*** WARNING – Graphic Content and Potential Triggers ***
I don’t hate 50 Shades of Grey because of its “BDSM” content.
I hate 50 Shades of Grey because of it’s dangerous messages to those who are abused and to the abusers.
I hate it because so many people are in defense of it in the name of “leaving people to do whatever they want in the privacy of their own home” and “prudes don’t need to take us back 50 years.” While they may have had a point if we were strictly talking about consensual BDSM, that is not the issue, because we are not talking about BDSM with 50 Shades of Grey. These books are taking us back 50 years because they are about abuse—masturbatory literature about abuse.
Abuse is not sexy.
The glorification of that abuse is not sexy. The glorification of that abuse is scary.
The fact that its defenders don’t even recognize it as abuse is even more scary.
50 Shades normalizes sexual abuse and manipulation masquerading as BDSM.
Safe, Sane, and Consensual
The motto of the BDSM community is, “Safe, Sane, and Consensual,” as explained in Techniques of Pleasure by Margot Weiss.
Safe, Sane, and Consensual (SSC) is the mantra of SM in the United States today. Coined in 1983 by David Stein as part of the statement of purpose of GMSMA (Gay Male S/M Activists), the slogan was popularized across the country and is now widely endorsed by BDSM organizations. Stein notes that the slogan was originally understood to distinguish “defensible” SM, practiced on “willing partners for mutual satisfaction,” from “harmful, antisocial, predatory behavior,” “the coercive abuse of unwilling victims.” Beyond being a motto, however, Safe, Sane, and Consensual has become critical to the social organization of SM; it is the primary way practitioners distinguish between good, safe, acceptable SM and bad, unsafe, unacceptable practice. To ensure that the community of practitioners corresponds to SSC rules, several practices have become standardized; the two largest, most institutionalized are negotiation and using safewords.
I am not personally in the BDSM community, but I stand with them in calling out 50 Shades to shed the wool and reveal the rabid wolf lurking within.
Why? Because having been in a similarly abusive relationship, I recognize it when I see it.
In 50 Shades, Christian Grey uses predatory consent, convincing a naive girl who had no idea what she was getting into to sign a contract wherein she agreed to be his submissive for two days a week, and he has the right to punish her in any way he wants if she disobeys. In exchange, he offers her financial gain and “ultimate sexual pleasure.”
Manipulating consent from a naive girl is the first problem that occurs over and over again. Consent is what distinguishes mutual BDSM play from real life abuse. Predatory consent is not the same as consent.
He also ignores her safe word, and on top of that berates her for having her own boundaries. That is abuse.
My Very Own Christian Grey
Like Christian Grey, my ex-husband also used BDSM as an excuse to abuse and manipulate.
Our contract was our marriage certificate, and my compensation was that maybe he would stop looking at porn, stop cheating, and stop the internal fight among his “multiple-personalities.”
I can’t say what his thought process was, but I can share what my experience was.
First of all, I didn’t know anything about the aforementioned rules. At one point we established a safe word, but that was the closest to any type of understanding I had, and I fear his only understanding came from watching violent porn.
I tried to talk to him about what I desired in a loving, sexual relationship between husband and wife, because we had that sometimes. We had that quite a bit, actually. I also told him what kink I was enjoying and what made me uncomfortable, but it snowballed out of control into a perpetual fight over whether or not I truly loved him.
I allowed him to pour hot wax on my body including sensitive areas. It burned, but cooled quickly. It was exciting, and scary, and strange. Ultimately for me it was all lust. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel safe. It wasn’t what I wanted. Another time I agreed to do it again, but we changed candles and the wax burned much hotter. I told him to stop and that I didn’t want to do it ever again. When I shared my feelings with him that it wasn’t what I wanted, that it felt like pure lust and I didn’t feel loved, that it felt less like sex and more like he was actually pouring hot wax on me to hurt me and get off on hurting me, he discounted my feelings.
A true partner would have listened and taken my feelings into consideration. His answer was, “You like it. I know you do because that was the wettest you’ve ever been.”
He used that statement over and over again to discount my feelings of discomfort any time they came up. That is abuse. He reminded me that if I didn’t do it I must not love him. That is manipulation.
It overflowed outside of sex into our day-to-day life. He wanted to punish me over disagreements, often threatening to whip me with the buckle part of his belt, rather than the strap, which I could sometimes tolerate during sex.
He told me several times that if I would just do what he wanted for 24 hours with no caveat, things would get better. According to his words, if I agreed, I would be showing him how much I love him and he would get his many conflicts out of his system, including his desire for extreme porn, his infidelity, his habit of choking me when we got into a fight, and in his internal conflict with his “multiple-personality”-type issues.
It was tempting after having hoped for so long and having fought through hell for him and us, to just believe him and give in. What if it really did get better? What if he would finally see that I did love him because I was willing to do this?
As far as the “no caveat” rule went, we couldn’t acknowledge any boundaries whatsoever. I just had to trust him—a man who had sexually assaulted me through a hostile “personality” named Animal, who the first time I met him forced me to swallow or he would “stick it in my ass;” a man who masturbated to internet porn of varying extremities, including women being whipped until they were bleeding, women who were clearly drugged with insects crawling over them, a woman being taken from behind while her face was shoved into a flushing toilet, and one who had her breasts nail-gunned to a board. He described the latter to me and said he felt a bit guilty for getting off on that.
No, I couldn’t trust him. I didn’t believe he would actually go so far as to bring in a third person to abuse, as his verbal fantasies reveled in, such as the time he described a fantasy of an ex-girlfriend (whom I knew of in real life) hanging upside-down and us having sex while he decapitated her and blood splattered everywhere. I certainly didn’t believe he would kill or have me kill someone or anything that extreme, but I didn’t know what he would do. I couldn’t trust him with myself.
I always believed him when he said he wanted to be free from the chains of porn and infidelity, that he loved me and wanted a love like I wanted. In a last ditch effort to “help” him, so I naively believed I was doing, I did agree to a compromise of two hours. I thought maybe I could endure it for just two hours and maybe, just maybe he would end this madness once and for all.
I hated every second of it when he told me to strip down to nothing in the bathroom, then pee in a glass and drink it. As I brought it up to my mouth I still didn’t know if I was going to drink it or throw it in his face, but he ended up stopping me. At least he had some limits. It turned out to be a test to see if I was really committed to our agreement.
I did stop the agreement soon after that, however, when he took a photo of me naked in front of a mirror covered in insults he had written with marker like “fat whore” and “Legion’s toy.” No, I didn’t enjoy that. I stopped the whole thing. I made sure he deleted the photo. It was an older phone that he since replaced and I believe that photo no longer exists. I hope I am correct.
Some I consented to, some I consented to under predatory and coercive circumstances, and some I refused. He wanted me to enjoy BDSM, but I didn’t. I couldn’t, especially under such physically and emotionally unsafe circumstances.
50 Shades normalizes the idea that girls love rape.
The line between consent and predatory consent was crossed in 50 Shades, which only serves to reinforce the overall message that girls love to be forced, “punished,” taken advantage of, and raped.
My ex mirrored that when all of the porn he was exposed to and indulged in only further twisted his mind that girls like to be abused, and my level of “wetness” as mentioned above was all the proof he needed. What I said and actually felt meant nothing, as if I’m some animal whose chemical reactions trump all reason, logic, and emotion that set humans apart from animals.
50 Shades‘ message to abusers is dangerous; the message is that they can just keep doing what they’re doing until the girl gives in, or until they get what they want, because either way, she of course secretly likes it is regardless of what she says. We want men to stop rape? We have to stop telling them abuse is not abuse, rape is not rape, and girls love it all.
50 Shades normalizes the dangerous idea that the abuser will change.
Why did I stay with my ex for so long?
Faith and compassion.
The “love story” of 50 Shades illustrates that through abuse, they can get married and overcome all of their trials until they finally arrive at their happy ending, influenced by the pending arrival of a baby. This reinforces the all too common hope of victims that if you have compassion on your abuser because of his past or because of what took his childhood innocence away, and if you just do what he wants, he will eventually come around because “love heals all wounds.”
Almost worse is the idea that a baby will bring you together. Have some men and women risen up to meet the challenge of having a baby? Certainly, but the hope that an abuser will do so is far too risky.
I’m sorry, that is not the happy ending for most women who suffer at the hands of their lovers, nor for the children involved.
The abuse and manipulation was a consistent part of my relationship with my ex, but it wasn’t all of our relationship.
I didn’t see myself as abused for a long time because it wasn’t as bad as being physically beaten and raped, or as bad as having a loaded gun to my head. Those seemed obviously dangerous and terrible, but in my case, “It was ‘just’ a love vs. porn battle. It was ‘just’ him choking me when we got into a fight. I was ‘just’ trying to help my husband get a handle on himself. And my husband whom I loved and loved me too ‘didn’t do anything like what those other men did.'” I couldn’t see it for what it was.
He told me more than once that he chose me. He told me he chose the life I thought we were working towards—a porn-free life of love and respect where kink may or may not have been a part, but certainly not manipulation nor abuse.
Some of his personalities were the most loving, amazing beings I had ever known and they treated me like a queen. They begged me not to give up on them. I promised them with all of my heart that I wouldn’t. They tried to fight off the harmful personalities both from gaining control of the body and hurting me physically or emotionally, and from gaining control in the inside world.
Sometimes they won. Sometimes they failed.
Sometimes they would text me while we were separated wondering where I was and were shocked to learn we were going through a divorce process. They’d fight until “he” and I gave in to hope and we’d cancel the divorce and try again.
The “main” personality was “middle of the road,” like you would expect from a “normal” relationship. He had his strengths and weaknesses, but I believed him when he said he loved me and I believed him when he said he wanted to be someone better for us.
How could I give up on the part of him that was trying? How could I give up when I promised the best of him I wouldn’t? How could I give up on the seven year old little boy that was first exposed to porn, who eventually became this sick and twisted monster? That little boy was surely still somewhere inside, and the loving part of him was certainly worth it. How could I give up on someone who had lost his way from the good, strong family of values in which he was raised? How could I give up and prove to him his worst fear is true—that he is unlovable? How could I turn my back on him, and not only him but my faith in God and a Savior who I believe really can heal all wounds?
No matter how much I tried, how much I changed, tolerated, participated, reasoned, etc. No matter what I did, his promises were empty and he always returned to his abusive, manipulative, and reckless behavior.
This is sadly the norm.
It was never up to me to change him, not even to support and love him through it. His choices were his and if he exceeded my boundaries, if he abused and manipulated, that was enough to leave immediately. And now I know. Now I understand how far it can go, I know what the red flags are, and I will never naively tolerate it again.
I won’t pretend to know each individual situation and their specific answers and timelines. I have a friend who stuck by her physically abusive husband because he said he wanted to change and actually followed through. Was it a hard road? Absolutely. But he did actually progress, while she became more assertive at the same time, and their relationship is safe now. Is it perfect? Of course not, but she is safe, their kids are safe, and they can focus on acceptable marital issues rather than on the abuse.
In my relationship, I finally did give up, and it was the best decision for me. I went through a major personal breakthrough that empowered me with self-respect. I didn’t even know I was missing self-respect, when I had thought I was doing good in the world and for him. I realized that I have to be the most important person in my life because I am the only person I have control over, and I can’t afford to give my power of choice away to anyone or anything else. And if I’m hurting or caught up in a twisted mess, I really can’t do myself or anyone else any good, not even him.
My self-respect engaged and made me realize I was worth so much more than that, so I told him I wanted to get divorced. It was basically mutual, he was tired of fighting too, mostly over sex, porn, cheating, and abuse. He moved out and we filed right away. No loving personalities tried to contact me this time, thinking we were still together. He did, however, call me to ask me to reconsider. It was about a month after we filed, with two months left in the waiting period before it would be final. I told him I would reconsider after he got his life straightened out, and not before. I did love him, but I would no longer tolerate the way he treated and manipulated me.
He hung up on me and immediately sent me four photos of naked girls and followed up with a text that there were actually five girls he’s with since we filed, but he could only send those four photos for some reason. I deleted it all and never looked back.
“Prudes” and “Kinks” Stand Together Against Abuse
Now that I have personally had a taste of the horrors of abuse and the effects of extreme porn, including human trafficking I have since learned about, I have zero tolerance for abuse and manipulation. 50 Shades of Grey and its defenders enrage me because before my “education” I, too, was naive. I didn’t realize how close to home abuse and sexual misconduct would come, nor how damaging, prevalent, risky, and dangerous it is all around us. I too may have thought of 50 Shades, “That’s just BDSM, don’t watch it if you don’t like it.” I would have been wrong. I would have been part of the problem.
If you are “straight-laced,” that is fine. If you are into kink and BDSM, that is fine. Just keep proper consent where it should be, and DO NOT defend real abuse. Whichever camp you are in, don’t sit idly by ignoring or condoning that abuse, because if you do, YOU are what’s wrong with our culture of rape and sexual assault. YOU are what’s wrong with society’s blind eye turned away from the tens of millions of sex slaves globally, including the 100,000 – 300,000 children in America who are tortured and abused today. YOU are what’s wrong with the suffering not being able to have a voice. YOU are perpetuating this heinous behavior into the mainstream lives of innocent people—men, women, and children.
Instead, get educated, hear my story and others like mine (and worse). See abuse for what it is. Protect yourself and your children from it. Take a stand with me and the “prudes” and the “kinks” to prevent, heal, and eventually END sexual violence, domestic violence, and human trafficking.
If you are suffering, you are not alone.
Resources for Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, and Human Trafficking/Sex Slavery
National Sexual Violence Hotline
Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. Get help or get information.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
“…no fees, no names, no judgment.” Get help or get involved.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center—Polaris Project
Get help or call if you suspect human trafficking including adult women prostitutes under force or coercion of a pimp, and all minors regardless of “consent.”
Morality in Media / Porn Harms—The Dirty Dozen List
Just released 1/21/15, 50 Shades of Grey makes the list of 12 leading contributors to sexual exploitation!
HELP VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT
Instead of watching the 50 Shades of Grey movie, please donate to a local DVSA shelter, like TESSA in Colorado Springs.
Learn more or find a directory for a shelter in your area here.