If you haven’t heard of “50 Shades of Grey,” I’m going to assume that you’ve been living under a rock for the past four years. The movie adaptation of the first novel of E. L. James’ bestselling erotic romance “50 Shades” trilogy debuted in theaters on Valentine’s Day, implying that it would be a storybook romantic tale that every girl would yearn to see. So, why not set the scene with what appears to be a guide for women on how to become completely submissive to a man they just met in the hopes of achieving love? There’s nothing like spreading the societal pressure of Valentine’s Day with a movie that appears to boil down to rough sex and little in the way of actual love.

I will come right out and say it — I have not read “50 Shades of Grey.” So, perhaps I am not an expert on the story, but I like to think I can spot the signs that show something is clearly wrong in the treatment of others. When the series became popular a few years ago, my older co-workers all read the books and would discuss it. They advised me not to read it as they didn’t like the message and felt that, even though I was 16, they did not want me exposed to its content.

Some of them had daughters of their own and were horrified at the thought of someone my age expecting a relationship like the one portrayed in the book. From the topics they discussed, including what amounted to Christian Grey stalking college senior Anastasia Steele and the complete control that Grey exercised over Steele just shortly after meeting her, I knew I would not be able to make it past the first chapter if I chose to read the book. If a woman is not given the freedom to make her own choices about her life, then there is a problem. I don’t care how romantic or handsome he is.

I chose to forget about “50 Shades” over the years, as it had no relevance to my life or my values; however, I now find it increasingly difficult to ignore its existence when there are posters and advertisements for it everywhere. The movie adaptation is also not uniquely an American obsession; “50 Shades” is known all over Ireland and I saw more advertisements for it in Paris than I could count.

I tried to understand why the “50 Shades” craze is an international occurrence. Does no one else see the extremely unhealthy relationship between the two main characters that is evident from the movie trailer alone?

I get it. The whole premise of an erotic novel is to supposedly provide an outlet for inner desires or some of the darker fantasies of the human mind – a release of some sort. However, I doubt erotic novels are supposed to show women that it is acceptable to be dominated in every sense of the word; that women should have no control over their own lives and should submit to the whims and demands of the man in their life; and that all actions towards their partner are acceptable if they’re done in the name of love.

“But he or she loves me” is a phrase that is often said by victims of abuse in defense of their partner. Do you see where the problem lies? This excuses the abusive partner from the hurt that he or she has caused and allows it to happen again. There is a fine line between sadism and masochism acts in the bedroom and partner abuse, and that line is mutual consent between the partners. From what I can tell, there is pressure on Steele to perform these acts with Grey, and forced consent is not the type of consent that people who generally participate in BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) adhere to. There has to be a willingness and clear consent to whatever may occur in the bedroom.

Abuse can be mental or physical; just because he or she didn’t leave a mark doesn’t mean that it is not abuse. Coercing someone into actions that they don’t want to do, like what Grey does to Steele, is abuse and not a part of the BDSM culture. Basically, Grey’s form of love is sex in ways that he can exert control over Steele and this mentality carries over into daily life for Grey, where Steele also submits to him.

The idea of constant submission in all areas of life is not one that should be impressed upon women. If one wishes to partake in such activities of their own free will, then by all means, enjoy yourself. If you are pressured, or the controlling attitude of the partner bleeds over into all aspects of the relationship outside the bedroom, then there is a problem.

The movie is, at its buried core, a romance. However, this is the type of romance that shouldn’t be stressed upon women. Young, impressionable women watching the movie can get the wrong idea of love and healthy relationships and there are enough problems with abuse without conditioning girls that Grey and Steele’s relationship is what to expect from a “love story.” Mr. Grey may want to see me now, but you can be sure that I will not be accepting his invitation.

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