Morgane Richardson

is a professional feminist, lecturer, freelance blogger and birth doula who addresses race, gender, and sexuality in today’s society... without dwelling on theorists and terminology.

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Fifty Shades of Grey: Not “Mommy Porn” Rather, A Glimpse into Domestic Violence

At some point this year, my partner informed me of the fury that was rising surrounding the new bestselling “mommy porn,” Fifty Shades of Grey by British author E.L. James. With a course load of readings from my masters program, little down time and absolutely no interest in reading yet another text that supported the submission of women in relationships, I was quick to push this book out of my mind and off my bookshelf. 

But, after reading one critique after another from my fellow feminists, I realized it was silly of me to ignore a piece of literature that had so many people up in arms. And so, I sat down to read the first book of Fifty Shades of Grey while celebrating my birthday at a little hot springs in Costa Rica. 

To be honest, I began reading this novel with the belief that I would ultimately find the concept okay; I had heard that it was largely about BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadomasochism, Sadism, Masochism) and though I don’t believe I could ever partake in such a relationship, I have never denied the fact that others obtain pleasure from this subculture. However, what I found to be the basis of Fifty Shades of Grey was not erotica or BDSM, rather it was the story of a man, Christian Grey, who had experienced severe amounts of physical and emotional trauma as a child and whose only way of feeling sexual and emotional pleasure was by dominating others. 

In the book, Christian Grey’s partner, Ana, has fallen in love with a man with a dark past and she tries to save him all the while negotiating whether or not she can actually be the submissive partner he wants and “needs.” But the submission isn’t only in the bedroom or the “Red Room of Pain,” as she calls it. Grey’s desire to dominate and control Ana is translated into their daily lives where Grey demands that Ana remains obedient: doesn’t talk with other people, dresses in the clothes he chooses, waxes all of her body hair and exercises based on his schedule (oh, and she is able to negotiate this one to only work out three days a week rather than four, Yippie! - insert sarcasm). Yes, Grey learns to love it when Ana talks back and asks questions, but largely because it means that her “defiance” will lead to punishment, which Grey deeply enjoys giving by “fucking” and “spanking” her. 

In my personal experience, this is a tell-tale sign of domestic abuse… of a man who is only able to work through his past traumas through, often literally, beating others into submission. In reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of many cases of domestic violence that I know of - of men and women who were victims of violence in the home as children and grew up to act out that violence on others.  

The author, E.L. James, appears to want her readers to feel bad for Christian Grey and to understand the root of his violation on the bodies of others. I agree that it is certainly important to understand the root causes of violence and provide those who have experienced it with the necessary support - but it is not, and will never be a sexy or erotic journey.

I did not find Fifty Shades of Grey as a book that could or should have all the girls desiring a man who dominates them, as major newspapers and articles have expressed. It is a book about one man’s violence over another, of the desire and need to be healed, and of a young woman’s tumultuous and heartbreaking journey of falling in love with a man who doesn’t know how to love her tenderly.

I admit that I will most likely read the other books to see how the author chooses to continue this sad and often disturbing story. But I will be crossing my fingers that Grey gets the help that he needs and deserves, and that Ana finds the strength to love herself enough to walk away.  

Some excerpts from the book: 

"Why don’t you like to be touched?" I whisper, staring up into soft grey eyes. 
"Because I’m fifty shades of fucked up, Anastasia."
Oh… his honesty is completely disarming. I blink up at him

"Because I think I love you, and you just see me as a toy. Because I can’t touch you, because I’m too frightened to show you any affection in case you flinch or tell me off or worse - beat me? What can I say? - Ana

And after spanking her: 
Siting beside me, he gently pulls my sweatpants down again. Up and down like whores’ drawers, my subconscious remakers bitterly.  In my head, I tell her where to go. Christian squirts baby oil into his hand and then rubs my behind with careful tenderness — from makeup remover to soothing balm for a spanked ass, who would have thought it was such a versatile liquid. - Ana 

He’s not a hero; he’s a man with serious, deep emotional flaws, and he’s dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light? - Ana

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  1. hystericallylaughingv reblogged this from morganerichardson
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  3. jessicawakeman reblogged this from morganerichardson and added:
    Whoa. REALLY disagree with this. BDSM really suffers from the misunderstanding that its about domestic abuse/domestic...
  4. morganerichardson posted this

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