By ALEX SPENCE
With the release of the much-anticipated “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, there is no doubt many are flocking to theaters to watch the charming bad boy Christian Grey in his onscreen debut. The film is based on the book series of the same name by British author E. L. James. The first installment in the Fifty Shades Trilogy was released in 2011 and quickly gained favor amongst its readers. Four years later, the film is finally being released.
The plot follows literature student Anastasia Steele and wealthy business mogul Christian Grey as they meet and enter into an exciting new relationship. As she comes to know Grey and his lifestyle, Ana must choose which path best suits her, with or without him.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” portrays a lifestyle of dominance and submission. What this means is that one person assumes the position of the dominant, which entails taking charge over the submissive. The submissive’s role is to willingly obey the dominant.
With all the focus on Christian Grey and the steamy storyline, not many people paid attention to the death of a 28-year-old woman that occurred while playing a Fifty Shades of Grey-style sex game.
According to The Independent, a British national morning newspaper, in October 2013, a German exchange student went to Sweden to visit her boyfriend that she met while studying abroad. Nine days after she arrived she was pronounced dead. Her unnamed 31-year-old boyfriend was charged with her murder after it was discovered that she was hit 123 times with a wooden blackboard pointer while bound with nylon tights. The boyfriend claimed that she was a willing participant, but police found her diary, which included an entry that said, “You [her boyfriend] once said you did not want to see me in real pain. I am a subservient but no masochist.”
The lifestyle of dominance and submission crosses the line to abuse when consent and respect are no longer taken into account. The 28-year-old German victim neglected to speak up, and whether she was too scared or being pressured into it, I believe burying her issues led to her death.
Dr. Tevya Zukor, director of the Talley Counseling Center at the University of Mary Washington, believes that the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey” could be an important icebreaker for society concerning uncomfortable topics such as this.
“One of the really nice things about a movie like “Fifty Shades of Grey,” even when the books came out, was that it started to allow for conversation,” said Zukor.
It is important to feel comfortable with conversations about dominant and submissive, as well as abusive, relationships. The shame of these topics causes people to shy away from getting help in dangerous situations for fear of being judged or humiliated.
While talking with Zukor, I was informed about a study conducted by the Department of Justice concerning the amount of women that become abusers. I was shocked to discover that women act as the abuser just as often as men do. In the same way, it is also common for women to take on the role of the dominant. I believe it’s important to acknowledge that both men and women can find themselves in situations where they need to get help.
Dr. Melissa Palguta, a therapist for the University of Mary Washington discussed with me the signs and patterns of an abusive relationship.
“Most abuse doesn’t start with a fist being thrown, and in terms of sexual abuse there’s usually a grooming process,” explained Palguta.
The grooming process consists of charming your partner and gaining their trust. After the charming period, the abuser begins to desensitize their partner to violence. Through this process, the abuser will isolate their partner, making them believe there is no one to go to for help.
The same process is used with dominance and submission when consent is no longer a concern. This is when it becomes dangerous to be a part of such a relationship.
“Fifty Shades of Grey,” though controversial and inappropriate to some, opens up a world of conversation where people are comfortable talking. If people could shed the shame of discussing these topics, I believe there would be less people finding themselves in long-term abusive situations.
The best course of action to take when finding yourself in a circumstance involving abuse is to find a way that you can feel comfortable enough to talk about it. And what better way to familiarize yourself then to sit in a jam-packed theater and experience it with total strangers. However, if you find yourself questioning your decision to knock elbows with a stranger during a not-so-family-friendly film, consider the advice of Christian Grey: “You don’t know what you’re in for, you could still run for the hills.”