50 Shades of Controversy

Well, my issues begin with…

So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the controversy surrounding the most recent “blockbuster” to hit theaters, 50 Shades of Grey.  Despite fearing repercussions from certain friends who may or may not even read my blog, I decided it was high time to share my two cents…for what it’s worth.

Whether you are a fan or opposed to the book/film, I truly hope you walk away from this post with something to think about…even if it doesn’t change your perspective.

Christian Grey terrifies me.

This is not because he likes the dark and dirty world of BDSM–but because he’s a sketchy, emotionally abusive, dictator in an unstable relationship that E. L. James is trying to tout as a healthy dom/sub relationship.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that I have no practical experience in the BDSM arena…but what I am is an avid reader.  You name it?  I’ve probably read it.

I also have a modicum of sense about me (at least, I think I do…).  Looking at Grey’s actions from an outside perspective:

  • He stalks her.  He figures out where Anna works and shows up unannounced.
  • When Anna turns down a job offer from Christian and accepts elsewhere, he simply buys the company.
  • He tracks her phone…and threatens to follow her as far as Alaska if she tries to run away.
  • He gets mad when she buys a plane ticket to go visit her family in Georgia without consulting him
  • He ignores the rules of roleplay, going so far as to ignore Anna when she says no (several times) during sex.

If this were happening to someone you knew, or even yourself, I know warning bells would be going off.  50 Shades of Grey is both a movie and a book that glorifies abuse.  What happens within its pages and on the screen is not a safe and consensual BDSM relationship.  It is as if E. L. James looked up the definition of an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and thought, “Huh!  You know what’d make a really good romance novel?”

I have no qualms against dom/sub relationships when they are explored correctly…but to put Anna’s and Christian’s relationship out there and to even call it a relationship is an insult to anyone, male or female, who has ever been in an abusive relationship.

I’ll quote Emma Green of The Atlantic:

As several experienced BDSM practitioners emphasized to me, there are healthy, ethical ways to consensually combine sex and pain. All of them require self-knowledge, communication skills, and emotional maturity in order to make the sex safe and mutually gratifying. The problem is that Fifty Shades casually associates hot sex with violence, but without any of this context. Sometimes, Ana says yes to sex she’s uncomfortable with because she’s too shy to speak her mind, or because she’s afraid of losing Christian; she gives consent when he wants to inflict pain, yet that doesn’t prevent her from being harmed.

The most troubling thing about the sex in Fifty Shades isn’t the BDSM itself: It’s the characters’ terrible communication.

I think what scares me the most is that people are going into this movie/book uninformed.  This is NOT what BDSM looks like.  This is NOT how you spice up your relationship.  This is NOT THE WAY TO GO.

I fear for every single person I know, if they go into this movie and walk out thinking that Christian Grey (or hell, even Edward Cullen.  I went there.) is the model of a perfect boyfriend and is exactly what they want to be looking for in a relationship.  I fear for every single person who exits that theater thinking that Anastasia Steele is a role model for roping in a millionaire and keeping their men interested in any way possible.  What this all boils down to is this; I fear ignorance.

I don’t care if you see the movie.  (Okay.  Yes I do.  If you see it, I won’t think less of you.  But if you enjoy it?  I’m judging.  Sorry, not sorry.)  But if you are one of the millions of people out there who not only give this film money but walk out of that theater and decide to change your relationship to “achieve theirs,” I fear for you.

I’ll end with an offer:

For those of you who want better books (or even fanfiction) with similar (or even slightly different) subject matter, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I’m all for rec’in the good rec.  😉


Pictures were taken from the6thsiren who simply took quotes from the book and tagged them onto the movie poster.  The Emma Green quotes were from this article.


Author: alisonlcohn

Graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communications Advertising. Traveled a bit. Taught for two years. Administered aptitude tests for a while. Worked as a Training Associate for Guardian Mortgage and a Quiz Master for Geeks Who Drink. Obtained my Master's in Film, Television and Screen Media in London, England. Now working as a small-group travel coordinator. Nice to meet you!

One thought on “50 Shades of Controversy”

  1. Very well written Alison. Great job on drawing the line between BDSM and an abusive relationship. I have not seen the movie or read any of the books so I cannot speak from experience but to me it sounds like a movie that glamorizes abusive relationships. Blog on Alison…

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