Somehow, even in the midst of all of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, E.L. James has managed to release another book in the 50 Shades of Grey series. Darker is the second book in her series of “rewrites” from Christian Grey’s point of view. In the few pages I was able to read before becoming physically ill I discovered a disturbing new trend in this book. Coming from Christian’s point of view makes the abuse even MORE obvious than it was in the original 50 Shades series. His predatory, psychotic nature is highlighted. Might as well put it on a neon flashing sign. Christian Grey isn’t “troubled”. He is intentionally predatory and psychotic. He completely understands that his behaviors are inappropriate, he just doesn’t care and nothing makes it more obvious than this series.
Anyway… I’m republishing my take on the original series AGAIN, because apparently it still needs to be said: these books are dangerous. Normalizing predatory behavior is dangerous. Glamorizing it is even worse.
Okay… so this is something I’ve stayed out of until recently for several reasons.
1) I’m not exactly the poster child for healthy relationship dynamics.
2) What people like in the bedroom is as different and unique as the stars in the sky, and I don’t like to place judgement on anyone’s personal preferences as long as no one is getting hurt or taken advantage of.
3) I used to be that innocent 20 something just sort of starting out in life inexperienced, curious, and adventurous.
4) In 2011 when the book was first making it’s rounds, I wasn’t in a healthy place emotionally or mentally and couldn’t read it.
Now, on the eve of the movie release after skimming countless pro and con reviews (I still refuse to read the entire book and I’ll explain why here in a moment) I feel that I should speak up about this. I shared another article earlier this morning on my Facebook page which is in essence exactly how I feel.
These books do NOT portray a healthy BDSM dynamic. Not even a little bit. They are clearly a predator/prey scenario and it makes me insanely uncomfortable to read even the little snippets scattered through out the reviews, articles and opinions I’ve been scouring. That is the primary reason I refuse to read them, the secondary reason is that the writing is just BAD. I mean my blogging is very casual and relaxed, I let my grammar and spelling slide a lot of the time, but it’s not a published work. It’s just here sitting on the interwebs for anyone who wants to read it. I’m not representing anyone aside from myself. 50 Shades feels like it was written by a 13yr old locked away in a basement somewhere… but starting out it’s roots in Twilight fan fiction, perhaps that was why it comes across that way.
The third and really most important reason I refuse to support this book in anyway shape or form is how it romanticizes abusive relationships. Those who haven’t experienced one will now be looking for one. Great for the abusers out there, not so much for the hapless victims. Abusive relationships are NOT FUN. Not only are they not fun, they are NOT HEALTHY. Even the relationships where the abuse isn’t outright physical abuse still have a profound effect on you mentally, which in turn affects your physical health as well. Speaking from experience when you are in the middle of an abusive relationship it’s pretty difficult to see. Infatuation, hormones, manipulation will do that to you. I can see where the character gets lured in and I understand the way she felt, that part of the book is accurate. It’s the inaccurate parts that scare me. The way that she is somehow eventually empowered and turns the tables on whats his face? Yeah. No. That most definitely doesn’t happen.
Abusers are abusers are abusers. There is no saving grace that any partner can give them, no amount of empowerment that will suddenly shift the paradigm and save the day. Sorry charlie, it ain’t happening. In fact if we’re being 100% honest here, the only reason I’m not still with my abusive partner is because he left. (Yes, he left me. Christian Grey he is not) Even after I figured out the dynamic between us was less of a relationship and more of a some one to keep the sheets warm I chose to stay. I knew he was abusive, I knew he was seeing other women, and I chose to stay. Why? Because I knew WHY he was abusive. I saw right through the lies and bullshit to who he really was and what was really going on. Anyone who has been through the things he had been through would end up jaded, apathetic, looking out for no one but themselves. It didn’t matter to me. I wanted to be the strength and stability lacking in his life, wishing, hoping and praying that in a safe environment he would mellow out. Which he did for a while, until the rug got pulled out from under him and he lost control. Still… there I was forever by his side. A coin toss, some threats, midnight screaming at my front door, cyber stalking, slashed tires, two states, 200 miles, what feels like a million years and more threats later… here we are. He’s still damaged, and I’ve lived in hiding for the past three years. The blog is the only thing I have remaining of my old life and I run it through a million security measures just in case. Even with those security measures in place anything I write here is a risk to my safety, especially when I mention him or my past. What did my loyalty, understanding, and compassion accomplish, hmm? Absolutely nothing. Teaching young women that “all it takes is love” to change an abusive partner is DANGEROUS.
I had to figure it out the hard way, and I’ll be damned if pop culture is going to normalize, and glamorize this type of behavior. I have a daughter. I don’t want her growing up in a world where that type of behavior is okay. Where she thinks to be a strong empowered woman she has to put herself through hell, when she falls for a super cute boy with a little extra baggage. The only thing that can change an abusive partner is their personal choice to make a change. Which IS POSSIBLE, but very rare, especially in adulthood. Undoing years of psychological damage and inappropriate coping mechanisms takes time, and dear God is it painful. Convincing someone that enduring months and years of emotional pain so they can properly heal and stop being abusive takes nothing short of a miracle. You want to see empowerment after abuse? Here you go. This is it. It’s not some happily ever after relationship bliss. It’s messy, it’s frightening, but it’s also important which is why I’m here publishing this.
I understand the books are fiction. They aren’t meant to be taken literally or seriously, but in a day and age when people idolize the mundane, and get 90% of their education from satire or fictional sources, who’s going to sit here and distinguish between fantasy and reality? How many young girls are going to inadvertently victimize themselves in order to “save” abusers? It happens all the time NOW, before the dynamic was thrown into the public eye as an acceptable alternative life style. What’s going to happen after all of this?
And let me clarify again, I’m not talking about BDSM. If it was an innocent display of BDSM okay, whatever. People like what they like and as long as both partners are completely consenting more power to you. If that’s what this book and movie were truly about I would have no complaints. BDSM is hijacked by this book/film and used as a mask for inappropriate behavior, and yet for some reason the mainstream media is completely okay with this. It would be like using interracial relationships to say that it’s okay for men to abusive women as long as they are of a different race. Would that go over well? No. I don’t think so, yet for some reason representing BDSM a fairly taboo and misunderstood relationship dynamic as an “excuse” for abuse is totally okay.
Seriously? SERIOUSLY. I know there are a few people reading this thinking: “Sure, sit there on your Mega Traditional Heterosexual Relationship high horse and pass judgement on all the rest of us.” Um… yeah. Maybe NOW I have that, but what I have currently and what I’ve experienced or enjoy are shockingly different. (Yay Borderline!) Being submissive, adventurous, pursued is fun in the right context. Being stalked, raped, abused, and taken advantage of is NOT. There is a DEFINITE difference. Night and day. Black and white. All I see in this book/film is abuse, but I suppose if I were to play the devil’s advocate, maybe all I see is abuse because the author has such bad prose and no idea what she’s actually talking about. One can only hope…