Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t just a fun, racy read, according to a new study that finds the bestseller glamorizes violence against women.
Analyzing the naughty novel, psychologists at Ohio State University concluded that its characters’ behaviors are consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of intimate partner violence – and that the book perpetuates dangerous abuse patterns.
Such violence is pervasive in the novel, “occurring in nearly every interaction” between its protagonists, said researcher Amy Bonomi, lead author of the report, which was published this week in the Journal of Women’s Health.
Written by British author E.L. James and published in 2011, Fifty Shades describes the relationship between multimillionaire Christian Grey and college student Anastasia Steele. The book contains explicit scenes of bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism, or BDSM.
Bonomi and her colleagues took a “systematic approach to understanding the abuse patterns” in the relationship, analyzing abuse tactics in the first 124 pages of the book to see how they measured up with the CDC’s standard.
According to the federal agency’s guidelines, intimate partner violence includes physical violence such as slapping and choking, sexual violence such as forced sex acts, often induced through the use of alcohol or other drugs, and emotional abuse such as humiliation, social isolation and stalking.
The book depicts multiple elements of such abuse, Bonomi said. Additionally, Anastasia “suffers reactions typical of abused women,” changing her behavior to maintain peace in the relationship and, over time, becoming disempowered and socially isolated.
“Consenting BDSM relationships are fine,” Bonomi said. “But the relationship we see between Christian and Anastasia is different. What we see in them is a clear pattern of abuse.”
The study calls for “a greater societal awareness of the abuse occurring in the book.”
“This is really a teachable moment when we should be talking with young people about what abuse is and what are some of the strategies to prevent it,” Bonomi said.
Fifty Shades of Grey is the first book in a trilogy that has sold more than 70 million copies worldwide and ranks as the fastest-selling paperback of all time. A film adaptation is in the works.