Negative Relationship Constructs in 50 Shades of Grey

Just when you think there can’t be a worse love story than Twilight, someone decides to give Edward a whip and handcuffs.

For those who have somehow managed to avoid the steamy trailers for this book-turned-movie, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is author E L James’ Twilight-BDSM fanfiction. The so-called “erotic romance” replaces Edward and Bella with another equally frustrating couple, that of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. The two fall in love, their relationship complicating as Ana tries to comes to terms with Christian’s unusual sexual habits.

Besides being dull and poorly-written (sappy dialogue and awkward sex galore), the book is also jam-packed with negative gender stereotypes that lead to casual relationship abuse. 

Relationships rely on a healthy balance between two people and boy are Ana and Christian riding a dangerous seesaw. Mr. Grey is the ultimate alpha male: a gorgeous, rich, and influential playboy. Ana, in stark contrast, is virginal, insecure, and clumsy. The polarity of their gender roles is painfully unrealistic and sexist.This power dynamic, resembling that of hunter and prey, is what often leads to abusive relationships. One person is weak and dependent on the other; this other is then free to take advantage of them.
Christian proudly boasts that he enjoys control over all things and knows what makes people tick, revealing himself as an expert manipulator. He insists on having his way, rarely expresses emotion (other than lust) and describes himself as broken and dangerous, drawing kind and curious women to him like a magnet.

Ana embodies the perfect victim, hopelessly insecure and with an under-developed personality. She is in awe of Christian, never feeling good enough and aching to please him lest he become angry or leave her. Although she is under constant stress, she remains, hoping to “fix” Christian and turn him from a dark knight to a shining one.


These stereotypes make the characters dismally one-dimensional, regardless of how much the author tries to give them depth. The story revolves entirely around their relationship, suggesting that they have nothing else going on in their life. The pair are disturbingly obsessed with each other; Christian tries to pass off his stalking as “protectiveness”, while Ana’s thoughts are a constant stream of incoherent worship.

In respects to the use of sexual consent, Ana’s ditsy narration offers little clarity; we never really know whether she wants to do something or not-maybe she doesn’t know either. Christian, of course, does what he does best and takes advantage of this, insisting on using consent and then ditching the idea whenever his loins ignite.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” was intended for mature audiences for a reason-adults will easily see through the frivolous plot and unrealistic relationship, but they’re not the only ones reading it. Teenagers passing the book around or sneaking in to watch the Rated R film can and will assimilate these dangerous ideas into their life.

Romanticizing unhealthy relationship standards encourages women to be meek and normalizes aggression in males, the foundations of relationship violence. Abuse is abuse, no matter how romantic it might appear through heart-shaped glasses.


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