50 Shades of fucked up

Illustration+by+Blake+Lahham

Illustration by Blake Lahham

Maria Esquinca, Copy Editor

Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele are the newest power couple. Their taboo love, filled with rope, paddles and leather whips, have sold more than 100 million copies.

I remember first reading the novel in 2011. Huddled over the book, I was entranced and finished the book in two days.

My uncle asked me what I was reading, and I mumbled, ‘nothing.’

I didn’t want to tell him I was reading a BDSM scene, where Ana, the protagonist, was getting her clitoris flicked with a leather whip by the handsome Christian Grey.

I thought the writing was bad, but it was something new, and it felt strangely liberating to read something so taboo.

If you were to ask me now what I think about the book I would say the book is the continuation of the literal and symbolic domination of women by men through a skewed view of BDSM.

The book, “50 Shades of Grey” is about Ana Steele and Christian Grey. Ana, a young college student, first meets the handsome and rich Grey for an interview for the college newspaper. This marks the beginning of a BDSM dom/sub union through a legal contract.

Rhonda Perky, a student sociologist who writes about BDSM, wrote that dominace/sumission, sadism and masochism, fall under the label of BDSM.

S&M is about deriving sexual pleasure from pain. The dom or sadist inflicts pain upon the sub or masochist.

However, “50 Shades of Grey” portrays an abusive relationship under the guise that it’s BDSM.

Instances of abusive-possessive behavior are shown before the BDSM contract is signed between Ana and Grey.

He is presented as a controlling man a few pages into the book.

When first interviewing him, Grey tells Ana that he exercises “control on all things,” (pg. 12).

He further adds, “A man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled. I’m very singular, driven. I like control – of myself and those around me” (pg. 11).

This possessive behavior extends to Ana—she is something to be owned, something to be had—and in this manner she is de-humanized and objectified.

“You are mine,” he whispers. “Only mine. Don’t forget it,” (pg 86). It’s important to note, that this scene is before they’re actings as dom/sub’s.

Day One, a non-profit organization that fights to end dating abuse and domestic violence, lists possessiveness or treating you like property as a warning sign of abuse.  Others include jealousy or insecurity, telling you what to do and explosive temper, all behaviors seen in Grey throughout the book.

People that defend the book are quick to point out that the relationship is not abusive because it’s part of BDSM.

Yet, Clarisse Thorn, a BDSM writer, says within BDSM role policing is a way to police that dom/sub role in a way that leads, assumptions about both roles.

“Often, people do this via what we call role policing–they make claims about “real submission” and “real dominance.”

Grey participates in role policing by telling Ana that she is supposed to act submissive to him, “in all things.”

“It means I want you to willingly surrender yourself to me, in all things.” I frown at him as I try to assimilate this idea. “Why would I do that?” “To please me,” he whispers,” (pg.72).

Thorn adds that this is problematic because, “the consent problem here is that role policing can be used to mess with people’s consent.”

The consent between Ana and Grey are clearly blurred in the book.

Pamela Anderson, another writer and BDSM’er writes, “When a submissive or dominant says “Red” it means HARD STOP.  Christian not only ignored Ana’s safe word in one scene, but he expressed anger at her need to hold her own boundaries.  That is sexual abuse and assault. That is not BDSM”

These are a few out of many examples from a book that romanticizes abuse, under the pretense that it’s “BDSM.”

This book and the movie are harmful to women because it presents an abusive relationship as something ideal, romantic and Grey as the perfect partner.

Anderson concludes, “while the book may be a sexy read (it’s fiction!), we really don’t want to have this as our template for hot sexy delicious consensual BDSM sexual encounters and relationships.”

It’s my hope that readers and viewers, especially women, will be able to make the distinction not only between fiction and reality, but also between healthy and abusive.

Grey is not the perfect man. He is an abusive controlling man.

Maria Esquinca may be reached at [email protected]