Here is a small warning that this post may contain some triggers as I discuss domestic abuse. It has taken me a few days of serious thought as to whether or not I wanted to post about this as I have only lightly touched on this subject in the past. But this week I have seen people I love and respect talking about how much they would “love a man like Christian Grey” I just need to get my story out. It’s been almost three years since I read the books so please forgive me if I don’t get al the facts 100%.
This isn’t a post about how badly the books are written (because they are, I forced myself to read all three so I could fairly debate my side), or how it doesn’t correctly portray the world of BDSM. In fact this post isn’t about sex at all, both consensual or whether or not the series contains aspects of rape. Or even how I believe Jaime Dornan (someone I loved in The Fall & Once Upon a Time) has in essence put a bit of a road block in his career, thank goodness he’s trolling the movie already.
This is a post about what it’s really like to date a man like Christian Grey.
You’re having coffee with a friend and she starts to tell you about the new relationship she’s in. Her “boyfriend” hates when other men notice her to the point he punishes her for it by not speaking to her for the whole night or getting into an argument about it. She admits he stalks her using her mobile phone. He tries to control what she eats, wears, where she goes and how many time she attends the gym. He doesn’t want her to see her friends, people she care about and had relationships both romantic and platonic before he even came along. If she tries to stand up for herself he takes her down, with words or actions. He makes her feel like everything is her fault, every time he is in the wrong, he twists it so she thinks it’s her who has to try harder. He in essence, controls her, every aspect of her life.
If you don’t think to yourself or more importantly vocalize that your friend needs to get out of that relationship, you have no moral conscious.
If you take away all the sex from 50 Shades, this is how Christian acts. And as someone who has been in Ana’s shoes, the person on the receiving end, being subjected to this emotional abuse can have an incredibly long lasting and damaging affect.
Without the BDSM, my last relationship reads very like this series. Young girl meets an older man in a position of power. He woes her and pursues her endlessly. She gives in but knows from the outset he has some serious issues. In the beginning she tries hard to be okay with them, making excuses because she has fallen fast and hard for him. This is what happened to me. I look back on that time and I feel sick that I let someone get away with treating me like that, with controlling every aspect of my life. It wasn’t romantic, it was domestic abuse.
“Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.”
This is how the UK government defines domestic abuse. Read that quote and tell me that Ana Steele wasn’t in a domestic abusive relationship with Christian Grey? Yes, she may well have consented (reluctantly) to his sexual lifestyle choice, but did she hell consent to everything else. Grey made sure he was in EVERY aspect of her life. He even bought the company she started working for because she wouldn’t work for his, just so he could gain that extra bit of power over her.
My ex was so like Christian Grey that when I read the books I found it incredibly painful. The way he acted, the things he said. He had the charm, the charisma and he was very clever and cunning. He knew what he wanted and how to get people to do it. Oh yes he played the “I’m not worthy of love card” and I fell for it. He also played the “I’m bad news” card and it just made me want to try harder. Like Christian Grey, he knew what to do and when to do it to ensure I was trapped.
Anyway the reason I’m writing this post is to tell all those woman out there who are desperate for a man “just like Christian Grey” to stop and think about what they’re really fantasizing about? If you want a BDSM sex life, do your research, there are a lot of rules and boundaries that go along with it that 50 Shades of Grey completely ignore. If you think that’s what turns you on, talk to your other half about it, make it so you never feel reluctant to engage in role play, that it’s always consensual and you both enjoy it. Not one person doing it to please the other (which lets face it, is what Ana does). But if Christian Grey is the kind of man you’re after, I think you need to stop and look at what you would be signing up for. A cool, calculating man who uses his own history of abuse as an excuse for how he now behaves. We don’t make excuses for people who murder because they had a rough up bringing, so why should we excuse this? Yes, I get that women, for some reason, love a damaged soul like Grey, but it’s not okay for him to mentally damage someone else especially in the name of “pleasure”.
It breaks my heart seeing people I love wanting a Grey like character when I know the hell I went through with one, and although they don’t know the whole story (which I don’t think I’ll ever feel ready to tell), they often call my daughter’s father every awful name under the sun because of what he did to me. The two men are the same, why because one has a six pack and a lot of money is it okay for him to be emotionally abusive but not my ex?
I understand that 50 Shades is fiction, but my problem is the affect it is having on woman. That teenagers are reading the book and thinking this is how they want a potential partner to act. My problem with 50 Shades is that it’s becoming too influential. I know the characters aren’t real. That at the end of the day they live “happily ever after” but having been influenced by books myself, certain ones having huge impacts on my life, I know the damage a piece of literature can have, and even more so, a movie. Jaime Dornan is undeniably a gorgeous human being, he makes me swoon. Watching him portray this character is even more cause for concern and I can guarantee that he will spurn a whole new generation of people wanting a man “just like Christian Grey” as if we didn’t already have enough.
Ladies, you don’t want a man like Christian Grey. I’ve had a man like Christian Grey. He emotionally, verbally and physically abused me at the most vulnerable part of my life. He still has a huge impact on my mental well being today. If 50 Shades was real life I would be Anastasia Steele. A single mother with severe anxiety who is unsure she’ll ever be able to trust a man again. That every time she bit her lip she’d worry it was giving off the wrong impression (I too was a lip biter, I say was because I’d never dream of doing it now). The real life Ana’s don’t end up married to a millionaire who realises he does have issues and solves them just by being shown he was actually worth loving. The Ana’s in the real world who are lucky enough to finally escape (because some don’t..) have to daily remind themselves of their worth. That it wasn’t them, it was him. That they did nothing that was deserved of how they were treated. They did say no, and they did say stop but it wasn’t heard.
I have had to rebuild my life and self esteem from scratch. He systematically broke down my old life to gain complete control. Before him I never suffered any kind of mental health issues. Now I take tablets for insomnia and anxiety which are both a direct result of living with a Christian Grey type. I have a restraining order. I’m a single mother. I don’t want my daughter growing up in a world where this type of man is idolized and considered the dream.
I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t see the movie, or it’s wrong that you enjoyed the book. Hey, I’ll admit to enjoying a crap piece of literature every now and then. But please take a step back and look at what you’re actually saying if you think this is the life you would want, that Grey would be your ideal man. Spare a thought of all the Ana’s that didn’t date a multimillionaire Grey, but they dated the Grey you would find in your day to day life. The one that can’t fix their mistakes with a ride in a helicopter or a shiny new Macbook. Not that in reality that would fix anything. But the gestures you see as romantic in the book, don’t even come close to the mental and often physical anguish this type of man can inflict.
And please remember, although you are considering this to be a work of fiction, there are people out there who have lived this life, and in reality, it doesn’t have a happy ending.
So I’ll leave you with this, what in my opinion is the best review of 50 Shades of Grey by my friend Jenna over at Book Odyssey.