I will admit it. I have read all three books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series.

I am not admitting this because I am ashamed of my sexual desires or even because I feel the need to rant and rave about the poor writing quality of these books. (And it is extremely poor. I set my Kindle to count how many times the word “gasp” is used in the third book and the total was more than 70). I am admitting this because I feel the need to share my opinions about what I consider to be the incredibly — and dangerously — abusive relationship portrayed in the books.

When I first heard about Fifty Shades of Grey and learned they began as Twilight fanfiction, I swore I would not read them. I have read all of the Twilight books and I did not enjoy them. I found the relationships between Edward and Bella and Bella and Jacob to be patronizing and emotionally abusive, and I also thought the writing was pedestrian at best and boring to read. Why would I devote the limited amount of time I have for reading for pleasure to a series like this?

But as the dialogue about Fifty Shades of Grey increased, both in the media and amongst my friends, my curiosity was piqued. I attended a talk titled “Fifty Shades of Grey - Bad for Women, Bad for Sex” and decided that I should see what all the fuss was about.

To quote the book, I gasped. I rolled my eyes. I even bit my lip a few times. But not for the reasons Anastasia, the protagonist, did. I did out of exasperation, boredom and disgust, but also out of fear. After reading this book series, I am deeply afraid that this type of relationship will be viewed as the romantic ideal for women. And I consider that to be extremely dangerous — much more so than anything that takes place between Christian and Anastasia in the Red Room of Pain.

Could the character of Anastasia Steele be any more of a stereotype? She is an introvert, has low self-esteem, has abandonment issues from her father, apparently has only one close friend who bullies her and even though she works in a hardware store, she doesn’t seem to possess any self-sufficiency aside from cooking for her roommate and herself. She seems to have no sexual identity until Christian Grey enters her life and requests that she become his Submissive in a sexual relationship.

In order to be Christian’s submissive, Anastasia is expected to sign a lengthy and detailed contract that, amongst other requirements, requires that she exercise four days a week with a trainer that Christian provides (and who will report to Christian on her progress), eat only from a list of foods Christian supplies her with, get eight hours of sleep a night and begin taking a form of birth control so Christian will not have to wear condoms. Anastasia negotiates a few terms of the contract with Christian (she only wants to work out three days a week, not four), but all of her negotiations are only within his framework — none of the terms are hers independently. Nothing in their relationship is hers as an independent.

The character of Christian Grey is a rich, superpowered businessman who was abused as a child. He is in therapy, and Anastasia frequently references his therapist, but based on how he treats Anastasia, he doesn’t seem to be making much progress. As Anastasia’s relationship with Christian progresses, his controlling tendencies affect her life more and more. When her friend takes portraits of her for his photography exhibit, Christian buys all of them, because he does not want anyone else looking at Anastasia. (They weren’t even in a relationship when he did this.) When she is hired as an assistant at a publishing company, he buys the company — to make sure she’s “safe” working there. When she goes out to a bar with her one friend, against his wishes, he flies from New York to Washington State that same night, just to express his anger — and exercise his control over her. When she does not immediately change her name at her office (in hopes of maintaining some professional autonomy, given that he bought the company she works at), he shows up, unannounced, at her office, in the middle of her workday, to pick a fight with her. When she asks why it is so important to him that she change her name, he says he wants everyone to know she is his.

Christian’s possession of Anastasia is the cause of much of my disgust and fear of the book’s influence on people and how they view romantic relationships. After they exchange their wedding vows, the first words he says to her are, “Finally, you’re mine.” The control he exercises over her does not reflect his love for her; it reflects his objectifying of her. Christian never views Anastasia as a person, let alone an independent woman. He wants her to obey him, and even though she refuses to include that in her wedding vows, it is exactly what she does. When her mother questions her choice to keep her wedding dress on rather than change before traveling for her honeymoon, she says, “Christian likes this dress, and I want to please him.” Her desire to try some of the “kinky fuckery” in his Red Room of Pain comes from wanting to demonstrate her love for him, not her own sexual desires.

Wanting to please Christian apparently includes subjecting herself to verbal and emotional abuse from him ‘til death do them part, because any time she tries to stand up to him — which isn’t often — he berates her, guilt trips her and beats her down verbally until she apologizes and submits to him. After she uses the “safe word” in the Red Room of Pain so he will stop, he bemoans his sad state of mind later, mentioning that his “wife fucking safe worded him.” He is not concerned with her well-being or why she felt the need to use the safe word. He only cares about how it affects him.

The question that I kept asking myself as I read the books was why Anastasia stayed with Christian, and the answer I found was that she has absolutely no sense of self worth. She only feels sexy when he says she is, and when he insults or patronizes her, she accepts what he says as the truth. One of the passages that disgusted me the most was when Anastasia was at a club with Christian, dancing and thinking to herself that she never felt sexy before she met him and that he had given her confidence in her body. Yes, being with a partner who frequently compliments you can increase your confidence, but Anastasia went from zero to one hundred thanks to Christian. None of that came from within herself. Because of his influence on her, nothing in her life came from herself — her job, her home, her way of life, or even her self-esteem.

The co-dependency between Anastasia and Christian is alarming to read and even more to contemplate. When she breaks up with him at the end of the first book, the second book finds her starving herself and wasting away to nothing until he contacts her again. When she thinks his helicopter has crashed in the second book, she thinks to herself that she can’t live without him. Their marriage only comes about because he is scared she will leave him, and when she asks what she can do to prove to him she isn’t going anywhere, he says she can marry him. Yes, origins of insecurity and desperation are a great start to a healthy marriage.

When Anastasia finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and shares the news with Christian, he rages at her, asking if she did it on purpose and storming out of the house, disappearing for hours. Even though Anastasia thinks to herself that the pregnancy happened too soon in their marriage, she never considers terminating it.

The themes of the novel — that love alone can make someone change, that abuse from a spouse is acceptable as long as he’s great in bed, that pregnancies should always be carried to term even if the parents are not ready to be parents, and the ridiculously antiquated, Victorian idea that the love of a pure virgin can save a wayward man from himself — are irrational, unbelievable and dangerous.

Our culture has seen a radical shift of ideals moving towards traditional gender roles and Fifty Shades of Grey is a shining example of that. Early marriage to one’s first sexual partner, having a baby even when saying neither of the partners is ready to be a parent, and submission to one’s husband as the head of the household are all aspects of life that feminists and progressive thinkers have worked to move beyond. Anastasia and Christian’s relationship is not romantic. It is abusive. The ways he tries to “keep her safe” are not masculine or sexy. They are stalking. Fearing one’s husband’s reaction to an unexpected pregnancy is not normal, because “boys will be boys.” It is sad and dangerous and should not happen in a healthy relationship.

Fifty Shades of Grey was one of the best-selling books of the year. Sex toy classes have been inspired by it, as have new types of cocktails. The film adaptation is already in the works. I sincerely hope that honest discussion will be had about the book and that the Christian Grey ideal of romance is not one that will be perpetuated throughout our culture. The best way that can happen is through open, honest dialogue that leads to healthy relationships of two equal partners. That, in my opinion, is sexier than anything that can happen in the Red Room of Pain.

Fifty Shades of Feminism - A Response to E. L. James’ 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

(via chickenyaoi)

(via brasspistol)

image

itslillady replied to your post:

So the boyfriend will prefer to only have a relationship with you and not seek out others, but you’re free to see other relationships (after asking)? Sorry my reading comprehension is shit today

Yup, you got it!

—BB

Anonymous said: I forgot if you answered this before or not, but why is it a bad idea to use silicone lube with a silicone toy?

It breaks down the material and ruins it. It’s like how you’re not supposed to put oil on latex or some plastics.

—BB

Because lying to your kids about sex helps nobody. Telling them that sex is “only between mommies and daddies” is a lie that leads to confused, hormone charged teenagers. Telling them that sex is “only something that happens when two people love each other very much” is a lie that causes hormone charged teenagers to confuse “love” with “lust,” or “obsession.” It leads to leaps of logic like, “If I have sex with them, we must be in love.” Or worse: “if I love them, I have to have sex with them.” And how many teenage tragedies are based on that misconception?
Lea Grover, "We Don’t Play With Our Vulvas At The Table" (via themindislimitless)

(via stupiduglyfatcunt)

Anonymous said: Hello! In a response to an ask that you just answered, you said you were part of a mono-poly couple. Sorry if this sounds uneducated, but... How does that work? As in, what does it mean? I always thought that mono and poly were opposites, so how can a relationship be both at the same time? :o Thank you! :D

Nah, don’t worry about it, questions are fine!

I’m polyamorous: I have the capacity to love and have relationships with multiple people. Teh Boyfriend is monogamous: he just likes me. He might have crushes on people briefly, but he doesn’t plan on acting on them.

It works kind of like this: there’s a door. We have rules for opening the door, like “ask me first.” Either one of us can open the door, but I’m the only who wants to.

—BB

Anonymous said: I love, love, love Stoya. She speaks her mind and she is really open about discussing sex and making people feel comfortable about what they are into and what they aren't into. I just think she in general is really great.

I really like Stoya, too! She seems like a pretty cool person (and she’s a feminist!).

—BB

Anonymous said: hey, i'm sorry to be a pain and i know you guys do a lot and that you're busy but please could i have a response to that post about my boyfriend seeing another girl tonight? sort of need pretty urgent advice, or if you can't (which i totally understand) could you suggest someone else who could give me advice please? thank you loads xxxx

It’s posted, don’t worry!

—BB

Anonymous said: So my boyfriend and i a while agreed that we could see other people if us two remained the primary relationship. he's recently started talking to a girl and they're meeting up and he's probably going to be staying over at hers tonight and i keep expressing that this is way too fast for me, he's only known her five days and now they're probably going to sleep together tonight. that makes me really uncomfortable. i've told him this and just keeps telling me i'm being way too jealous (cont.)

it’s just since he’s started talking to her online and over the phone and stuff he’s barely given me any time. we’re not doing too well anyway and i’ve told him i feel like right now, introducing others into our lives is just going to put more of a strain on our relationship, he didn’t agree to not seeing anyone else but he seemed to think i was being reasonable. he’s meeting this girl tonight and i’ve told him i still hope he has a nice time and i’m happy for him but (cont.)

i wish he did this at a better point in our relationship, or if he even waited another week or so to meet her so i oculd get used to the idea. it doesn’t feel like he’s considered my feelings at all in making this decision and it really sucks as i feel like if we were doing better, i’d totally like this girl, i mean, she’s really perfect for him but at the moment i just feel kind of betrayed by my boyfriend too much to actually like her. am i being totally out of order? (cont. - sorry it’s long)

how do i deal with this? he can’t and wouldn’t call it off now, certainly, but surely us being in a open relationship, when i’m not cool with him seeing someone does it still count okay, does it count as cheating? i feel really bad. :/ thanks, sorry it was such a long message.

Okay, couple of things:

Cheating is going outside of mutually-established boundaries. I don’t know if seeing someone so quickly or without your approval is part of your agreed-upon boundaries or not, so I can’t tell you if it’s cheating. If it’s just you disapproving, then I wouldn’t say it’s cheating, just a bad situation.

I don’t know if you agreed to an open relationship because of or in spite of your strained relationship, or if you decided to be open earlier and it’s only now come up. I should say that a polyamorous relationship magnifies everything, so if you’re having issues now, you’re correct in saying that it’s probably not a good time to be open.

However, you can’t really help that right now. I mean, he’s already made a connection with a pretty great person, and he has to be able to do his own thing. You only have 100% control over your own actions, and 50% control over your relationship with him. You can’t control what he does or doesn’t do with someone else. You can ask and he can agree, but you can’t force him to do anything.

I have to wonder two things:

  1. Are you sure you’re okay with being open? I mean, I get the sense that he’s more into it than you. That can work, but it’s hard (and this is coming from the poly half of a mono-poly couple). Like, I’m okay with getting all my choices vetted by my boyfriend first (within reason), but many people aren’t, and have relationship rules that reflect that.
  2. What are your needs? Usually people feel jealous because they are missing something. Maybe they feel neglected like you do, or they’re afraid that their partner is going to find someone who’s better than them and leave, or they’re upset that their partner has a metamour and they don’t. Figuring out what you need out of the relationship can help tone down jealousy, and figuring out how to get that need fulfilled (whether that’s by getting another partner, closing the relationship, or ending it entirely) is also pretty important.

So my advice:

  1. Let him see the other girl. You can’t stop him anyway and it’s his relationship, not yours, and it’s not her fault that your boyfriend is (from what you’ve told me) running roughshod over your needs.
  2. Figure out what you need and communicate that.
  3. If he can’t or won’t fulfill your needs (which are different from wants), then you need to figure out how to get them without him.

Some things to read:

More Than Two (particularly the articles on jealousy and dos & don’ts)

Anything you find interesting from polycule (particularly the Greatest Hits) and fuckyeahpolyamory.

—BB

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