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Monday, July 2, 2012

Four Reasons Why You Shouldn't Read 50 Shades of Grey

After my post last week, wherein I did a clinical, therapeutic analysis of the main character of E.L. James' erotic trilogy, I feel that I need to clear the air about a few things. After this post, I will not be discussing this book again in a public forum.

As one commenter pointed out, I should have expected a bit of backlash due to the controversial nature of the book. I'll admit it...I was naive. It wasn't the mental health aspect of the book that was discussed, but whether the book should even have been read by someone who openly proclaims to be a Christian.

There are many reasons why a Christian shouldn't read the book, chief of which is that sex outside of marriage is wrong. Reading erotica can also lead to lustful thoughts and images in a person's life and damage interpersonal relationships that they have.

That said, I feel the need to let my readership know, though, that as a marriage and family therapist, conversations about sex with clients are a regular part of my job. As such, whether for the good or for the bad, I personally have become desensitized to it. To me, it's as much a clinical subject as depression or anxiety, but I realize this is not the case with the majority of the population.

Even though I read the book mainly because I like to be informed, I still want to share four reasons why people should not to read this book. Define irony.

Again, there are a few spoilers below.

1) There is an abusive quality to the main character's relationship.

As exciting and dangerous as readers are led to believe the romance is, Grey's hold on Ana is more of an abusive one than a healthy one. One tactic of abusers is to isolate their victims. Grey engages in this...and does it so subtly that it is masqueraded as protection.

He wants her to sign the non-disclosure agreement, essentially rendering her mute to discuss any aspect of their personal relationship. Read = not normal. This isolates her from her friends/support system who care about her. Definitely an abuser tactic.

He stalks her whereabouts using her cell phone, changes plane reservations without her consent, flies to Georgia while she's visiting with her mother (even though she had requested time away from him), and even buys the publishing business she works for so he can "keep an eye on her." He gets insanely jealous if her spending time with any other guy.

Ana's acts of "defiance" supposedly make her more independent, but her defiance is in actuality her having very reasonable boundaries and expectations. Abusers try to mess with their victim's heads in making them think they are crazy, or asking too much, or somehow lacking. Ana constantly worries that she won't be "enough" for Grey.

One online writer said, "We’re supposed to think the way Christian [Grey] isolates Ana in luxury is romantic. A prison is still a prison when the sheets are 1200 thread count."

2) Love at the price Ana pays for it is too high...even for fiction.

From toddlerhood, little girls are introduced to fairy tales and Prince Charmings. Ana is no different. She wants "hearts and flowers," which Grey freely says he can't give her. He also tells her he's not the guy for her and that she should stay away from him, all of which should make a girl smoke check it in the opposite direction.

But not sweet, virginal Ana, the character in the book with whom women are supposed to identify.

Ana gives up her very normal romantic notions, believing that for her to have her Prince Charming, she has to. His attempts to control every aspect of her life are tolerated by Ana because she knows early on that Grey clearly has issues, and later on, because he loves her. This sends a message to women that settling for less is okay, even preferable, to walking away or being alone.

3) It perpetuates the lie of a female "savior."

At one point, Ana has this thought:
This man, whom I once thought of as a romantic hero, a brave shining white knight—or the dark knight as he said. 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?
No, the reality is that more than likely you can't. Reading a book of this nature can more firmly ingrain this innate desire women seem to harbor to "save" men--bad boys, in particular. This desire is more about the woman being special enough, awesome enough, to make the man change, than it is about the man. Books like Fifty Shades will only make this impulse worse.

4) BDSM is pathologized. 

This might not make some of my readers happy, but the truth is that couples of all sorts (yes, even married Christians) engage in mutually beneficial BDSM relationships.  People in the BDSM community feel marginalized, because apparently James did not utilize actual people who engage in BDSM for her research. Not all people who engage in what average people might call kinky sex are doing it to work out their childhood trauma or control issues.

So there are four reasons why I don't think people should read the book. This is my way of saying that even though I reviewed the book, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for others, especially highly suggestible readers.

I'm totally open to comments, so don't shy away.

Let's Analyze: What do you think about the female "savior" myth? Haven't you read books where the heroine wants to be the one to direct the bad boy hero onto the straight and narrow path?