Why. HOW?????

See Rhi, you are amazing in your ability to eloquently and gracefully lay out the rage, going straight to the crux of why these books are so insidious in their ability to seemingly (and creepily) let the concept of rape/abuse as a seduction technique gain a foothold into acceptable mainstream culture.

It is completely disturbing that the cruel and violent elements so very prominently written in 50SOG are being brushed aside by people, thinly veiled behind a curtain of justification like:

  • it’s just fiction
  • some people analyse too much these days
  • it’s not that bad don’t take it so seriously
  • it’s written for entertainment purposes, nothing more
  • just some light reading, an escape from our everyday lives
  • this is just a fantasy novel, that is all

Your exploration on this topic in your “Not Ok” post is brilliant – especially in the light that those above dot-point comments were actually taken straight from the Facebook thread discussing the books that we both commented on last week.

And your ability to write such insightful posts is very much something I tip my hat to, given that my reactions to 50SOG in general are far less eloquent and considered, and more of an exclamation along the lines of “it’s so shit shitty it amazes how can people like it because the abusive nature and dreadfully shitty writing in this book is shit on a shit sandwich type of shit”.

Because really.

How?

HOOOOOW can people like it? Or LOVE it even?

As in, not just say “oh, it was OK, with this one bit of the book that was pretty good” (because to be honest the only thing I didn’t mind in the books were the email exchanges).

But how can people absolutely fawn over the whole world (so poorly) constructed in the novels, and at the epicentre of this trembling abusefest that infatuated people for some reason adore, is one of the most emotionally and physically abusive, manipulative, cruel, controlling, misogynistic and down right douchey male characters to ever be turned into ink on paper.

I have been told of the “I don’t read much” angle on more than one occasion, but I have also known of people who read LOTS who think these books are it and a bit. People with varying levels of education and from differing backgrounds are all “Christian this” and “Christian that’.

Does it possibly come down to the fact that many people in long term relationships may be having dullish sex lives, and the raunch conveyed in the Fifties has stirred the lust on the home front.

Is it that women seem to finally be “allowed” to read erotica and subsequently have permission to enjoy a bit of naughty romp?

Is this what seems to make it easy for women to gloss over and ignore the more disturbing aspects of the books and brush them aside as simple light entertainment?

Because there are MANY. SOOOO MANY disturbing aspects – yes, “tampon” scene, I am referring to you, and to you there “multiple punishment f**ks”,  and you “almost rape scene” in book three, and you “baby in my womb is moving so it likes sex” scene. Along with the all the repeated declarations of Christian about needing/wanting/wishing to beat the shit out of Ana – it goes on and on and on. (like this blog post, wha-whaaaaaaa).

But to me no matter how lukewarm the home fires have been a-burnin in the bedroom in many households around the globe, I can’t just CAN’T get my head around WHY people love these books and HOW they can overlook the abuse contained in them.

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It is not okay

I have read many articles over the last week, decrying Fifty Shades of Grey as light entertainment, no more serious than porn films. As another example of how women will always judge other women for their choices, in this case reading and enjoying 50shades. As a publishing phenomenon that is really harming nobody, but opening up the way for more female erotica. I have read all this with a mounting frustration that I find hard to put into words. But I will do my best, dear Lee.

As a high school English teacher, a literature and gender studies graduate, as a lover of all books, I understand that no novel can be taken out of its context. It can not be removed from its societal history and background. I teach my pupils this in class.

So for the purposes of effective book reviewing, here is some social and cultural context that I think is vital to the reading of 50shades:

  • In any one year there are 13 million separate incidents of physical violence or threats of violence against women by their partner or former partners in the UK alone. Thirteen million.
  • On average 2 women a week are killed by their partner or former partner. Two women a week.
  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence.
  • In 2007 stalking was the most commonly experienced type of ‘intimate violence’. Just under a quarter of all women have experienced stalking.
  • In the UK the police receive one call a minute relating to assistance for domestic violence. 89% of these calls are women being assaulted by men.
  • Less than 24% of domestic violence crime is reported to the police. Let me repeat that. Less than 24% is reported. Less than 24% yet they still receive 1 call a minute.

But here is the kicker. Here is the statistic that makes my job as a teacher to young people so difficult, and so important. Here is the statistic that demands ‘lighthearted’ best selling novels be held up against a burning light of deconstruction and analysis. Here is the statistic that suggests to me something is going very very wrong with our culture, with our expectations of equality and entertainment. This is the statistic that explains how a novel depicting an unhealthy and abusive relationship can become a best seller in the first place.

1 in 5 young men think abuse/violence against women is acceptable.
1 in 10 young women think abuse/violence against women is acceptable.*

Did you read that? Abuse/violence is acceptable? This is not okay with me.

So excuse me whilst I can’t just pass 50shades off as an amazing publishing phenomenon. Excuse me whilst it saddens me women would defend a novel that depicts such a unhealthy and abusive relationship. Excuse me for being sad and mad and angry beyond belief, that not only do people not seem to be able to spot an abusive relationship – but they are okay with an abusive relationship.

This is not okay. I am not okay with this. And I will write and talk and rage about this for as long as necessary. For as long as the police receive one call a minute. For as long as my pupils think it is acceptable for their fathers to hit their mothers. For as long as I live in a culture that tells me control is romantic and the norm for women.

I am not okay with this.

*All statistics taken from womensaid.org.