The Real Abuse in Fifty Shades of Grey

While browsing my Facebook news feed this morning, I ran across yet another Fifty Shades of Grey post. Since the movie’s release, there has been a steady stream of status updates and article shares covering my computer screen. And as I click to read these posts about how many times you see nipples in the movie or an opinion-based piece about the movie’s glamorization of domestic abuse, I cannot help but feel like the opportunity for a real conversation is being missed.

I had attempted to read the series years ago in college, and it just didn’t click with me. As people have pointed out, the actual writing is just awful. So I put it down and never felt the need to pick it up again. However, as I began to see previews for the film and watched the women of Facebook go ape-shit for Christian Grey, I really just wanted to see what all the hype was about (we call this peer pressure).

So I finally used my AMC gift card I had gotten for Christmas and sat down in front of the big screen with my large popcorn ready to be aroused…and possibly disgusted. Two hours and a good cry later, I felt neither of those things. To my complete surprise, Fifty Shades of Grey was unbelievably sad to me, and I really seemed to be the only one.

I came home and begin to avoid the topic with other people. To me, there were two main discussions sparked by the movie: domestic abuse and sex. And while one could argue that these are the conversations we should be having about a fictional film, I strongly disagree.

There are countless articles addressing Ana’s “abuse” in Fifty Shades of Grey. I have even seen people protesting and boycotting the movie, citing the glamorization of domestic violence in the film. I am not here to argue that, because it has been discussed and dissected over and over again. Google it, and you will have a plethora of opinions to hash over.

There IS one clear victim of abuse in the film, and no, it is not a woman. The male protagonist of the story line is abused by not one, but two women in his life. There is no debate. Christian Grey was a victim of child abuse. This was something that I could never get out of my mind throughout the movie, as his sexy body was sadly covered in scars from being burned by cigarettes as a very young child.

Christian was severely abused and neglected by his mother from birth to age four. He is a child who was mistreated so intensely that something inside of him broke. The film does not go into details or explicitly spell everything out, but as somebody who has studied and worked in the Human Services field with children, Fifty Shades of Grey does an incredible job of translating his abuse into his behaviors.

His fear of real intimacy and love. His obsession with punishment and control. His intense attraction to Ana, who sees past his mask. At the end of the day, Christian Grey is a broken little boy struggling to cope with the demons inside of him.

This brings us to Mrs. Robinson, his mother’s friend who takes Christian under her wing and teaches him about being sexually submissive and dominant. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that he was only 15 when this happened? Let’s really take a moment and think about all of this. Rather than getting the help he so desperately needs, a young boy is introduced to intense sexual acts by somebody he trusts. By somebody his family trusts. He is molested by an older woman and enters into a six year “abusive” relationship with her.

The real predators and perpetrators in Fifty Shades of Grey are women. But nobody is saying that. Women are protesting Ana’s mistreatment, but where are the outcries for the male victim in the story line? Why are we only talking about domestic abuse and the kinky sex?

Child abuse in all its forms needs to be discussed here. Access to mental health services needs to be discussed here. Protesters were urging people to donate $50 to domestic violence organizations rather than see the movie. Wouldn’t the better plan be to donate money towards child abuse victims and getting them the help that they need to deal with their trauma? And perhaps stop the cycle of abuse.

(Please note that my thoughts and opinions are based solely on the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, as I have never finished any of the books.)

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