I'm finally getting around to reading "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bancroft so expect lots of quotes in the next few days, and hopefully some longer blog posts if I ever get a computer again. I didn't want to wait on this one because it's relevant to the atrocity of a "kinky romance" movie whose sequel just came out.
In addition to being rape and abuse apologia, the 50 Shades trilogy is also extemely classist. Some tweet put it more succinctly, basically that this book wouldn't seem romantic at all if Christian lived in a trailer park. If a guy with tattoos and a construction job behaved like Christian, even the "soft" version in the movie, it would be glaringly obvious how controlling and manipulative he is. But give him a private jet and suddenly it's "romantic"
Bancroft addresses this very thing as early as the first section in the introduction chapter on The Mythology of abuse.
"The social stereotype of the abuser as a relatively uneducated, blue-collar male adds to the confusion. The faulty equation goes: 'Abusive equals muscle-bound caveman, which in turn equals lower class.' In addition to the fact that this image is an unfair stereotype of working-class men, it also overlooks the fact that a professional or college-educated man has roughly the same likelihood of abusing women as anyone else. A successful businessperson, a college professor, or a sailing instructor may be less likely to adopt a tough-guy image with tattoos all over his body [although that stereotype is gradually being overcome these days] but still may well be a nightmare partner.This is Christian Grey. This is Hair Gropenführer. This is even my ex, who is not in the same class as the extremely wealthy, but has the social power of being a white-collar, educated, middle-class, white, likeable, social-justice-conscious, cismale.
Class and racial stereotypes permit the more privileged members of society to duck the problem of abuse by pretending its someone else's problem. Their thinking goes: 'It's those construction-worker guys who never went to college; it's those Latinos; it's those street toughs - they're the abusers. Our town, our neighborhood, [our class of man,] isn't like that. We're not macho men here.'
But women who live with abuse know that abusers come in all styles and from all backgrounds. Sometimes the more educated an abuser, the more knots he knows how to tie in a woman's brain, the better he is at getting her to blame herself, and the slicker is his ability to persuade other people that she is crazy. The more socially powerful an abuser, the more difficult it can be to escape."
The Orangutan-In-Chief has made the "Latino" argument explicitly. One of the reasons he wants to build his security-blanket of a wall is because he claimed that Mexicans are rapists, implying proportionally more often than US men are. My ex uses social justice language to obfuscate and confuse his victims so that they get confused and start believing that their resistance to his control victimizes *him* and that they are the monsters.
Christian uses his money. He can afford to travel literally anywhere and with no notice or preparation to stalk his victim. He buys the company his victim works for so that her income is directly tied to pleasing him. In the movie, they gave him an excuse that he wanted to fire her "abusive" boss, but a non-controlling person would seek legal prosection means to help her, not replacing one abusive boss for another. He buys her a car against her wishes. He consistently thinks that he knows what's best for her in spite of her protestations and buys whatever he thinks she "needs" from clothes to food to transportation to her source of income, regardless of her own preferences.
He uses legalese to obfuscate his manipulation in the form of a non-disclosure contract (and again in his farce of a bdsm contract) and then uses literally the power of the law with those contracts to isolate her and prevent her from communicating outside or having an independent support system.
Healthy kinksters introducing a newbie to bdsm for the first time recommend that the n00b find a local dungeon and/or community for more resources and support during the learning process. One of the red flags in the community, or "lifestyle", is when a dom tries to be the only teaching source, often insisting that he alone is "responsible" enough to properly guide the sub. One example of an extemist who uses this tactic is a cult leader who is the sole source of wisdom (and sex or decisions about sex).
I once had an ex who insisted that only he could be trusted to recognize predators in the community, so all new subbies had to be collared by him so that any dom wanting to play with the newbie sub had to court his permission and approval, so that he could "vet" them. I've also seen "poly" men use this same excuse to infantilize their female partners saying that they have poor judgement so he needs veto power to make sure that she stays safe. Ironically, this is a warning sign that *he* is the one abusing her.
Christian also uses the "I was abused as a child" myth that Bancroft addresses in the immediately prior bullet point. This excuse pulls on a victim's compassion and makes her feel guilty for her resistance because she is then continuing to hurt an already broken person, as well as making her want to stick around to "save" him.
This book and movie trilogy would have actually made a good suspense thriller (if you excuse the poor writing). If the author wasn't such a piss-poor writer and if she hadn't gone on record multiple times defending her tripe as "romantic", I might have thought that she researched abusive relationships and used the domestic abuse checklist as a character outline. And if the Twilight author wasn't almost as shitty of writer, I might have assumed that *she* was the researcher and used the checklist that the plagerizer - er, I mean 50 Shades author just unwittingly copied into her fanfic version.
I'm not even past the introduction chapters yet and 50 Shades can already be seen in the warning signs. Abuse is about power and control. Money, education, job type, and other class markers are all ways that people obtain power. If anything, it seems like it would be MORE likely that Christian and Orangeface McTinyhands would turn out to be abusers.
Don't support the books or movies by spending money on the franchise or watching / downloading through a service that tracks its popularity like Amazon or Netflix. Don't recommend it to newbies or excuse it as a "gateway" into real kink. If you happen to be interested in the erotic fantasy of being controlled or trained, I can recommend better stories that don't neglect the subbie's consent even while she submits to a power exchange dynamic, even ones that include her resistance and him "knowing her better than she knows herself".
To put it simply (yet again), it's not the kink that makes it abuse, it's the manipulation and control, and what makes it particularly dangerous is that it relies heavily on the audience buying into the class myth of abuse. This myth is one of the tools that abusers use to gaslight their victims and convince them that they are not victims. By not taking a hard stance and speaking out against this franchise, our silence contributes directly to the culture which traps women in abusive situations. Women need to know that this is abuse so they can better recognize it when it happens to them.
He is not romantic. He is not sexy. He is not a dom. He is not a broken bird to be saved. He is not your fault. He is not exempt.