As Fifty Shades of Grey gets ready to hit theaters, many in the BDSM community are outraged. BDSM is a variety of erotic actions which are often characterized by bondage/discipline, domination/submissive, sadism/masochism. These practices are often fulfilled through roleplay, restraint and other partner interactions. The community itself actually subsists through a larger variety of erotic actions which are usually seen as “counter culture.” The interesting part about BDSM is while it explores the darker and more deviant side of our sexuality, it also has extremely strict rules and guidelines; which lead me back to the Fifty Shades of Grey outrage.
The community of BDSM finds that sexual acts are a supreme form of passion and sexual freedom, but many see the book series as counter to their cause. Researchers at Ohio State University have even argued that the relationship between the two main characters is indeed not BDSM, but actually partner abuse. So it begs the question: should publishers warn readers about the pitfalls of romanticizing fiction?
While I have not read the book series myself, I have noticed that this trend of romanticizing abusive relationships before when Twilight first came out. While Twilight is supposed to be an innocuous, teen melodrama about eternal love, many felt that the book misrepresented a healthy relationship. Psychology Today wrote an article about the abusive tendencies and characteristics of the two main characters in Twilight. A lot of people feel that Twilight gives young girls the wrong impression about what love is and what a healthy relationship is, which will in turn lead to them gravitating towards abusive relationships. I have to agree, from what I have read and seen; there is something very stalker/relationship hostage going on in the series.
We can see in today’s romances there is a severe dissolution from the “princess relationship” we were all once raised on. Many women in their twenties and thirties were raised on the “Disney Princess” concept; we would all find our princes and live happily ever after. Except, princes have castles and riches beyond all else, and that is not how the real world works. Yet, with the climbing divorce rate, we can see how these stories we were raised on really colored our perceptions.
By no means am I bashing either book/movie. We have a right to read, watch, and write whatever we like. I have even enjoyed some of Anne Rampling’s stories and picked up a few “trashy” romance novels before. However, the key is to remember they are fiction. But in a world of low self-esteem, it is very easy for a girl to be entranced by the idea of being Bella or Anastasia. After all, who would not want complete and utter attention of a male, especially when they wield power of money and immortality? We are all capable of being sucked in to these fictional worlds. So it begs the question, should there be some sort of caveat? What I really mean to say is, that in a world of fiction, not true stories, do publishers and the authors need to be held accountable for the ideas that they set forth? Whether it is a caveat lector (let the reader beware) or links to get help, young women need to know abuse is not okay.
“The ideas set forth in Fifty Shades of Grey are wholly a work of fiction and fantasy. We understand that this work may be seen as misconstruing to the BDSM community and it is not our intent to undermine them. We understand that the community feels strongly about their process, and wants everyone to feel safe in their practices. If you are interested in these communities the links provided can be valuable resources in enjoying BDSM or other sexual practices.”
Of course, valuable links would follow the statement. The thought originally crossed my mind with an old copy of The DaVinci Code and the game Assassin’s Creed. Both are works of fiction based on the real events and things around the world. They both take fiction and mix it with reality to the point that people forget that it is not real. Yet both had simple forewords reminding people that they were works of fiction which were based on some realistic information; however, they should not be taken to heart. It was simple and clean, but it was an honest reminder. Sometimes we take things to heart.
In the end, the book industry may never feel the need for such caveats. There is a certain expectation that the reader will not fall into the trap that the main characters do. However, relationship abuse is very real and is not BDSM. If you are interested in BDSM there is a site called BDSM for dummies; it is a great way to arm yourself with the proper knowledge of erotic interactions. That being said, if you would like to know more about abusive relationships or think you may be in one please check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline or Help Guide. In the end, be smart when you read and realize that there are no relationships like Bella’s or Anastasia’s in the real world. They are fictions and should be treated as such. Caveat Lector.