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Is Romance Devolving?—50 Shades vs. No One Puts Baby in a Corner

Image courtesy of Lisa Weidmeier WANA Commons.

Image courtesy of Lisa Weidmeier WANA Commons.

I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to go here, but alas, here we are. Today, 50 Shades of Grey the MOVIE will open for…*record screech* Valentine’s Day. Nothing says I love you like predatory emotional manipulation, sociopathy, abuse and non-consensual sex acts.

Find THAT on a Hallmark card.

And yes, I know there have been other kinky books like this, but 50 Shades sold over 100 million copies and the movie (despite ZERO plot) is expected to gross in excess of $60 million which means I just threw up a little in my mouth this “story” has tipped from fringe to mainstream and that scares me more than a little bit.

No, I didn’t read the book. I don’t need to. Nor do I need to watch gang-rape prison porn to know it probably is unhealthy for the future of women (or even men). Guess what? I didn’t have to eat the chicken I forgot in my fridge to know it would probably make me sick.

Some stuff just stinks and that should be enough to warn us away.

And I’ve debated even blogging about this because I try to make it a policy to never talk badly about any story or book. I also hate EVEN MORE attention given to this crap than it’s already garnered, but my conscience won’t let me remain silent. We are playing with fire.

Redefining the POWERFUL Man

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

I watched the trailer and instantly felt the bad juju *Spidey senses go NUTSO*.

Grey doesn’t choose Ana because she is a confident, assured woman who can emotionally handle this sort of contract, um relationship, um abus…ok, hell I got nothing. A confident woman would have told him where to put his private jet.

What gets me is he sees a woman girl who clearly already has a low opinion of herself and he pounces. Wow, sounds like the beginning stages of a relationship that is going to end with a body bag, jail or at least a restraining order. He smells blood in the water and goes for it, wanting to dominate a woman who, frankly, is just looking for “love.”

And this is my old curmudgeon self coming out. HOW is that a powerful man?

I know they give him all the accoutrement of “powerful.” The surface stuff like custom suits, a job where he never really works, fast cars, etc. But, to me, that isn’t power. That’s actually small man-part behavior (which is actually deep insecurity manifesting in a fancy watch).

Powerful men. REALLY powerful men? They empower women. They don’t prey on and victimize them. It reminds me of my formative years and the movie Dirty Dancing. Sexy? Yes. Push social boundaries? Sure.

But?

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In Dirty Dancing Johnny Castle pushes Baby (Jennifer Grey 😀 ) beyond her comfort zones, but it’s in a way that makes her more whole as a human being. He always makes sure she is truly on board and always makes her safety a priority. Remember the fancy lifts? Practicing the lifts in the lake so if she fell she’d be okay?

And all the older gals go, “Awwww, I LOVED that scene.”

Johnny pursues Baby because he likes her as a human being, and, instead of preying on her, he protects and nurtures her. THAT, in my book is a powerful man. Not some trust fund baby assclown with a closet full of leashes and too much free time.

Abuse is NOT Power

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There are so many things that scare me about this book and it would take more than one post to explore them. But women have faced thousands of years of not being able to defend themselves against victimization and rape and now we have a cultural phenomenon that is redefining sex and blurring the lines of consent (which are already pretty damn blurry, especially after a drunken frat party).

I kid you NOT. I am waiting for the 50 Shades Defense when some poor college girl is brutalized and the guy’s defense is, “Well, she did sign a contract.”

And not only is this a sticky wicket for women, it’s a train wreck for men. When millions of women are fanning themselves over this crap, men are left even more confused and more vulnerable. Pair this with super destructive pop hits like Blurred Lines?

I have a son and pop culture really should be handled with care. I recall being in the car with a family member who has two impressionable sons. Blurred Lines comes on and they are all humming to it. I gasp and turn it off then asked, “Have any of you paid attention to the WORDS to this song? It’s a date rape song and it is unacceptable.”

And now it is clear why Kristen wasn’t invited to the parties in high school and college.

But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you….

Let me liberate you? How about I show you what a TRIANGLE CHOKE is?

Image via http://totaljujitsu.com

Image via http://totaljujitsu.com

Lowering the Standards of Expectations

It’s Grey’s lines like, “I don’t do romance” that kinda more than piss me off. Women used to be worthy of courtship and eventually a ring and a commitment. Then we decided to break glass ceilings and we’ve been fighting a battle of, “If a woman doesn’t want to be married she must be frigid or a lesbian versus any woman who wants a ring and a commitment is just out to trap a man.”

There is also the, “Women who want to be married are settling.” And was already seriously confusing without this tripe.

I remember living across from a young couple and the pretty blonde had been living with this jerk guy for EIGHT years. She wanted to be married and he wanted all the benefits of a marriage without any of the legal obligations (like having to part with HALF his stuff or having to pay alimony if they broke up).

And he’d been dangling a potential ring/proposal in front of her for EIGHT FREAKING years.

Well, I am just not ready yet, but I probably will be…

Later, Dude. Tempus fugit.

And trust me, back when I was dating, that crap was a nightmare to traverse. But, at least I could expect some romance. Now? A man who doesn’t DO romance is…sexy?

In my book he’s selfish and lazy and move on. Characters like Ana have opened a WHOLE ‘notha can of worms when she refuses to tell Grey NO or to stop or even that he’s crossing a line and hurting her because “then she’d lose him” *gags* and tolerates the intolerable.

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No one to HEAR you? How in 50 Shades of HELL is this remotely acceptable?

Ladies, when a man controls what you say, wear or who your friends are? That is BAD.

DANGER—Abuse NEVER has an HEA

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Thing is, in the book maybe it can end well. In life? A guy who won’t take no and wants total control, AND has unlimited funds when the woman does not? Watch Discovery ID and we can see the end to this story. Usually it involves an unidentified body found in a cooler in the desert.

Or, feel free to re-watch the sequel to 50 Shades, made back in 2002—“Enough.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3LVthzm88g]

In fact, years ago I knew a woman who was in this sort of relationship. It began as sexy and exciting until he killed her dog (who was trying to defend her from his blows) and then he broke her jaw. She ended up working as a prostitute because every time she moved and tried to work legitimate employment? Her ex found her and hospitalized her for leaving.

The REAL Man

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.07.47 AM

My husband is a GIANT. At six foot six, he’s well over a foot taller than me. This is the man who was in Special Operations and on a military shooting team, but I’ve spent every summer helping him rescue mice, lizards and geckos out of glue traps. The man even rescues rattlesnakes who want to sun on our porch at the ranch.

And KITTENS. OMG, the KITTENS!!! Kittens are his kryptonite.

Meet, "Odin" my anniversary present and Cat Number FOUR

Meet, “Odin” my anniversary present and Cat Number FOUR

We are one cat short of Hubby being the Crazy Cat Lady. He also works extra hard so his wife can take Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and is almost always in the audience cheering me on. He isn’t afraid of a strong woman and even encourages me to be stronger.

I really hope this 50 Shades phase passes, but…

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I hope that you will spend your Valentines Day doing or watching something truly romantic. If you and your partner want to add some spice and roughness? I recommend taking a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu class together 😀 .

Additionally, I recommend checking out The Atlantic post by Emma Green, Consent Isn’t Enough: The Troubling Sex of 50 Shades.

So *cringes* what are your thoughts? Do you think 50 Shades grossly misrepresents BDSM? Do you see the same perils? Am I overreacting? Feel free to disagree just please be polite. Is this a dangerous trend? First with Twilight making stalking “sexy” and now this?

I know many who’ve read this book and love it are older, but should we be concerned about how this might mainstream for our youth and affect their perceptions of “relationships”? How it might even impact victims in courtrooms? Is this type of story confusing for men and women? Is this even more devolution of what we consider to be “romantic”? Or am I jumping at shadows?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

326 comments

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    • lynettemirie on February 13, 2015 at 12:00 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen, you’re my hero. It takes a real woman to stand up for what is right and point out just what is really wrong. Thanks for speaking up.

    • christicorbett on February 13, 2015 at 12:02 pm
    • Reply

    I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this post, especially the part about the sequel to 50 Shades is Enough. That was such a great movie! (I’ve also read some suggest seeing the movie Burning Bed)

    I said this on my own blog post this week, and I’ll say it again here…Christian needs to be called out for what he really is—instead of shrouding his behavior as simply showing a relationship under the BDSM lifestyle—Christian Grey is abusive, a stalker, and he’s a rapist.

  1. Thank you for writing this! I’m posting it to my Facebook!

  2. Totally agree with you. Great post, Kristen.

  3. We can always make a statement with our wallet$ and not attend, or rent, the film. You have made some good points here. I, too, am confused by the message that this film is sending out.

  4. the good news on this side of the pond is that 50 shades has dropped out of the top 100 books being borrowed from libraries. Maybe they’re waiting to see the film instead, or maybe the magic has already faded. We live in hope. Strange echoes in Dakota Johnson’s role versus her mum in Working Girl. BTW they don’t make barge poles long enough for me to touch either film or book.

  5. I didn’t read 50 Shades of Grey nor do I want to see the movie. Catching the trailer was annoying enough. I don’t understand how this “story” can be considered sexy or appealing when it celebrates and romanticizes abuse. This bafles me.

    Given the fact that several members of the BDSM community negatively criticized it (it isn’t my cup of tea but if adults do things in a responsible, consensual and safe manner, it is their choice, not mine), this shows how damaging this “story” can be to audiences who are uninformed and/or too young to understand what it really is about.

    I am extremely shocked that in France the movie will be available without parental consent for age 12 and higher. I am not surprised but I am still shocked.

    I am glad that you showed the difference with Dirty Dancing for example, where the male lead respects the female one. While not everything is perfect, there is respect and this is a huge difference with 50 Shades of Grey. Respect and safety are crucial in relationships.

    1. In France it will be 12.. That shouldn’t be a surprise. The Marquis De Sade and The Histoire d’ O originate from there. What is surprising is in the UK it’s a 13!

      1. I am not surprised by such things in my country anymore, but this is still annoying. The whole “it is forbidden to forbid” spirit has negative sides, contrary to popular beliefs. And I thought it was a 15 in the UK. It’s crazy to think it is a 13!

  6. As a real-life practitioner of BDSM (I’m a Dominant switch who is also a collared slave, I ONLY submit to my Sir), and as an author who writes realistic BDSM, and also as someone who is the webdev and social media person for a REAL LIFE BDSM club, here is my take on “the books.”

    If someone wants to enjoy the books/movie as FICTION, knock yourselves out. I will NEVER “book shame” someone for what they enjoy. For years, the romance-book standard was bodice rippers where the “hero” was little more than a rapist.

    Fortunately, we are no longer in those times.

    The FSoG franchise is FICTION. It in NO WAY represents a consensual, healthy BDSM dynamic in the real world. So as long as they are being enjoyed as FICTION, then good on ya.

    One of my irks is that people constantly put down the romance genre (not saying you’re doing this, I’m saying this in general) because of things like “it gives women unrealistic expectations.”

    Unless someone has a seriously poor grasp on reality, I think the average adult has a pretty strong idea of what is real, and what is fantasy, and telling the difference between the two. I think it’s insulting to readers to automatically assume they’re going to read a book and then be all, “Well, it’s okay if he abuses me.”

    I really assume readers, in general, have a higher IQ than that.

    I do agree that the trend toward Alphahole heroes (as opposed to dominant, Alpha heroes who aren’t assholes) in books lately is disturbing. It’s like writers are trying to push the envelope now as far as they can.

    I’ve had readers chide me before because my Doms are “wimpy” Doms because they negotiate scenes with their subs.

    Including one of my books where the Dom is pretty much based on my own Sir, who is ANYTHING but wimpy. And some of the scenes were pretty much verbatim scenes we’d done together.

    So…yeah.

    My grudge against “the books” is that there are (fortunately a minority) readers who now judge realistically written BDSM books by myself and other authors against that unrealistic standard, and if the Doms do realistic things, like, oh, negotiating scenes ahead of time and making sure there is consent, then our Doms are labelled as wussy. Which isn’t the case at all.

    In real life, if it’s not consensual, it’s abuse. Pure and simple.

    There are only, as I like to teach, three “rules” to BDSM (aside from safety issues):

    1) Everyone must be a consenting human adult.
    2) Everyone must be having fun and/or getting what they need out of the dynamic/power exchange.
    3) No one must be HARMED (as opposed to hurt, because some people want to be hurt) by the dynamic/power exchange.

    That’s IT. Those are the “three secret rules” to BDSM. PERIOD.

    I will NEVER “book shame” someone. I just won’t. It’s not right to do that. It’s all personal preference.

    As long as that “book” doesn’t end up being their guidepost to how to act in real life. Which I’m guessing it won’t, in most cases. (I’m sure people didn’t read The Silence of the Lambs and go trying to make meat suits.)

    Here’s the GOOD side of the books: BDSM is now becoming part of the mainstream discussion. Kinksters such as myself can finally have discussions with people without worrying (as much) about the evil side-eye. When people ask me what I write, my new answer has become, “Well, you know 50 Shades? I write stuff that makes it look like See Spot Run in comparison.” And people will go either OH! or EW! and I know which direction the conversation then needs to go. Before, I always had to hem and haw and be writesplaining the fact that I write romance and erotic romance and circle the issue about twenty times out of fear of offending someone.

    No longer. I have a quick and easy barometer I can use.

    Now, will some people mistakenly think that real-life BDSM is evil because of “the books?” Probably. But if they took the time to do the research, they would educate themselves and find out no, the books are NOT a realistic depiction of a healthy, consensual BDSM lifestyle.

    TL;DR – The books are FICTION. Readers are SMART. Real-life BDSM is NOT anything remotely like the books, and if you want to learn about real-life BDSM, go to a local munch or BDSM club or take classes on it, but readers should not be put down for their reading choices.

    1. Well, like I said. It was tough to write because I don’t care for book-shaming either. BUT, there are many young people who are mistakenly thinking this as a standard of what BDSM really is. I see someone getting hurt. And readers might be smart, but now we have a movie and how many young kids were killed trying to reenact stunts from Jackass? I think my main concern is the legal issue and impressionable kids. Adults? Eh, read what you want.

      And fiction DOES shape reality. Our government is using 1984 as a blueprint. Now we have to be careful talking near our televisions because it could be recording conversations. Does it mean 1984 is bad? No. But fiction can create reality and we should respect that.

      1. I agree in some cases it can mirror reality, but I think the case against the negatives in “the books” is better made by pointing out the differences in real-life BDSM, consensual and healthy dynamics, as opposed to just pointing out the unhealthy parts of “the books.”

        Like I said, the good thing is that “the books” are leading people to other books written more realistically. And I’ve had readers contact me that my books (and others) have helped them open dialogs with their partners. They no longer feel like there’s something “wrong” with them for what they want.

        And that? That’s a win, in my opinion.

        We have to take the Jackass with the MythBusters. 🙂

        1. And I know I wouldn’t have said anything had they not packaged this in a 90 minute movie. But, eh, movies are a WHOLE other can of worms because there is no internal view.

            • Stephanie Scott on February 13, 2015 at 4:10 pm

            THIS.

  7. As a former police officer for nearly forty years seeing the destruction that violence causes families and relationships, I am at a loss to understand why scenes depicted in this “novel” are sensuous. I’m my own writing, I am always conscious to depict women the same way that I wish to treat my own wife and daughter: with respect. This doesn’t include subjecting them to demeaning and dangerous practices as glorified with this book.

  8. And while I loved Dirty Dancing as a kid, as an adult I’m creeped out by an older guy making love to an underaged girl. (Yes, I know I just ruined the movie for some of you. Sorry.)

    1. Been a long time since I’ve seen it but I think she was of age. I know it was set in the 60s so age of consent was actually 15. Pretty sure at least 18.

      1. I thought she was like 15 or 16, but still, looking back as an adult, and a parent, it creeps me the hell out that an “adult” took advantage of a teenager like that, even though she was chasing him.

        1. According to her dad in the film, she was “going to Mount Holyoke in the fall” so that would have meant she had just graduated high school (so, presumably, 18). Just an FYI. 🙂

          1. Yeah, I thought she was 18. And the movie DID push boundaries—older man with a younger girl. OOOH, dirty dancing. But as an abuse survivor? This 50 Shades thing scares me silly. I was a STRONG woman lured in and not seeing the abuse until I was so gaslighted I couldn’t tell my @$$ from a hole in the ground. When my ex met me I had a CHL, taught martial arts and was much like I am now (but with unresolved damage from childhood I am sure he smelled). When he finished with me, I was afraid to leave my own apartment and restraining orders were worthless.

          2. I’m also an abuse survivor. I’m lucky that I traded up for a better Hubby. LOL But also, I’ve found a lot of cathartic healing and reclaiming of my self and my sexuality through BDSM. (And other more traditional ways, but the best breakthroughs actually came via BDSM play.)

          3. Yes, but that is BDSM. 50 Shades is…eh…I got nothin’.

      • Anon on December 12, 2019 at 12:21 pm
      • Reply

      The girl in DD had an amazing bf her age whom the older guy thought was a wimp, whatever. Everytime a girl gets happily involved with a guy who is very considerate and respectful, she becomes an easier target for someone who is dominant and powerful and thinks her husband or boyfriend is weak and not masculine enough.

      There are some cases of powerful men luring happily married women away from their kind, considerate, respectful husbands since they think their husbands are not handsome and rich enough that they end up abusing these women and their children and thus framing their husbands for it when it isn’t their fault. It shows jaw dangerous female infidelity is in terms of the other man being dangerous. Look at Oscar-winning British actor Colin Firth’s wife having an affair with a much powerful man who stalked her and then a recent Fox news story about a widow whose beloved husband was murdered by a man who stalked her even though she kept on avoiding this other man and was focused more on her family. Such men like to prove that they are better and manlier than a woman’s husband, boyfriend, or fiance.

  9. I adore you. As usual, you “go there” and make it work. I just put this link into my current post about “Romance” on my blog currently.
    http://www.brewingpassion.com/2015/02/romance-worth-risk.html

    Ok, I have so very many thoughts I will leave it at this:
    I write books that include the “BD of the “BDSM” lifestyle but many times I show how it damages and in some cases destroys people and couples. I also show how some people use it as a way to just “get off” without it being some kind of a “wholistic lifestyle experience”–hard to have a grown up playroom when there are kids in the house. I also show how some folks’ personalities are naturally “dominating” but that they can’t just “dominate” any woman they come across.

    You know if course, that Ana “rescues” him from his “badness” with her love, right? At least that is what I understand. So let’s just keep perpetuating this sort of Extreme Misrepresentation of Romance, Lust, Love and what some folks really enjoy (I’m not averse to a little spanky-panky, there I said it) but I will be darned if I “let”any of my heroines “let” themselves get spanked over what they “say” in public.

    It’s a real “to each her own” thing this and I hope you have taken your Big Girl Panty Pills for the way some folks will come at ya for saying these things about a book that some how (Marketing) became so popular so fast (Money & connections—use ’em and good on ya but if I get told that this book and movie is how I should perceive “feminism” as a releasing of my Inner Goddess to a control freak, one more time…so help me…)

    My daughters and I have had a lot of conversations about this and so far, they are in agreement that it might have some pretty hot sex scenes, you can get those on cable with awesome, plot-laden shows like Banshee (a little cray, but you know), Mad Men or even Masters of Sex. The premise is sort of … um…ew. But that doesn’t mean it won’t continue to appeal to a lot of women.

    I’m not dissing ANYONE who loved the book (because they will adore the movie). I’m just saying, let’s have some REALISTIC AND MATURE conversations with young women who go there and think “Gotta get me one of those Doms and a contract.” The pop-culturization of this kind of unhealthy entrance into a “romantic relationship” has some potential to get some people hurt, like in a physical way.

    Look here: http://www.brobible.com/entertainment/article/the-onion-reviews-fifty-shades-of-grey/
    (explicit scenes included be warned)

    And I will admit right now, that I do plan to see it once it hits my DVR ’cause I love some well filmed sex scenes and I’m told this movie has those—but other than that as a movie, not so much. Just me. In no way to reflect on anyone who enjoys/enjoyed it.

  10. Personally, I find one of the most repulsive aspects of the 50SG phenomenon to be the corrosive effect it has on authors who dream of being the next one to ride that market’s wave. A writer’s published words will last far too long to use them in such a puerile pursuit. They are where ideas begin, and those are what steer a life for better or worse.

  11. Long ago…VERY long ago…I read 9-1/2 weeks, where a charming sexual predator takes over a woman’s life. Without her express consent, he just kind of…does it. At the end when she can’t stop crying he dumps her off at a clinic and goes away.
    I’m working from memory here since I don’t think I can read this book again especially no knowing it’s a TRUE STORY of an educated, sophisticated woman whose very being was put in peril, then she was dumped, to try to put herself back together.
    And still, books like this are devoured, placed on a pedestal, exalted as true love.
    Consensual BDSM is a lifestyle embraced by many with eyes wide open. The FSOG experience is a recipe for whole scale disaster that has been embraced for far too long.

  12. Absolutely agreed. It’s taken the already dangerous message of Twilight and made it far worse. It genuinely concerns me that generations of women are growing up taking their sexual cues from these two books.

    And, though this is a less dire point, it deeply offends me that drivel even I could improve on whilst semi-conscious, drunk and hung upside-down over a shark tank, is selling so many copies. It’s not only sexual appetites that are being crippled, it’s literary ones too. Which means the ability to think. James and Meyer have a lot to answer for, but the billions they’re raking in mean that they have become role-models instead.

    1. what you said….thanks!

    2. AMEN!!!!

      • Dianne on February 14, 2015 at 5:01 am
      • Reply

      Love your comment, ‘…even I could improve on whilst semi-conscious, drunk and hung upside-down over a shark tank,…’ – priceless! 🙂 I wholeheartedly agree with you and what I found extremely interesting is that within 6 months of the book being released and everyone being a fan there were always copies available in the local op-shop. It is very rare to find a recent book available in the op-shop (especially with at least 2-3 copies each time I went in). Curious I opened to the first page and attempted to read it, but nope, couldn’t get past the first page. The only other book I have not been able to get past the first page was The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

      1. You too? UGH. I still have Grapes of Wrath flashbacks. He takes like FOUR PAGES to describe a TREE and by the time he is finished? I forgot who the heck was sitting under the tree and WHY?

  13. You said it, Kristen.

    What I find perplexing about this whole FSOG thing is that it is meant to be women who are the readers. If it was men getting off on the power trip (yes, I know, cliche, and not all men are that way – god, at least I hope we’re not) it *might* be more understandable. And I’m afraid it’s too late to a statement with out wallets, Allan, 100 million people have already done that. Yeuch.

    Here’s hoping the film will bomb, but don’t anyone hold your breath.

    1. the domineering billionaire and the virginal heroine has been around for a long time. Unfortunately this time it hit the right audience a the right time. Then you had it hit a talk show.

    2. My husband used to joke that the guys working for him would read it, hide in their desk drawers and then look crushed because they could never “be that” for their women. It wasn’t so much of a joke as Kristen says: it puts the majority of normal men with normal, healthy sexual appetites at a disadvantage. Think of the poor guy dropping his briefcase and saying “Honey! I’m Home…um….you want me to do what??”

  14. Thank you for writing this. I agree 100%! And I hate that they’re calling books like this “mommy porn.” Sorry, but no. And when I hear BDSM, I just think of Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors. Yeah…not sexy.

  15. EXCELLENT POST!

    Someone gave me a copy of 50 Shades, claiming it was a great book. I tried to read it. Seriously tried, but after three failed attempts, decided its real value was as a starter for a bonfire.

    Please understand that I do NOT burn books, but that book was horrible and insulting, not only to females, but to the act of love. By speaking out in this post, you are doing better than I, as you are bringing this to the attention of many.

    Dirty Dancing is one of my all-time favorite movies. I can only hope that a movie based on that other book tanks.

  16. Exactly what you said Kristen–our youth and their perception! What bothers me most is that the advertisements can’t show the movie for what it really is–leading my 13 year old twins to think it’s a love story and ask about seeing the movie and reading the book (they are avid readers) And my response has to be… um.. absolutely NOT!. Thus forcing me to try to explain how this story is not about a normal relationship and despite my ability to talk openly with my girls, I don’t feel that I should have to explain BDSM to young girls.

  17. Your blog presents the best analysis I’ve seen of the problem with the popularity of the book and the film. I watched Dirty Dancing in the movie theater–so you can guess my generation–and you’re right, THAT was a simple but wonderful example of one human being empowering another. Not this nonsense.

  18. I have actually read the books; it was painful.

    At first, the one thing that caught me was the awful writing, the lack of plot, the bland female main character. You’ve got 2 pages of I don’t really know what that’s supposed to advance the inexistent plot and then sex, 2 pages of fluff and then some more sex.
    I wondered for the entire time; how is it even remotely possible that a young woman who’s never had sex could consider entering such a contract? Her best friend is the one that makes sense when she tells her to leave.

    To me, this is a slap in the face of every woman who has experienced abuse at the hands of a boyfriend, husband or even a rapist. Some women spend years trying to escape the trauma that these relationships or encounters forces upon them.
    To me, this is almost a justification of rape: and I can’t accept it. I’m as worried by this book as you are. In fact, I feel extremely bad that I spent money and was part of that movement.

    I think that Fifty Shades is only the most obvious there, because there are a number of books out there that validate abusive relationships, or incestuous relationships. Some have more meat to the bone because the sex is only a tool/element of the story as opposed to the centre of it in Fifty Shades. I find it’s interesting that our societies are at odds with their vision of sex: on the one hand, Janet Jackson’s nipple at the Super Bowl was a scandal and on the other hand, they make movies like this one. Go figure.

    I only hope that women, particularly young ones, realize that Fifty Shades isn’t about love. It’s about control: like rape.

  19. LOVE this post. And frankly, all week long, I kept thinking, “When’s Kristen going to post about this?” But I get it. Don’t want to inadvertently fan the flames of it’s popularity. That’s what kept me quiet for so long. I only just started speaking out about it myself this week because a friend shared this quote with me: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    What burns me the most is that this is “story” is categorized as a romance. I must have been living on Jupiter for the last couple of millennia because I just don’t get how this is remotely romantic.

    I’m gonna have to see Enough now.

    1. LOL. I TRIED to stay quiet. I hate bashing any author’s work, but this is SO, SO dangerous. I was in a relationship with a Christian Grey type. Sexy, wealthy, doting and at first it was cool…until it became terrifying. He cut me off from money, friends, family and took great delight making me cry hourly. His sole joy was to torment me relentlessly.

      By the time I realized he was a verifiable sociopath? Too late to get out easily. And abusive relationships are hard enough to break free of, but when the man has power AND unlimited money? SCARY.

      1. So deeply sorry you had to go through that. That’s what makes the books/movie that much more a slap in the face to abuse victims and survivors. The fact that this has gained so much popularity is society telling you, “Hey what you went through was romance. Don’t make such a big deal.”

        I guess too many people have chucked empathy out the window. I hope we can bring it back to them.

        • Stephanie Scott on February 13, 2015 at 4:13 pm
        • Reply

        I get your hesitation. 50 Shades sort of transcends though; it’s not just some author’s book, it’s a phenomenon that is a bit head scratching, and has had a noteworthy cultural impact. I think offering informed critique is healthy. You never once referred to the author personally to shame her, or to shame women’s sexuality, which sadly becomes much of the criticism of the series.

        1. No, not at all. Hey, E.L. James FINISHED a book. I know when she wrote it, she didn’t think, “Gee, this will be a runaway success–> cultural phenomenon.” She wrote a FANTASY and all is cool if it stayed there. I’d have never made a peep had this not gotten so big that people needed to stop and exercise CAUTION. The stakes here are bigger than the box office.

      2. I had two relationships like that in college, only the guys didn’t have money. What they did have was my social circle. When one of them raped me – which is something I have never told my family, even after 25 years, or many others, either (and yet now the whole Internet, apparently) – my best friend laughed and told me that i must have “misunderstood” the situation. The next one – also in the same group – managed to convince me that none of my friends liked me any more, so he would go off to where they were all getting together and play D&D with them, leaving me at home alone – and yet call me at work, complaining, if I was even five minutes late getting off work at night, and then leave my apartment before I got home. He was never violent with me, and so he managed to keep me in a relationship for two years, but wow. That was a miserable two years. Took me a long time to get past all of that.

        I haven’t read the books, and I won’t. Haven’t read Twilight, and I won’t. And I am trying to make sure that my male – and female – characters don’t end up falling in to bad character trait traps because those are the ones I dealt with so much when I was younger…

    • katrinavanwagenen on February 13, 2015 at 12:27 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this post! !! It’s exactly how I feel. . You’re a hero today?

    1. ((HUGS))

  20. I find 50 Shades very worrying. Hollywood has been portraying the male lead wearing down the female lead by stalking, harassing, and generally predating her until she accepts him for too long, but 50 Shades has stepped the validation of the hero’s lust up to the point that violence is deemed acceptable.

    The only value 50 Shades has is the potential that the discussion of its many flaws will energize people to stand firmer against abuse.

  21. Reblogged this on Mandisa M. Parnell – Jamaican Writer on the Rise and commented:
    Join in the debate!

  22. In the sixties and seventies we thought things were looking up for women. This backlash, which shows in books, movies and especially music, is a huge step in the wrong direction.
    Kristen, you’ve said it all, and eloquently, at that. Now if only young women would sit up and THINK!

  23. Thank you for having the guts to say what so many of us are thinking. I will repost, something I rarely do, but you hit the nail on the head so hard that it needs to be repeated.

  24. Reblogged on my site.

  25. I thought this was a terrific post, Kristen. I haven’t read FSOG and really doubt that I will or will see the movie. I’m waiting patiently for the 15 minutes of fame on this thing to disappear. And I hope it doesn’t do too much damage on young women’s psyche while it does.

  26. Reblogged this on Jinxie's World and commented:
    I don’t even need to add anything to this. It’s exactly what I’d say and then some….

  27. Aaaah – the release of hearing one’s opinion vocalized.

    That being said, my thoughts:
    Fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality. In theory there’d be no problem with Fifty Shades if people were aware of the fantasy. In a way it IS BDSM: Real life BDSM is a roleplay of sorts and there’s a huge focus on respect and aftercare. But the idea is to pretend to be in that kind of relationship – and a book can take it further.
    It’s important to remember that it’s a FANTASY and NOT something anybody wants in real life. Because men who are like that wouldn’t hesitate to hurt you. It’s not romantic and they can’t be “rescued” and made “good”.

    It’s a huge problem and I cringe every time I see people saying it’s not a problem. Sure, maybe you can devour books like they’re air and not be moved (someone said that to me, ugh) but most people don’t read that much and are very moved by the things they do read.
    It’s fine to live out fantasies in our minds. Go ahead. Just be aware that fantasy and reality are vastly different.

    I read a study on why so many women have the “rape fantasy” and the study showed that under 1% of these women were actually interested in being raped or an abusive relationship. The rape fantasy is in the HEAD and can be controlled to the exact point that the woman finds comfortable – a real rape is nothing like that.

    1. Yep, what SHE said 😀 …

    • Gail Duncan on February 13, 2015 at 12:36 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen,

    This is spot on. I was horrified when the book made the rounds at work. I borrowed it from a coworker one evening and found it so poorly written and boring I didn’t get very far. But still my questions regarding its popularity persisted, especially when it so clearly described abuse towards women. Most replies were along the lines of, ‘I’ve never read anything like it.’ Or, ‘ I didn’t know books like this existed.

    I would explain that there is a category for this and it’s called erotica. I would also tell them I have read erotica and what I had read was much better than ’50 Shades’ of abusive drivel. I even offered to loan them a book., But alas, when I checked my bookshelves I evidently gave up the space to more recent purchases.

    Fantasy, erotica, sex, they are part of being human and silly to deny it. When we closet our sexuality, deny the richness that is there to be explored, perhaps we become vulnerable to its lure. All at once reading ‘this kind of book’ becomes okay because millions of people are doing it. Too bad it is a poor example, to say the least, and providing the worst kind of message for sure.

    I have given thought to visiting my favorite bookstore and purchasing a book or two of the genre to share. It seems so typical of or culture that the mediocre and the violent are the samples we are exposed to and choose to exalt when there exists so much finer fruits to taste.

    Thanks for your blog,
    Gail Duncan

  28. On another note: I’m so grateful for my own boyfriend, who is so open, intelligent and respectful. I couldn’t wish for more. We’re whole people apart and we’re whole together and it’s really nice to be able to share so much and still disagree respectfully. I’m also grateful that he strives to understand the strangeness of the female sexuality, such as fifty shades, twilight, yaoi etc.

  29. I’m glad you wrote this, Kristen. The problem that too many people choose to ignore is that what we allow individuals to do affects all of us as a society. And everyone in our global society is NOT an intelligent, mature adult who researches the reality of what they read in fiction and then makes a strong-willed and informed choice about their behavior and the behavior they allow in their presence. Fiction DOES affect us as a society. Even mature, strong-willed adults are affected subconsciously by the world around us. It’s the way we’re wired. Writers and publishers have a responsibility that they often happily ignore. TV and film producers, teachers, celebrities, and gizmo makers all have this responsibility. But we’ve allowed the idea that we AREN’T responsible for others to become the new moral norm. Why are there so many dystopian stories in film and fiction? Hmm, let me think about it…because we’re subconsciously scared out of our minds about what’s going to happen when it all breaks down!! And everything we create or consume WILL either build us up or break us down.

  30. I don’t have a problem with BDSM and the people that partake, but I believe most of them are grown & consenting adults making an informed decision about their likes and dislikes as part of their natural sexual development. But, as a mother of three girls (17, 18 & 20) my concern is the image it will set for young women…and the young men they will date…that this as the normal starting position (sorry for the bad pun). I’ve raised my girls to hopefully be strong, independent women. If that is what they choose to do in the bedroom, so be it, but I don’t want them (or young women in general) to think that is what society and men should expect of them.

    1. Yeah, I am not overly concerned for the 45 year old woman reading this or seeing the movie with her spouse. It’s the young and how it will impact THEM that frightens me.

  31. I saw an article on Huffington Post yesterday (no link – they’re getting no clicks from me) saying that women should take their husbands or boyfriends to see this, so the guys can learn positive lessons (Christian is attentive to her moods, Christian is monogamous and makes it clear to other women that he’s in a committed relationship, etc.).

    Words actually fail me as to how wrong this is. Not that those are bad lessons, but talk about missing the big picture.

    1. WTH? OK…words just fail me.

      1. I know. Me, too. I wrote that first paragraph and then stared at my phone for two minutes, searching for the perfect analogy, the appropriately sarcastic…

        I got nothing.

        I’m linking to this as soon as I get home, by the way.

    2. I see those kinds of articles all the time. My first reaction is, do they really expect me to swallow this crap? And the second question is, how many people actually do swallow it?

  32. I’m with you on this Kristen. I didn’t read the book—didn’t want to. I read a couple excerpts, and that was more than enough. As a soon-to-be published romance writer myself (June 20th, yay!) , I don’t consider 50 Shades to be romance no matter what kind of an ending it has. And I don’t care how it was written, there is no happy ending for a woman trapped in a relationship with a man like this.

  33. I had to reblog this, as I couldn’t have said it better. 😉

    • habisha on February 13, 2015 at 12:47 pm
    • Reply

    I am one who read the entire series. I didn’t find the sexual portrayals empowering, just scary. Fortunately, there is a story arc for Grey, and he does eventually make some much needed changes in his life. I won’t go to see the movies Once through the books was enough. I do hope this is a “shade of grey” that soon fades. Unlike the Harry Potter series, I don’t see this one becoming a classic.

    I have several friends who are into BDSM. These books don’t mirror what they experience. These women wouldn’t be in the relationships if they didn’t feel empowered by their partners and the relationship. That’s romance and they all love with their partners. While it’s not my cup of tea, I’m glad it works for them.

    Kristen, you are a brave woman. Thanks for putting this out. I’d love to watch you doing your Brazilian JuJitsu. Stay safe, my friend, and keep up this wonderful blog

    1. I am bracing for impact, but I had to say something. Thanks for the support.

  34. I refuse to even read the book or watch the movie. And one of the reasons I am now a divorced woman is because my ex wanted me to fit what in *his* mind was the Biblical version of how I should behave by misquoting and misusing Ephesians. Ummm…I’m not the submitting kind and I’ll be damned if all I will be boiled down to is a uterus to pop out kids at *his* whim (his EXACT words to me: “I can’t believe you won’t sacrifice and give me a child.”). So yeah, I’m single and loving it. Have absolutely zero interest in dating anyone (been two years now). I’m okay being on my own and would rather spend the rest of my life alone than with someone who thinks they can control me. I’m one of the lucky ones in that my ex never laid a hand on me, but sometimes the emotional damage from being in a controlling relationship can be even harder to overcome. I just know that if a guy ever does come along, I will be on my guard, wondering if I can truly trust him (my ex didn’t leave until a month before our 10th anniversary) for the long haul, or if he’s just playing nice until he has me in his grip, then try to change me.

  35. I laugh when I hear people refer to this book as romance. Hopefully, there will be some back lash when people view in the movie the actually abuse instead of only reading or hearing about it. It took the video of Ray Rice cold clocking his girlfriend in the elevator for people to take notice of the abuse and demand something be done.

    The following is a direct quote from Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, who heard Rice’s appeal earlier this month and reinstated him into the NFL, she concluded in her decision,

    “Moreover, any failure on the part of the League to understand the level of violence was not due to Rice’s description of the event but to the inadequacy of words to convey the seriousness of domestic violence. That the League did not realize the severity of the conduct without a visual record also speaks to their admitted failure in the past to sanction this type of conduct more severely.”

    So we shall see how this plays out.

  36. YES.

  37. Hi Kristen! Thanks so much for writing this piece! I read the whole dirty series and had similar reactions. I can’t speak to BDSM (apparently I am in the “vanilla sex” population), but do have an opinion on the whole submissive thing. In fact, I’ve read a couple of different erotic/romance novels (actual research for a written piece – no joke) – and they all feature some form of powerful man, confused submissive girl. Drives me bananas!

    Since I hail from comedy, I actually wrote a comedy piece on it when the books first came out. If you are interested, check it out at :
    http://am-i-really.com/2012/05/21/am-i-really-wondering-why-anastasia-from-50-shades-of-grey-is-not-peeing-after-sex/

    Thanks again for you insight – I really enjoy reading your blog!

    1. I WILL and thanks for the link!

  38. Well said. Scary trend… Definitely not romance. It’s a sad celebration of an unhealthy, manipulative relationship.

    Funny post about 50 things I’d Rather Do than Watch 50 Shades:

    http://hahasforhoohas.com/stories/50-things-id-rather-do-see-50-shades-grey

  39. One of the best you have ever written Kristen.

    A boy learns how to treat women from his father (or other close adult role model). What is going to happen in years to come when boys think this is okay? When they see their parents emulating some of the stuff in this book?

    I have a belief that women and men should get back to the basics and understand how perfect love can be if they practice it the way it was meant to be practiced. How about this statement

    “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”

    Or this one “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”

    True love, real love, is sacrificial. A husband should put his wife first and be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her. Abusive, selfish relationships can in no way use the word love to describe anything that happens with the context of that unfortunate pairing.

    1. Well said and quoted, sir. 🙂 Thank you.

  40. I read the books, but was not impressed with the play room antics, so skipped over much of it, and have no desire to see it on film. Will be interesting to read comments from movie goers on where the line is drawn between play and abuse…

  41. I’m so glad you said this Kristen. It’s exactly how I’ve felt about it. I just don’t get the fascination. All these years we try to raise smart independent women and now we’re back pedaling. Grrr….

  42. Kristen, I’m a big fan of your blog and, today, I just couldn’t wait to comment! I could not agree more, with either your take on 50 Shades OR real men. You nailed it! I didn’t read these books, either, not because I’m a prude, but because I’d heard the writing quality was really poor. I didn’t know, at first, about how far beyond the lines of “okay” this series goes. I’m not intimidated by couples spicing up their sex lives under mutual consent, but there is nothing sexy about this book/movie. It goes beyond disappointing me as a woman and a writer that this series has gained so much publicity, when it all seems to be based on shock factor and an unbalanced sense of what is “exciting.” I find it frightening and agree that it may have serious repercussions in our society. “It’s not rape because she signed a contract” sounds a lot to me like “she deserved it because of what she was wearing.” Thanks for another great post, Kristen, and may real romance live on!

  43. I read this post with interest and concur with many of the comments here. I was at the counter of an indie bookstore the day this book spanked the shelves. The store manager had the book propped up near the register. Can we say “impulse buy”? The clerk rolled his eyes, with “It’s making money. God help us all.” He said that between EL and Suzanne James, the two sisters had cornered the reader market like two 90s stockbrokers. More power to them in a world where so many authors struggle to find readers. I’m happy that EL James found her niche, but I do take issue with the publishers who did nothing more than repackage her blog, ask her to change the names, and then rushed into print with some really laughable typos. “Canning” instead of “caning” was one risible textual offense. Others I can’t type here. I bet many women can’t say they’ve been “canned,” though. Over the next few weeks I saw brown-bagged Kindles on the morning commute. The more brazen readers proudly displayed what they were reading. I spoke to a few readers and nearly ALL of them (women) told me they skimmed-skipped the naughty parts to get some insight into the psychological dynamic between the two characters. Those who are conversant with BDSM have already spoken here, so I can’t and won’t comment there. There are webs out there that quote some of the howlers in the book – author’s intention or abysmal editing? You decide. I’ll feed my head elsewhere. Great job, Kristen. Loved your Rise of the Machines. Toss my name in with Grumpy Cat.

    • Renee on February 13, 2015 at 1:21 pm
    • Reply

    I continue to be awestruck by the comic book, contradictory nature of our entertainment. We either have the cartoonish, butt-kicking “Charlie’s Angels” remake where the women round-house kick big beefy guys and easily launch them skyward, (or), there are the comic book remakes of Superman, Batman, TV’s “Flash,” many others, (or) the special-effect explosions from computer game-looking movies, with that common plot: “Only he / she as the Chosen One can save the world.” It seems so crazily narcissistic.

    Then, here is “Fifty Shades,” where the leads are just as cartoonish (unrealistic) and wildly mismatched – she’s innocent and naïve, he’s worldly and into BDSM. Then there is the dark prince element to him, “Cinderella” in here. He’s Warren Buffet rich and accomplished – (Grey even flies a helicopter AND plays the piano, oy). Lots of “Shades” imitators tread this ground. These books seem to be desperate to fill some inner core of emptiness. And shiny things and darker sexual practices may keep us busy and entertained, but when we’re alone, or have no electronic gadget or designer shoes or sexy stranger to coo over, we’re twitchy, yearning and lonely.

    To me, films and books have sort of mirrored each other, with these comic book plots and characters. TV is where the more interesting character dynamics are at play. For example, I watch “The Walking Dead” and love it, not for its post-apocalyptic gore, but for the moral challenges the characters face, trying so hard to cling to their humanity. It’s got an intimate, bleak feel to it, that to me, resembles real life so much more than these cartoon-ish “Shades” and other films. Sure, we’re not battling zombies in real life, but we do face moral dilemmas that we wring our hands over. The bigger monsters in “Dead” are the other human beings.

    Romance novels were ridiculed as “bodice rippers,” but I re-read “Sweet Savage Love” and was struck by how the leads were more evenly matched, (than in “Shades”), and how in the end, she (the heroine) was the far more interesting, evolved and multi-dimensional character, even though she’d been brutalized and subjected to horrors.

    Power-balance is key. Look at Scarlett in “Gone with the Wind,” she gave as good as she got with Rhett. Rhett insulted her, yet he was smitten. Look at the Tracy-Hepburn films, even Doris Day in “Pillow Talk.” I love the film “Giant” and felt Elizabeth Taylor’s character was just as powerful as Rock Hudson’s male lead. How is it that happening, that OLD films and books show more of a balance between the male and female leads, as opposed to “Fifty Shades?” What gives in our culture?
    (con’t)

    1. That’s a fascinating observation. I, myself, have pondered what NEED this stuff is filling. and you are SO correct. Who would have ever thought the heroine of the FIRST color movie would be more powerful and “equal” than a “heroine” in the 21st century?

    • Renee on February 13, 2015 at 1:22 pm
    • Reply

    I can’t figure us out, we women. I always get the sense that women can never be satisfied. If we kick-butt and we bully our men, our men are told to “man up.” When we’re sick of the corporate life and climbing the ladder, we leave to raise our families, and then somehow we feel bad about that. No one talks about how difficult female bosses can be, or how some women prefer working for a man. No, we’ve got to idealize women, even at the expense of what we actually see, and sometimes, at the expense of men. It’s like we’re never really honest with ourselves. We can’t be tender or nurturing or supportive, because that’s simpering and weak. No, we need to reject those strengths and be as tough and equals to men. We need to kick butt. Then, once we’re there and find climbing that old ladder isn’t all that wonderful, it’s got some downsides, we complain about that.

    If we succumb to the fantasy of being overpowered – overpowered, not raped – we’re shamed by it. Men can have this fantasy, too, a female vampire seducing them, for example. Surrendering to a sexual impulse.

    But I’m not exactly digging the super-empowered, snarky heroine who’s a know-it-all, either. C’mon. Who can relate to that? I’ve read a number of those novels, and those heroines are cold and smug. OR, then you read a romance where the hero instantly worships the heroine, constantly talking to himself about how lucky he is, and how beautiful and perfect she is. Puh-leeze. Makes me wish for Rhett insulting Scarlett!

    To me, there’s got to be a power balance between the sexes, and that is FLUID. Meaning, at times, the man’s in control, and at other times, the woman is. If one is ‘dominating’ all the time – ugh. Men are hen-pecked, women are bitches, or vice versa, women are wimps and men are brutes. Makes me nuts. Let’s celebrate humanity for once and admit both sexes have strengths. Neither is superior. We’re all human.

    Let’s stop the perfection stuff, too, that we’ve got to have rose petals on the bed and never make a mistake. We’re all insecure to an extent, we have our demons, for God’s sake. In “Dancing,” Baby had her insecurities, and Johnny had his.

    “Shades” isn’t the first to address this female fantasy of being dominated, and Newsweek had a cover article on it in April 2012. Link: http://www.newsweek.com/working-womens-fantasies-63915

    In October 2008, Oprah had sex expert Dr. Laura Berman. Excerpt: “(Client) Debra revealed that her fantasy, along with 60% of women, is to be dominated; while Tom shared that he fantasizes about Debra being with other men with him watching.” Link: http://oprah.about.com/od/oprahshowrecaps/p/sextherapy.htm

    1. *fist bump*

  44. I don’t like Jackson Pollack either.

  45. Reblogged this on Two Steps Forward, One Step Back and commented:
    Kristen makes excellent points in her blog post and I thought it worth sharing today. I admire her for tackling this subject, knowing that she might well receive a lot of backlash in posted comments and being confident enough to state her views anyway. Opening dialogue is good if it means that the people conversing are actually listening to each other.
    Thanks, Kristen, for sharing your thoughts on this hot topic.

  46. I wish I’d have been e bold enough, and eloquent enough to write this post. I to have not read the books and clearly have no wish to see the film. Here is England a well known DIY store sent a memo to order in more duct tape and rope….. I was horrified but I know I’m in the minority. I’m of Dirty Dancing era and just want to acknowledge this intelligent and astute piece of writing.

    • Julie on February 13, 2015 at 1:40 pm
    • Reply

    I love you for this.

  47. Reblogged this on tsholofelo wechoemang and commented:
    Enough! Finally someone speaks out, with such thought. This book/movie is not where we want our children to go.

  48. Like you, Kristen, I find this whole trend very troubling. I write romantic suspense as well as mysteries, and I always make my heroines kick-butt women In both genres, and my heroes are the men who love strong women as equal partners. I am a petite curvaceous gal, and in my youth I definitely felt like “prey” among the macho types, including a lot of older men. (I took judo and karate and became a kick-butt gal myself to help with that.)

    I hope we are not returning to the bad old days of “she asked for it / she wanted it” as a defense for rape and assault, because that seems to be the message this crap is sending. Thank you for speaking out. This is as far from romance as you can get.

  49. Absolutely spot on! Since the ‘book’ came out I’ve argued with people about what it represents. Thank you for putting it out there – now I have something to point at and yell: SEE!!!???

  50. Reblogged this on Nest Nearly Empty and commented:
    This lady was bold enough to say some things some of us were thinking. Well written and astute. I’m not a killjoy or a feminist and was beginning to think there was something wrong with me for not wishing to jump on the Grey Bashing bandwagon.

  51. Dear Kristen,

    I think you always have such great insights and I applaud you for saying how you really feel. Conceptually, I actually agree with everything you said, but (and her comes the criticism) I do disagree with you on one thing – and that is your choice not to read the book. I am a firm believer that we should not criticize something that we have not given a chance to understand or experience. When this comes to physical works, such as movies, books, photos, laws, etc, I believe we should always go to the source material. I fully understand that you understand the current “topic” at hand, as you have lived it and experienced it. But you did not read the book, and instead are getting your synopses second hand. This is a mistake, as they could (maybe not, but could) be mis-characterizing or taking out of context. Or there could be some other point or meaning that is meant in the book.

    What if someone criticized one of your books without having read it? But what if on the other hand, they did read it, and they gave you a reasoned and constructive critique on your book? Maybe they aren’t even critiquing, and fully and completely disagree, but they at least show an understanding of it, from having read it, and their prosecution of it, is at least educated? And what if someone characterized Ju-Jitso as a violent, aggressive, domineering sport without even studying it, learning about it from trained masters, and/or trying it? What if someone characterizes cats as evil/selfish creatures without having ever lived with a cat?

    I truly believe critique and constructive criticism is good for people and good for society. I believe “calling out” people when they are wrong, and standing up for “right” or “truth” is good But we can’t be quick to those points. We have to experience, we have to gather as much facts and differing views as possible, experience the source material as closely as possible, and weigh all the evidence. Understanding and thoughtfulness should always come first. Why is Congress so messed up? Why is our political system at its worst? Why is so much hate speech being spewed on FB? So much division? Why do you counsel people to stay away from politics? It’s because political discussions break down so easily. Why? Because people fail to see the other side. People often don’t want to. But we must attempt to put ourselves in the proverbial “other shoes.” And if we do, and we don’t like those shoes, and think those shoes need to be discontinued and recycled into new shoes (or burned) – then, at that point, and only at that point, do I have no problem with you letting the world know!

    1. Well, in fairness, this is not a book review. I am speaking out against a dangerous cultural trend ignited by a book. And I had plenty of people approach me and ask why 50 Shades was so popular and I tried to read the book. HONEST, I tried. I couldn’t continue. And I don’t have to watch all of “Hostel” to know where it’s going and that it is gore-porn and dangerous for young and impressionable minds.

      I really DO NOT have to endure two hours of people being chopped up and tortured in Saw 7 to know it’s something that is evil and bad for our culture.

      I don’t have to eat rotten eggs to respect salmonella. Second-hand accounts are good enough.

      1. Amen.

      2. Kristen, I respect your view on this. I do somewhat disagree with you, but that’s okay. Like I said, I conceptually agree with you, and I’d venture a guess that you are on the right side of this issue, but I’m not going to say with 100% certainty, as I haven’t read the book, nor have I studying the opposing viewpoint on this. With that said, you have a very solid point that needs to be heard.

        1. And Jason, I completely agree with you. If this was a book review. I would be out of line. I have actually stood up for E.L. James when authors complained because my take is, “At least she FINISHED writing a book.” This post is not a book review, rather it is a pop culture observation from an abuse survivor. In THAT, I do have credibility. There are few things more terrifying than being engaged to a man worth millions and you are a broke nobody in college who’s been cut off from friends, family and income. It took years for me to escape and I never was the same. And trust me when I say sociopaths like him would pounce all over this movie and the idea of a contract to get away with abuse.

          And they would have the high-paid defense attorney who’d make sure the victim was raped all over again in court.

            • Jason on February 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm

            Thank you for further explaining and sharing. It is genuinely appreciated. 🙂

          1. Like I said, I never mind respectful disagreement. I knew I’d likely take heat for having not read the books or seen the movie. But, if you’ve survived an abusive psycho who doesn’t listen to NO? NOT your idea of entertainment.

            • Laura on February 13, 2015 at 7:55 pm

            Amen. Ugh.

    • Meltem Kurtman on February 13, 2015 at 1:53 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Kristen,
    Thank you for writing this. Finally, somebody speaks out.
    Regards,
    Meltem Y.K

  52. Yes! Thank-you! I’ve been saying that book is crap for years (mostly because of the writing, I read the first 2 pages and said, nope) but also because it has nothing to do with real, consensual BDSM and it just makes both genders more confused about what is acceptable.

    And as a lawyer, I *can not wait* for some idiot to pull the she signed a contract defense. That will be hilarious when he realizes that defense doesn’t fly in a criminal court. She signed the waiver, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it’s evidence that she consented to being choked unconscious. The fact that she was grasping at his arm, trying to pull it away and gasping is irrelevant. Wait? She always has the right to say no, even when he’s in the middle of it? Oops, I forgot that one from law school. But she signed a contract. Doesn’t that trump?

    Really, I can not wait.

    1. That’s one of the things I STRONGLY emphasize in the BDSM 101 classes I teach. Slavery, in the United States, is illegal, consensual or not. Therefore, slave “contracts” are literally not even worth the piece of paper they’re written on. If someone wants to use one, knock yourselves out, but unfortunately I’ve seen vindictive and abusive partners use them as blackmail material against partners trying to leave them (or who have left them). IMHO, if a relationship “needs” a piece of paper as a contract to enforce it, there’s in inherent flaw in the slaw, so to speak, to start with. If someone wants to use them as fun and fluff as part of their relationship, whatever. But frankly, it scares me when newbie submissives think slave contracts are legally binding and sign them and think that they can’t rebel against them.

  53. I’m probably going to be in the minority here, but seriously none of the books or the movie bother me. I’m an adult; I’m just grateful beyond measure it’s not another YA story (why the heck do I want to watch/read about teenagers when I’m 50!).

    It always amazes me when I read comments/articles and people go on about the editing, awful writing, non-existent plot and weak/shallow characters – and the book sells over 100 million o.O If I’m writing a book… this is what I should be looking to emulate, instead of the brilliantly penned prose of the literati who sell very little.

    Like another poster said, vote with your wallet: don’t buy the book or see the movie. Otherwise, I would just let adults be adults.

    1. My concern is really not for the mature adult. Eh, let them fantasize as they wish. It’s why this isn’t per se a book review. If grownups want to read this? Knock yourselves out. My fear is now that it is a movie, we lose the internal dialogue and internal dialogue of the character. The visual medium will leave gaps. My concern is what this trend is going to mean for us culturally.

        • Renee on February 13, 2015 at 2:28 pm
        • Reply

        Kristen, I think there’s some validity to what you say — how this affects younger, more impressionable people. The whole “Sex & the City” frivolity has contributed to a hook-up generation. Girls growing up on SATC reruns might have thought, “Gee, I want a glamorous life like that! I want to be Carrie and date rich, good looking guys and sip cocktails with my witty friends.” Even a character in the HBO series “Girls,” said this, that they were versions of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. There’s a book about this hook-up trend, dismissing sexual encounters as trivial, young women vowing to more like guys… called “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love & Lose at Both.”

    2. Thank god it’s not a YA book. That would be some seriously illegal stuff. 😉

  54. I rarely reblog but felt this post should be shared, if only to continue the dialogue that is sure to happen because of it. Thanks, Kristen, for sharing your personal thoughts and opinions on this subject.

    I read the first book in the trilogy as I kept thinking–I must be missing something of value here–but I got to the end of the book without ever finding out what that might be, so I chalked it up to a waste of my time and $20 that I could have spent on something else. Live and learn, right? As many other people have said, if women read the books and are mature enough to realize that the series is pure fiction then that is one thing–but when I heard from several teachers I know that girls in Middle School–which would be children from about age 10 to 13 or so, were reading the books, I began to wonder what on earth they will expect or think is okay for them when they forge sexual relationships in the future. I sure hope they can discern between fantasy and reality, but without a frame of reference for them to begin with (unlike adults), is that likely?

    Thanks for your post, Kristen.

    • Madina on February 13, 2015 at 2:27 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for this topic Kristen! You have a courage to say the truth trying to “open eyes” for many. I neither read this “story” nor going to watch the movie, the smell of its stink from the discussion about this “book” is enough for me. It is very sad that perverse and humiliating actions became now a norm in a showbiz and we can see it on big screens! We couldnt even imagine that 10 -20 -30 years ago! So we must have this discussion and continue to protect the values of love and women’s rights.

  55. I can’t remember if you and I have talked “off line” about this book (and now movie), but I have the same concerns with it as you do. Here’s a great review of movie from someone thinking that the movie was going to be the cheese-filled romance Hollywood is marketing it as: http://www.mamamia.com.au/rogue/fifty-shades-of-grey-review-rosie-waterland/

    She left the movie in tears at seeing an emotional abusive relationship *glorified*. Notice I (and she) said EMOTIONALLY abusive. This isn’t about the BDSM or sex aspects–more power to anyone going after what they want and like. This is about the emotional aspects of abuse.

    Emotional abuse victims have ALWAYS had a harder time stating (and believing) what’s so wrong with the relationship. It all feels so internal, like maybe it’s just in their head. This movie (and the book) takes that difficulty and cranks it up to 11. It’s normalizing emotional abuse as romantic, and that’s the real danger. *sigh*

    1. Good review, Jami! Thanks for posting!

    2. And emotional abuse it the really DANGEROUS part and the one we have ZERO legal protection over. And marginalizing emotional abuse is just an unlit molotov.

      It took YEARS for me to see how much I’d been abused by my Sleeping with the Enemy fiancé. They gaslight and make stuff into a joke and convince others you are neurotic or oversensitive. My ex used to hide my stuff, move my purse, throw things away and then yell at me that I was stupid and incompetent when all along he knew I never misplaced my keys. He’d thrown them in the trash.

      I wasn’t allowed to pick my clothes, have money or even an opinion and if I tried? I paid dearly or my family or cats did. I if said NO to something, he just did it more.

      And if people want to explore the fantasy of BDSM, there are plenty of talented erotica authors who actually portray that world accurately. Fiction, not perfumed date rape.

  56. Cool that you used your platform for this, Kristen. Very well done. Love the photo of you with your hubby. My hubby is like that too.

    1. Just so y’all know, I am kinda scared $#!%less at the moment, but if I burn down my own platform? Hey, I did it standing up for what I believe is right.

      1. You weren’t burning down your own platform! Definitely not something to worry about.

        Hugs

      2. You’re going to be fine. You know why? Because you are RIGHT.

        Yeah, okay, I AM an eternal optimist. But you’re still going to be fine. 🙂

  57. I have not seen 50 Shades, nor am I planning to (ooops, preposition at the ending, but you know what I mean). Remember the movie Sleeping with the Enemy with Julia Roberts as the abused wife? That was scary. Patrick Bergin played the monster from Hell, although I usually fancy him pretty much. Did you ever see Looking for Mr. Goodbar, a book that came out in the late seventies? I saw the movie with Diane Keaton and Richard Gere. Talk about shock, especially the last (and I do mean the last) minutes. Way too many books and films glorify violence against women, even when they’re pretending they don’t. I wish women would rebel against the way they are depicted. Anyway, I liked your column and I won’t see the movie.

    1. I was ENGAGED to the guy from “Sleeping with the Enemy.” I did try to uphold journalistic integrity and READ the books. I just couldn’t. PTSD MAJOR. I know it ends well for Ana, but it nearly didn’t for me. Wealthy powerful men are intriguing. But one who is a controlling sociopath? Often will not relent until you are dead and he has the money to hunt you to the ends of the earth.

      Though I could have put that in the blog I wanted to stay on topic. Also, what I didn’t put in the blog is as a martial arts instructor, I worked with countless battered women. And the stories are all the same (even mine). “He seemed so charming and kind in the beginning…” It ALWAYS begins with the small things, like ignoring when the woman says no or trivializing her when she tries to set a boundary. That is how sociopaths operate.

  58. Reblogged this on Crime Ladies and commented:
    I’m reblogging your column for Crime Ladies

  59. Hey, Kristen! And this is why I write picture books. Less (if any) controversy. I don’t do controversy well. But my books do have conflict.

    Anyway, as far as the “need” goes, maybe it’s like you mentioned in your book about today’s society is all about the voyeurism of watching reality shows. I know 50 Shades isn’t reality, and yes I get that it’s FICTION, but the big hooplah is likely the result of all that TALK. “Hey, have you heard about this great book I just read?” You know, the SOCIAL aspect.

    So, I’ve been vaguely hearing about this book for maybe 4-5 years now. Never really even bothered to ask someone what it was actually about. Adult novel? No thanks, not interested. I read picture books and self-help books.

    But this morning, I go to get on my Pandora account to tap into my daily laptop music streaming, and what do I see? 50 Shades movie opening on Valentine’s Day. What?! I didn’t even know there was going to be a movie! (and yes, I agree with your viewpoint about the movie affecting innocent youth) So, I decide to click on the trailer and finally see what all the hype is about. Hmmm… a romance movie? All right! Valentine’s flick? Yipee! Ummm… not quite. But this strange fascination and curiosity lingers wanting to know a little more about what it is all about.

    Will I read the books? No. I don’t do erotica. Will I watch the movies? No. I don’t do “R.”

    But the movie trailers, Wikipedia, and all the spoiler sites (some with some really nice long summaries) have satisfied my need to have the curiosity of the books explained, as in knowing what happens. So, in the book’s defense, it does tell a good fictional story. The characters do face a lot of adversity. They even change. Christian works through his past. In the end, they are happily married with two kids (or one and one on the way). So, a happy romance ending. Yes, lots of mixed messages for the characters in the books of sex vs. romance, etc. But the ending is worth it. However, I reiterate above, I have not and will not read the books or watch the movies. I already know what happens in the end and I’m good with that.

    As far as our society goes? Yes, I’m definitely concerned. The book/movie phenomenon continues to blur the lines of what is acceptable. THAT concerns me. I’m old-fashioned, old-school. Don’t have sex until you’re married type. All any of us can do is to voice our opinions, set good examples, be a power for righteousness, and pray, pray, pray. Be advocates of goodness. Teach your children and your friend’s children. KNOW what they watch on TV. Talk about life and what is acceptable and not acceptable. Loved your post, Kristen. Thanks for being brave enough to share your thoughts. I think we all need to share the 50 shades of abuse sign, regardless of the movie. If that “image/poster/info” gets shared to enough people and helps ONE girl out, then we have done one good thing to make the world a better place.

    Happy Valentine’s Day! Yeah, let’s do some martial arts!!!

  60. I have no desire to read the book or see the movie. I was never able to see the appeal. I hope that people will not think that abuse is acceptable simply because it’s in a popular movie and book, and just take it is fiction, and not very good fiction at that. I’ve written on rape and sexual abuse in history–it’s an ancient problem that still exists, obviously. The movie itself looks simply awful. One review said it was actually boring. At the same time, perhaps it will spark some discussions. One can only hope.

  61. PREACH! :APPLAUDS: I agree with all of this. I look at the books and movies that are popular–romance, in particular, is supposed to be a sort of wish fulfillment in a way. And the insane popularity of the 50 shades books and Twilight scare the crap out of me from a psychological standpoint because–what wish is that fulfilling? What chord is this striking in popular consciousness to be so, incredibly DEVOURED (also, terrified for the state of public education that the public doesn’t care about craptastic prose). These books absolutely totally misrepresent the BDSM lifestyle. In REAL BDSM, the submissive has all the true control and the relationship is all about trust. There is NOTHING of that in the 50 shades books. As you said, this is the sort of thing that will continue to muddy the waters in regards to what’s acceptable and will continue to perpetuate rape culture and abuse.

  62. I completely agree with every one of your points but one. I don’t begin to understand how you see stalking in Twilight. Grant it, that is my favorite book series. But stalking?! Who is supposedly stalking whom?

    I have been concerned about the direction of relationships for quite some time now. So many books define the “right” man as one with enormous amounts of wealth and looks and ego. That is not even close to reality. And yet, the books foster the fantasy. They make me very angry and discouraged and scared. Are “real” women buying into that crap!? Are they able to see through the lies? I hope so. But I’m not holding my breath.

    Thank you for a very thought-provoking read! I hope that you and your husband have a wonderful Valentine Day.

    1. Well the fact that he crept in her room and watched her sleep all night? That might be cool with a vampire book but a boyfriend does that in real life? Time for a restraining order. Again, why Twilight might be fine for an older woman, but bad juju for a teen girl.

      1. Hi Kristen – I still think that saying Twilight contains stalking is quite the stretch. As I think including mythical creatures in with a sadist is a stretch. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

        1. Not really, since E.L. James basically repurposed Twilight with BDSM. But, fair enough. Yet, if I found out a guy had been in my room all night without my permission to watch me sleep? He’d be dumped. In real life? He’d be in jail.

  63. Reblogged this on betnew and commented:
    Reblogged.

    • Shelby on February 13, 2015 at 3:40 pm
    • Reply

    I have always loved Dirty Dancing too and thought it was one of the most romantic movies ever. I don’t think I could write a female character that suffered through that kind of abuse, and if she did, she would learn to walk away. Abuse is just one of my buttons, I get really passionate about it.

  64. All I can say is Yes, yes, YES. After seeing my SIL in an abusive relationship, I can see the deep harm this movie/book will bring because it places a lie in the middle of something many women crave, confusing the issue of love, respect, and romance into a muddle of poo.

  65. I agree with you completely! This is so true. Loved this article! It’s so sad that people are going out and reading or watching that trash. Thank you for sharing this! I would soooo love that critique. I shared it on my Facebook page. Will share it on Twitter and on my blog. 🙂

    1. Here is the post where I share your link. 🙂

      http://devinberglund.com/true-love-from-the-princess-bride/

  66. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this post. I won’t spend a lot of time reiterating what you so eloquently said because frankly, you nailed it right on the head! Strong men, confident women and a praise worthy story’s need for an actual plot have been tarnished. While FSOG is a gut blow to actual writers, it’s acclaim also points toward romance’s decline in American Society.

    I also find some silver lining here. If plotless stories containing no more than a backhanded slap to morality can sell, a well conceived story not aiming at the decimation of genders can sell too. With all of FSOG’s marketing, let’s see it stand the test of time with romance classics. Though scary, FSOG in romance is like a kid doing a cannonball in a swimming pool. Everybody looks for a second, the splash quicky settles and everyone goes back to enjoying the entirety of the water over the momentary disturbance.

  67. Thanks for the blog! Enjoyed and shared it. We need more like it.  Linda lindarodante.wordpress.com  Writing for God; Fighting Human Trafficking

    For God so loved the world, that he gave… John 3:16    

  68. This thread has been fascinating, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. While I agree that the “story” is disturbing, the glamorization of young woman/creepy rich guy more so, I do have to ask, What is the answer? Do we condone Censorship? Should books contain Trigger Warnings for those with no discernment or awareness of the content? I agree with one of the comments: vote with the wallet and not support what you don’t believe in. My original comment tried to point to the inherent cynicism that “gatekeepers,” whether it is publishers or the movie industry will push whatever sells. It seems people are buying it. My answer, for the 2 cents that it’s worth, is that women authors should write better books since there is an audience: show ‘ALT’ to educate others and create compelling, believable characters, or how to deal with sociopaths and survive. I know it has been done before.

    Kristen, I don’t think you are at risk of burning down your platform. This is one of the better blog posts and discussion threads that I’ve read in a long time.

    1. I agree that we vote with our wallets and maybe write blogs. I do NOT condone censorship at all. I don’t believe in trigger warnings or that stuff. But I do think we need to talk about this stuff and pay attention to what our young generations are reading and watching. Make sure we are there to talk and let them know that in fiction it is fun and games and in life it is a MAJOR RED FLAG AND RUN!!!!

      Maybe encourage them to make better choices. I don’t think HOSTEL should be banned, but I refuse to watch or support violent gore porn even though I love horror.

      I know a lot of people who are thrilled I wrote this post were afraid to speak up because they didn’t spend 36 hours to reinforce what they know to be true just with twenty pages.

      Even now, I have had some backlash over this post because I didn’t read all three books. As an abuse survivor, there was no way in HELL that was going to happen (though I DID give it a try and skimmed enough to feel my points were valid). And frankly I don’t feel I have to read all three books in order to make social commentary.

      This isn’t a book review or a movie review, it’s a cultural observation. What’s odd is that I have read BDSM books from friends who write BDSM. These 50 Shades books are NOT BDSM. They are glorifying emotional abuse. Couldn’t go there.

      But if I speak out, I am castigated because I didn’t read them. If I read them, I am funding fiction that glamorizes the type of man that tormented me for years (and paying to relive being with a wealthy and powerful man who had the world convinced I was nuts for leaving him…and then stalked me until I was afraid to leave home).

      ****Whereas it is OK for E.L. James to make millions of a world she never properly researched.

      I believe it’s all about being open. Unafraid to say, “No, I don’t HAVE to read this to know it’s BAD and I don’t support it.” I think if people want some spice there are better and healthier choices for this world of BDSM. But I DO think we are wise to keep vigilant. I feel we will see the 50 Shades defense and that this does not bode well for rape victims or domestic violence victims.

        • Stephanie Scott on February 13, 2015 at 4:33 pm
        • Reply

        I said this further up, but I think you’re right that you can have an informed critical opinion and not read the book. I made it through the first chapter and just couldn’t handle the bad writing. I value my time. I don’t even watch bad reality TV anymore. By presenting an informed opinion, it means you are not immediately jumping to misogynist jargon like labeling 50 Shades “mommy porn,” which is dismisses women and their sexuality rather than addressing the behaviors in the books. This is exactly the kind of discussion we can have. We are not shaming women for being sexual, or reading sexual books, we are raising issue with the behaviours in the book and what they say about our culture, which often caters to oppression and violence toward women.

        1. Thanks because I was hesitant to speak up. I don’t think I need to eat an entire dish of super HOT Indian food to go, “Um, not for me and THAT will have SERIOUS consequences.” A “taste” is enough and I did my twenty pages of due diligence and skimmed the rest. Meh.

          As a woman married six years? I get the need for fun and spice and exploration. But I DO think we should call out trends that are unhealthy. It’s our moral obligation to at least say something and be open to the debate that follows.

          I won’t attack James’s writing or begrudge her success. It’s really the culture shift arising FROM these books that I am bothered by.

          I don’t like that slasher flicks make a gazillion dollars, but it doesn’t mean my son and I won’t have a serious talk when/if he wants to go see HOSTEL 15 when he’s in high school.

      1. On a lighter note, I think people could learn more about *real* BDSM from watching the “Lady Heather” episodes of CSI than reading FSOG…

        1. Yeah, but the whole point of this post is that FSoG representing BDSM is like saying that porn represents love. Even the BDSM community has been pissed over this and with good reason.

            • Laura on February 15, 2015 at 1:06 pm

            I don’t see how what I said contradicts that in any way, unless you took what I wrote in a completely different way than I meant it. :::shrug:::

      2. “I agree that we vote with our wallets and maybe write blogs. I do NOT condone censorship at all.”

        Very important point. I agree completely. Any work of art, no matter how negative, has a finite impact, Censorship, no matter how noble the initial intention, cramps and stultifies the entire culture.

        (I was raised by librarians. 🙂 )

    • Carol Caldwell on February 13, 2015 at 4:08 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks Kristen for speaking out. You’re like the little boy that says the obvious in the “Emperor’s New Clothes”. It should be obvious to everyone that this is a tale of horror. We can only pray that it will bomb at the box office.

    • Stephanie Scott on February 13, 2015 at 4:17 pm
    • Reply

    Here’s an article on the Mary Sue written by a writer colleague; similar thoughts: http://www.themarysue.com/power-playing-advice-to-fic-writers/

    Also, as an alternative, I read a really great “New Adult” book about a billionaire called Trade Me by Courtney Milan. It’s a romance, but not erotica or erotic romance. I highly recommend this take on a power struggle which explores each of the characters and their socioeconomic backgrounds. Courtney usually writes historicals (which are fabulous, and I rarely really get into historical romance). It’s a great example of healthy conflict and power struggle and all the internal views of each character. And I swear, I get no kickbacks from the recommendation! I just like promoting good books.

  69. I completely agree with your post! It worries me that this story has become so popular.

  70. Reblogged this on Lea At Sea and commented:
    Honestly, couldn’t agree more.

    • Christy on February 13, 2015 at 4:21 pm
    • Reply

    Very well said. Bravo!!

  71. It is messages like 50 Shades that have made it so my son gets the lecture regularly. At 17 (almost 18), he knows it’s not enough for a woman to say no. He has to flat out ask her what she wants and respect her choices (and his own boundaries). It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing or what her reputation is – a girl/woman deserves respect (as do all living beings including men). We talk about one night stands vs relationships. We don’t tell him to not have sex because we know he eventually will. We teach him how to use a condom and how to communicate with a sex partner. We explain that having a real relationship with a sex partner makes for better and less awkward sex. And we bring up the subject often. Blurred Lines comes on the radio – conversation starts. Sex on tv – guess what it’s time for the talk. A girl in a mini skirt walks by – well you get the picture. We do our best to keep the communication lines open and to educate him for those moments we may not be available. That’s how you raise a son – none of this blame the girl for being too sexy or distracting (I have actually seen blogposts from moms who raise sons and say that the girls are causing problems for their holy sons). We need to keep the dialogue open – get the message out that girls are human beings (shocking, I know) and we all have sexual needs and romantic needs. Thanks for your post – it’s nice to see people start the conversation.

  72. First, your cat is gorgeous. Second, my good man allows me to be a crazy cat lady, but it’s a really good man who becomes one himself. lol

    This Fifty Shades of Bullsh*t is making me crazy. What, have we worked so hard to get the right to vote and the right to work and the right to equal pay for equal work and the right to not be objectified and abused and controlled, the right to be independent – just to turn around and embrace abuse, control, objectification? We’ve come so far only to find we were traveling forward in a circle? I’m reasonably sure that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

    I did read the books (thankfully they were loaned to me). I read them because someone accused me of being a book snob by judging them from just what I could read in excerpts. Now I’m judging them from having read every atrocious word.

    I have nothing against the BDSM lifestyle. It’s not for me personally, but what one does in his or her own bedroom is none of my business. Spice it up if you like. Whatever.

    I do, however, take issue with how this lifestyle was presented in the book, whether it was represented incorrectly or not. The relationship in that book is toxic. It is abusive. It is depraved (and I’m not necessarily talking sexually). It is manipulative. It is controlling.

    We try to teach our daughters not to let men do all those things to them. We try to teach our sons not to let women do those things to them. We try to teach them not to be the kind of people who would do those things to others. We preach against domestic violence. We sigh and cry when we hear another story of yet another woman who wouldn’t leave her from-hell abuser and ends up paying for that weakness with her life. And then we (the collective “we”) run greedily toward this badly written porn with no plot to gobble it up wholesale. Have we no pride, so sense of dignity? No sense of of the contradiction between what we as strong, independent women will put up with from our mates and what we will read and romanticize?

    I think it’s very dangerous to present this story as a romance. Very dangerous that society is accepting it as a romance. This series is about hell. The hell a woman lives because she is weak and desperate for love. The hell built for her by a man who should love and cherish her and devour her in ways that are sensual and sexy but instead beats her and rapes her and demeans her.

    1. I only needed a few scenes and lines to have flashbacks. Men like Grey are NOT heroes at all.

      1. Romance, to me, is the seduction of the whole person, not just his or her body. Pain and humiliation and control and abuse aren’t romantic to me. I don’t read erotica (I personally don’t find it romantic) and I pretty much gloss over any moderately explicit sex scenes in the books I read. I do not write sex scenes in my own. I’m a fade-to-black after seduction heads toward fulfillment kind of writer. I guess I’m kind of a traditionalist when it comes to romance.

        1. I am with you on that. Give me Princess Bride ANY day!

  73. I hate it when smart debates make me rethink my conclusions. Plus the double-dip of realizing how jaded/accepting I’ve gotten toward the new brand of “sexy” in romance. Last year I started researching what sells the easiest in romance>ebook at Amazon. It was a business decision, since I’m partners in a small press and our old-school romances, whether sexy or sweet, were battling for their lives against the new crop of cheap, mostly indie books. (I’m not trying to start a flame war here, I’ve got nothing against indies or cheap books.) What gets an unknown author the most attention from readers? What breaks through the impossible sea of “other” these days without a massive marketing campaign funded by deep pockets? The answer: Bad boys being extremely bad to young women. I’m being simplistic, and yes there are other routes to success, but a lot of research went into this, so it’s not anecdotal. While the arena was mostly New Adult fiction, the same vibes are in contemporary adult romance, where my aging Loveswept-trained eyeballs fell on the floor at what’s now encompassed under the “sexy” label. Alpha males everywhere. Super alphas. And in the easy-road-to-attention NA books, the super alphas were obnoxious, sociopathic and borderline rapey. The young women were good girls looking for love and willing to put up with a laundry list of abusive behavior in the belief that only they understood Him, and He Was Such A Wounded Soul Inside. Yes, they tamed the beasts and got their HEA or HFN. But I hated those alphas. Loathed them. No way would I publish books that called those guys heroes.

    But what about the milder side? Now I’m working on some projects with alpha males who aren’t slimeballs and heroines who aren’t doormats, but using the dominance-and-taming fantasy that so many readers love. Hell, I love it too, if it’s done right. I understand why the submission fantasy works. And yet I DON’T want to feed our rape culture. I don’t want to contribute to the disempowerment of young women. OTOH, I look around and see plenty of them living bold lives with sexual roles that are much more fair than the old days and career choices that would have been nearly unthinkable when I was their age. Are things way better than then? Oh, hell, yes. Way worse, in some regards? Oh, hell, yes. I pulled up to the drive-through window at my small-town Taco Bell a few Octobers ago and stared at a poster of a trussed up girl in a tight tank top being menaced by a masked man with a chain saw.

    It was an ad for our local haunted house. Sponsored not only by good ol’ family friendly Taco Bell, but by a half-dozen pillar-of-the-community local businesses. WTF? I ranted in the newspaper’s editorial letters (the newspaper was a sponsor of the haunted house, too.) I’d like to believe I wasn’t the only one. The posters have improved since then–or maybe I’m just not noticing them anymore.

    That’s the problem. I realize it’s all starting to feel normal. Shrug. There’s another book with a tied-up woman on the cover. There’s another movie with the young actress as nothing but a sex object. There’s another pop singer in leather shorties, looking like an underage sex worker.

    When RWA dumped the women’s fiction category from the RITAs and added erotic romance, I was beyond disgusted. I love erotica — see my dog-earred copy of Anne Rice’s Exit to Eden. But when so much of what’s selling in erotic “romance” is 50-Shades wannabes, and the national romance organization opens the door to a celebration of it while no longer recognizing big, complex, often relatively tame (in terms of sex acts) romance novels, the message is not a good one. I’ll probably take some brick bats for that opinion, as I imagine there were various reasons given for the removal of the WF category. But there is a message, not matter what was intended. And like a lot of the messages in the marketing of romance these days, it’s confusing.

    • Todd on February 13, 2015 at 4:38 pm
    • Reply

    AMEN! I couldn’t agree more and thanks for being brave enough to post your thoughts. And you didn’t even touch on the bad writing and fan fiction turned for profit aspect.

    1. Well, I would need to READ the writing to comment on the quality of the writing. In that case, I would have to read more than I did to maintain professional integrity. In this post, I am only concerned with social implications and I am a bit freer to extrapolate and extend logic, 😀 .

      But thanks for the support. I am thrilled to see men are concerned as well. We gals need you on our side!

  74. I do have a strong opinion about this. Just because something is consensual does not mean it’s a good decision. As someone who had the tendency to be like Ana, I had to swear off men for a long time until I’m confident enough that the next relationship I have I won’t let myself be treated the way Christian treated Ana. Don’t get me wrong. My ex never hit me but that relationship was just toxic.

    That being said, it can leave impressions on our youth. This movie could teach our youth that love means it’s okay to hit someone–it was supposed to bring one person pleasure and that they could be the one who could reform an abuser. It didn’t work that way. Since I work with the youth, I do get teased because of my strong reaction but they knew where I stand regarding this issue.

    And I do like to have a strong man. However, he better respect me and push me to become stronger.

    • Patricia Bates on February 13, 2015 at 4:42 pm
    • Reply

    Personally, I’m in one hundred percent agreement with every point you made. This story isn’t mainstream romance its glorified abuse horribly written…
    In today’s world this is equal to giving permission for men to abuse women, for us to slide back into the dark ages when women were chattel to be used and discarded. Sad to say but this is one book I won’t ever read nor will I ever go to the movie – frankly I’d rather sit through two hours of mechanics class!

  75. The level of evil encompassed in 50 Shades is beyond my current preference to even confront right now. Truly truly disgusting. And as a man, it horrifies me. On the other hand, “What did you think of 50 Shades?” is a pretty good litmus test for potential dates…

    However, I’d like to point out an ALTERNATIVE movie coming out this weekend in select theaters (meaning not a wide release). “Old Fashioned” is about a former frat boy having to learn how to be a REAL man and how to ACTUALLY win the woman’s heart. I had a couple friends actually work on the film, but even besides that, I’ve heard nothing but good things. I think it’ll be a nice antidote to the poison.

    Finally, do the world a favor. Cut out of your life anyone who goes and sees 50 Shades. Make the cost too high. The culture is already under a heavy burden of human trafficking and prolific rape. The last thing we need is even MORE normalization of it.

  76. Reblogged this on Deborah Smith, Author, Publisher and commented:
    A terrific post from Kristen Lamb about the 50 Shades phenom and its dark side. The commentary/discussion from Lamb’s followers (including yours truly) is also a smart and worthwhile read.

  77. I detested the novel 50 Shades of Crap. It seems to be written by someone who knows nothing about a) Women b) Sex and c) Power. I refuse to watch the film. Women everywhere should be protesting against this crap. The movie will bomb.
    What you say is true. This garbage is affecting the younger generations in a negative way. I hope they are smarter than we think they are. Nobody needs role models like this.

  78. Great post in a great series. I love how you’re looking at big picture stuff.
    Okay, I’m probably going to really get myself in trouble here…not in defense of the book (I agree with you 100%), but in my ideas about why. Why has this taken off to such an extent?
    Human nature is such that whatever we are not “supposed” to do, is what we want to pretend.
    Contemporary culture has made it unacceptable for women to be weak. Ever. Even for a minute, and certainly not in public. We have to prove that nothing can slow us down, not PMS, nor babies, nor aging – we’re on trial constantly. We are supposed to do all, be all, cope with everything, be the breadwinner and “lean in” as well as put down the smartphone and be the “hands-free mom”. We are supposed (in popular culture) to be smarter, more virtuous and harder working than men, as well as being sexually available and cheeky and flirtatious with good hair….ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
    You know buckets more about marketing than I do, and even I know that people respond to emotional triggers – so what’s the trigger here? What’s the fantasy?
    I don’t think all these millions of women actually want to be hurt or even to experiment with BDSM. I think they just want to lie down and let somebody else be in charge. Be passive. Give up control. Be confused, vulnerable and afraid…but only while locked away in a dark room where nobody else can hear, because it’s not okay to admit we have those feelings in the first place.
    When vulnerability itself is the “forbidden fruit” in our culture, it turns dark. When the ups and downs of life -the normal fallibility or struggles of being human are “bad” and shameful…well, you get this.
    I agree with you, it’s a bad sign. And I think your recent posts about larger cultural issues are looking at different facets of the same problem.

    1. Actually before 50 Shades got so big it was a major culture shift that SCARED ME, I wrote a humor post talking about this SAME THING, LOLOLOLOL.

      As a modern strong woman and CEO, I just want SOMEONE ELSE to make a decision every once in a while….

      I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY and I think you nailed it. When vulnerability itself is the “forbidden fruit” in our culture, it turns dark. AMEN!

      1. Christian Grey as God-replacement? I do wonder.

  79. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I blogged about these books a couple days ago as well and have never seen more action on my blog. Most of the feedback was positive, but I did get some seething messages, some dislikes, and un-friends. Whatevs.
    I was actually wondering if you were going to post something about this because I (and probably most of your fans) were wondering about your stance. Wahoo! It just makes me feel not so alone in my thinking if you and WANA react this way. You and anyone else are welcome to read about my thoughts on my blog and tell me what you think. Seriously, I’d love to hear 🙂 Your post was an adrenaline shot!

    • Sherryl on February 13, 2015 at 5:14 pm