Haley Heidemann is a junior performing arts and social justice and English major.
Fifty Shades of Grey: the media controversy of the year, or at least everyone’s Facebook news feed. Before I continue, I just want to state that, yes, I have read the books and seen the movie. Personally, I like the books. I find them entertaining and erotic, but that does not mean I don’t acknowledge the ethical and moral problems they possess. There are ways to take these issues, educate yourself and move forward in an active way.
My news feed has been full of articles and statuses about how “wrong” Fifty Shades is. They call the books and movies pornographic and sinful; some even go so far as to include petitions to ban them from stores and theaters. According to Huffington Post, this book has been “banned in libraries in three states.” This is what I have found extremely alarming about the backlash these books have received. Banning books and movies in regards to a disagreement of their content is never the way to go. If we begin to ban books that include things we’d rather not read about, we are shutting out whole perspectives and are never challenged in the way we read and respond to things.
While watching the movie, I found myself drawing undeniable connections to Stephanie Meyers’ ”Twilight Saga.” E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades, took inspiration from Meyers and began the series as erotic fan fiction based on Twilight. In the series, emotional abuse is so much more blatant: when he sneaks into her room to watch her sleep, for example, or how he follows her wherever she goes. Just because there were supernatural powers thrown into the mix, there was nowhere near as much backlash for these books. Yet add in sex and humanize the relationship, and everyone is up in arms. “Twilight” was made for preteens and young adults! There are young people trying to emulate these relationships. Where were the angry parents and petitions when those books and movies were released? Parents not only allowed their children to read and watch “Twilight”, they were encouraging it by purchasing posters, clothing, and other paraphernalia.
As Americans, we place such a heavy emphasis on sex in our culture, and freaking out about one of these stories and not the other just further perpetuates these notions. Instead of talking educationally and realistically about sex and the different ways people can enjoy themselves, we are making sex and BDSM taboo and secretive.
While I believe that we need to have better sex education in relation to BDSM, fans and readers of Fifty Shades of Grey must keep in mind that reading such a book will not make them experts in the field. While many of the scenes in the book and movie are hot, and seem like they would be exciting to play out with a partner, there are absolute dangers that accompany these actions. If you are reading these books with no prior exposure to kink or BDSM, then you must look further into it before bringing it into the bedroom. By acting out bondage, suspension, and flogging without proper technique, you could potentially permanently or fatally injure your partner. The emotional and physical abuse in Fifty Shades needs to be recognized as such and not brushed aside. There are reasons there are trigger warnings attached to the movie: people, men and women, are in controlling and abusive relationships in real life and it is NOT hot for them. In an article on the Huffington Post, psychotherapist, Keri Nola, states that watching the movie should be “an opportunity for awakening.”
After reading or watching, if you so choose, you could donate money to a woman’s shelter or do your own research on BDSM. I ask you not to stay complacent, but get educated and take the next step.