What ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Says About You
by S.B. Veda
If you are a woman, and an avid fan of the EL James novel turned literary phenomenon, Fifty Shades of Grey, you are 25 percent more likely to have a verbally abusive partner, 34 percent more likely to have a partner who has shown stalking tendencies, and more than 75 percent more likely to have used diet pills or starved yourself for more than 24 hours. This is all according to a study by Michigan State University, which surveyed readers and non-readers of EL James’ work, and examined their behavior.
What if you’ve read all three books in the series – well then: you’re a mess, being 65 percent more likely to abuse alcohol and 63 percent more likely to have five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime.
Still, is it not unreasonable to suggest that researchers are reading far more into words, which lie in the realm of popular fiction rather than say, philosophy or politics?
“Fiction or not, millions of women are consuming messages in Fifty Shades that normalize and glamorize violence against women, under the guise of romance and eroticism,” reads the study’s introduction. The novel, written by British author E.L. James, traces the relationship between college graduate Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, a business magnate who introduces her to the world of BDSM — bondage, discipline (not the good kind), sadism, masochism (though its author calls it “an old fashioned love story.” – I guess she had access to the deleted riding crop scenes in Pride and Prejudice, which Jane Austen elected to reveal only in private readings…and, after all, wasn’t it Bronte, who said ‘there are few things more wholesome than a good spanking’?…ok, maybe that was Madonna…oh, and the riding crop thing, that was definitely Madonna, too). But, yes…BDSM, rough sex, it’s as American as apple pie, that is based the popularity of the book, so let’s move on.
Researchers surveyed 655 women between the ages of 18 and 24 and found that readers of the first Fifty Shades novel were 25 percent more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them, 34 percent more likely to have a partner who showed stalking tendencies, and more than 75 percent more likely to have used diet pills or fasted for more than 24 hours. Readers of all three books were 65 percent more likely than non-readers to binge drink and 63 percent more likely to have five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime.
While the study, which appears in the Journal of Women’s Health does not definitively prove causation, according to lead author Amy Bonomi, chairperson and professor in MSU’s Department of Human Development, the strong association between the novel and negative behaviors is telling and ought to be of concern.
“If women experienced adverse health behaviors such as disordered eating first, reading Fifty Shades might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma,” Bonomi says. “Likewise, if they read Fifty Shades before experiencing the health behaviors seen in our study, it’s possible the books influenced the onset of these behaviors.”
For those of you who are not slutty lush doormats – and by virtue of the sales figures for the books, there are many more hiding behind reading specs than one might imagine, then you would do well to inspire your fellow readers not necessarily to put down EL James but to seek help. Too many women in society are trapped in relationships in which abuse becomes the bond between lover and beloved, the victim’s low self-esteem fueling the dysfunctional dynamic.
It doesn’t begin and end with fiction; society irrespective of GPS coordinates is suffering from an epidemic of violence against women, and indifference or callousness (does it matter which?) keeps communities sick. According to the Violence Policy Center’s annual report, When Men Murder Women, here are five facts in evidence, which simply cannot be ignored (and mind you, this is only in the United States – Source: The Atlantic Monthly):
1. For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 94 percent of female victims (1,509 out of 1,601) were murdered by a male they knew.
2. Sixteen times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,509 victims) than were killed by male strangers (92 victims).
3. For victims who knew their offenders, 61 percent (926) of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers.
4. In America, for homicides in which the weapon could be determined (1,551), more female homicides were committed with firearms (51 percent) than with any other weapon. Knives and other cutting instruments accounted for 20 percent of all female murders, bodily force 14 percent, and murder by blunt object seven percent. Of the homicides committed with firearms, 73 percent were committed with handguns.
5. In 87 percent of all incidents where the circumstances could be determined, homicides were not related to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery.
One can imagine how much more perilous it is for women in societies, which don’t share America’s ‘enlightened’ values.
Next time, you are picking up a book that romanticizes the brutalization of women, maybe you would do well to remember some of these facts. And, they should surely be handed out on cards with the tickets at the box-office when the motion picture adaptation of 59 Shades comes out in 2015. It is scheduled to be released next Valentine’s Day. Seriously, I”m not making this up!
For more on the Fifty Shades of Grey Study, please click on the following link:
Readers of Fifty Shades of Grey, More Likely to Be in Abusive Relationships