It is ironic that the movie Fifty Shades of Grey is set to hit theaters this Valentine’s Day—redefining a day that is specifically deemed as a celebration of love. Instead of lighthearted romance, Fifty Shades of Grey focuses on deviant sexual practices like bondage and control; it is a blatant attempt to normalize violent sexual behaviors. The film, based on a book by the same name, is a dangerous first step towards mainstreaming this sort of violence against women.
Based on early reviews of the movie, it is said that lead male character Christian Grey “wants total control over Anastasia [the lead female character] … the right to dictate her eating patterns and her contraception choices, plus the right to inflict pain on her as a means of arousing himself.” As if that wasn’t scary enough, the movie is packed with the use of BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism), which is a practice that involves an individual who is gratified by either receiving or inflicting pain within consensual sex. Even “sexual therapists” who support BDSM are criticizing the book’s portrayal of BDSM and say that the practice should neither involve exploitation nor emotional and physical abuse.
Supporters of Fifty Shades would argue that since Anastasia consents to the violence, we should not compare it to such serious issues like domestic violence and sex trafficking. But consent doesn’t make abuse correct. Take, for example, those who consent to habitual practices or addictions. Just because a person agrees to a practice, it doesn’t necessary deem it a healthy behavior. In fact, according to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation,
“Acts practiced in Fifty Shades of Grey, in “kink” pornography, and in BDSM … relationships often violate U.S. and United Nations laws on torture. Consent is not an excuse according to these laws.”
On author E.L. James’ website, the book’s description reads: “Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.” Since when did words like ‘obsess, possess and stay with you forever’ become words that should draw us in? Typically, these words are words that are associated with issues that have led to the demise of America—things like addiction, evil and painfully traumatizing life events. The story is a distortion of the ideal of sex within a lifelong commitment of marriage—a perversion of something that’s good and beautiful.