Fifty Shades of Abuse: 5 Lies Every Girl Needs to Recognize and Reject
It’s no secret that the Fifty Shades franchise has capitalized on the trend to push porn into mainstream media. When Fifty Shades Freed opens in theatres this month, it’s estimated that Universal Pictures will round out their revenue on this trilogy at $1.2 billion. While author E.L. James sits smugly atop her $95 million.
Normalize the exploitation of women, rake in the money, and ignore the social consequence! It’s a pattern that's been used by the porn industry since Playboy was first introduced.
When did Fifty Shades become a teen trend?
Sold under the guise of erotic "romance" novels, the Fifty Shades books were quickly dubbed as "mommy porn." And though the intended audience was adults, the books and movies have also been read and viewed by millions of teenage girls worldwide.
Today we’ll discuss the impact media like Fifty Shades is having on young girls. We’ll also show you how to help inoculate girls against messages in popular culture that promote violence against women. And then I’ll share personal stories about real battered women. To top it off, we’ll show you how to take action against the upcoming Fifty Shades Freed movie.
When sales of the first Fifty Shades novel broke record numbers, teens started to take notice. By the time the first movie came out, a full fledged teen fanbase had been established. Girls today feel extreme pressure to conform. If their friends are hyped about Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele’s sadomasochistic relationship then, at the very least, they’re going to be curious, too!
To get a better sense of what actual teens are saying about the Fifty Shades trilogy I sought out "kid reviews" on Common Sense Media. Although many were quick to call the movie out for what it is —pornography (so proud of you!). Others were much more enthusiastic about the film. This review from a 15-year-old girl caught my attention:
“I have read the book and maybe it is poorly written but I couldn't put it down, obviously I wanted to see the film since the trailer came out, I had many expectations and I wasn't disappointed at all, I loved the film, I think it was sexy, funny, the acting of Dakota Johnson was great, the soundtrack was amazing, it had humor, sex but not too much sex, love... I really liked it, it is not for my age maybe but I don't regret seeing it at all. I don't get why so many people are haters, it is a different type of film, and sure, people are not used for something this sexual to be so popular but just stop... And this does not support rape at all, EVERYTHING IS DONE WITH HER CONSENT!”
5 Lies Every Girl Needs to Recognize and Reject
Gasp! It breaks my heart to hear someone so young be so confused about sex, love and consent. It’s time we expose Fifty Shades for what it is —abuse! Let’s go through 5 common lies your daughter is likely to hear with the release of Fifty Shades Freed and debunk each one.
1. Fifty Shades is just fiction
I could probably write my own book on why this is such a big fat lie. I’ll try to be succinct. Anastasia Steele was 22 when she met Christian Grey. Now consider the following stats:
- A staggering 25% of all women experience violence at the hand of an intimate partner
- Women’s shelters have to turn away countless victims. There are simply not enough beds to accommodate those fleeing abusive relationships
- Women age 16 to 24 are 3 times as likely to become victims of domestic violence.
- More than 500 women ages 16 to 24, are killed by their partners in the United States every year (see video below)
For more information on the real dangers to women in abusive relationships, please watch as Leslie Morgan Steiner recounts her own personal experience with "Crazy Love" in the following Ted Talk:
2. But he loves her
This is where you need to be clear with your daughters. Talk with them about the beauty of sex and what "real love" consists of. Include in the conversation the importance of friendship, trust, compassion, emotional commitment, and tenderness in intimate relationships. Love (and sex) is so much more than any character like Christian Grey has to offer.
Author Gail Dines explains that one of the biggest lies sold in Fifty Shades Freed is that an abuser can be subdued into change —because an abuser seeks power, not love:
“Men like Christian Grey are never loved out of battery; they just keep getting more drunk on their power over women. Believing they’ll change is the dangerous fantasy that keeps many women in their grip.”
3. He never hits her (so it’s not abuse)
Setting aside that this statement is laughably false, let’s focus on teaching girls how to recognize and reject different forms of abuse. Christian’s psychological aggression towards Anastasia raises all sorts of red flags.
- Physical violence: When someone intentionally uses of force to cause harm, injury or death to another person.
- Sexual violence: Includes any unwanted sexual contact including but not limited to rape. Be aware that unwanted exposure to pornography, threats of sexual violence and the distributing of sexualized photographs of the victim are also acts of sexual violence.
- Stalking: Any unwanted attention or contact from another individual that causes you fear or concern for your own safety.
- Psychological Aggression: The intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally. This may be done through name-calling or humiliation, limiting access to money, friends, and family, excessive monitoring and any other number of control tactics.
Teach girls to flee immediately if they experience any of these red flags in a relationship.
4. It’s consensual
I don’t know how this is even an argument, but our 15-year-old reviewer exclaimed it in ALL CAPS!!! So, let’s review. Understanding consent helps protect children, teens and even adults from becoming victims of abuse. Watch this wonderful video that explains consent in a way even young kids will appreciate. Here are three important things to impress on girls:
- You get to decide what to do with your body
- You don’t have to do something you’re not comfortable with
- If you ever feel like someone is asking you to do something you’re not comfortable with (even sending a nude photo) speak to a trusted adult immediately!
5. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it
Unfortunately, "don’t like it, don’t look" doesn’t address the greater social cost. Teach girls they can speak out against any media that is detrimental to the cause of women.
You might think in the wake of #metoo and #timesup, Fifty Shades Freed would get tossed in the waste bin. Not so! Hollywood will once again turn a blind eye to sexual exploitation. This time the abuse is neatly packaged, glamorized and sold to audiences worldwide as ‘true love’ —with a fairy tale wedding to boot.
To bring this discussion into the real world, I’ll share an experience I had this weekend talking with two friends (names changed) who are both survivors of domestic violence.
Carmine and I sat in Joanna’s living room as she explains through tears why this is a bad day. She’s just heard through the grapevine that her husband is trying to contact her again. He wants her to tell the courts she made up the story. Perhaps they could start over?
But Joanna won’t forget the last time she hid, raped, bruised and battered, in the neighbor’s apartment waiting for the police arrive. It was a miracle she escaped long enough to make the emergency call. Her husband rarely let her out of his sight. Certainly not while he was in a rage.
He’s been in prison since I met Joanna almost a year ago, charged with violent sexual assault. She tells me in their 17-year relationship, he only become more possessive and jealous as the years went on.
Carmine nods knowingly; 15 years ago she went through almost the exact scenario. She reassures us both that this will pass. “Pray that something will take your Ex far away,” she says. “That’s what I did, and it worked! You and the kids will start over. Somehow you’ll manage to pick up the pieces. There is a whole world waiting for you now.”
Running interference against popular media
The depiction of domestic violence as the status quo is not just sold by Fifty Shades, but popular media everywhere. Our daughters deserve to know the truth. If we don’t tell them, they’re at risk of being seduced by the lie. And it will hurt them. By speaking opening with girls about current trends we CAN preempt porn’s attack on our daughters!
Help us join the National Center On Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) in protest against Fifty Shades Freed! It’s easy! Check out the following links:
Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition
"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent