Since Fifty Shades of Grey is all over the news lately, I wanted to write a bit more about it and really analyze the relationship in the first book of the series. I had written a more general blog earlier about how Fifty Shades of Grey romanticizes sociopathy, but I want to get more into why this relationship is unhealthy and shouldn’t be considered a romance.
First of all, I have seen the argument that this book isn’t dangerous because people know it’s not real. Yes, we know it’s not real, but it’s not totally fake either. If I see Star Wars or some alien movie, I know that isn’t going to happen in real life, but if I see Fifty Shades of Grey, that relationship dynamic, (minus the billions of dollars,) is something that could absolutely happen in real life. And, just like a real life sociopath often does, Christian Grey enchants Anastasia Steele with good looks and great sex. I’m a woman with hormones and I read the book. I can completely see how he might seem sexy and like a wounded man who needs love to “heal” him. I have experienced domestic violence from a sociopath and I had to keep reminding myself that this was no Romeo. This was a controlling lunatic!
In my last post, I wrote about the domestic violence wheel and how abuse is more about power and control than it is about physical abuse. A male abuser will use a variety of tactics to wear the victim down, make her doubt herself, make her fear him and make her feel like she has no way to escape…or that she doesn’t deserve to. (I am using the male abuser example since it fits with the book, but of course women abuse too.) Some abusers will just take over and barge into a person’s life. They will start making decisions and telling the person what to do. (Been there, done that!) And in the classic cycle of abuse, they will do something very nice after doing something very abusive. This keeps the victim hanging on every time they are ready to leave. They get sucked back in with hopes that the nice things will continue.
In Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian Grey just takes over Anastasia’s life without asking her or sometimes without even telling her. He will give her expensive gifts and woo her, then do or say something so awful that she wants to have nothing more to do with him…until he sucks her back in with his charm. Furthermore, throughout the book, the main thing they have in common is sex. She learns to pity him and wants to save him, but this isn’t an equal relationship. We shouldn’t be saving sick people from themselves or take on mental illness cases with fairy tale dreams of loving them so much they are cured. In real life, that rarely happens because personality disorders are set by adulthood and they are very long-lasting–often permanent.
I’m not saying not to read the book, but I do want to emphasize that readers need to realize that this isn’t a healthy relationship and it’s not realistic. A man who alternates between hot and cold, generous and cruel, cuddly and violent is not a man that we should be trying to fix. Saving the bad boy in real life isn’t sexy–it’s dangerous and miserable!
I re-read the book and took notes on key events and lines that are good examples of domestic violence, and in the next few days, I’m going to go through them in a series of posts, so stay tuned!
Also, I am not talking about the sexuality or the BDSM culture at all. That is a choice for consenting adults. The parts I’m going to go through are Grey’s system of gaining power and control over Anastasia until she’s doing things she doesn’t really want to do.