Now, I don’t know where on the sexual spectrum you place yourself. I do know, however, that you’re a citizen of the interwebs, and 50 Shades of Grey is going to be rather fascinating to you. If you’re a citizen of India, you know that it’s been banned. So, of course, you have to see it. Age is clearly subjective in these lands. So you’re going to watch the movie, even if you haven’t read the books.
When you do? I hope you see it for what it truly is. Not what it tries to pass itself off as. It tries to disguise itself as a love story sprinkled with a generous amount of kinkiness.
It’s not. It’s not a modern romance.
Romance, in fact, plays no part in this story. It tries to convince you that’s it’s a ‘harmless’ representation of the BDSM lifestyle. In this harmless movie, a wildly rich, ruggedly handsome, and almost obscenely experienced man uses his power, resources, and cunning. For what? To seduce, manipulate, and hold to emotional ransom a young, innocent student. For what? To force her into doing things she is extremely uncomfortable doing.
Despite what the story will have you believe, they are not equals. They are not partners. They, honestly, don’t exist. Because for a they to exist, she would have to have a say in the relationship.
Here’s what the story is actually about. It’s a tale revolving around a narcissistic man, mostly. He has controlling, violent, and harmful sexual desires, and he’s the owner of a sense of entitlement. This allows him to use and abuse a vulnerable, young, and relatively helpless woman’s body and mind as tools for his own gratification. Every bit of the story revolves around his gratification, and her duty to provide the same without maintaining any self-preservation tendencies.
Because, of course, that’s what romance is about.
Don’t allow this blatant romanticizing of what is, at its crux, sexual domestic abuse, encompassing physical, emotional, and mental abuse as well. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you should ever have to put yourself in a situation where you might be be treated like the heroine, Anastasia Steele. Please don’t watch this one day, and believe that it’s ever okay to intimidate, manipulate or disrespect your partner like the hero, Christian Grey so openly did. A special note to the men reading this: Please don’t let your masculinity overpower your sense of humanity.
Here, I want to talk about consent, a concept this entire movie disregarded very blatantly. Remember that consent given under undue duress isn’t consent at all. Demand respect, and offer the same in return. Yes means yes, but no means no. Silence, too, should be taken as a no. Express consent, if given during a particular situation, should not be understood as consent for all other times. Respect is the first rule of sexual activity. ‘Is this okay?’, ‘Are you comfortable with this?’, ‘Do you want to continue?’ should be words that should flow from your mouths as easily as lyrics to your favourite song, or the expletives you use in your everyday speech. You partner’s comfort should be your first priority.
Let’s discuss what the story passes off as romance, affection, and love, and let’s discuss this in the same chronology as it’s shown in the movie.
It’s not adorable when someone lands up at your place of work without having your permission to do so. It’s rather creepy.
It’s not romantic when someone’s reaction to you telling him or her that you’re a virgin is to have violent sex with you. It’s called assault.
It’s not concern when someone tracks you down through technology, takes you against your will to his hotel room, undresses you, and does so without your express consent. That’s stalking, and probably 15 more cognizable offenses.
It’s not love when someone enters your place of residence without your knowledge. It’s breaking and entering.
It’s not passion if that person responds to your express lack of interest in him by tying you up, having violent sex with you (again?!) and threatens to beat you up if you make a single noise. It’s rape. Plain and simple.
It’s not a sign of a bad past if someone’s idea of pleasure is beating you with a leather belt till you cry, because it’s a turn on to him despite your obvious distress. It’s abuse at its most basic, and scariest form.
These situations, if they happened in real life, wouldn’t be beautified by a sexy soundtrack featuring Beyonce. It wouldn’t be made pretty with ambient lighting and designer wardrobes. It wouldn’t be okay because of forced reiterations of the fact that the protagonist is broken, and the heroine is undergoing what she is, because her love will heal him.
It’s rather terrifying, the thought that this is the precedent of love set out for an entire generation. Love is gentle. Love does not demand contracts and nondisclosure agreements. Love waits for consent, and doesn’t extract it from someone under duress. Love doesn’t need helicopter rides and expensive gifts as tangible proofs of its existence, because every other moment is a testimony to what abuse looks like. Love doesn’t scare. Love doesn’t make you uncomfortable, in bed or otherwise. Love is, should be, and will be, enough.
I know these sound like empty words, and you’re welcome to ignore them. But please, please don’t ignore your intuition when it tells you that you need to get out a relationship. Please don’t be afraid of asking for help if you feel stuck in a space where you’re threatened and abused. Please never feel alone. Please never feel the need to assert yourself over someone just because media told you it’s ‘sexy’. Please remember, above all, that a relationship is a mutual agreement to share life in its ups and downs, and not a business contract.
Remember this, and remember that love isn’t 50 shades of fucked up. Love is healthy, safe, and beautiful.
P.S.: Inner goddess? REALLY?