Over 100 million copies sold worldwide, 225 million plus views of the trailer, and a record-breaking $81.7 million opening weekend for a novel and film adaptation that promotes sexual violence against women under the guise of “sexual fantasy.”
The byproduct of ‘Twilight’ fan fiction, “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James not only reflects the issues that American society already has with rape and violence, but glorifies them for millions of young girls, women, and men to lust over.
The basic premise of the book is that the protagonist, young and mousey Anastasia Steele falls for rich and handsome Christian Grey. The twist is that Grey is obsessed with fringe sexual behavior and is a ‘dominant,’ but Steele does not want to be a ‘submissive.’ Grey refuses to be in any other kind of relationship, and Steele reluctantly agrees because of her passion for him.
This should immediately sound off alarms as abuse. Grey is violently taking out his “need to control” on Steele, something many abusive partners do in real life.
The Journal of Women’s Health recently published a study that states people who have read “Fifty Shades of Grey” are more likely to be involved in an abusive relationship, which is truly frightening when already, nearly one in four women in the U.S. are victims of abuse from a partner, according to usnews.com.
Social Scientist Amy E. Bonomi conducted a study in which she found that “emotional abuse is present in nearly every interaction, including: stalking, intimidation, and isolation.” Bonomi also found that Steele “experiences reactions typical of abused women, including: constant perceived threat, altered identity, and stressful managing.”
The success that “Fifty Shades of Grey” has accumulated is a reflection of one more thing that American society has failed at: the ability to recognize abuse. If American culture was one that was able to identify abuse and the romanticization of it, one in five women would not experience rape–as reported by the Center for Disease Control–and one in four women would not experience physical abuse.
Ideas of love and romance develop at an early age, and there will be teenage girls that will go and watch “Fifty Shades of Grey” and want to be Steele, just like there will be teenage boys that will assume they need to be Grey.
The ability to identify abusive behavior and know how and when to stop it are the first steps that need to be taken in order to eradicate abusive relationships–and the movies and books that glorify them.