Fifty Shades of Rape Culture?

Years after the book came out, I finally decided to read 50 Shades of Grey. When it first came out, I remember that all of my mid to upper 30s coworkers were raving about it and asking each other which parts they had gotten to yet and then giggling about the sex scenes. The whole S&M world had never really sounded like something I’d enjoy reading about, so I just let them go on with their babble because this is ‘Merica and you can read and talk about anything you want.

Fast-forward to 2015 and a full-blown 50 Shades Mania has taken over the country with the release of the movie this Friday. I didn’t think I’d be involved in the madness, until I decided to go to see it in theatres this weekend with my cousin. However, her terms of agreement involved me reading the book first.

In accordance with her demands, I decided to download it last night and, as turns out, I’m about 100 pages from finishing it. I couldn’t put it down! I mean, is it the most wonderful piece of literary work you’ll find? Certainly not. But I still was so intrigued by the story (and the other parts of course).


50 Shades of grey [lines]

But there are some parts that I was very uncomfortable reading, specifically where Grey tells Ana that he wants to hurt her and is turned on by the thought/action of it.

This is where I can see the side of the argument that says the book and movie only add to the ever-prevalent rape culture all around us, especially on college campuses across the United States, and that the story sends the message to men that it’s okay to be rough with women because they’ll be just as turned on by it.

I do see the danger of where men and women will see or read the story play out and then think that they should do it in their own lives. People have been mimicking things they experience through media for centuries. But the most prevalent point between 50 Shades of Grey  and sexual assault and rape is that consent is being given in the story.

This book ( and I can only speak to 50 Shades of Grey because I haven’t read the second or the third in the trilogy) states multiple times that there’s an agreement, fully written out and negotiated by both parties so that each knows what to expect. Of course, almost all of the book’s storyline involves Ana’s back and forth decision of if she wants to participate in Grey’s “50 shades of f**ked up” or not, but they are both participating in consensual acts each time. For argument’s sake, there is that *spoiler-alert* cliff-hanger at the end where Christian goes too far, but that’s not the point.

The point is that you shouldn’t blame the book for why people commit rape and sexual assault. 50 Shades of Grey is not the problem; the problem is that people think that the book provides an excuse for them to do what they want.

I think it’s important to allow people to indulge in whatever outlet they want, as long as it doesn’t harm another being. There’s just a gap in the education of the need for consent and our society needs to learn it real quick, because rape culture shouldn’t be a part of our culture at all.

Let me know what you think about the argument and until next time,

C. Brooks

3 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Rape Culture?

  1. Bubbles and Booyah says:

    I think you should read this blog post about 50 Shades (CAUTION: be prepared for NSFW sex and language): A person who is really into the BDSM scene/a super feminist from Boston reads the book and comments along with each chapter. Now, let me just explain myself before you wander off to that site and think, “Dude, what the HELL is L into?” I am going to see the movie with a few of my girlfriends for Galentine’s Day and I really was in the dark as to what the book was ACTUALLY about. I had only a vague idea and was under the impression that it was some kind of soft-core porn-y romance novel with a focus on S&M. When I told my best friend I was going to see the movie, she asked me to let her know what I thought (in a “dude I can’t believe YOU of all people are going to see that movie” kinda way). When I then told her how clueless I was as to what the book is actually about, she then gave me some more details, and how it was semi-disturbing the way that S&M is portrayed because some of the sex scenes did not seem to be entirely consensual. She pointed me towards the blog I’ve included above. It’s embarrassing to say, especially as a feminist, but I was really in the dark about this book. It didn’t interest me, so I didn’t really pay attention. The blog chapter summaries were very interesting to read, and eye-opening, and now I am definitely interested to see how they work around some of the more questionable scenes in the movie. The only reading of the book I’ve done is a few excerpts from a few of the blog posts, so I’m by no means an expert. However, even after my limited reading of a few scenes in 50 Shades, there were quite a few eyebrow raises (and many “WTF is this?” moments) going on over here. I think you may find it interesting. Great post, btw. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • C. Brooks says:

      I will definitely have to check that site out! I also agree with your friend that there were some parts in the beginning of their S&M relationship (because it, technically, started out “vanilla”) that involved some questionable consent. There are definite gray areas (pun not intended 😉 ). But I’ll be interested to see how the movie goes because there is a very fine line between consent and coercion and 50 Shades is flirting with it a lot.
      Also, as a self-defined feminist, I did have a problem with the roles never really switching and allowing her to be in control, but that’s how their agreement works. So I totally see the point that this book may not being the best piece of literature to push the feminist agenda forward.
      Be sure to let me know what you think of the movie, though!

      Liked by 1 person


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