The 50 Shades Controversy

E L James’s book, “50 Shades Of Grey” is making waves. The flood of interest is heightened by the film adaptation of the novel. I haven’t read “50 Shades”, something I have in common with Kristen Lamb, the author of a recent post in which she voices disquiet regarding the novel’s impact on both women and men, (https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/is-romance-devolving-50-shades-vs-no-one-puts-baby-in-a-corner/). Kristen’s perspective is that the portrayal of the relationship between Anna and Grey leads to the perception that abusive relationships in which men dominate women are acceptable and this can cause readers (particularly young impressionable ones) to adopt this view. Although Grey changes towards the end of the novel, this does not make everything OK.

Non consensual sex is rape, which is a horrendous crime as it vilates the very soul of the victim. Those who abuse others (whether the abuse is perpetrated against women or men) should be subject to the full might of the criminal justice system. I can understand why anyone who has suffered in an abusive relationship would avoid this novel. I do, however have the following observations.

Books don’t cause people to act in particular ways, individuals make their own choices and are responsible for them. A man who respects women is not going to read “50 Shades” and suddenly assume that it is acceptable to behave as Grey does in the novel. For a person to behave in an abusive manner they must possess a propensity to do so in the first place.

But what of the tipping point argument? Can’t a person with a propensity for a particular kind of behaviour be “tipped over the edge” by reading something he or she believes validates that behaviour? Possibly, however it is a convenient excuse for a person to blame someone (or something) other than themselves for their behaviour rather than taking personal responsibility for their own actions. Just possibly a person with an unhealthy interest in young girls might read Nabakov’s Lolita and perceive it as validating his sick obsession. However I have never heard of such a case and the possibility of such a thing happening seems remote in the extreme.

Ironically the controversy surrounding “50 Shades” may help to promote sales of both the book and film. People who might otherwise have not considered reading the novel or going to see the film may, wishing to ascertain what all the fuss is about go out and read the book or view the movie. There is, in this case some truth in the old saying that “there is no such thing as bad publicity”. The publisher’s must be rubbing their hands with glee as column inch after column inch is devoted to the novel and yes, I know I am, myself contributing to those inches!

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28 thoughts on “The 50 Shades Controversy

    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thanks for your comment Tess. Given the current debate regarding “50 Shades” I am considering reading (or attempting to read) the novel. This is because I think that actually having read (or attempted to read) a book allows the person passing comment to do so with greater authority than one who is simply guided by others opinions. I may, as you did, end up not finishing the book but at least I will have attempted to read it. Kevin

      Reply
      1. Morguie

        Someone sent me the 50 Shades Trilogy (yes 3 books) in a pdf file. You want it? I got to page 100 and said forgettabout-it! I thought I deleted it and I found it on my pc still. Whatever you do, DO NOT PAY FOR IT! I’ll give it to you. FREE.

  1. gegrizzle

    I’ve been tempted to read this book, just because of the hype. But I really don’t wanna. I’ve heard so many bad things about it. Horrible writing. Stupid story. It’s bloody fanfic for Christ’s sake! I dunno. I might have to skim through it anyway. 😛

    Reply
  2. Naomi Harvey

    I get your point about how one book cannot change a respectable person into an abusive person, but what happens when the majority of the books and TV programmes and movies and games portray that kind of behaviour as normal? What happens when someone grows up in a world where everywhere we look, violence and controlling behaviour towards women is being romantacised (Hello Twilight, 50 Shades etc), turned into a joke (Rape jokes are never funny), normalised (abortion and contraception laws), and aggressively defended (Hello GamerGate)? Unfortunately this isn’t about just one book. It is a small part of a huge problem.

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Many thanks for your thought provoking comment Naomi. I must confess to not watching much television and the programmes I do view tend to be crime dramas such as Inspector Morse, current affairs and commedies. Consequently I am probably not the best person to pass judgement on the quality of television. Having said that, one reason I watch so little television is due to much of the content being, in my opinion mind numbingly tedious/wholly inane. Obviously I agree with you that rape jokes are never funny. As for books, I think there are many good works out there which contribute to the enlightenment and entertainment of the reading public. There are, however many others which are, as with much of television tedious, inane or which contain content which I, personally do not care for. However most people are, I believe capable of understanding the separation between fantasy and reality. So the overwhelming majority of people who read a fantasy about S and M (which isn’t to my taste) will understand that it is fiction and will not attempt to try out what is described in the novel on unwilling individuals. There is a real issue about preventing so far as is possible children from getting hold of inappropriate books but most adults are perfectly capable of drawing a line between reality and fiction.
      I, personally have concerns about abortion. I am blind and know how abortion can lead to the abortion of people with disabilities for no reason other than the fact of their disability. However banning the practice might cause a rise in back street abortions and lead to the death of both foetesus and women. There are also complex issues about when, exactly life begins. Thanks again. Kevin

      Reply
  3. Ellen Hawley

    True, one book doesn’t turn a decent person into–in the example above–an abuser. But the stories we read, hear, and tell ourselves do shape us. That’s the power and role of myth, in all its many forms. So the stories we hear do matter, and their content matters. I’m not for banning content I don’t like, but we all need to treat the questions involved seriously and ask if this is the way we want to shape the world.

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Many thanks for your comment. I agree that books can help to shape the world but, I believe most people are capable of drawing a line between fantasy and the real world and “50 Shades” is just that, fantasy. Thanks again for your comments. Kevin

      Reply
  4. ChildofRa

    My mom brought the complete trilogy -its still in its package lol . However i saw the movie last night and it could have been done way better & since I have read the books based off the film I can see why many have an issue with the relationship between Christian & Anastasia. Its not a relationship at only,Christian has moments that are very creepy,controlling & stalker-ish why Ana is very naive & shy. In the film there are plenty of times when she should have say no to Christian and left him alone but she keeps going back to him but the last scene just really ticked me off.

    Spoilers!!!!!!
    Anastasia finally understood what Christian was telling her about himself this whole damn time; he doesn’t do romance. She wants to be all hurt and sad when he spanks her with a belt.

    1. She had plenty of times to leave him alone but she didn’t.

    2. She never signed the contract

    3. Christian told her what the safe words were and even before that asked her what she be comfortable with and uncomfortable with.

    Anastasia stupidly walked herself into a situation that she could have easily avoided. She even ignores the nice guy who likes her and wants to take her out and mostly likely have sex with her with bdsm

    Reply
      1. ChildofRa

        Yeah I decided to see it just to see what the hype was about & it was very disappointing. This could have been a very good romance but its just too abusive & romanticizing is should not be okay by our society

      2. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

        Thanks for your comment. Being blind and not able to see the screen I wouldn’t watch this or any other film unless it had audio description (I.E. voiceover which describes what is happening during the silent parts of the programme). I may, however read the book. Best. Kevin

  5. MonaKarel

    The degradation of women has been ongoing for millennia but it’s not only women. It’s anyone who is perceived as ‘less than’ according to the norm of that particular society. You can kick a dog around, slap a child, throw rocks at a stray cat because you perceive it as ‘less than’ you are, and feel vindicated. Yes it’s a far more complicated issue than one poorly written book, or series of books. But if you don’t read many books, the impact would be far greater.
    My greatest sorrow concerns the number of women, and men, who were abused as children because their parent or relative felt they had the right to treat them that way. Far more than one might realize and the effects follow them throughout life.

    Reply
  6. Pottsy

    Interesting post. When the book first made waves and everyone was talking about it, before the film came onto the agenda, I thought what was interesting was that all of a sudden it was okay for women to admit they liked erotic fiction and to discus their sexual preferences. I didn’t read the book because I was told that the writing was atrocious so didn’t really think about the whole S&M angle and am not sure how this is dealt with in the novel so can’t really comment. I do wonder whether the controversy would be the same though if the gender roles were reversed and it was the woman dominating the man?

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      You make an interesting point about whether the reaction would have been the same had it been Anna rather than Grey assuming the dominant role. Another blogger (I can not remember which one) raised the question as to what the reaction would be had Anna been a black rather than a white woman. Thanks again for your comments. Kevin

      Reply
  7. paigeaddams

    I made it about halfway through the book, and skimmed the rest. To each their own, and I’m not trying to pick on another writer in any way, but the writing style was not my cup of tea. The ending was also really hard for me to read (even skimming it, as I was). I saw the movie too, and appreciated the writing style there a lot more, but the ending still bothered me. Even though Christian Grey evolves emotionally throughout the story, his demons really rear their ugly head in that final scene. I won’t ruin it for you, in case you do read it/watch it.

    I agree with you too – I don’t think the book/movie will be the cause of abuse, but it could be the excuse used for it. There are sick people out there, who may look at this, see all the hype, and see it as an outlet for their sickness. This is an extremely disturbing thought. I reviewed the movie on my blog, and a friend commented there about the idea that all this hype could also lead into “the victim asked for it” mentality, and some psychos ignoring “no means no.” I’ve been viewing it all as harmless fantasy, which is probably a naïve way to look at it, so it never crossed my mind that someone would behave in that way – just like I don’t feel like going on a killing spree after I play video games all day, or feel like guns are responsible for killing people, pencils are responsible for misspelled words, and ice cream is responsible for what size jeans I wear. These inanimate objects aren’t responsible, it’s the people using them as an excuse. But I do get what this friend was saying – the hype of this could be used to prey on someone looking to find their fantasy Christian Grey or Anastasia Steele. If a fan of the books/movie wants to try this lifestyle (which I’ve heard has happened), it could get them into serious trouble if they aren’t careful, and don’t do their research. According to a different friend, this book is not really accurate to real BDSM practices, especially in that last scene, and gives an unrealistic view of what goes on.

    If you do read it/watch it, I’d love to see what you think of it, and how that effects your view on the controversy, if at all. 🙂

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thank you for your thought provoking comments. You raise interesting issues.
      While it is possible that something in the book might, just possibly push someone over the edge they would, I believe need to be mentally unstable in the first place and had it not been the novel then something wholly unrelated would have caused the outburst. I can imagine a clever psychopath attempting to convince a court of law that they where pushed over the edge by “50 Shades” without actually believing this to be the case (I.E. attempting to hood wink the judicial system).
      I guess information in any book can be misused. A clever method of murder in a crime novel could be picked up by someone intent on killing their spouse/partner, however the novelist wouldn’t be responsible for the actions of the murderer.
      I will certainly let you know if I read the book.

      Regards,

      Kevin

      Reply
  8. Morguie

    Want to hear something odd? According to some poll, since the movie opened, there have been an astounding number of 40-something aged women going out and trying the BDSM scene. Unreal.

    Reply
    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      I am grateful for your offer to lend me a pdf of the novel. However the screen reading software I use doesn’t work well with that format so, if I read it it will be a full audio version or some other accessible format. The poll you mention is interesting. I will look that up. Thanks again. Kevin

      Reply
      1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

        Enter your comment here…Many thanks for your comments and following my blog. Not having read the book it is difficult for me to form an opinion as to
        whether the relationship portrayed in the novel is abusive. Many reviews I have read do state that the relationship between Anna and Christian is abusive,
        however I have come across reviews (admittedly in the minority. where the reviewer expresses the view that the relationship is consensual rather than abusive.
        I must, I think read the novel in order to reach a definitive view on this matter. Thanks again for your comments. Regards. Kevin

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