Thursday, 12 February 2015

"Because I'm fifty shades of fucked-up, Anastasia"

With the much anticipated release of the film adaptation of E L James' erotic "romance" novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, I knew I would end up writing something about it. I wasn't entirely sure what exactly but this all changed when I saw the "edited" versions of the promotional poster for the film. These altered adverts use the same image, but have swapped the "Mr. Grey will see you now" line for direct quotes from the book itself.  It was this much needed marketing makeover that inspired me to get on my soapbox. 

I'm pretty sure almost everybody has heard of the Fifty Shades trilogy even if you haven't read the books, but for those of you that haven't... The books tell the story of 21 year old college student Anastasia Steele and her relationship with the wealthy entrepreneur Christian Grey. It became famous for it's inclusion of explicit and erotic sex scenes, specifically BDSM practices.

Below is an image of the official cinema poster released by Universal Pictures:

Here are a couple of the photo-shopped images currently being circulated in the media:

These posters made me remember my experience of reading the book. Not just that that it was a terribly written book I somehow managed to finish. More specifically, my experience reading this as a young, admittedly naive and unworldly, girl. To put it simply, the book made me feel uncomfortable. I had just turned 18 when I read Fifty Shades of Grey and it was an unpleasant experience for me, not because of the poorly described sex scenes or even the "kinky" bits, but because it was a story of depraved abuse sold to me and many other women as a love story.

It has been about 4 years since I read the book and  to be frank, I couldn't bring myself to read it fully again, but I did dip into a few extracts for the purpose of this article. The text below is taken from the S&M "contract" in Chapter 11 between the Dominant, Christian and the Submissive, Anastasia. In this chapter we learn the rules which Anastasia must obey.

The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant excepting those activities which are outlined in hard limits (Appendix 2). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.
The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of eight hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant.
The Submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and wellbeing from a prescribed list of foods (Appendix 4). The Submissive will not snack between meals, with the exception of fruit.
During the Term the Submissive will wear clothing only approved by the Dominant. The Dominant will provide a clothing budget for the Submissive, which the Submissive shall utilize. The Dominant shall accompany the Submissive to purchase clothing on an ad hoc basis. If the Dominant so requires the Submissive shall during the Term wear adornments the Dominant shall require, in the presence of the Dominant and any other time the Dominant deems fit.
The Dominant shall provide the Submissive with a personal trainer four times a week in hour-long sessions at times to be mutually agreed between the personal trainer and the Submissive. The personal trainer will report to the Dominant on the Submissive’s progress.
Personal Hygiene/Beauty:
The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times. The Submissive will visit a beauty salon of the Dominant’s choosing at times to be decided by the Dominant, and undergo whatever treatments the Dominant sees fit. All costs will be met by the Dominant .

I'm guessing a relationship with a man that tells you what to eat, how much to exercise and what to wear isn't the fairytale you dreamed about growing up. Would you ever stay in a relationship with a control freak, a stalker, a man that continues to force himself on you when you beg him to stop? That then threatens to restrain and gag you?
Of course the only answer to this question is no. Unfortunately it is not that simple for so many women who stay in such relationships for various reasons, often beyond their control.
I class myself as a strong young woman, but I know that abuse has nothing to do with strength; anyone can break another person's spirit through constant physical and/or mental abuse. This is my problem with Fifty Shades of Grey - in that it essentially glorifies abusive relationships.

Here is another one of the "anti-fan" edited posters:

I mean words fail me. Almost
This quote is pretty  disturbing. When did someone beating "seven shades of shit" out of you become sexy?  Oh no that's right - it isn't, it's "depressing". I mean I'm no prude; different strokes for different folks and all that, but this doesn't even relate to specific sexual tastes. These carefully selected quotes stress the dominant role not that Christian Grey plays, but of everything he represents: Abuse, control and degradation.

So this Valentines Day, whether you spend it with your other half or your cat, whatever you do please don't go see Fifty Shades of Grey and give this film your money.
If you can why not make a donation to Refuge, a UK charity supporting women and children who are victims of domestic violence.