Saturday, February 14, 2015

So Fifty Shades opened in theatres today.

Yet another time when I've kept my mouth shut because PTBs forbid someone who hasn't taken a flying leap into the fandom have an opinion... but here goes.

My father was Christian Grey. My mother was Anastasia Steele.

He was handsome, charming, financially comfortable, educated, experienced. She was young, bright, and terribly, terribly naive. He was funny, and brazen, and could talk her into accepting lavish presents. She was a beautiful girl from a very small town, running away with the man who promised to show her everything, if only she obeyed his every whim. He was an actor worthy of the reddest of carpets. She was fooled.

She told me once that she knew on her wedding night that she had made a mistake, when he flew into a rage over nothing and flung his ring at her head.

But she stayed. Because he didn't mean it. Because his mother was a hag who brought him up badly, not his fault he has temper problems. Because she must have done something to provoke the outburst. Because good girls don't get divorced, a marriage is a contract, after all. Because it wasn't always bad, sometimes he was amazing! Because she had moved with him thousands of miles from home and if she tried to leave he would take her children. Because if she could just pray enough, be perfect enough, love him enough, he could change. Because, because, because.

I'm not going to even touch on the two-bit half-assed ignorant portrayal of BDSM, except to say that a Dominant who behaved in such a fashion would swiftly find themselves blacklisted with nobody to paddle. As a whole, the community polices itself well, and abuse/rape/consent issues are not tolerated.

The problem with Fifty Shades is not the kinky sex. The problem is that it's practically a how-to manual for sociopaths to gas-light themselves a nicely trained long-term punching bag. Sticking the fairytale marriage + children on the end of it is the most dangerous part, because it is exactly the conclusion that every abuse victim convinces themselves will happen if they can just be perfect. It tacks the ultimate carrot onto the myth of "If I love my abuser enough, they can change. If I love them enough, I can fix them. And if they're still being bad to me, it's my own fault."

What adult people do in the privacy of their homes with full informed consent all around, that's their own business. But Fifty Shades sanitizes portrayals of stalking, manipulated and withdrawn consent (did the definition of rape change when I wasn't looking?!?), and a dozen other points, dressing them up in silk sheets and champagne, that all come down to one thing, an abuser grooming a victim. We should not be normalizing this.

Let's be real here for a sec. This is not a love story, it is an abuse fantasy. Which is fine, lots of people have rape and abuse fantasies, but the vast majority don't go and live them out in daily life. For those that do, there are domestic violence laws. (Woefully inadequate, but that's another rant.) So if that's what cranks your motor, then fine, crank away. Not my kink, but whatever. Just don't try to tell me that it's a beautiful love story, or a dynamic and growing relationship, or anything other than an abuse fantasy. And don't give me that line about the "intended audience" either, books in the grown-ups section don't come with age ranges. So just don't. Call it what it is, acknowledge that's what turns you on, and process that for a bit.

Because I am the child who grew up in the house at the end of that narrative. The huge, spotlessly clean showpiece of a home. The isolated, broken mother, an intelligent and beautiful woman reduced to arm candy. The handsome, sociopathic dad, who flies into a rage if he is given a salad fork instead of a dinner fork in his table setting. The children, groomed and trained to be the next generation of victims. It's not harmless fantasizing. It's real. It happens every single day behind locked doors in rich neighborhoods, abuse is no respecter of wealth or station, race or creed. To you it might be your bedroom play, but to me, it is the first 22 years of my life. It affects my decisions and behaviors to this day, and it can never be just fiction.


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