Fifty Shades of Grey film creates controversy

Film sparks debate over healthy BDSM relationships and blatant abuse



Many University of San Diego students flocked to San Diego area movie theaters this weekend to watch the much-anticipated “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

But clearly there is some disconnect, since this past weekend it brought in almost $250 million globally but has been torn apart by critics and received an abysmal score on Rotten Tomatoes of 26 percent.

As moviegoers rave about the fun and sexy nature of the film and recommend it to all of their friends, film critics are ranting about the poor acting, terrible chemistry, and overall lack of cinematic finesse.

All the while, the debate around the moral decency of BDSM in general is predictably detracting from the real controversy of this film—Christian Grey is an abuser.

The film’s depiction of a relationship that departs from what an actual healthy BDSM relationship, let alone any relationship, should look like will cause people to get hurt in the future.

And I don’t mean a few rope burns from uninformed newcomers attempting BDSM without learning anything about safety.

That may sound like a judgment about BDSM practices, or a condemnation of a bit of spanking.

It really isn’t. Safe, sane, and consensual is the unofficial official slogan of the BDSM community. And any BDSM that adheres to those principles or guidelines is fine by me. However, Christian Grey is the complete opposite of safe, sane, and consensual.

It is easy to miss the malicious nature of Grey’s behavior in the book. Readers and viewers of the book and film franchise are prepared for explicit, slightly taboo sex scenes and a romantic whirlwind a la Twilight, the book that the original fan fiction was based on.

Things that readers are not sniffing out: stalking, manipulation, threats, and even a lack of consent that can be construed as rape.

Aside from the obvious stalking and invasion of privacy—Grey finds out where Anastasia Steele works, tracks her phone, and shows up in her locked house unannounced — the fundamental problem with their relationship is the lack of consent.

Just like any non-BDSM relationship, sexual activity between individuals must be consensual.

That’s consent freely given. Not coerced over time and manipulated out of one party.

Even if someone is inclined to think that Steele’s eventual acquiescence to the terms in Grey’s BDSM contract is valid and freely given, the revoking of that consent cannot be misconstrued.

At one point in the book Grey threatens to tie her down and gag her if she struggles more, immediately after she had said no to his advances and attempted to kick him off of her.

Herein lies the problem. The proliferation of the popular film will undoubtedly lead to greater problems for victims of domestic violence.

It makes the actions of abusers seems acceptable, and it enforces to victims the idea that they should stay with their abusers.

Alexa Villasenor, a junior at USD, explained her main problem with the book that the movie is based on.

“The media makes this book seem like a ‘how-to’ guide for BDSM which is really worrisome because it romanticizes abuse,” Villasenor said.

Senior Lindsay Waterman, herself a survivor of intimate partner violence, agreed that this franchise will most likely have unforeseen consequences.

“No one wants to believe that someone who’s supposed to love them would hurt them,” Waterman said. “And now that this kind of abuse is being framed as acceptable by a highly anticipated film, I just worry that girls, like me, will see it and go along with it.”

This criticism of the nature of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey’s relationship can seem to suck all of the taboo fun away for fans who sneakily read the series on their Kindle, or went with a group of friends to see the film for a fun single Valentine’s Day night.

There’s still nothing wrong with enjoying the titillation of the fringes of sexual culture, but the importance of acknowledging the abuse inherent in Fifty Shades of Grey cannot be denied.

We spend so much time parsing out the causes of gun violence in this country. We point our fingers at the movies we watch when it comes to violent crimes, why should violence in relationships be any different?