Let me start by saying that I have not read any of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books, though I have talked to many women who have. Those who have and who are honest with me tell me that, although captivating and engrossing, the books are somewhat troubling.
I’m not talking about the issue of BDSM, I’m talking about the message that we are sending, especially to younger readers about the nature of love and what’s okay and what isn’t. While I don’t personally think that they should be reading the books the fact is that they are and pretending they aren’t means we aren’t able to help them understand the safety issues involved here.
Warning flags go up when I hear comments like “I wish I had a guy like Christian!”. Really?!?! A guy who insists that you answer the phone immediately when he calls, no matter where you are and what you’re doing? A guy who shows up at your house if you don’t respond quickly enough? Who shows up when he isn’t expected and hasn’t been invited?
Peggy Andover Ph.D and Colleen Jacobson have written a great article that I would like to direct your attention to.
As the authors of the article explain these are warning signs of Intimate Partner Violence (IVP) and reflect serious control issues that are at the core of most stalking and domestic violence problems.
Here’s a quote from the article:
Christian’s actions exemplify two specific types of IPV: intimate partner stalking and coercive control, both common forms of violence against women. Intimate partner stalking includes repeated and unwanted contact or attention that causes the victim to fear her own safety or the safety of others. Over 16 percent of women have experienced stalking during their lifetimes, and two-thirds of those have been stalked by an intimate partner, such as a boyfriend, spouse or girlfriend. Although alarming, these rates likely underestimate the actual prevalence, as most instances of IPV are not reported to the police. The most common form of stalking is repeated and unwanted phone calls or text messages; Christian’s first gifts of a laptop and BlackBerry may not be coincidental. Ana responds with a combination of negative and positive feelings and ultimately accepts his behaviors. This ambivalence can be common in victims of IPV, and it in no way makes the behavior acceptable.
So now, with millions of women reading these books, the message we are communicating is that this type of behavior, rather than being seen as unhealthy and dangerous, is actually supposed to be interpreted as romantic?
I’m not here to pass judgement on the sexual content of the books but as someone who blogs about safety I have to warn young women that anyone who starts to behave the way Christian does in these books ought to be someone you get away from as soon and as fast as possible, not someone you seek to have a relationship with. IVP and control issues are serious and dangerous, not romantic! And if you’ve got a daughter that’s reading these books, sit down and have a serious talk with her about it.
There are many things out there that we wish our children weren’t exposed to but the fact is that they are. How we respond and what we tell them can make the difference when it comes to safety issues such as the ones we’ve just mentioned. If you haven’t already done so, you need to talk to them about what is healthy and what isn’t, what is romantic and what is obsessive or controlling. IPV, obsessiveness, controlling behavior… these are not romantic, they’re dangerous patterns of behavior that can not and should not be tolerated in any relationship.