There have been numerous stories written characterizing 50 Shades of Grey as a movie that glamorizes domestic violence and will lead to an increase in the abuse of women. There have been boycotts started asking viewers to send $50 to a domestic violence shelter instead of seeing the movie because, "It has all the hallmarks of intimate partner abuse," said Paige Flink, CEO of the Family Place shelter in Dallas. "It glorifies all the things we're against."
I must respectfully disagree with my fellow domestic violence awareness and victims advocates. I do not think that 50 Shades of Grey glamorizes domestic violence, nor do I think a boycott is warranted. Still, I agree that viewers should send their admission fee to domestic violence shelters because the movie does not live up to its hype and more importantly, every domestic violence organization needs additional financial support.
50 Shades of Grey is about a young (27 years old), wealthy, reasonably handsome business man, Christian Grey who becomes sexually attracted to a young (21 years old), intelligent, recent college graduate, Anastasia Steele. 50 Shades of Grey is about BDSM (bondage & dominance and sadomasochism) and how Grey and Steele struggle with their feelings toward each other. (BDSM is a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, roleplaying, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics.)
Many women are attracted to, and flattered by men with power and wealth who show them attention. Many women may explore various sexual fantasies to please a powerful, wealthy man, whom she genuinely likes. The dynamic of a wealthy, powerful man who lavishes expensive gifts on a woman, coupled with "kinky" sex and BDSM, does not automatically constitute a domestic violence relationship.
Domestic Violence is about power and control. Specifically, an abusive relationship exists when the abuser finds pleasure in exerting his/her power and control over a disgruntled victim. This is not what is depicted in 50 Shades of Grey. Ms. Steele was a flirtatious and willing participant in the intense and passionate relationship that achieved sexual gratification for both parties. Ad nauseam, the director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, showed that the relationship was consensual. Grey presented Steele with a contract that outlined consent, confidentiality and BDSM related guidelines to ensure willful participation and safety. Ms. Steele had the power in determining if, and when the contract would be executed.
Grey did not possess the frequently documented characteristics of an abuser.
• Telling you that you can never do anything right
• Showing jealousy of your friends and time spent away
• Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing friends or family members
• Embarrassing or shaming you with put-downs
• Controlling every penny spent in the household
• Taking your money or refusing to give you money for expenses
• Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you
• Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do
• Preventing you from making your own decisions
• Telling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your children
• Preventing you from working or attending school
• Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets
• Intimidating you with guns, knives or other weapons
• Pressuring you to have sex when you don't want to or do things sexually you're not comfortable with
• Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol
In many, if not most domestic violence relationships; whether physical, verbal, psychological or financial, the victim does not leave the abuser for a myriad of reasons. In 50 Shades of Grey, Steele was not physically or passively forced to stay in the relationship. She never came across as a victim. To the contrary, we witnessed a maturing woman who grew to understand that she needed and wanted more in the relationship than sex.
In the final scene, resolutely, Steele gets on an elevator and leaves Grey and the relationship without any interference from him - this is not what happens in most domestic violence scenarios.