50 Shades of Doubt

fifty-shades-darker-pdfNo doubt there will be many this Valentines day that consider the ultimate romantic gesture may be a meal followed by a viewing of the much acclaimed “50 shades of grey”.  Far be it from me to rain on anyone’s romantic parade, but permit me to offer 50 shades of doubt as to why this may not, in fact, be quite the romance infused gesture you had perhaps thought.

Firstly lets consider the context in which the romance between the two lead characters blossoms. Christian Grey was abused sexually, physically and emotionally as a child as a result of which he has an inability to have genuinely intimate encounters, finding it difficult to even sleep the night next to a woman and having multiple fears about being touched (I know the irony isn’t lost on me either).  In order to compensate for his horrendous upbringing he develops a taste for “unorthodox” sexual pleasures which involve dominating and controlling his “mate” in a variety of ways and in a custom built “play room”.

His relationship with Anastasia Steele, a sexually in-experienced and shy young woman, has all the hallmarks of control and abuse which is masked by Anna’s “inner Goddess” whose craving for multiple orgasms creates a smokescreen over the worse excesses of Mr Grey’s behaviour.   In any other context, his control of her finances, friends, job prospects, who she sits next to on a plane, where she travels, what car she drives, the computer she uses,  and the phone she texts on, how much she eats, the type of birth control she uses and control of her exercise regime would be considered abhorrent in the extreme but in this orgasmic haven, these behaviours can be tolerated, even welcomed (she has after all signed his “contract”)

Anything goes in Mr Grey’s distorted relational world and anything is tolerated in Anna’s submissive “I’ll go at your pace because I can’t think straight”  fog.  Severe beatings threaten to end the relationship, but then as Mr Grey patiently points out – the “safe word” is there for a reason (so her failure to use it, is of course her fault which he, of course, cannot be held accountable for).

The turbulent relationship continues and Mr Grey discovers he may have something resembling “romantic feelings” for Anna, he even helpfully draws on his torso where she may be permitted to touch him and offers to sleep next to her at night (sometimes).  And then the ultimate romantic gesture: he marries her and then proceeds to rape her and beat her (well she was told not to look at other men) and when did rape become such well… fun?

The final piece of the trilogy ends with their new baby growing peacefully inside her whip lashed stomach – one can only wonder how Mr Grey will fare as a father to his own daughter!

And so to my questions and my doubts.  How did abuse, control, manipulation, and domination become equated with romance?  How have so many of us become duped?  When did we decide that so long as our “inner Goddess” was happy anything goes?  Why are we not horrified by the power imbalance in Grey’s relationship?  Is it right that as long as we have consent and a safe word we can demean even torture a loved one?

This valentine’s day can we really not find something more genuinely romantic with which to delight our partner?

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