50 Shades of Abuse

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Theresa Riviera

50 Shades of Grey has taken the US by storm, but for the right reasons?

Shelby Smith and Hope Bobbitt

With the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the novel by E.L. James, women around the country have become obsessed with the “romance” between Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). The movie, however, has become shrouded in controversy, its opposers claiming that it does nothing more than romanticize unhealthy relationships.

The book follows the story of Anastasia Steele, an English major who is about to graduate from college. Her life is turned upside down when she meets the controlling “megalomaniac” Christian Grey. Grey has a contract drawn up for their relationship, detailing strict rules for Ana as well as outlining limits for their sexual encounters.

Grey brings Ana into his world of BDSM.  The basis of BDSM ( bondage, discipline, domination, submission, and masochism) is, and has always been, consent, respect, and safety. It should never be about forcing or coercing people. It does not necessarily have to be painful and it should never be violent.

In any relationship, it is important to know what one is signing up for. There should be distinct lines between love and sex, pain and pleasure, and consent and abuse. When a person is in a manipulative relationship, however, like the one between Ana and Christian, these lines start to blur.

Like many relationships, Ana and Christian’s begins like a fairy tale. The handsome Christian Grey sweeps the average, innocent Anastasia Steele off her feet. This feeling, however, is ephemeral, as Anastasia’s enthusiasm about the relationship transforms into a fear of destroying it.

As a person who has never been in a serious relationship, there is no way Ana could have known better. He stalks her, constantly shows up announced, insists on controlling various aspects of  her life (wardrobe, diet, etc.), further invades her personal boundaries by tracking her phone, coerces her into sexual acts, ignores her limits, and usually leaves her hurt and confused.

Ana occasionally rolls her eyes at Christian, an action he deems worthy of physical punishment. He proceeds to physically abuse her, then returns to his own apartment, leaving her an emotional wreck.

Christian Grey is nothing short of a manipulative control freak. If Christian Grey had been anything other than an attractive billionaire, most of the world would agree that the way he treats the naive, former-virgin Anastasia is abominable.

She’s unhappy with her current standing in the relationship, but says nothing for fear of losing what she has. Because she’s never exactly sure where she stands with Christian, she’s constantly anxious and her attitude about herself directly correlates with his mood. She begins to focus more on what he wants and how she can make him happy, disregarding her own feelings and needs in the relationship. Ana is constantly walking on eggshells, careful not to say or do anything that might cause him to punish her or lose his affection.

The fact is, she knew what she was going into when she signed up. Yet, she chooses to ignore the fact that Christian clearly states their relationship would be strictly sexual. Ana fails to keep her emotions at bay and ends up falling in love with an emotionally unavailable man.

This appalling story is now seen as some kind of epic love story by the general public. In reality, it is the story of a unconfident young woman who is manipulated into an abusive relationship with a wealthy man.

Fifty Shades of Grey, both the novel and its movie adaptation, has become a household name. Young girls around the country know the content of this story and see it as a love story and perhaps something to aspire to.

The movie does nothing more than romanticize physical abuse and punishment. The very realistic fear is that this movie will lead young people to view this kind of relationship as normal or acceptable, two things it certainly is not.