It’s no coincidence whenever popular fiction grows into uncontrolled cultural sensations. The formula is simple: create a featureless main character that anyone can implant themselves on. In the case of E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades” trilogy, this formula is followed to an almost dangerous degree. “Fifty Shades” does not represent a young couple in love; it’s more of a PSA to those that may be in unhealthy and unsafe relationships.
Widely introduced to audiences with its first movie release on Valentine’s Day of 2015, “Fifty Shades of Grey” showed the darker side of someone with a scarred, disturbed psyche. Christian Grey, introduced as a playboy billionaire, is infamously known for his love of BDSM, an affinity he acquired from a past partner who molested him several times over– a tiny detail that’s sorely glossed over in the films and novels. Because of this, Christian is bred to be as destructive as his previous lover, going down a line of women until he finds the one woman he seemingly can’t tame—until he meets Anastasia Steele.
Put bluntly, Ana is simply the window through which readers can experience the various sexual adventures Christian puts her through. From whipping with lashes to ice cream treats on inappropriate body parts, Ana is game to it all– as long as you discount the great amount of manipulation, stalking and controlling behaviors that Christian constantly displays.
The biggest issue with this series is that it normalizes and even advocates abusive relationships, showing viewers that behaviors like these simply show that someone is “in love” and not unhealthily “obsessed.”
“An analysis of the first book found that the so-called romantic relationship between Christian and Ana was characterized by intimate partner violence,” Caitlin Roper said in her article on the UK Huffington Post. “Using the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definitions, researchers found that emotional abuse and sexual violence were pervasive throughout, noting that emotional abuse was present ‘in nearly every interaction.’”
Here are few of the most noticeable signs of an abusive relationship that you should not only look out for in the films but also seek to stay away from when dating:
Overbearing Controlling Tendencies
In some of the most infamous and controversial scenes of the series, Christian literally shoves a contract of what Ana can and cannot do into her email at every chance he gets. The National Domestic Violence Hotline states that power and control are the central points in almost every abusive relationship. Be conscious of your partner commanding you to do things without considering your safety or comfort. Also, don’t sign contracts just to be in a relationship.
Pressures You to Have Non-Consensual Sex
Admittedly, this is a tricky subject to deal with because every relationship is different. As seen in the films and more so in the novels, Ana eventually gives in to Christian’s pleadings because she secretly wanted it all along– or so James would want readers to believe. In reality, this is something that you will have to gauge on your own. Know when things are being pushed too far rather than letting your partner stick his/her hand down your pants because he/she knew you’d like it. Put simply, try new, exciting things if they sound interesting, but make sure you either ask your partner first or he/she asks you.
Shows Jealousy or Outrage at You Not Being Near
Sure, its sweet when your significant other sends you texts claiming that he/ she misses you, but don’t think that him/her getting angry because of your absence is similar in any degree. This is a clear sign of codependency and should be dealt with by seeing a couple’s therapist or simply talking through the issue together.
Several times throughout the novels, Christian becomes defensive and suspecting whenever Ana wants to spend time with friends or her co-workers. It’s somehow portrayed as “noble” when he begins to stalk Ana for her “safety.” He also often isolates Ana, telling her that he’s the only one that she’ll ever need and does his best to literally own her in every way possible. Though Christian may represent the most outrageous degree of jealousy, these signs can be read much before these tendencies turn into a problem.