Posted by: scottishboomerang | July 3, 2012

Fifty Shades of Evil: The Grey Trilogy as the Glorification of Relationship Abuse and Child Grooming.

In this article I will be looking at this year’s publishing phenomenon, the 50 Shades Trilogy. The books – a sort of BDSM Mills-and-Boon-esque romance, have been a runaway success, making the author, British mother EL James, one of the most successful female authors of all time. The 50 Shades Trilogy has outsold Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code. 

EL James’ success comes at a time when the British ministry of the interior, the Home Office, whose remit extents to policing and criminal justice, is seeking to widen the definition of Domestic Abuse in England to include coercive control, following a series of high profile murders of women in England, in 2011 and 2012. The Criminal Justice system in the United Kingdom is slowly waking up (not fast enough for many abuse survivors, in my opinion) to the fact that the phenomenon of a man exercising coercive control , rather than physical violence, is a greater indicator of risk of a woman being murdered by her intimate partner. It is not, then, without significant irony James’ stupendously successful novels contain numerous instances of the “hero” exercising such coercive control over the heroine.

My beef with the books are not the fact they are terribly repetitive and stomach-churning “love scenes” every three pages or so. I am not calling for a ban because they are “porn” or “filth”, as many on the religious right are.  Nor am I making a value judgement per se on those who follow a  BDSM  lifestyle or who enjoy certain erotic tastes in the bedroom. Yet these books are, in every way, completely immoral.

What is particularly disturbing is that this is being presented for public entertainment and the women reading 50 Shades are effectively being conditioned to view coercive control, one of the most dangerous and insidious forms of relationship abuse, as normal, and even something to aspire to. 

Serial Abusers, whether they target children or adults, typically use grooming to create a trust that is later used to keep the Target in the sexual relationship as well as to keep them from seeking help. This is done by paying excessive attention to the Target the beginning – spending time, buying gifts, and this attention can even extend to the Target’s family and friends as a means of masking the actual intent of the actions.  50 Shades of Grey is actually a novel which describes, rather accurately (albeit unintentionally) the process of grooming of a vulnerable Target used by a serial abuser.

Grooming is a term usually used when talking about child sexual abuse, but in my view all abuse involves forms of grooming which in the relationship between an adult Abuser and an adult Target retain many of the same patterns and features.

James’ writing jumps around a bit and its not logically consistent, but let’s look at how the six stages of grooming play out in examples the 50 Shades novels. Critics quickly point to the fact that Ana’s musings read like a teenager’s diary, missing the point that this is actually a device to emphasis Ana’s innocence. Ana’s reaction of embarrassment to a couple kissing openly in an elevator, for example, indicates that Ana maybe an adult chronologically (though not by much); emotionally she is a child. The definitions of the six stages are adapted from this abuse survivors website, which focuses on child abuse, but, as I’ve said, Grooming can affect children and adults alike, and Ana is portrayed very much as a child particularly in the first two books of the Trilogy.

1. Targeting the victim. An abuser will size up their victim, choosing one that has lower self-esteem, and is vulnerable, isolated, and needy. Targets who are isolated geographically or emotionally from their family are particularly vulnerable to Abusers.
In the 50 Shades Christian Grey immediately picks up on Ana’s insecurity and low self-esteem when she stumbles into his office and nervously asks her questions for an interview for a student magazine. The epilogue in the final book of the Trilogy, which describe this encounter from Grey’s point of view, portrays in detail how Grey selects Ana because of her shyness and vulnerability. He knows there are very few people around her who will defend her, and he seeks almost immediately to isolate her from her friends Jose and Kate, being openly hostile towards them both. Early on in their dating relationship he quizzes her for private information regarding her family, discovering that she is the product of a broken home, that her mother lives at the other end of the continent, and that her stepfather, to whom she is closer, lives in a different town.

2. Gaining the victim’s trust. The Abuser gains their Target’s trust by gathering information about the Target,  their needs and how to fulfil them, and may extend this behaviour to the Target’s friends and family as a means of masking his actual intent.

In the 50 Shades Trilogy, Christian Grey admits to keeping a dossier on Ana with a lot of personal information. He learns through his snooping that Ana is “quietly ambitious” about her chosen career. When, nervous about his control, she turns down working in his company, he finds out where she works and where her new job is going to be (and stalks her both on-line and in person). At their first date, Ana mentions fleetingly that her stepfather likes fishing. Grey immediately mugs up on fishing, feigning an interest in the sport to gain the trust and appear likeable to Ana’s father, who concludes he is a great guy. Even though his goal is to isolate Ana from Kate and Jose, her two best friends, he initially extends largess to them, by buying Jose’s photographic art and including Kate on expensive outings. In the second book Grey admits to running intrusive background checks on Ana and finds her bank account number and knows that she has very little money and a lot of student debt. He is ideally equipped with information to proceed, from a very early stage in their relationship to the third stage of grooming, namely:

  1. Fulfilling a need. Once the Abuser has figured out what the Target’s needs are, the Abuser begins to lavish the Target with attention, gifts, praise and affection, extending this behaviour where necessary to friends and family. Grey lavishes Ana with expensive gifts, including a car, and valuable first editions of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and money, where he has this paid directly into her bank account. He also gives her very expensive clothes, even though she is clearly uncomfortable with accepting these gifts. In the first book, he manipulates her stepfather in giving his blessing to Grey presenting Ana with a lavish luxury car as a “graduation present”,  and uses her father’s assent to the idea to enforce Grey’s demand that Ana hand over her beloved classic car to Grey to be sold. He does not give her the proceeds of the sale of the car immediately, remaining in control of the money, until Ana demands it from him when she decides at then end of the first book to leave him (typically of a woman in an abusive relationship, she returns to her abuser in the second books). In the additional chapters in the final book, which are written from Grey’s point of view, we see Grey assessing Ana’s poverty when he first meets her and plotting on how to exploit it.  Grey uses his wealth, having identified Ana’s economic needs, to gain leverage over her through gifts and patronage, but Ana’s economic life remains strictly controlled by Grey and the purchases primarily serve his needs, not hers. For example, in the second book he buys the company where she has just started working, with the excuse that he wanted to expand his business into publishing. Grey lies blatantly to Ana about true motivations for acquiring the company, has her boss fired, and Ana is given her boss’s job. Ana’s working life as well as her private life quickly come to depend on Grey. Ana quickly becomes dependent on Grey for her self-esteem and professional advancement.

  1. Isolating the Target. In cases of child grooming the sex offender usesthe status of idol and the special relationship he or she has with the child to create situations in which the child is alone with the predator. Situations can include special trips, babysitting, tutoring, or mentoring. In an abusive relationship between to adults, isolation takes the form of removing the Target from their support networks and comfort zones and making the Abuser the centre of the Target’s universe, establishing an emotional dependency on the Abuser.In 50 Shades, we see a patterns of abuse commonly found in child grooming, which is hardly surprising since Ana is emotionally extremely child-like. Her youth and inexperience are contrasted with the idea that Grey (who is chronologically older than Ana) is also old beyond his years. So we see plenty of “special trips” in helicopters, private jets, and yachts, which Grey makes sure Ana knows are “just for her, because she’s special”. These trips are used to establish trust and also to isolate Ana from her support networks. Grey uses a mentor/tutor role to gain control over Ana, an in the second book Ana remarks that he her sexual mentor, that she will always be “behind”, and that Christian is, and always will be,  more knowledgeable about most things except cooking. Ana states how she “blossoms under his praise”, with the reverse also being true: Ana becomes anxious, insecure, and tearful when Grey is displeased with her (which usually happens within a few minutes of him praising her). Ana very quickly ends up living with Grey, and marrying him, within a few weeks of meeting him.Adult patterns of grooming are evident when Grey uses the fact that Ana’s best friend – and voice of reason – is away on vacation to quickly accelerate the grooming process, and by the time her best friend returns, Ana is more or less living full-time with her Abuser and becomes engaged to him. In the first book, Ana goes to visit her mother for a break to think about the relationship. Initially Grey is angry with Ana for going off on her own to visit her family, but consents to her visiting her mother eventually. Grey then follows her (more stalking behaviour) and ends up monopolizing Ana’s time so that she does not get to spend the weekend with her family. Grey is openly hostile to Kate, Ana’s best female friend, and Jose, her best male friend, because he knows that Kate immediately identified him as a potential danger to Ana, and behaves in an extremely threatening manner to Kate when Kate, on return from her holiday, confronts him about his treatment of Ana. He constantly tells Ana how happy he is that is was she, and not her confident, experienced, no-nonsense friend, who came to is office to interview him. I’ll bet!

  1. Sexualising the relationship. With child grooming, after the emotional attachment and trust of the child has been obtained, the Abuser progressively sexualises the relationship. Desensitization of the child occurs through talking, pornography, and creating situations in which the child and abuser are naked. The child may begin to see their relationship in more sexual, special terms. With adult grooming, this behaviour is subtler and harder to identify. Typically in an abusive relationship, the dating relationship will become sexual, more serious, or all consuming, very quickly, before the Target is ready for such serious commitment.So how does this manifest itself in 50 Shades? The road-map for  child grooming is most obvious with respect to the BDSM side of Ana and Grey’s relationship, where the child-like Ana is desensitized firstly through talking about BDSM, then being ordered to research and negotiate a contract on it with her abuser.  Within a few weeks Ana is coerced and manipulated into sexual acts of ever increasing depravity and within a few days of becoming sexually active is being subjected to escalating levels of  inhuman and degrading treatment. Grey objectifies and sexualises Ana, turning her into a sexual object. The adult grooming is apparent in the acceleration of the relationship. Ana becomes Christian’s official girlfriend / submissive within a few days of knowing him, he manipulates her into moving in with him and marrying him within a few short weeks. On their second date, when Christian takes Ana to see his home in order to convince her to becoming his Submissive, Christian does not give Ana the option of saying no to him, or taking things more slowly, demanding that she surrender her virginity to him immediately so that he can escalate the sexualisation of their relationship.  Ana is manipulated into consenting believing Grey’s lies that sleeping with him will be a “remedy”.

  1. Maintaining control. With child sex abuse, once the sexual abuse has begun, child sex abusers use secrecy and blame to manipulate the child into silence and participation. “This is how we show that we love each other,” “It’s not hurting anyone,” are common things a child groom-er may say to their victim. With adult grooming, a similar pattern is followed. A Target is continually conditioned to accept Abuse because its “for her own good” or “she asked for it” or “made him loose his temper” or “this is just how he expresses his love or affection” and she is punished severely if she talks to an outsider about the relationship or attempts to seek help.   In 50 Shades, secrecy is apparent from the start since Grey makes Ana sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, preventing her from discussing his BDSM predilections with anyone (this would also prevent her from seeking help when trying to exit the relationship). Ana also discovers that Grey photographed his previous Subversives in compromising positions in order to coerce them into silence. Ana is frequently told, and eventually comes to accept, that Grey’s control is for her own good. Grey sees Ana’s free will as an obstacle as a negative thing. Grey tells Ana that “all her worries would go away” and she won’t have to think about whether “an action is right or wrong” if she submits to him. With respect to violence and BDSM during sex, Grey frequently says, and Ana accepts, that “this is how Grey is made”.  Grey, from the start, exercises and maintains control over Ana using food. He is constantly forcing Ana to eat, even when she is not hungry. He attempts from the start to control how much she eats and what she eats. Grey’s pathology regarding food is perhaps a textbook indication that he is an Abuser. A further example of the maintainable of control is over Ana’s car. Grey buys her the new car, making her give her old car to him for him to control the sale, but then does not allow Ana to drive her car and constantly criticizes her driving, undermining her confidence when she is behind the wheel, until she pulls up and lets him drive. Ana believes it is her choice to let him drive, but it is obvious Grey has manipulated Ana into relinquishing the control of the vehicle. The same pattern is repeated over and over in other aspects of the couple’s relationship.

    Ana worries constantly that she will not be able able to please/appease him, and modifies her own behaviour constantly to keep Grey comfortable. Grey never takes responsibility for his own hurtful, unreasonable, or downright dangerous behaviour; he puts it all down to is abusive childhood. Ana is constantly worried that her behaviour is upsetting Grey, and Grey constantly keeps her off balance with volatile and moody reactions. Ana quickly becomes dependent on Grey, modifying her behaviour to please him – an impossible task, since he moves the goal posts continually, keeping her off-balance. Grey manipulates Ana into believing that she “likes it rough”, and that she is in control, when in fact she has no control in the relationship. We know this is also a temporary concession, as the abuse clearly follows a line of escalation which will mean Ana will eventually not be able to say no to anything Grey wants to do. Grey allows Ana (temporarily) to say no to certain sexual acts in order to maintain the illusion that Ana is in control and gain her trust. In reality, this concession means that Grey’s rapid acquisition of control over Ana’s entire life (not just her sex life) goes unnoticed or unrecognized for what it is.

    Grey exercises an appalling level of control over his former Submissive, another victim, with the assistance of his rather sinister psychiatrist friend, Dr Flynn (who also encourages Ana to marry Grey while admitting his life would be “penurious” without Grey’s patronage). Leila Wilson has been clearly damaged by her relationship with Grey, (again, Grey shifts responsibility for her trauma onto other men in her life) and rather than call the police when she begins to stalk Ana (since this would mean exposure for Grey) he uses his influence to have her forcibly sectioned, “for her own good” and then pays for her hospitalization and art therapy in exchange for her silence and promise to stay on the other side of the continent. In Leila’s story we get a grim glimpse into Ana’s future. Grey insists on not having a pre-nuptual agreement to protect his wealth, and Ana takes this to mean the ultimate level of trust. We know better. She’ll be in a straightjacket and stated under Dr Flynn’s (and therefore Grey’s) control before she can get to a divorce lawyer, or the woman’s shelter. 

What, then, are we to make of all this? As a society, as women, are we being conditioned to accept coercive control as normative in our relationships? If yes, then we are at risk, and most importantly, our children are risk as well. If we do not notice it happening to us, will we notice it happening to our daughters?

We do not pay enough attention to the fact that our society’s toleration grooming activities of serial abusers towards adult women also points to the tacit acceptance of the abuse an exploitation of children. These are the same patterns of coercive control which are clearly evident in EL James’ novels, which are presented to the public for entertainment and titillation. I think we need a serious discussion on the kind of entertainment we are consuming and what ideas we are being fed. My concern is that the mainstream acceptance and even glorification of James’ portrayal of grooming will put generations of women and children at risk by normalizing and glorifying grooming and coercive control. 

Given this,   I cannot help but come to the conclusion that the 50 Shades trilogy rank as some of the most evil and dangerous books ever written.   I do not say that the 50 Shades books are evil because I am a moral reactionary. I am not channelling Mary Whitehouse.  These are novels which hold up relationship abuse and coercive control as a romantic ideal. Just clicking on the Amazon reviews one sees women gushing about how nice it is to read about a “real man” and how they wished their own intimate lives mirrored that of Christian and Ana’s. Well, Christian Grey is a real man, his personality is the archetype of the Abuser.  Just ask any relationship or child abuse survivor, and she’ll tell you how terrifyingly real Christian Grey is.  These books are dangerous precisely  because of their commercial success and mainstream appeal.   It is not the ridiculous graphic sex scenes, idiotic dialogue, and poor writing which make these books inherently immoral, but the fact that their mainstream acceptance has,     in the words of  English psychotherapist  Sean Orford, “set the cause of women back a century”.     

Unfortunately, 50 Shades is only going to be the first in storm of diabolical books focusing on the erotic conditioning and control of women as every publisher of women’s fiction in the Western Hemisphere jumps on the BDSM/erotica bandwagon.

And by their very nature; they shall be Legion.



  1. Sorry about the fact that my paragraph edits haven’t worked. I will be making it available for download in .mobi and .epub format shortly, which should make it easier to read.

  2. This is an excellent article on the saturation of pornography in our society and how women are conditioned to accept abuse, by a survivor of child abuse.

  3. I’m glad I found this. It’s been really disturbing me that I feel like I’m the only one who views the ‘relationship’ in the way that you describe. It’s taken a long time to realise the power of this grooming process in my own life and I think many people are unaware of it.

  4. Sorry but I think you doth protest too much. You are trying to fit your description of an abuser onto a fictional character. And yes, he has control issues. but you don’t ever point how that Ana changes him. He cant be touched. She is forbidden to touch him, yet she persists in her efforts and she comes up with a road map of where he can be touched – together. By the end, he has put his trust onto HER and lets her touch her all over.

    You talked about him isolating her – yet Ana insists he has no contact with his one friend, Mrs. Robinson. She remains close with her best friend and her parents both. Additionally, she encourages him to see his family more, which he does and he has breakthroughs with his mother because of Ana. you don’t mention these scenes.

    She also visits his psychiatrist at her own urging and he permits this. She wants to learn his true nature because she has concerns and the psychiatrist is able to help her reach her own conclusions without any input from Christian – who actually sees himself as more of a monster than his dr. you don’t mention this.

    You don’t mention that Christian tears up the contract because he wants to try a new relationship with Ana, one that he has never had – a regular love relationship without the rules. That doesn’t fit into your escalating abuse scenario.

    Ana discovers that she does like kinky sex to a degree without the punishments. She wants this and as an adult there is nothing wrong when two consenting adults have erotic playtimes. This isn’t abuse. She asks for more time in the playtime and he refuses her until he is sure that is what SHE truly wants. You also don’t mention this in your essay, but it is very important to realize that Christian is ready to give it all up – he throws away his cans and whips – in order to please her and be the man she wants him to be. Who is the one exhibiting control over this relationship? I concur it is actually Ana, not Christian.

    The car. Please – He didn’t want her to drive that car because he was worried about her having a wreck in it. Cant someone do something nice for someone without it being about control? And every back seat driver is now exhibiting control over a person, manipulating the situation? Please. There are back seat drivers in every family. You need better examples.

    Yes, he did a background check on her – he is a wealthy ceo and can’t afford to have someone use him to sabotage his business. plus, he cant afford to let his lifestyle be exposed. It’s not to control Ana, it’s to protect himself. There’s a big difference there.

    He wants her to eat because he was starved as a child and hates to see people go hungry and waste food. Its a part of who he is. He wants to feed the world and does something about it with his money rather than talking about it. Again, you have misrepresented this.

    His attitude to his former sub – call the police? Why? He wants her to get help, not be punished. How horrible!

    Yes Ana wants to make him happy and yes she tries to please him, but she doesn’t mind speaking up and does so repeatedly. He calls it her smart mouth and admits that he likes that she challenges him – something he was missing in his prior relationships. He didn’t even know he was capable of a regular relationship because of the abuse he suffered under Mrs. Robinson. It takes Ana to show him that yes, he is capable of being loving and giving, and having sex without punishment. Again, who is in control here? He gives up his lifestyle to keep her. He chooses her way over his way. Again, who is in control here? Ana doesn’t give up anything to keep him. He is one who goes through a massive change. Ana doesn’t change. Discovering that she is a sexual being is a part of growing up. He is one who does all the important changing and you don’t mention that or recognize that. The change that Christian goes through is at the core of he book – its what it is all about – and you don’t mention that at all because it doesn’t fit your biased scenario.

    About the job, that’s just a device that the author used to create a secondary plot about her co worker stalking her and Christian. So, he bought the office. In real life, how often does that happen? He doesn’t do it to isolate her or control her, he does it to protect her. That is his true motive, right or wrong. And in the end, he was right – she was in mortal danger working there. He actually saved her life because he did own the company. It was just a plot line- not a blueprint for how abusers stake their claim.

    He buys her a computer and a blackberry because he is wealthy and she isn’t and they need a way to communicate. IF Ana had a computer and a blackberry, he wouldn’t have bought them. And if Ana had a new reliable car instead of a 30 year old clunker, he wouldn’t have bought her a new one.

    Is he controlling? Yes. Does he change? Yes. Is he still controlling after he changes? Yes. But not all control freaks are criminals or abusers. Some people just have a need to control. He tries to change and is successful in many areas – not all, but you don’t give Ana any credit for the many successful ways he changes.

    I say in the end that it is Ana who is the one who holds the control in this relationship. He is so in love with her, he is willing to do most anything to keep her. He allows her to touch him. He closes the playroom until she insists he open it back up for them. He tears up her contract. He takes her to his psychiatrist and allows her to see him, alone. He breaks off all ties with his one and only friend at Ana’s request. He lets her sleep in his bedroom. He doesn’t insist that she follow any of the rules he set up for her to follow.

    He does all this because he finds that he loves her and wants to be with her even if it means that he has to change 100 percent and he does.

    • I don’t even know where to begin to refute that. My forum boards, Why God Why, have made up a drinking game based on the books, and one of the things is when classic abusive behavior rears its ugly head, take a drink. It comes up a LOT. The fact is that Christian is an abuser. He was abused himself, and the cycle has continued. Ana is an innocent, in just about all sense of the word. When he found out he was a virgin, did he stop? No. He took it upon himself to remove her virginity. He browbeats her about her car until she finally agrees to give it up. She is made to feel guilty for missing a call or a text message from him. She OFTEN talks about how nervous or anxious she is when Christian’s brow furrows, or what he’s thinking, and she says during the secksy times, that she doesn’t want him to HIT HER. Not SPANK, but HIT.

      How people can enjoy this drivel without drinking, I have no idea. It’s terribly amusing to read because it is SUCH a horribly written book.

    • The fact that the story contains a woman who is abused but manages to make the Abuser open up and let go of some of his control is worse, not better.

      How often do we hear of women in abusive relationships staying with abusers because they ‘love them really’ and ‘they promised to change’?

      Romanticising and fetishising not just abusive relationship patterns but also the things women tell themselves that serve to reinforce the abuser’s power just make the whole thing even more poisonous.

  5. One more reason for me to NOT read this trilogy.

  6. Can’t believe anybody would debate this ‘book’ as if it has any gravitas. Two idiotic characters, douchebag Grey and wet lettuce leaf Ana, a psycho and a schitzophrenic. Badly written, boring, repetitive, unbelievable, cliched dross.

  7. Are you saying that grown women are such idiots that they can be groomed like children through a badly written book? What a very low opinion you have of your sisters. Just because the book is not to your taste or titillation have you never read erotic literature that titillated you but you would never act on it? Your response to these books is deeply patronizing (yes, as in paternalistic) of women.

    • Are you saying that teenagers who are groomed and abused are idiots? A college-age young woman is at least as vulnerable as a teenager living at home for grooming and abuse, if not more. If someone wants to write erotic literature about abuse, so be it. But they should admit that’s what they’re writing about, not make it something that looks like a love story.

  8. Kiddie porn, plain and simple.

  9. You’re kidding, right?It’s just a really badly written story with too much smut and bad dialogue. The plot is lame, the characters one-dimensional, the smut exaggerated and down right gross.

    And as a victim of abuse, I have to say your arguments do not click at all.

    Here are my 50 cents. (teehee)

    Grey only has issues with Jose because he has a thing for Ana. Male jealousy will do that. She stays in contact with everyone else, even Jose.

    Ana’s car was a death trap. Her stepfather agreed.

    Ana speaks up her mind and challenges Grey numerous times. Which he says he loves about her and doesn’t try to change that.

    Grey did not know Ana was a virgin up until that first time. So how could he “demand she surrender her virginity” if the whole time he didn’t even know she was a virgin?

    Ana changes Grey, in the sense that he completely changes the way he views and experiences relationships. Grey was going to give up all the kinky stuff for Ana because he was afraid of scaring her away, she insisted it was all good. By the end of the book, he’s a completely different man and Ana has almost complete control.

    This is just brewing a storm in a tea cup. Don’t we have bigger fish to fry? Like pursuing REAL pedophiles and not some shallow fictional character with unrealistically too much sex drive?

  10. Thank you!!! I was starting to believe that everybody approved how Christian treated Ana. This is not a love story is abuse. These books are sending the wrong message to women. A women will never change an abuser into a loving man. Possessive, controlling behavior is not sign of an overwhelming powerful love, is a sign of abuse.

  11. Original post, section 6 “Maintaining Control” sentence 7:

    “Ana also discovers that Grey photographed his previous Subversives in compromising positions…”

    “Subversives”? You meant “submissives”. Freudian slip? I’ve read that it is the submissive who is really in control in a dom/sub relationship, which makes sense, as it is the dominant who has the more obsessive need, and is also in a position to be blackmailed or socially smeared by the sub.

  12. The relationship seems to be an almost standard relationship between a narcissist and a woman with low self esteem. Nothing directly to do with pedophilia, however one of the red flags for prior sexual abuse in an adult is if they are either over-sexual or asexual and behave in a childlike manner. I really don’t think the story is a metaphor, but rather is just what it claims to be.

    Also, never suspect conspiracy when incompetence could have achieved the same result.

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    50 Shades is Domestic Abuse

    This website has been set up to campaign against the “50 Shades of Grey” book series. These books have been portrayed as a erotic fiction and have gained total acceptability throughout popular culture. As campaigners, workers, women who have experienced domestic abuse and preventers of violence against women, we stand up to say these books are not erotic fiction, but the full reality of domestic abuse. Putting the series as erotic fiction gives it credibility that it does not deserve. These books portray sexual, emotional, physical and psychological violence and abuse as not only normal, but as something to aspire to. As people committed to the eradication of violence against women we reject the normalising of abuse these books are perpetuating and we call you to join us.

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  14. Counterpunch

    Weekend Edition July 27-29, 2012

    Sadistic Romance

    Why are Women Devouring Fifty Shades of Grey?


    The porn industry must be throwing a fit right now. The adult book Fifty Shades of Grey has sold over twenty million copies in record time, and sales are still going strong. How did E.L. James, a first-time author who was a television executive, manage to pull off a feat that has eluded the porn industry—getting women to see sexual cruelty as hot sex? In my interviews with them, porn producers regularly bemoan the fact that they just can’t seem to make porn that appeals to the majority of women.

    I can’t say I am surprised that the normally business-savvy porn industry has been bested by a novice, given the somewhat ridiculous advice Adult Video News (the porn industry’s premier trade) journal offered to pornographers interested in attracting more women to their websites. Arguing that only 15% of Internet porn consumers are women, AVN suggests that to attract women, “adult Webmasters need to create sites where the primary elements are interaction and education.” And what would these sites look like? “Such sites would allow women to obtain advice, perhaps during teleconferences with experts, have elements of cybersex, and should play into women’s relationship fantasies” (

    I can’t imagine women flocking to websites where they can get handy hints from experts mid-arousal. But The AVN article did get something right: women are flocking to a book that plays into, and exploits, “women’s relationship fantasies.” The fantasy they recommended, “a story of how a woman got a rich and powerful boyfriend” because she is good in bed, is very close to the formula James followed. But this story line alone isn’t going to sell to women, as the porn industry knows only too well.

    While much of the sex in Fifty Shades is as cruel and sadistic as in mainstream porn, it is expertly packaged for women who want a “fairy tale” ending. In male-targeted porn, the woman is interesting only for as long as the sex lasts. Once done with her, the man is onto the next, and the next, and the next.… She is disposable, interchangeable, and easily replaced. No happy ending here for women.

    In Fifty Shades, however, the naïve, immature, bland Anastasia is, for some unfathomable reason, the most compelling woman our rich, sadistic, narcissistic hero has ever met, and he not only kisses her during sex (something you rarely see in Internet hardcore porn) but he doesn’t move on to the next conquest once he has had his wicked way with her. In fact, he actually marries her and confesses undying love. As one of the female fans I interviewed said, this is like Pretty Woman all over again.

    Indeed, Fifty Shades is about as realistic as Pretty Woman. How many prostitutes do you know who end up living in marital bliss with a former john? I would guess about the same number of women who live happily ever after with a man who dictates, in a written contract, what to eat and wear, and when to exercise, wax, and sleep. In my work,
    I meet many women who started out like our heroine, only to end up, a few years later, not in luxury homes, but running for their lives to a battered women’s shelter with a couple of equally terrified kids in tow. No happy ending here, either.

    In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Mr. Grey is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.

    And yet women of all ages are swooning over this guy and misreading his obsessive, cruel behavior as evidence of love and romance. Part of the reason for this is that his wealth acts as a kind of up-market cleansing cream for his abuse, and his pathological attachment to Anastasia is reframed as devotion, since he showers luxury items on her. This is a very retrograde and dangerous world for our daughters to buy into, and speaks to the appalling lack of any public consciousness as to the reality of violence against women.

    Fifty Shades also reveals just how pornographic our culture has become over the last decade or so. While the old Harlequin romance novels had narcissistic heroes who toyed, sexually and psychologically, with their much younger prey, however remote and emotionally challenged he was, the hero did not have a torture chamber tucked away in his basement. Fifty Shades of Grey is Harlequin on steroids, a kind of romance novel for the porn age in which overt sexual sadism masquerades as adoration and love. New as this is, the ending remains depressingly the same for real women who end up falling for the Mr. Greys of the world.

    GAIL DINES is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston. Her latest book is Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality (Beacon Press). She a founding member of Stop Porn Culture (

  15. Sunsara Taylor’s Blog

    Thursday, June 21, 2012
    “50 Shades of Grey”: Bad for Women! Bad for Sex!


    Tuesday, June 26 at Revolution Books in NYC
    7-9:30 pm
    146 West 26th Street, NYC
    hosted by Sunsara Taylor and the project to
    End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement & Degradation of Women

    50 Shades of Grey: Bad for Women! Bad for Sex!
    50 Shades of Grey portrays a virginal college grad falling for a stunningly wealthy, controlling, powerful and troubled man who insists on totally owning her and getting off while hurting her with riding whips, chains, paddles and violently degrading sex. Despite her tears, deep isolation and confusion she comes to find this fulfilling and enjoyable.

    Millions of copies of this book have been sold and everyone has been buzzing about what it means that women are attracted to this fantasy.

    In reality, the attraction to this “fantasy” is not shocking. It’s only different by a matter of degree from the common romance novel or fairy tail that women have been indoctrinated with their whole lives: a young, virginal and insecure woman somehow attracts a man who she “doesn’t deserve.” He is powerful, jealous, moody and controlling. She is frightened, but the more she submits the more she sees abuse is just how he shows his love. Finally, she is made “worthy” because he wants to possess her.

    The only thing new this time is that she has to sign a contract that refers to her as “The Submissive” and he buys her platinum and diamond jewelry to cover her bruises.

    This is harmful!

    It is bad for women – at a time when, under the guise of “post-feminism” women are once again being pushed to embrace the role of “breeder” or “sex object,” this book reinforces and makes appealing the idea that women should be owned and controlled by men.

    It’s bad for sex – at a time when more space needs to be opened up for people to imagine and experience the full richness of what sex can be between mutually respectful and equal partners, this book pushes people to get over their discomfort and wallow in sex as degradation and enslavement.

    NOTE: You do not have to have read the book to participate!
    Labels: 50 Shades of Grey, anti-pornography, bondage, male domination, objectification, patriarchy, sadism, sexuality, women’s liberation

    More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on facebookShare on myspaceShare on googleShare on twitter
    posted by Sunsara Taylor at 4:26 PM

    Sekji Ani said…
    Can’t understand why this book is so popular. Your summary of the book sounds like a 2012 version of Justine, and the Story of O.

    7/31/12 1:22 PM

    Post a Comment

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    Name: Sunsara Taylor
    Sunsara Taylor is a writer for Revolution Newspaper, a host of WBAI's Equal Time for Freethought, and sits on the Advisory Board of World Can't Wait. She has written on the rise of theocracy, wars and repression in the U.S., led in building resistance to these crimes, and contributed to the movement for revolution to put an end to all this. She takes as her foundation the new synthesis on revolution and communism developed by Bob Avakian. You can find her impressive verbal battles with Bill O'Reilly and various political commentary on things from abortion to religion to cultural relativism by searching “Sunsara Taylor” on youtube.

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  16. Customer Review

    18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
    Tiresome, July 4, 2012
    By L. Kenndall “L.K.”This review is from: Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy (Paperback)
    I’m very tired with so many books, even runaway bestsellers, that rattle on and on with the sexual violence against women that is taken as ‘passion.’ It’s isn’t passion. It’s abuse. And if you can’t tell the difference there is a serious problem. This is supposed to be a ove story but it’s just Twilight hard-core. I know it was written as fanfiction but the editing team couldn’t even remove the Twilight-esque garbage from this meaningless drivel.

    I’m looking for some good books. Strong women who can tell a man to kick rocks. Women that can talk about more than a guy and their clothes. Do these books exist these days? This junk is being shoved down our throats like we’re supposed to believe BDSM is the same thing as ultimate love and respect? This book represents neither. The writer wanted to write some hard core sex scenes and was too lazy to come up with her own characters.

    Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy 0345803485 E L James Vintage Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy Books Tiresome I’m very tired with so many books, even runaway bestsellers, that rattle on and on with the sexual violence against women that is taken as ‘passion.’ It’s isn’t passion. It’s abuse. And if you can’t tell the difference there is a serious problem. This is supposed to be a ove story but it’s just Twilight hard-core. I know it was written as fanfiction but the editing team couldn’t even remove the Twilight-esque garbage from this meaningless drivel.

    I’m looking for some good books. Strong women who can tell a man to kick rocks. Women that can talk about more than a guy and their clothes. Do these books exist these days? This junk is being shoved down our throats like we’re supposed to believe BDSM is the same thing as ultimate love and respect? This book represents neither. The writer wanted to write some hard core sex scenes and was too lazy to come up with her own characters. L. Kenndall “L.K.” July 4, 2012
    Overall: 5

    Reply to this post



    L. Kenndall “L.K.”

    Top Reviewer Ranking: 140,487

    See all 6 reviews

    Girlvert: A Porno Memoir
    ›Joseph Mattson
    Fix this recommendationNext

  17. Profile for M. Fletcher Reviews

    12 of 12 people found the following review helpful

    Triple Crap!, July 26, 2012

    This review is from: Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy (Kindle Edition)

    This is a total piece of rubbish from beginning to page 150 – where I finally stopped torturing myself. If you like poorly written, repetitive, excruciatingly slow stories about nothing in particular, mixed with a lot of sex in which Ana sounds like a pirate (she actually says “Aargghh!” every time they do it), then by all means, pick up this book. Otherwise, don’t even bother. I wish I could give this “book” zero stars because it really is that awful.

    For me, there is not one redeeming quality to it. Both characters are one dimensional, even though she tries to get us to believe Christian is sooooo deep. He has issues with food, issues with women, issues, issues, issues. This book is nothing more than 500 pages of drivel about how badly a man can treat a woman, and how long she will stay with him through it all. It has nothing to do with real BDSM relationships (not that I know much about that, but from what people are saying this “book” is a very poor representation). It is an extremely dangerous thing to send this kind of message to women. This man is sick. He is not about love, he is about pain. He is not about mutual pleasure, he is about HIS pleasure. Don’t we have enough of that in this world already?

    Spoiler Alert: I have read a lot of websites that have reviewed this book and laughed out loud at their interpretation of it (they hated it too)! Toward the end of the book there is a scene where he literally plucks a tampon from her hoo-ha. That is not sexy, no matter what scenario it happens in.

    I can’t believe this is a best seller! More importantly I can’t believe all the woman out there drooling over this man and saying that’s how a woman should be treated! I have actually had women say that to me. It’s sad.

    I could go on and on about how awful this is, but if you really want to read it, what difference does it make what I think? If you do pick it up, don’t say I didn’t warn you!









  18. In this novel just like in typical visual pornography,the sadistic,woman-hating,violent man’s violence and brutalizing of the woman and the man’s dominance and woman’s submission,which is the eptiome of sexist gender inequality,is what is sexualized,normalized,eroticized,as the *SEX*!

    Brilliant radical feminists like law professor Catherine Mackinnon’s great important book of transcribed 1980’s speaches ,Feminism Unmodified and acclaimed author John Stoltenberg’s 1980’s speaches about this in his excellent importan acclaimed book,REfusing To Be A Man:Essays On Sex And Justice,he’s a pro-feminist man who co-founded Men Against Pornography in New York.


    Profile for Daniel Billings Reviews

    Daniel Billings’ Profile

    Customer Reviews: 2
    Top Reviewer Ranking: 316,302
    Helpful Votes: 19

    688 used & new from $5.06

    17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
    If this is the zeitgeist, we are in serious trouble, July 17, 2012

    This review is from: Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy (Paperback)
    There’s been plenty of valid criticism about this book already but I wanted to weigh in with some thoughts.

    Reasonable people will agree that this book is terribly written and contains obvious logical flaws, but I think the more troubling aspects of this novel are the characters and their relationship.

    Anastasia Steele is quite simply the most unattractive woman imaginable. She has no interests, no confidence, no hobbies and barely enough love for herself to actually question whether it’s acceptable for men to control her. The constant self-deprecation is bordering on self indulgent. It’s ridiculous to think that Christian would have even the most remote interest in Anastasia.

    Christian Grey meanwhile is a classic misogynist sex addict who manipulates and objectifies women, which is somehow acceptable because it is codified in a legal document. Without direct knowledge or experience with BDSM culture, it is hard to believe that the relationship between Anastasia and Christian could in any way be considered healthy. Christian’s language is pretentious and affected, his treatment of Anastasia is condescending and beyond controlling; he insists that she drive only a car he provides instead of a car she herself owns.

    My issue with this novel is that it somehow validates very unhealthy attitudes about gender roles. The only redeeming quality one could potentially find in Anastasia is that she is well-read; somehow she skipped over feminist literature. Anastasia feels so powerless to do anything for herself, her existence so banal that she allows herself to be controlled and even beaten just to have a man in her life. Is this the kind of character we want to define our popular literature? We have some real thinking to do if Anastasia is the voice of the modern woman.

    In summary: It’s very alarming to think about the many women who have such low confidence to identify with Anastasia. A very sad reflection of our society.




    Profile for FayMill Reviews

    Personal Profile

    Content by FayMill

    Customer Reviews: 2
    Top Reviewer Ranking: 82,701
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    Page: 1


    Fifty Shades Freed
    by E L James
    Edition: Paperback
    Price: £2.99

    14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
    1.0 out of 5 stars Tawdry Tripe, 8 July 2012
    This review is from: Fifty Shades Freed (Paperback)
    Reading these books has caused me to experience heights of anger I’ve never previously reached. The author has romanticised what is essentially an emotionally abusive relationship. He tells her what to do, she refuses, he loses his temper, sulks or forces her to do what he wants, she stands up to him for five minutes then apologises for doing so and does what he wants. Thanks E L James for setting back the campaign to raise awareness about ALL kinds of domestic abuse about twenty years. And to top it all off the bad writing isn’t even entertaining anymore, just dish-water dull and painfully hard to plough through. Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2012 3:48 PM BST


    Page: 1

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  21. I didn’t mean for all of the categories to get posted.

  22. I am not saying that EJ James’ writing was deliberate. I’m saying that despite the horrible writing she pretty much managed to road map an abusive relationship quite accurately.

  23. It was no secret that the Twilight books only thinly-veiled the classic abusive characteristics it portrayed, so how can you expect the 50 Shades books, which were originally written as a fan-fic of the Twilight books, to be any better?

    Also, did nobody else pick up on the fact that the gift of “valuable first editions of Tess of the D’Urbervilles” is really obvious foreshadowing? If you’ve read Tess, you know how disturbing it is, even if its scenes of rape and emotional manipulation are glossed over to make it a “nicer” read.

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