The highly controversial and most likely cinematically horrible 50 Shades of Grey comes out on February 13th, and already there’s a move to boycott the catastrophe. According to an article in Good about the boycott, there’s a campaign gaining traction called 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades – search them on Facebook – that urges moviegoers to donate $50 to women’s shelters instead of dropping cash on a film that not so subtly advocates for wildly dangerous sexual practices.
Supporters of the campaign believe the film, which may eclipse the book in terms of impossible discomfort, serves to make violent sexual practice and sexual assault somehow romantic and justified. The movement is receiving sponsorship from Stop Porn Culture, the London Abused Women’s Centre, and the National Center Against Sexual Exploitation, and I sure hope people take the campaign’s advice. $50 toward a women’s shelter is a far better investment than sitting through a seduction process that should never be emulated as is depicted in the film.
There are some who’d probably argue that it’s just a film, and that there’s BDSM culture prevalent everywhere, but 50 Shades of Grey is a far cry from the behavior of responsible BDSM folks. From what I glean from my friends in the BDSM world, all parties involved have to be completely and honestly on board. In the novel, and invariably in the film, there’s a weird written contract, sure, but many of the advances in the story are not at all accepted, and outright denied. But oh well Christian Grey is so sultry that he’s completely allowed to continue his extremely creepy and psychologically ruinous stalking because he’s also smoldering? It’s unnerving, and not at all how BDSM advocates act.
The blog The Pervocracy cites that, in the novel, Grey makes Anastasia feel that she’s igniting said behavior in him, which reminds me of every rape trial in the past many years where that same sort of hypocrisy was used to get the man out of trouble and put all the blame on the woman. The blogger writes, “I thought this would be ‘she was raped but she loved it fiction.’ Instead, it’s ‘she was raped and she hated it… SEXY ROMANCE, EVERYBODY!’ fiction!” This is correct and terrifying.
It’s a no brainer, then, to support the 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades campaign. Really, 50 Shades of Grey, in any of its terrible, but hilarious-because-it’s-bad, but actually quite harmful forms shouldn’t even be marked controversial, because that would mean we’re not sure the effect it’ll have or whether it constitutes acceptable media.
I believe that BDSM and other expressions of sexuality should be practiced and given a proper voice in the public discourse, and they’ll suffer in the mainstream principally because hugely popular depictions like this film cast a shadow over applications of desire we negate as if they are ever so shadowy and transgressive. Tasbeeh Herwees, the author of the Good piece, notes that BDSM people find the story offensive as well because of the idea that to be into that sort of thing you have to have suffered some psychological abuse to shape you into a Christian Grey kind of individual. The novel’s fantastical assertion as such is inimical; abuse justifies abuse?
And of all the nonsensical things to happen, it’s being marketed as a Valentine’s Day spectacular, which links lurid misunderstanding of consent to a day that’s already known for wringing out what’s left of romance in American culture. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a film where sex is treated intelligently, characters aren’t one-sided caricatures of how little sexuality is understood, and sexual exploration isn’t treated like some dramatic neo-Victorian nonsense where invading privacy is totally cool because #thosepiercingeyes?