50 shades of not okay.

So. E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey has been getting a lot of attention lately, probably the most attention it’s received since its initial release in 2011. There are a few reasons for that, one of which being the trailer for the movie that has recently and depressingly flooded my Facebook newsfeed. However, I’ve also seen a massive onslaught of 50 Shades of Grey news pop up–and most of it isn’t all that great.

You’re probably very aware that I especially dislike the 50 Shades of Grey novels. And, before we get into it, no, I haven’t read them. No, I don’t have to read them to have a valid opinion on how bad they are. And no, I don’t care if that means you’ll dismiss said opinion on the matter because I haven’t read them.

But the fact is, I don’t need to read the books to form a solid opinion. I one time fell into a friend’s trap about this very same thing with the Twilight series (coincidentally, of which 50 Shades of Grey started off as a fanfiction), and I read the first four chapters of the book before giving it back to her and telling her my opinions were totally solid. I also eventually got her to see how awful the books were. So, there’s that.

I can know the book is bad based on the snippets available online as well as the conversations I’ve had with a girl I know who is an avid erotica reader. She knows more about the genre than anyone I know and she definitely knows what’s good and what’s total crap. When I brought up the name 50 Shades of Grey with her, she got seriously angry. Not only did she say that the sex was horribly unrealistic and the writing crappy, but the books paint a really bad picture on what a good BDSM relationship was supposed to look like. She then gave me a few suggestions on books that do highlight healthy BDSM relationships with realistic sex. Seriously, this girl knows her shit.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this. The point of this article is to discuss the news that I’ve been seeing around about the 50 Shades of Grey series. I suspect this news is coming more to the forefront now than it did three years ago when the book surfaced because of the upcoming movie, and because many people are worried about the effect this series is going to have on avid readers and viewers everywhere.

Essentially, the big argument here is that 50 Shades of Grey promotes violence against women.

Read the article. Or this highly amusing albeit somewhat terrifying tumblr feed. There is a ton of information on the web out there that totally destroys 50 Shades of Grey from a basic women’s rights perspective. Sure, there’s also an onslaught of extraordinarily religious groups or anti-porn protesters who think the book is absolute garbage, too, but due to their obvious biases, I didn’t even want to consider them for this article. It’s pretty clear why they’d have problems with this book.

But the fact is, it seems that people who are truly involved in the BDSM community as well as trained psychologists think this book is teaching people that dangerous sexual and relationship behaviors are totally A-okay. That should be something we’re concerned with. Do I even need to mention the number of girls who broke up with their boyfriends for not being “Edward-Like” after the Twilight phase? How many people are going to try to enter into a BDSM relationship with the skewed ideas brought forth in 50 Shades of Grey?

As a writer, I’m hardly surprised this kind of book gets the popularity it’s received. Sex sells. And hell, who cares? Go E.L. James for writing a highly successful book (even if it was based on Twilight). However, as a human being, I don’t understand how we can propagate this kind of unhealthy behavior, both the unhealthy relationships in Twilight and that of the characters in 50 Shades of Grey with any kind of clear conscience.

It’s one thing to have damaged relationships in our books. Let’s face it–the vast majority of relationships in the real world have problems to work through, and no one is perfect. It’s a very different thing to romanticize and glorify abusive relationships as though that’s the standard we should be striving to achieve.

Seems sketchy to me.


Categories: Opinions and Rants, Writing


  1. To be fair to 50 Shades, most romantic relationships in books, movies, or TV, are unrealistic and destructive when applied to real life. People have long been blaming Hollywood for propagating unhealthy expectations in relationships, and this is just a much more obvious example of that. I suppose the difference is that there’s more at stake when you’re inspiring sexual abusive.

    What bothers me, though, is that there doesn’t appear to be a point to this story. You know, the elevator pitch to this series just sounds like porn. I mean, even the twitter description of Twilight identifies the conflict of the story. The movie trailer didn’t help either. Maybe I’m missing something important (I’m not), but it felt like the setup to a horror movie. Actually, it feels like it’s going to be American Psycho.

    If the story had some message about the allure and dangers of debauchery or something, it might be interesting. Unfortunately, I know it has nothing of the sort to say. It’s like if somebody wrote a book about how great it would be to be a vampire, rather than exploring why it would be terrible.

    Jared Johnson
    1. Yeah, I think the major difference here is the abuse patterns 50 Shades propagates–and not just sexually. From what I’ve heard, the guy basically stalks her, gets her drunk to get her to do certain things, demeans her in public, and overall diminishes her as a person. Additionally, what I read up on the BDSM community’s take on the books, he also breaks a lot of key rules about BDSM that are designed to keep the submissive safe. In short, definitely a step beyond the standard broken Hollywood relationship.

      And yeah–there’s also the huge problem that the book is literally only about sex. There doesn’t seem to be any other plot line at all.

      1. Yeah, I’m speaking from ignorance on the book. The most I’ve heard is some of Gilbert Gottfried’s narration. That sounds even worse than I was made aware of.

        Jared Johnson
  2. Pingback: Congratulations! Reading "Harry Potter" made you a better person. | MC HuntonMC Hunton

Have Something to Say?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *