Fifty Shades of Black & Blue: The Thin Line Drawn Between Domestic Abuse & BDSM


By LaChonne Reese

One of the best-selling trilogy and now the top grossing movie this past week has caused a lot of controversy regarding the thin line between BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism) and domestic abuse.

Fifty Shades of Grey, written by E.L. James, is an erotic romance novel based on the relationship between a college student, Anastasia, and a young business entrepreneur, Christian Grey. The relationship is centered on having a dominant and a submissive.

Does Fifty Shades of Grey glorify domestic abuse? Is it possible that the novel sets a negative tone for BDSM? Did Christian Grey use manipulation and seduction to entice Anastasia into this world?

According to 21 year old Jillian Clark, there was nothing abusive about Christian and Ana’s relationship. “There are some people who are into much worse things, his tastes were very tame and he had a contract that she was able to change [including] her hard and soft limits. Not at all dominants would do that,” says Clark. “In the book there are several pages dedicated to just the contract regarding what sexual acts they would do and what her limits are.”

“[The book] already has made me want to journey into the world of BDSM. The love story behind their relationship was what I loved most about it. It’s not about the sex,” says Clark. Clark insists that the context behind the story is what differentiates an abusive relationship to this one. “She never says no, or uses either safe word. They are both two consenting adults.”

I asked Clark if she thought that because Anastasia was so enticed by Christian Grey that she said yes to anything just to be with him. “No because she never would’ve walked out on him the minute he hit her with that belt.”

At one point in the novel, Anastasia leaves Christian because he beat her with a belt too hard. In response, she cries and leaves him, and then he gives up his sexual desire to hurt her just to be with her.

“She loved him so she was willing to try the lighter stuff that he was in to. He always listened to her opinions,” says Clark.

The ideas of domestic abuse stem from how in the novel Christian Grey begins to force Anastasia to isolate herself from her friends and family, and stalk Anastasia, eventually “raping” her. However, Anastasia never isolated herself; she respected Christian’s desire to keep their private life private. It is also revealed that Grey, without her knowledge, finds out where Anastasia lives; which is never explained how but being a millionaire in the 21st century can be a huge advantage. And she was never raped. In one section of the novel, Grey enters Anastasia’s bedroom and prepares to have sex with her.

“No,” I [Anastasia] protest, trying to kick him off.  He [Christian] stops. “If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.”

The full context of this scene was that Anastasia had just come back home from running and Christian attempts to take her shoes off. That is when she rejects him because her feet were sweaty but he persists. Is that rape?

“It pisses me off that there are people who are creating this opinion about the book without reading it. They’ve only read snippets and do not know the contents besides the sex,” says Clark.fifty shades of grey comment 2

“His past is not an excuse for his behavior as a grown man. Not everyone would be affected that way after a past like that,” says Tiffany R., a 26 year old Nursing major at SCCC and victim of domestic abuse.

“Because of his dominant character it is abuse. He chooses to beat her rather than take a chance in loving her when he first meets her. He gets aroused by the pain he brings to her,” says Tiffany.

“I don’t think he is an abuser, I just think he has abusive qualities with his need for control. [However] she still stood up for herself. Whatever she didn’t want, she said it.”

At Grey’s workplace, he hires blonde haired women to work for him but the woman he is sexually attracted to women who are typically brown haired and pale skinned. They all favor similar features of his mother, “The crack whore”.

There was an article posted on Facebook shared from themarysue.com. The article is called “I dated Christian Grey: How woman are groomed for abuse” written by Samantha Field. Samantha Field writes “The danger in Fifty Shades of Grey is that it does what an abuser does: it makes us think that abuse is normal.”

Fifty shades of grey commentAn argument broke out in the comments section on Facebook between several different people. Cory Guzzi writes “My god, it’s not anyone else’s faults that the majority of woman fell for the horror that is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ It is also not anyone else’s fault that the [main character] stayed in this abusive relationship for so long. She could have left anytime and should have.” Samantha Marie Merschoff adds “books like Fifty Shades of Grey and twilight normalize abusive behavior for teenage girls”. Neither Cory nor Samantha read the books as mentioned in their comments they gave. Their opinions were made from the articles and they have only read snippets from the book ignorant of the true context.

Manipulation; seduction; possession; stalking; abuse; rape, are all the characteristics that people have stereotyped towards Christian Grey. Christian Grey’s character was abused as a young boy and was forced to watch his mother overdose on drugs, causing him emotional pain. He became this frustrated and angry teenage boy until an older woman came along and “taught” him the idea of submission. He released all of his pain sexually as her sub. Because he was a sub his behavior improved and eventually becoming this successful man. His background and troubled past madehim the Dominant he became, until he “submitted” to one virgin college student, Anastasia.

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