all of that, too.  It's how they get their partners to stay.  Those glimpses of the person they fell in love with are enough to keep them there.  

The truth is simple.  Christian Grey is an abusive man, whose behaviour has been romanticised by an author lucky enough (presumably) never to have experienced abuse herself.  Next time you see someone pining for a Christian Grey of their own, send them this blog.  Ask them to consider what they're really wishing for.  And pray they never get it.

Fifty Shades Is...

Posted by Emma and Natalie on February 14, 2014 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello again everyone!

We mentioned in yesterday's blog update that we're looking for ways to get our message - that Fifty Shades romanticises abusive behaviour - heard far and wide in the year leading up to the first film release.

March is still going to be our Letters to Ana/Christian month (check our last blog entry for details of how to get involved!), but we also know that a picture paints a thousand words.  So we're issuing you with a photo challenge!  We've got a handy PDF file for you to print out, which says "Fifty Shades is..." and features our Twitter handle at the bottom.  We want to know what Fifty Shades is to YOU.  Is it an accurate description of abuse?  Do you see it as an offensive portrayal of BDSM?  Whatever your feelings, this is your chance to scribble them down and take a photo (your face doesn't have to feature if you want anonymity) of yourself holding the sign.  The photos will be used for a campaign video due for release in April (unless you ask us not to feature yours), so the closing date for pictures is the last week of March.

Here's Emma's sign to give you some inspiration!  

Print off your own sign here ( and tell us what YOU think of Fifty Shades.  Tweet using the hashtag #FiftyShadesIs or, if you prefer, email your pictures to us at [email protected]

As always, thank you for your amazing support.  The next twelve months are going to be busy - join us in letting the world know that abuse is NOT love!

Natalie & Emma


Get Involved With The 50 Shades Is Abuse Campaign!

Posted by Emma and Natalie on February 13, 2014 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Recently, quite a few of you have been asking how you can get more involved with 50 shades Is Abuse.  We LOVE that you're all itching to help us take a stand against abuse being romanticised as love and we've been scratching our heads as to how best to put your enthusiasm to good use!

After much thinking, we're proud to announce that March is going to be a month to get your creative juices flowing.  We'd like you to write a letter to either Ana or Christian (or both!).  Tell them - ideally in 500 words or fewer - how you feel about their relationship and what advice you can give. Whatever you want to say, this is your chance to say it! The letters - which of course can be submitted anonymously, should you prefer - will form part of some new and exciting campaign materials we're working on, including videos for our new 50 Shades Is Abuse YouTube channel.

With just a year to go until the Fifty Shades franchise hits cinema screens, we need to be raising our voices louder than ever before and we would love you to join us!  Send your letters to us via email at [email protected] and we'll publish them on our blog and use some of them in our new video campaign.  Let's send out a message loud and clear:  Abuse is NOT love.

We can't wait to hear from you!

Natalie & Emma