Published on February 26th, 2015 | by Richard Boom
Why Fifty Shades of Grey is Not What You Want Your Sex Life to Look Like
If you have yet to see the film adaptation of the first installment in the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James, you’re probably among an ever-increasing few. After two weeks in theaters, the movie has raked in over $400 million worldwide, as reported by USA Today. The plot goes something like this: Naïve, virginal college student Anastasia Steele falls for the handsome, young, multi-millionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey. Anastasia sees Christian as out of her league, the popular jock to her school nerd. But then, it turns out, Christian is attracted to her, too, and the two enter into a sexual relationship that centers on Christian’s “unconventional” interests.
Aside from the fact that Rotten Tomatoes‘ critics score is sitting at 24 percent (out of 100!) and that the New Yorker deemed it “not just unromantic but specifically anti-romantic,” Fifty Shades of Grey presents a whole slew of sticking points far beyond a lack of chivalry and adequate wooing. Not only does the film perpetuate myths about the world of BDSM, it promotes a much darker, and more dangerous, issue that was already prominent (and prominently ignored) in today’s society before the movie’s release: the normalization of abusive relationships and sexual assault.
As much as Fifty Shades is touted as a portrayal of BDSM, the truth is, this is not how members of the kink community conduct their relationships. According to Adam and Eve, communication is one of the most important parts of kink and BDSM sex, because that’s how partners establish trust, a crucial element when you’re say, letting someone tie you up naked or lash you with a leather whip. But Ana does not sign a contract agreeing to be Christian’s submissive because she wants to, or because she trusts him during sex. She signs it because she doesn’t want to lose him or jeopardize their relationship.
But, as Washington Square News points out, there is a line between consenting dominating relationships and intimate partner abuse, one that Fifty Shades of Grey, unfortunately, crosses. Not only does Christian Gray exert ultimate control during sex—even when Ana protests—he also controls what Ana eats and wears while tracking her cellphone usage. These are clear signs of an abusive relationship. In the movie, Christian often “surprises” Ana (though most of us would likely refer to it as “stalking”), showing up randomly at the hardware store where she works, at her apartment, a nightclub, a bar where she’s having a drink with her mom. Erratic and obsessive behaviour such as Christian Grey’s would normally be seen as more serial-killer than potential lover, no? And though that sentiment is even joked about in the film, by Anastasia herself, Christian’s questionable behaviour is seemingly never given a serious second thought.
Nearly one in five women in the United States report they have been raped or have experienced an attempted rape at some point, one in four say they have been beaten by an intimate partner, and one in six have been stalked, according to the New York Times. This all makes a plot such as Fifty Shades’, where control is equated with love and romance, a very troubling one.
Don’t get me wrong; erotica can be a great way to boost your libido and energize your sex life. And while Fifty Shades should be applauded for the contributions it has made to an open dialogue about fetishes and sexual fantasies, the scenes in the film should not be considered lightly when looking for inspiration for your sex life.