Since I've started on the long (the very, very, very long) journey of blogging about 50 Shades and why the relationship at its core is a predatory, abusive one between an aggressive stalker and his victim, a lot of women have come to me and said, "this is just like the abusive relationship I was in," or "this reminds me of the ex who tried to stab me in the throat with a screwdriver." I'm beyond horrified at the number of emails and comments I've received from women who have had their own "Christian Grey" and managed to escape him. This shouldn't be happening as often as it does, and the only reason it does is because our culture tells us that as women, we need to be first and foremost available for male attention - and to not make ourselves so is to be rude and not a very nice woman.
So, when Emma sent me a link with E.L. running her ignorant mouth about allegations of abuse in her books, I lost my fucking mind:
James says she "freaks out when she hears people say that her book encourages domestic violence. "Nothing freaks me out more than people who say this is about domestic abuse," she says. "Bringing up my book in this context trivializes the issues, doing women who actually go through it a huge disservice. It also demonizes loads of women who enjoy this lifestyle, and ignores the many, many women who tell me they've found the books sexually empowering."
One would think that since she has at minimum a third-grade understanding of the English language, E.L. James would be able to understand a few core concepts.
- No one is talking about BDSM being abusive, you fucking lunatic. The elements of the relationship that are abusive have nothing to do with the incredibly mild BDSM in the book. Even though the BDSM is shitty and unsafe and portrayed as a mental disease, the BDSM sequences aren't really where the abuse happens. The abuse happens in all the places where Christian asserts his dominance over Ana outside of the bedroom, by stalking her (showing up at her work, following her across the country when she's asked him for space, putting money into her bank account - the number for which he got through a private investigator), refusing her any agency (she must be followed by his "security team" - read: spies - anywhere she goes, her clothes are purchased for her by a shopper who knows Christian's tastes, he even tells her when and what to eat and bought her job), and getting her drunk (read: drugging her) to get her to consent to shit she doesn't want to do. All that stuff is abusive. Tying her up and making her listen to Medieval chant while he fucks her? No one thinks that's abusive.
- Bringing up the abuse in your book doesn't trivialize the issue, you fucking lunatic. You know what does trivialize the issue? Ignoring very real concerns about the abuse in the book because you don't want to admit you're just a shitty writer or a shitty person and you don't care about abused women at all because you're making tons of money and omg, everyone is being so mean about the shitty book you wrote about a shitty guy who abuses a woman. Talking about an issue in a serious way doesn't "trivialize" it. It brings awareness to people who might have been wrong in their thinking. The only problem is, the people - like E.L. James - who most need to listen and learn about why they're propagating dangerous cultural stereotypes about what women need or want, refuse to listen. So, by dismissing the issue, E.L., you're really the one doing the trivializing.
- Protecting women from abuse doesn't endanger the sexual preferences of women who like BDSM. Look, I'm going to say it. I love to be submissive during sex. I love to get spanked, bitten, slapped, choked, I like to have my hair pulled, to get fucked hard, you name something perverted and I am into it, so long as the person doing it to me is calling me a cheap slut while he's doing it (and also as long as it's Safe, Sane, and Consensual). Do I realize that some people feel that's dirty, bad, and wrong? Yeah, but fuck them. Because it doesn't matter if other people think that I'm gross or depraved or fucked in the head, because I know that's not the case. There's no reason for anyone to try to protect me from what I want to do in the bedroom. And I don't need E.L. James to defend my lifestyle choices, either, so she doesn't need to be the champion for all the poor, repressed women out there who like BDSM. There is, however, lots of reasons that we need to protect women who are being abused from abuse, namely because our culture won't. It's not setting back the sexual revolution to call out Christian Grey as an abuser pretending to be a Dom. It's not taking away the sexual agency of women who like to masturbate to 50 Shades. It's not "either, or" here. We can say, "Yes, freedom of sexual exploration is amazing, and what you do in your bedroom is not anyone else's business," while acknowledging that if the "Dom" attitude turns into an excuse to victimize and control a woman who doesn't want to be a 24/7 sub, it has crossed the line from sex play into abuse. People in the BDSM community WANT to talk about this type of thing, and they were talking about it at length BEFORE 50 Shades came along. Now, E.L. wants to shut down that whole conversation as a matter of feminism, or something? Why? Because women are too stupid to handle nuanced issues? Or just because we can't care about more than one thing at a time, and naturally jilling off to this piece of shit book is the highest priority, and we'll get to the abuse later?
- Women going through, or who have gone through, domestic abuse are not fucking thrilled with 50 Shades. Before E.L. tries to stand up and say that she's angry because highlighting the abuse in her books trivializes all those poor, battered women she supposedly cares so fucking much about, maybe she needs to talk to some of the women I've heard from. Maybe she needs to hear abuse victims saying, "You're wrong," so she could get it through her head. Oh, my bad. A lot of these same women HAVE tried to contact E.L. James, only to be blocked on twitter. That's right. If you try to contact E.L. James with your heartfelt plea for understanding, based on your own personal experience at the hands of an abuser like Christian Grey, you're going to find your twitter account blocked. Because she doesn't want to hear it. The inability to listen to even the mildest criticism of her perfect, perfect hottie, Christian Grey, proves that E.L. James doesn't get angry over those allegations on behalf of abused women. She doesn't give enough of a shit about them to read 140 fucking characters, unless those characters are all glowing praise for her master work. Yeah, she really fucking cares about abused women, so much so that she sees their real-life experiences as an attack against her glorious creation (that's making her so much money).
So, there you go. E.L. James cares so much about you, abuse survivors, that she's willing to prioritize a woman's right to be spanked over your right to not be stalked, intimidated, beaten, and controlled. She cares so much, that she won't even listen to you when you try to tell her what's wrong. And she's so, so terribly concerned about you that she doesn't want anyone to even talk about the abuse in her books or the potential for abuse in a BDSM relationship... because she doesn't want to upset you, and she knows best. Or something. I don't know, I'm honestly considering the possibility that this woman is gluing up before her public appearances.
Is E.L. James the real-life inspiration for Cheryl Tunt?
The bottom line is, this is a problem E.L. James could fix, easily. First of all, she has to drop this whole, "I want to protect abused women" bullshit line that is clearly not true at all. And she has to stop touting her books as some kind of sexual saving grace that women are learning and growing from. Then, when someone says, "Hey, Christian Grey is an abuser," she can say, "You're right. The relationship portrayed in my books is not a healthy one. However, as a fiction writer I am telling a story, not writing a how-to manual. If my books are encouraging women to be more open in their sexuality, I think that's great, but I would advise them to seek out other, nonfiction resources for instruction in the BDSM lifestyle. And I would ask them not to hold up the relationship between Christian Grey and Ana Steele as one to aspire to."
That's all she has to do. But she won't. Because at the end of the day, women, E.L. James doesn't give a shit about you, or your experiences. And she was only writing this for school, anyway, so OMG SHE DOESN'T CARE IF YOU LIKE IT!
(The link to the original story I took E.L.'s quote from is here, but be warned there are two auto-play videos of the same commercial badly out of sync at the top and bottom of the pages)