I think I might be zeroing in on why it pisses me off so much that people are defending 50 Shades. This is still rough, but I think I'm getting closer to what's wrong with these defenses. I've been spending a lot of time learning how to support abuse victims over the last couple of years. Over and over, the message to victim supporters is "just listen, and accept". Believe victims, listen to them, accept their story. You don't have to "take sides" by accusing the abuser or doing anything active against the abuser. You can even reserve some empathy and support for the alleged abuser. The important part is that you make a safe space for the victim to heal and to feel.
In all the various rants and criticisms of 50 Shades, what I'm hearing is pain. Sometimes it's from abuse victims being triggered, and sometimes it's from people who feel such empathy that they feel fear and pain on behalf of all the women who have been abused or who will experience abuse because of the rape culture that 50 Shades contributes to (or, as in the 2 articles I read recently, the abuse and murder of women that were directly linked to 50 Shades).
So, here I am, being told that we need to hear victims and to listen to people's pain and to support them, on one hand. But on the other hand, when it comes to 50 Shades, I hear "oh, lighten up, it's just a book!" and "geez, don't take things so seriously, it's FICTION for fuck's sake!" and "c'mon, nobody REALLY believes this, so just back off and stop making me feel bad for getting turned on by something that other people are afraid of" with a handful of Dear Muslima responses thrown in (in reference to Dawkins' famous reply basically suggesting that there are worse problems in the world so we shouldn't waste any time talking about the less-worse problems until the worse ones are solved).
In other words, all the defenses of 50 Shades sound exactly like rape apologism. But, more than that, there are people who are trying to say "this hurts me and this hurts others", and yet people, even those who are normally right there on the support-the-victims side, people are hearing those cries of pain and dismissing them out of hand.
As with polyamory, not having a One Right Way does not necessarily mean that there are also no Wrong Ways. Some things are morally wrong, some things are factually wrong, some things are less likely to succeed than other methods and therefore "wrong".
And a story that romanticizes abuse, as opposed to a story that simply tells of abuse, is wrong. So is opposing all those voices crying out in pain. It's OK to enjoy problematic media. It's not OK to silence and dismiss criticism of that media, and it's especially not OK to dismiss the cries of abuse that the media is triggering.
This is a comment I made on the FB post for this blog piece. I'm still trying to find the right words to express what's in my head about this, and the following comment got me another step closer, so I'm adding it to this post:
This revelation is coming from a different angle [from the usual criticisms that 50 Shades is how actual abusers break down their victims which is being touted as "romantic" instead of dangerous], and I'm still teasing it out. I'm seeing a lot of defenses of 50 Shades coming from people who are usually right there on my side in the domestic violence discussions. But when it comes to the book, they suddenly switch sides.
And I think what's niggling at my brain is that this is more than just the standard rape apologism rearing it's ugly head. This is the book itself doing harm, and the defenders aren't being rape apologists for real, but it's as if the *book* is the "abuser" itself and its victims are crying out through their book reviews and criticisms, and people who normally fight against rape culture are now defending *the book* as if the book was an abuser that they are desperately trying to ignore is an abuser simply because it's popular and they don't want to lose access to it.
Like, in the kink community when all those rape accusations started coming out a few years ago. A bunch of people defended the rapists because they were leaders in the community, and if you cut off ties to the rapist, then you couldn't go to the awesome bondage parties anymore because the rapist was the only one with a dungeon who threw parties. So people refused to "take sides" or support the victims, and defended the rapists because they stood to lose something socially if they did so.
The defenses of this book are feeling like the exact same thing. People who are totally in favor of SSC or RACK (Safe, Sane, & Consensual or Risk Aware Consensual Kink for those reading this & who don't know) nevertheless defended rapists in the community because the rapists provided stuff that the defenders didn't want to lose access to, so they did the usual sorts of rationalizations that people do when they're invested in a concept and need to hold onto it in order to protect their investment. I'm sure many of those rape defenders absolutely believed their own arguments, but they were still doing well-known and well-understood logical fallacies, rationalizations, and other mental gymnastics to avoid facing the fact that someone they knew, trusted, perhaps liked and probably needed for something, did a Bad Thing. It even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy.
The defenders of this book, who are normally supporters of abuse victims, are defending the book in much the same way, where the book has "abused" people and the victims & supporters are crying out, but the defenders don't want to lose their precious jerk-off story or examine their own attachment to unhealthy relationship patterns, so they're dismissing the cries of pain from those who are feeling harmed by the book.
Hypothesis: Some defenses of 50 Shades may be an example of a Sunk Cost Fallacy, where people dig in their heels to defend something they are invested in, resulting in treating the book in the same way one might treat an accused abuser that one wants to deny is an abuser (usually when one receives something beneficial from association with the accused abuser, such as social status, access to social events, even love or a relationship) and dismissing claims of harm from its victims and victim-supporters.