joreth: (BDSM)

I've seen a lot, and I mean A LOT, of strawman arguments that it's insulting and overly simplistic to claim that people are too stupid to realize that 50 Shades is fantasy and fiction and that we shouldn't be worried about its impact on society, especially considering the mountains of other material contributing to rape culture in our society.

First of all, it's a strawman because no one is saying that anyone is "too stupid" to know the difference. We're saying that it reinforces an already-existing set of cultural tropes that lead people into abusive situations because we are not told that these situations are abusive. One does not have to be "stupid" to find oneself in an abusive situation. One only has to be unaware of the warning signs, and that's most people. Even people who have been in abusive relationships don't know all the warning signs, and many think that their experience is the ONLY version that counts. I've seen a lot of abuse victims say "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this wasn't it!"

Hell, I've said that myself. Except I said that about a real situation. And that's exactly the problem. I was in an abusive relationship. So I thought I knew what abuse looked like. And when someone else's different abusive situation was presented to me, I, with all my sociology experience and alternative relationship experience and feminist views, I looked right at that relationship and said "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this one isn't the same, therefore it's not abuse." I am deeply ashamed of that now. I could have been a source of support. Instead, I was an enabler.

So, fuck you for saying this movie is no big deal. It is. Not because people are too stupid. Because abuse is that big, that complex, and that difficult to identify.

Second, the reason why we're singling this story out over that aforementioned mountain of material contributing to rape culture is because it's currently the one getting the most positive press, the most defense, and making the most money from deliberately obfuscating, dare I say "blurring the lines", between romance and domestic abuse. Unlike some other examples given, this one is being held up as something to aspire to, whereas most of the other examples (Game of Thrones, just to name one) are depicting graphic violence but not idealizing or romanticizing the graphic violence.

IT'S NOT THE GRAPHIC VIOLENCE that's the problem. It's the ACCEPTANCE of the violence as romance, as desirable, as masking it behind a subculture that already has trouble being understood and accepted in society that's the problem.  Remember, I participate in consensual non-consent, and I do so without a safeword.  I became a weekend sensation one year at Frolicon because of a take-down scene involving me and my two male partners trying to rape me in the dungeon, and I fought so hard that they actually couldn't succeed without my deliberate assistance.  I've been exploring rape fantasies since before puberty.  This is NOT ABOUT THE KINK, it's about actual domestic violence, manipulation, and emotional abuse.

"But I screwed up. I screwed up big time. I went into this film thinking it would be two hours of B-grade hilarity about bondage that I could make fun of. It was actually two hours of incredibly disturbing content about an emotionally abusive relationship that left me really, really shaken. And now I’m embarrassed that I ever joked about it."

"And my opinion was, well, if they’re two consenting adults, and being tied up and slapped is their thing, then what’s the big deal? But I had no idea that Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t just about the sex. It’s also about an incredibly disturbing and manipulative, emotionally abusive relationship."

"And let me be clear to the women who are incredibly defensive of the book that gave them a sexual awakening: When I talk about domestic abuse, I’m not talking about the sex. In fact, I considered the sex to be the least offensive part of the movie."

"Because as I was sitting in that cinema last night, I was completely floored by what I was watching. And by what millions of women had accepted as a relationship to aspire to."

"It’s emotional abuse disguised as a ‘naughty sex contract’. It’s domestic violence dressed up as sexy fantasy.

And it’s a genius, subtle move. Putting this kind of controlling, emotionally abusive relationship in the context of a sexy billionaire who just needs to be loved, makes it ridiculously easy to convince audiences the world over that this kind of behaviour is okay. He’s not some poor drunk with a mullet, hitting his wife for not doing the dishes. Christian is classy. Rich. Educated. He’s not what most women imagine an abuser to be, and his kind of abuse is not what most women would immediately recognise."

"The blurred lines in this film mean any kind discussion about abuse can be easily shut down by those determined to be obtuse because they like the sexy blindfolds.

But there is no doubt in my mind that the film I watched last night was a disturbing and clear depiction of a controlling and emotionally abusive relationship. This was domestic violence. I don’t care how many women learned to embrace sex because of Fifty Shades of Grey. THIS WAS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE."

"This was domestic abuse marketed as Valentine’s Day fun."

Date: 2/20/15 05:08 am (UTC)From: [identity profile]

Seems to me, the strawmen have, accidentally or on purpose, confused "stupid" with "impressionable."

I'm not generally considered stupid, but like most people of my background, I once staggered away from home on unsteady adolescent legs, into a deeply fucked-up and hostile world, and I grabbed at references where I found them.

Where I happened to find them was 80s era rom-coms. I was taught that "no" means "Stand all night outside her bedroom window playing Peter Gabriel Songs on a boom box." And I kept doing shit like that, making myself and women I believed I cared about miserable until long after I was old enough to know better.

Somewhere there are impressionable young het women setting out to discover what kind of guy makes an exciting and satisfying partner. Somewhere there are impressionable young men looking for cues as to how to treat women. Some of them will latch onto 50 Shades. And it will not end well.

And they are not stupid. But they are impressionable and will take guidance where they find it.


Date: 2/20/15 06:10 am (UTC)From: [identity profile]
There's also another level of meta there, I think: those who know it's "not real", but believe that playing that "romantic fantasy" as if it were real is the way to convince others they are interested in you. Playing the role because you think it's what is expected of you.

I winced a bit, inside, to sit in a barbershop around the day the movie opened and hear a man speculating it might that it might be a "good way to score" (those weren't quite the words, but that was the sentiment I heard) to hang around outside the movie theatres when 50 Shades got out, and play that role. It had a certain "ha, ha, only serious" tone to it.

Ultimately I think it's just a sign that treating romance films as relationship advice is nearly as problematic as treating porn as sex education. Even if you "know better" that it's fantasy -- and not everyone does, clearly -- you start thinking maybe others you interact with will expect you to act that way. (For both of which the real problem is a paucity of realistic role models for people to follow, so those "fantasy world" examples don't just look like "in a strange, strange world, far, far, away" with no applicability in the real world.)

Edited Date: 2/20/15 06:11 am (UTC)

Re: Impressionable

Date: 2/21/15 01:53 am (UTC)From: [identity profile]
That's terrible. Yet strangely inevitable.

I can also see the almost-logic that might lead someone to convince themselves that it would "win their partner back", particularly if they'd been repeatedly told they "weren't man enough" (ie, controlling/dominating) and felt that they needed to demonstrate they could be in some dramatic way. In the cold light of day it was clearly always going to end badly. But wrapped in enough "want it to be" romance and it seems "almost could be", if only "everything goes according to plan".

The saddest thing here is that both of them seem likely to be hurt by this experience because without the sane framework to play with consensual-non-consent, and without the "romance" to make it magically all okay, it's icky all around (it also seems at least plausible that a rape conviction would stick were a prosecutor to try -- "would not have consented if they had known the full facts, and the perpetrator knew that").



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