The movie is coming, the books were a hit, and the opinions are strong. Many of the brilliant women writers I respect have spoken up about this, so of course it has me thinking. The movie and the books didn’t, actually (have me thinking).
In the past week I have read several strong opinions on it, all different, and all from feminists. I think they all say the same thing: Women should be respected.
The question or conflict comes in when we talk about how that respect manifests itself. I’m not a fan of the eye-rolling and calling women who read the books “silly” or “giggly.” It is undeniable, there is something compelling in the story line; women I know, smart women who make tough independent decisions all the time, are drawn to it. I personally don’t think it’s because those women secretly want to be dominated by a man. In fact, the women I know that enjoyed the books are very much equals in their relationships.
Is it dangerous? Well, from my safe perspective of nurturing relationships I don’t think it’s realistic enough to be dangerous. I’m lucky. But today, I heard the opinion of someone I respect very much who is the survivor of domestic abuse. In my limited capacity to see it through her perspective, I can see the answer as yes.
In the book, the male lead was abused. He acknowledges himself as a mess. (The title, for those who didn’t read it, comes from him referring to himself as “Fifty shades of fucked up.”) Their relationship is clearly co-dependent. There were lots of times when the plot should have devolved into something more sinister than it did. That it didn’t was part of the fantasy.
We can fear for some young women with this plot being in the spotlight right now. I sure as hell didn’t know who I was when I was in my teens and twenties. This plot, plus ridiculous social pressure to look a certain way, to deny certain parts of themselves to be likable, and to not be seen as a bitch, is the perfect storm for terrible relationship choices, possibly even dangerous ones.
Do I think it should be censored for these reasons? I don’t. (BTW, nobody I’ve read lately has suggested it should be.) I strongly believe that having others decide what is good for us to see, read about, or know is the reason dominance and control occurs. What I think should happen (and yes, the whole world is queuing up to get my opinion on this), is that we should talk about it. We should talk the hell about it.
We should all talk about sex, pleasure, control, trust, dominance and domestic abuse. That last one, we should talk about a lot. Shaming and silencing one another, even subtly, gets us further away from that goal of respect.
Let’s talk about it. And let’s listen. And (this would just be a bonus, I suppose) let’s be nice to one another while we do. I will try harder.
If you or someone you know is in danger at home, help is available.
In the U.S:. National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 TTY 1-800-787-3244 or Online www.thehotline.org/
In the U.K: National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 or Online www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/
In the rest of the world: International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies http://www.hotpeachpages.net/index.html