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50 Shades of Grey through the eyes of an abuse survivor

in Arts & Culture by

<WARNING: This article contains mentions of abuse, rape, sexual, physical, and verbal assault, and anxiety/panic disorders.>

The type of article that I write now has sprung up at least a dozen times or more in the past two weeks, in the lead-up to the movie’s release.

Simply type in “50 Shades of Grey + Abuse” and you will get countless pages of newspaper articles, blogs posts, and even images telling you exactly why and how the book and movie are not only abusive, but downright terrifying. You will have sites dedicated to the true art of BDSM lashing out and warning newcomers NOT to follow the guidelines of the book. You will even find an article of a woman in Europe, who passed away after a “50-Shades-Of-Grey-Style” BDSM encounter gone horribly wrong.

Articles like this one, honestly, are becoming repetitive to the point of being tiring, trite, and overdone.

And yet, there are people who still don’t get the message. There are people who not only think this is correct and erotic behavior, but who would willingly go see this movie again. There are yet others who have posted things on blogs and Facebook sites along the lines of “I wish I had my own Christian Grey!” Or, “I wish I was Ana Steele!”

There are no words to describe how much this scares me. In fact, looking over this article, I can’t even properly describe what the book did to me, what it no doubt did to abuse victims everywhere. The words won’t come to me, either because it scares me too much to think about the block I put on that part of my life, or because I don’t want my experiences and the experiences of abuse victims in general to sound flowery or over-dramatized.

I will not point out everything that is wrong with the books and movie. There are enough sites where anyone reading this can do that themselves. I will tell you my own personal reactions to the first book as both a survivor of an abusive relationship and a member of the BDSM community because I think it needs to be said.

I will not recount exact moments of abuse, and I will not give the name of the person or people who’ve abused me. This is for my own comfort and safety. My hands are already shaking while I type as it is.

When Ana Steele was nearly forced to sign over her freedom, without questioning a single thing too deeply, I wondered what information the author had received about BDSM and where she got it, because it was obviously wrong.

When Ana was raped – and yes, it was indeed rape, and it was inexcusable – I felt sick. Literally, physically sick. I had to put the book down and leave it for several days – and even then, I had to skip past the rape scenes.

When Christian Grey ignored her, grabbed her arm, growled at her, threatened her, I felt scared. My hands shook. I had flashbacks to the times when I was shaken, yelled and screamed at, grabbed and pinched and punched and threatened. I cried.

When he glossed it all over as if it was just another part of the ‘play’, I was reminded of the times when I felt insane for wondering, ‘Is this abuse?’ and being told that no, it wasn’t, because obviously the person I was dating was ‘such a nice boy’.

When Ana ACCEPTED that it was just a part of the whole thing; that this was normal, that she wasn’t “supposed” to enjoy it because it was for him, once again I had to put the book down. No one should put themselves through that kind of pain and torture and molestation out of love.

I finally finished the book just in time for the movie to come out. It took me nearly two months to get through because every time I came to these points – which was far too often for my liking – I had to put it down. I had to walk away and cry and convince myself to finish reading it in the hopes that there was something redemptive in the end. There wasn’t.

My question is, how can people romanticize this? How can people enjoy this? A book that left me shaken and scared is revered and fantasized about by women everywhere and I can’t understand why. I can’t understand how the same behavior that is abhorred in one context is eroticized in another.

Four years ago I was terrified and completely in love and willing to take any hit it took to get him to get to that place where he loved me again. I was abused. Ana Steele, make no mistake, is abused. Today, I am a functional human being. I embraced my fears and turned them on themselves, but I still flinch when people move too fast. I still cry when people yell at me.

I am not afraid for myself anymore. But I am afraid for people who think that this behavior in 50 Shades of Grey is right. That it’s romantic. Because that line of thinking is the same line of thinking that convinces school-age little girls that the boys who pull their pigtails and push them down really like them. It’s the same line of thinking that coerces and seduces scared, frightened young people into abusive relationships. And it’s the same line of thinking that gets abuse victims killed.

It’s not just a book.

Self-professed hipster, amateur author, photographer, proud Newfoundlander. Open-minded and curious about the world and its quirks.

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