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Another 50 Shades Domestic Violence PSA. Now with added author breakdown.

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Every day, I hear more women making excuses for 50 Shades, and for the behavior of Christian Grey in the book. And this weekend, I heard a lot of those same excuses, from a childhood friend of mine. Not about the book. About her marriage.
Without giving enough detail to reveal identifying information, let me tell you her situation. She met a guy from a rich family, and she married him. He doesn’t like her family, though, so she doesn’t really see them anymore. She sees his family. And he doesn’t like her friends, either, so she doesn’t see them anymore. She sees his friends. They go on expensive vacations, all over the world, and they go to rich people parties. But she’s not happy, because he calls her names, he won’t let her have her own money. He has rules she has to follow, and he reacts poorly if she doesn’t. She confessed to us that she was afraid of him – her words, “I’m afraid of my husband,” – and then immediately made an excuse for having said it. And she has reason to be afraid of him. He’s currently being charged with felonious assault against the teenage son of a neighbor. “He does have a bad temper,” she said, in the understatement of the year. Her name is on none of their property, though they do have a joint bank account that he monitors to make sure she doesn’t take out “too much”. She can’t let the laundry go too long, can’t let the dishes stack up, because he has a temper.
But she’s not abused. “He’s never hit me.”
I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll be a inset photo on the cover of People magazine someday soon, one of those women who “falls” off a cruise ship or gets “accidentally” left behind on a scuba trip after an argument with her husband. I’m not a good enough writer to tell you how hearing all of this made me feel. All I can say is that my heart hurts. It makes me feel helpless, and it makes my heart hurt.
And it makes me angry. It makes me furiously, violently angry at every woman who falls for the “romance” in 50 Shades. It makes me furiously angry at the author of 50 Shades, who I have refrained from commenting on at the risk of being accused of professional jealousy or attacking her. But I’m angry enough now that I want to attack her, I want to attack someone, something, anything. I want to be able to protect my friend, but I can’t, because she has been brainwashed by our misguided culture, that tells women over and over how much they want a guy like Christian Grey. Well, a person I love, a person I was at one time so close to that we would literally dream in sync, snagged her own, real life Christian Grey. This is the result. The people around her won’t be surprised at all when she disappears. We’re building up our defenses against it, and planning for it, so it doesn’t bowl us over. Because there’s nothing else we can do. We know we’re more likely to lose her than save her. She’s standing at the base of an oncoming avalanche, and any move we might make to help her will just bury her deeper.
There is nothing I can fight against. I can’t hit something or smash something to make this go away. All I can do is watch as silly, stupid women shovel their money (the be all and end all of power in our culture) into the hands of another silly, stupid woman, creating a sick circle-jerk of abuse as romance. And now I hear that E.L. James is writing a YA novel. Brainwash them while they’re young. Make sure we train women to know their place right out of the gate. But can I even blame those women, or E.L. James? She isn’t the puppeteer here, she’s the puppet. Christian Grey, 50 Shades, those aren’t the cause of the problem, they’re a symptom. And E.L. James is as brainwashed as the rest of us. I can’t even be angry at her.
“The War On Women” is a phrase thrown around a lot lately, and it makes us think of unsmiling, upright Christian men in suits bartering our personal freedoms for money to dig for oil. But the real enemy is our culture, and the attitudes that lead women to devour 50 Shades, to tweet that they’d let Chris Brown hit them. Even in my own attitudes and writing, I see problematic themes, and I rush to excuse them. We’re all making excuses, we’re all being victimized. Women are in an abusive relationship with the culture that surrounds us.
I don’t know how to fix any of this, but now that I’ve seen it, I can’t forget it. In the meantime, I’ll just wait. Wait for the call where I learn that someone I have loved fiercely is dead, because she’s been told her entire life to excuse a multitude of sins so long as no one is hitting her. Wait for the return to conservative Christian values that will make me a prisoner in my home country again. Wait for the next pop star to abuse a woman and get a pass for it, wait for the next big best seller to confirm to men that women really do want to be treated like human garbage, wait for the wives of America to find another thing to chat about behind their hands on the playground.
That’s what we’re doing. We’re all waiting, standing in the middle of a building on fire, trying to warn people so they can save themselves. And they argue that they like the smoke, and they’re happy to burn.
There is a real, human cost here. All I want is for someone to acknowledge it.

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  1. NDawn

    This. So much This.

    I recently got out of a 3 year relationship with an abuser. My ex insulted me, belittled me, called me names, harassed me, blamed me, his family blamed me, and eventually he began physically assaulting me. He was arrested twice, the first time when he kicked down the door of our apartment because I locked it in an attempt to stop the physical assault. That was, of course, entirely my fault. I had no right to lock the door, no right to call the cops when I found myself in a bad neighborhood with no front door and my entire house trashed, and of course it was my fault he got mad (and drunk) in the first place.

    The second time he got arrested was after an hour long assault during which he TWICE ripped the shirt off of my body, he hit me, kicked me, spit on me, pinned me down and poured Diet Coke on my face water-boarding style, shoved me down the stairs so hard I blacked out and broke my glasses hitting my head on the bottom, pinned me behind a door and slammed it on me, as well as punching holes in the walls, ripping doors off of their hinges, throwing pictures frames with glass at my head where they shattered, and finally picked me up by the throat and held me against the wall. At that moment, I really thought I was going to die. I imagined my parents identifying my bruised, broken body at the morgue and his parents looking at his dead body on the slab next to mine (knowing him, he would’ve committed suicide if he had seen he had killed me). He did let go, leaving finger shaped bruises on my neck that took weeks to fade. I called the cops, they arrested him. Again, his family attacked me, saying how dare I call the cops and “made” them arrest him, that I was lying about the whole thing, even when I showed them the bruises, torn shirts, doorless entryways, holes in the walls and piles of shattered glass. I even found out I was pregnant shortly thereafter, suffered through hyperemesis gravidarum (I lost 25 lbs in the first 3 weeks of my pregnancy, had to be hospitalized and had a feeding tube and PICC line for weeks), and miscarried at 11 weeks. His family told me I was LYING, faking my pregnancy, faking my illness, even when presented with the lab work, and ultrasound photos (I was being closely monitored because of the HG).

    After living through this, I am thoroughly disgusted at E.L. James. I am certainly not the type to censor anything, in fact I spend a lot of time explaining to my facebook friends why erotic fiction isn’t the devil’s own writing and how censoring pornography on the internet causes more harm than good. Hell, I’m an erotic fiction writer myself! I am usually in the camp of “to each, his own” and “adults can do what they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody”.

    But presenting this book as a breakthrough romance novel, encouraging women to read it and to fantasize about it, writing what is UNDENIABLY an abusive relationship as a fantasy relationship and just ignoring the fact that this behavior is completely unacceptable, is DISGUSTING. I am horrified, period. This isn’t s story about a BDSM relationship. This is the story of an abuser who happens to have a BDSM kink. Remove all of the BDSM, even all of the sex from this novel, and it is STILL abusive. That means that it isn’t the bedroom antics that are abuse, it is the abuse that is the abuse. Finally, we need to realize that the definition of “abuse” is the psychological/emotional reaction of the person being abused, not the actions of the abuser. I’m a girl who likes a good spank in the boudoir. It doesn’t have the emotional effect on me that it has on her. THAT is the difference between abuse and non-abuse. In fact, even though I enjoy spanks, if someone did that in a way that impacted me the way it impacts her, then it’s abuse. Period.

    I apologize for the rant, but (obviously) this is something I feel very strongly about. And I just had to get it off my chest, because I didn’t think I could live with this disgusting flesh crawly feeling anymore!

    November 17, 2013
    • Jane

      Here’s hoping the asshole fell into a woodchipper after you left. And yeah, this book might be the only one where I actually respect a person less for liking it. Between the bad prose and it’s fucking real-world body count, it’s like liking cyanide on your fucking cornflakes.

      October 31, 2015
      • Jane

        Fuck, ITS. Its.

        October 31, 2015
  2. june

    I don’t know how I found your blog today (prolly jezebel) but it happened at around noon today and now it’s almost 11pm/can’t stop/won’t stop.

    February 6, 2015
  3. LiLi

    When I wanted to know more about Twilight, I managed to find a blog similar to yours so that I wouldn’t actually have to read the books but know the content/themes. That blogger was also similarly appalled at the tones of abuse in the books and just reading the passages highlighted and catching glimpses of the movies I wholeheartedly agreed.

    Now that the 50 Shades movie is coming out I’m glad that your blog is allowing me to do the same, and while the book appears to be appalling, it is interesting to see the clear parallel between Edward & Grey, that if Edward hadn’t been an emotionally abusive, sexually repressed Mormon-pire that he could have easily swung the other way and a complete physical/sexual abuser on top of the emotional abuse.

    I also know a professional Dom who has railed at length about 50 Shades, and the damage it causes and the romanticizing of abuse. I am so sorry for your friend and I know that this was several years ago but I’m hoping she found her way out. It is absolute lunacy that women are taught that a “Christian Grey” is everything they ever wanted. I’m glad to see that Jezebel had lead a number of people to your site. Hopefully they will see that this is not “hot”.

    February 7, 2015
  4. ID_Ego_Superego

    There is a huge elephant in the room however -a large proportion of women want their lives arranged for them, they have no tolerance for “shitty” lives, never mind that – they have no tolerance for anything beyond being pampered and given a lot of money and want to jump ship to a richer male at the first opportunity.

    Unless we change this, there’s no solution – people of both sexes should stop imagining totally unrealistic things – millionaire sexy boyfriends who fit a 146-point checklists, and “comfortable retirement” as well. Such things do not exist, believing that and educating your daughters like that does humanity a great disservice.

    WORK. That’s the word which scares women, though mostly in the Muslim and the Western world. Corporatism and female interest make strange bedfellows.

    YOU ARE NOT AS CLEVER, BEAUTIFUL OR WORTHY AS YOU THINK. A phrase which really is unimaginable taboo for women, who unlike men are never told to their faces exactly how much they are worth to society.

    This is reality which scares a lot of women and which are totally unprepared to face it. That is universal – I’m not speaking about US or any country in particular – this is a universal negative female trait.

    Look up the statistics – in 2011 60% of Russian women want to marry a guy with an apartment, a car and a salary of 75k roubles (~2k USD/month before the war) despite the fact that there are only at most 17% of such people in their society. 40% of Japanese women in 2008 wanted to marry a guy with all the above and a yearly income in excess of 11 million yen per year, despite such people making up less than 5% of the Japanese population. Percentage of Japanese women who’d agree to marry some dude with only 2 million yen a year to his name in 2008 – 5%. How many Japanese men are in this situation – 32% in 2008.

    People should take a long hard look at themselves before going out and putting the blame solely on men. Women have the same responsibility in the matter. There’s no working around of it.

    Keep up the good work.

    February 13, 2015
    • Dani

      The problem is that women have been brainwashed to have these standards for god knows how many thousands of years. In our time, men enforce this system to an extent, but it is women who are mostly to blame for not recognizing it and perpetuating it. We still have a large percentage of women who think of feminism as a dirty word. Who think that they don’t deserve equal pay. Who think that the only way to be happy is to be thin, married to someone of means and have kids (whether or not they are remotely emotionally/mentally equipped to raise them). Until these women wake up, we’re fucked.

      February 15, 2015
    • Iris

      Except that has absolutely nothing to do with women being abused. It makes no sense as a response to this post. All you’re doing is trying to derail a post about how abuse of women is normalized in our society.

      Apparently, women lowering their standards is way more important to you than women not being abused and being able to recognize abuse before they’re invested in an abusive relationship (since our society certainly doesn’t teach them how). Even though those topics AREN’T EVEN RELATED, unless you really a big enough douchebag to argue that women get abused because their standards are too high.

      Congratulations, you’re an awful person.

      March 2, 2015
    • Adeline Raina
      Adeline Raina

      I believe we have found ourselves an MRA/PUA troll. Or if not someone from those communities, someone who unwittingly does the work for the MRAs.

      So women should accept / shut-up about abuse because their standards are too high? Are you seriously making that argument?

      1. 1 in 8 women go through domestic violence in their life; that rises to 1 in 2 if stalking is included.

      2. The two times when abusers most likely manifest their actions/abuse are:
      a) times of financial strain (I am NOT saying abuse is a class issue: wealthy people go through financial strain too, just in different ways).
      b) when the women first falls pregnant.

      3. Given that so many women go through DV, how can you be placing this on women having expectations which are too high? Surely high expectations (of respectful treatment) would be a temporary shield against DV? And how can you make the argument that women wanting a little bit of actual stability and worry free life as far as finances go is them asking for abuse?

      4. I think you’re getting the issue of respect and control conflated. I think you’re getting the issue of pampering and suffocating/stalking conflated. and…

      5… it is OFFENSIVE-AS-FUCK to have posted this as a response to Jenny saying she is heartbroken as her friend is in a DV situation, and Jenny is concerned her friend is going to end up severely harmed physically (and is currently severely harmed psychologically/financially/emotionally).

      Where is your concern for another human being (Jenny or her friend)? Where is your compassion? It is this lack of concern which makes me think you’re an MRA/PUA.

      — – —

      I agree we need to educate our daughters: in how to spot abusers and abusive-behaviours. NOT as it’s their responsibility/blame, but so they can hopefully extricate themselves from bad situations whilst we do the much harder task of eradicating the world of abusers.

      March 18, 2015
    • Maggie

      Dude. This conversation is not about “standards women have”. It’s about abuse. But ok, fine. I’ll take your bait. Society says “if he has money, everything he does is ok! We’re in a semi recession, people are losing their jobs, and a hot rich guy is throwing money at you! So what if he screams at you, threatens, stalks, harasses, and manipulates you? It’s not as if he HIT you!”

      As for the “You are not as clever, beautiful, or worthy as you think”. Well, you’re wrong. Women have been told that for CENTURIES. Women are still told they aren’t as pretty, accomplished, or worthy of respect. So, congratulations for figuring out what society actually tells us.

      May 8, 2015
    • Jane

      Go drink a fucking knife. For generations, for thousands of years of humanity, women weren’t allowed to own anything or to have a job outside the home. That shit leaves a mark.

      August 24, 2016
  5. Adeline Raina
    Adeline Raina


    I am so sorry about your friend. How is she now? Have you been allowed to know how she is now? I hope she went to a refuge and got away. I am so sorry.

    Also… me too… Been within a few abusive relationships, and finally do not tolerate any shit. But I know mine is a more rare tale.

    And, like you, as a sociologist and rape therapist, I ask myself over and over why on earth women internationally are consuming these god-awful books and declaring their love for this abuser. Decrying their husbands for not being more like him. I can understand boredom and inattention from a lover makes one lonely and desiring of excitement and any kind of touch.

    But no… please please women, stop. You (women) must stop eroticising control and abuse; and you must stop conflating abuse and BDSM. Abusers can dress up their abuse as BDSM: which is what is seen inside 50 shades… and it takes women either very knowledgeable about BDSM or very very knowledgeable about abuse to spot those who are the abusers-acting-as-Dominants.

    I have images of droves of bored housewives finding themselves victimised by men on the PUA and MRA scene as a consequence of this book, and this culture, and the lies we are all told about accepting abusers… I’ve heard from my friends/wikipaedia that the books go on show Ana changing Christian, making him non-abuser-like… and that narrative just doesn’t happen in real-life. It just doesn’t. But I imagine tens of thousands of women yet again, have it reinforced in their minds that it does, and unable to escape by the time they realise they won’t change him into a decent human being.

    I hope your friend is okay. I hope she got away. I hope she got several years of therapy, and recovered her friendships and familial relationships.

    March 18, 2015
  6. ID_Ego_Superego

    Selecting for income is superficial. Finding someone to have ‘income stability’ is nothing but gold-digging.

    May 10, 2015
    • Corey

      Oh my god, please fuck off, you pathetic incel. We get it: women don’t want you, and you’re angry about it and claiming that it’s because all women are gold-diggers, and NOT because you’re deeply unpleasant, narcissistic, and obviously have a shit job that nobody respects. It’s nobody’s fault but your own. Even if you were rich, women would rightly despise you. Please fuck off and die alone.

      April 18, 2020
  7. TonySteel

    We need to make the change happen.
    We are writers. Artists. Life imitates art, that’s a fact. How many women, and men, are being influenced by this promotion of abuse culture?

    July 28, 2015
  8. Jane

    THANK YOU. Also, this is an old post and I hope to god your friend got out. Sometimes I think the pervasive, pernicious misogyny I have to live with finally drive me bad-crazy forever. It’s scary and it’s sad and it is fucking killing us. Physically. The stress is bad for our hearts. Fucking going red for women, let’s go respectful.

    October 31, 2015
  9. Hazelnut

    In New Zealand there is a fairly new initiative, formed by the Mum of a young woman who was murdered by her ex. She goes into high schools and talks to kids about healthy versus unhealthy relationships and how to recognise them. Unfortunately for the Mum and family, they didn’t know any of the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship until their beloved daughter was dead. It should be world-wide. It may not save every girl, or every guy for that matter because girls can be emotional abusers, but it sure will save some.

    February 13, 2017
  10. Leslie

    I love your blog, I love your recaps, and I love you! This is everything I felt and wanted to say at the time this book came out. I gave escaped my own Christian Grey and there is *nothing* romantic about it.

    As a fellow writer, I am now even more inspired to keep writing my strong female characters, especially in YA. They are young women who are the most powerful characters in the story, who don’t need a man to save them, and who don’t put up with any shit. They are the characters I wish I had to look up to when I was young. And if ever I do get published, I will *never* put this kind of misogynistic, rape culture bullshit out into the world.

    May 24, 2018
  11. Jillian

    I know I’m several years late to the party here, but THANK you so much for this post, and for putting words to the impotent rage that I constantly feel about this. Our culture is a dumpster fire.

    November 12, 2023

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