Fifty Shades of Grey and Relationship Abuse

By Lucy Infeld on January 27, 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey has sold over sixty-five million copies worldwide. The book is a phenomenon amongst young and middle aged women. It has been described as a great romance, a freeing story, and “mommy porn.” However, the message of the book may be much darker than individuals are willing to admit. The relationship between the protagonist, Ana Steele, and her lover, Christian Grey, involves abuse.

Steele is a recent college graduate who has never been in a relationship when she meets Christian Grey, who introduces her to the world of Sadist-Masochist relationships. Grey holds dominion over Steele. He tells her what she may and may not eat, who she is allowed to see, how much she must sleep, and goes so far as to restrict her from looking in the eye. If she disobeys any of these possessive and ridiculous rules, Grey reserves the right to beat her.

This is a love story? This is romance? This is best selling literature?

Fifty Shades of Grey has sparked wide controversy, with its defendants stating that it is a modern love story dealing with deeper emotional issues and its prosecutors stating that it encourages the idea that it is okay for a man to hit a woman and promotes relationship violence.

In America, one in five high school students reports being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. With the prevalence of dating violence, what can be said of our culture glorifying a book in which a man dominates his partner and beats her if she fails to please him? Should action be taken against these books? Can violence in a relationship be considered acceptable if the submissive consents? While there is no easy answer to this question, legal professionals, experts in relationship abuse and violence, and educators are all now faced with this issue and how to deal with the vast popularity of this novel and the debates brought to light as a result.

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