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The release of 50 Shades of Grey sets a dangerous precedent

The film's leading cast members, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. Credit: Focus Features

Zahra Deera, LLB Law

For those of you who are unaware of the storyline, 50 Shades of Grey centres around Anastasia, a senior in university, who meets Christian Grey – a young multi-millionaire who enjoys practising BDSM. And as I’m sure you can guess, Anastasia gets caught up in this dark world.

Yes, it is a novel and is therefore fictional. But what is not fictional is the message that it is giving people. Does the open nature of this book tell us that it’s okay to practise sex in this way? I’ll admit to not having read the novels myself, but I’ve done plenty of research. It scares me that the ‘excitement’ of the sexual practices in this book will cause others to see an appeal in them – persuading women to think these are ‘good’ things to have done to them, and encourage men to think that it’s okay to do them.

It’s a sad fact that a certain population of women are trapped in violent relationships where their partners exert sexual dominance over them. They are often too afraid to ask for help, or to leave their partner. They are stripped of their autonomy and become dependent on their partner in ways that human beings should never be. Now, naive Ana is required to eat, sleep and mould her body into the way Christian desires. We begin to see that every single aspect of her life is dominated by Christian Grey’s motives. I don’t really see much of a difference between the two – do you?  As a law student, I do have to keep in mind that consent plays a crucial role in practising BDSM, but where is the line drawn between private sexual practice and abuse? How far is too far?

The sale of sex toys and the popularity of sex-classes – as well as therapists – are at an all time high, but the economic benefit it has on the industry in no way justifies the mindset it is creating.

I recognise myself as a feminist and I’m very happy to be vocal about it, so I hope you share my feelings when I say that one of the first thoughts that came into my head upon learning more about the twisted world of 50 Shades, was that I can’t see this doing any good to anyone. I can’t see why allowing women to be presented in such a derogatory manner for the purpose of entertainment is a good thing. While I am aware that throughout the series, Anastasia no longer remains this submissive individual, this isn’t what the majority of people are focused on.

What they see is a young women being sucked into a relationship in which she loses her independence in the most derogatory way. Where violence is used on her in such a detestable manner for someone else’s enjoyment. How will people begin to view romantic relationships like this now? We have to bear in mind that people of a range of ages are being exposed to this thanks to the media. For young minds particularly, it can be so easy to be sucked in by what you are told about relationships and what is acceptable.

This film has blurred the lines between romance and violence in ways we will only in time see the effects of. We need multimillion blockbuster films to focus on the strength, determination and independence of women. There is so much out there that already presents women in ways that make us seem less than what we are. There are so many messages already put out there that have moulded peoples’ minds into believing that exerting dominance over women is satisfying. It pains me to say that this film is simply another addition to this archaic collection.

“Fifty Shades: A Critique of the Critique” – an opposing article by Carolynn Look

1 thought on “The release of 50 Shades of Grey sets a dangerous precedent”

  1. Please write “the release of Story of O” sets a dangerous precedent. I mean we’re talking about whipping into submission and branding a sub with a red iron. The kind of confusing fiction that certainly led to most of the atrocities of the 20th century. Please write it, it will be hilarious…

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