50 Shades of Grey Areas

The 50 Shades Trilogy has stirred a few debates in my world recently about the messages we send as writers. It’s been a hot topic because of the power struggles/control/abuse themes and I’m opinionated about them because I cover these themes in Tainted Love and Mr Know It All.

I was greatly disgusted with what was presented to me as a vulnerable and innocent girl surrendering herself into a relationship, agreeing to be tortured/abused and thinking he would change because some guy said he loved her and with the happy ever after of him actually changing… This is not responsible fiction! But I decided if I was truly going to comment on someone else’s work… I should have the decency to at least READ it!  

Firstly, let’s get to the truth … this is a love story. Typical girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love – have A LOT of sex, of both the kinky and the vanilla variety. Girl and boy fall out. Christian declares he doesn’t want his BDSM lifestyle any more; he wants Ana. and we learn more about Christian and his fifty shade of f*@#ed up as well as Ana’s insecurities. Its actually a bloody good love story and even if you skip through the scorching hot scenes its worth a read. Hence, no spoilers. 
Now to the messages, I was told this book was about an innocent girl willingly entering into as relationship with a man and allowing him to torture her because he loved her, thinking he’d change for her, and then he does. I had red mist steaming from my ears a la cartoon character. This is not right. This is not ok. And THIS is not responsible fiction writing!

Words have power and as writers we should be aware of the subconscious messages we are putting in the hands of our audience. Its fiction, you say, its only for entertainment. But when dealing with something as sensitive as relationship power struggles, control, abuse, and to some extent here, the reasons some people make the lifestyle choices they do, I think we should be more aware of what were saying to our readers. 

I was upset by the rumoured story line of 50 Shades because abusive relationships are easy enough to get into already without telling readers that its okay to get into them. And they’re hard to get out of. Very hard and it usually means the victim gives up everything to get away. The issue I had with the happy ever after is that leopards don’t usually change their spots, and it takes years and years of therapy for it to happen  in an abusive situation. That’s why I had to read it. 

50 Shades of Grey Areas  

Christian has some serious issues and chooses this lifestyle because the them. In fact, All of Ana’s perceived threats who “like it rough” have some serious issues in one way or another. So even though the psychiatrist says its not a psychological disorder its a lifestyle choice, the author has made all the people who engage in BDSM (bar Ana) completely nuts! Well … ? What are we to draw from this? the reason people choose this lifestyle is because they have emotional and psychological issues?…surely not…. Hmm… grey area.

I’m concerned by the glamorisation of the BDSM activities within the book. Ana as a newcomer in this world is naturally curious. She explores with an experienced partner and finds it incredibly … um, satisfying shall we say. However, it is a dark and dangerous world and you only have to watch TV programs such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to find out just how dangerous. This book will and probably has found its way into the hands of the sexually inquisitive. What might happen if the inexperienced were to explore this world without guidance? 

Of course, I’m not saying that you can blame the book for anything that might happen, although I guarantee there will be people out there who will. The author ensures Ana looks at what she’s getting herself into, she asks questions, she knows Christian hurt someone in the past and therefore he is capable of hurting her but … my point is the sexual pleasure/pain line is thin and E L James makes it appear attractive.  What happens when crossing that line isn’t nice? There are very serious consequences which were not addressed by this trilogy. I’m discounting the boy and girl fall out scenario, which is weak in comparison to what I’m talking about here because they make up and they continue to have really great sex. Well, don’t they in almost every romance novel?

Christian is an overbearing, overprotective, over the top, jealous, controlling millionaire. Ana will not do everything he tells her. She argues with him, she challenges him. But she always seems to bow under his pressure. He distracts he with sex when he’s done talking. He buys her gifts she does not want and she ends up accepting them. She’s confused, intimidated and scared of him a lot of the time. (Can I point out that in my research for Tainted Love and Mr Know It All that I have found these behaviours are also signs of an abusive relationship.) So here we find ourselves in another shaded grey area and its an issue that wasn’t really addressed. An issue that asks is it okay to be in this kind of relationship and to be made to feel this way just because I love him and he loves me? To be honest…. I don’t know. and in my personal opinion I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been there themselves can answer that question.  

You know, I could ramble on all day…  but I stand by my point, (or rather Annetta Ribken’s point) WORDS HAVE POWER. Even if we’re unconsciously aware of what we are writing at the time we should think about the messages we’re sending as we send them. Art is Art we shouldn’t ever censor it. But we should talk about it and never bury our heads in the sand also known as “Its fiction… its only there for entertainment”

Erin

3 thoughts on “50 Shades of Grey Areas

  1. Great post, Erin–I have as yet to make it past chapter six, simply unable to keep reading due to a number of issues that have nothing to do with me being a prude… It's nice to hear your assessment.

  2. I read all 3 books, curious as to what all the hubbub was about, and I was sorely disappointed. There didn't seem to be much plot outside of the sex. It got to the point where I actually skipped over sex scenes so I could keep reading in search of a story. Christian annoyed me to no end. He was horribly emotionally abusive to Ana. I once wrote a possible conversation between Christian and Ana on my blog to highlight his ridiculous behavior. It went something like this:
    Ana: "I like the color blue."
    Christian: "You don't LOVE ME?!"
    Ana: "What? No! Of course I love you!"
    Christian: "But you said you like blue…that means you don't like black…or at least that you like blue more than black…which means you don't like my black shirt, and that means you DON'T LOVE ME!"
    Ana: "I love you, Christian! I'm so sorry that I was so inconsiderate!"
    He reacted so violently to mundane comments and actions. It made me sick how Ana was constantly walking on eggshells to avoid hurting his feelings. He wasn't abusing her physically in this regard- only emotionally. I agree with you. This is not responsible fiction.

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