‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Is a Black Mark on Our Culture

One hundred million women have read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I am not one of them.

I condemn the book – and the upcoming movie – and suggest others avoid it. I don’t need to see the film to know it’s wrong. I don’t need to read porn (yes, porn) to know we as women deserve – and should demand – better.

Based on the series E. L. James, the “Fifty Shades of Grey” film stars Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey, a BDSM-practicing billionaire, and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia (Ana) Steele, his lover. The bondage flick hits theaters the day before Valentine’s Day.

The film is an introduction to BDSM (bondage/discipline, domination/submission, sadism/masochism), a twisted lesson about how equipment from ropes, whips and nipple clamps are used during sex to translate “pain” into “pleasure” and “abuse” into “love.”

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My own boycott isn’t enough. No matter how much I wish the film would crash and burn, the media continue to lift it with praise. That forces me, a young conservative woman, to call out the mainstreaming of sexual abuse “Fifty Shades” glamorizes.

While ABC and CBS hyped the movie during their “news” shows, NBC outdid itself. The film’s “steamy” trailer premiered on the network. Two weeks before the film’s release, “Today” launched a “’Fifty Shades of Grey’ Week” with “exclusive” clips and tickets for a fan screening.

NBC constantly boasted “Fifty Shades” achievements, from the author making Barbara Walters’ “10 Most Fascinating People” to the film becoming the “fastest-selling R-rated title in Fandango history.”

The only thing NBC wouldn’t tell you was that its sister company, Focus Features, produced the film. NBC knows all about being unethical. Just ask Brian Williams.

Other “news” outlets celebrated the film’s every perversion. Even as the first teasers were released, USA Today gushed, “It’s what the Internet’s been waiting for” while Rolling Stone hyperventilated over the “hyper-sexualized glory.”

Women’s magazines saw the movie as a hit to capitalize on. The March issue of Glamour described Johnson as “this decade’s Vivien Leigh,” while Cosmopolitan heralded “Fifty Shades” as “the book that brought kink mainstream.” (Entertaining the book’s biggest fan: the media.)

That media support has real-life consequences. Hot Topic and Target now sell “Fifty Shades” sex toys – next to children’s’ toothbrushes. There’s a surge in shoppers looking for sex toys and bondage gear. Planned Parenthood suggested the book as a primer for teaching teenagers BDSM, according to undercover investigations by Live Action.

Still, the actors stood by the film. “Everything she does is her choice,” Johnson reassured in a Glamour interview. Even if she recognized that, “I don’t want my family to see [the movie], because it’s inappropriate.”

It wasn’t entirely about choice for her co-star Dornan. He described in the same interview how, “I had to do stuff to [Dakota] that I’d never choose to do to a woman.” That included using knots, buckles and whips – and, for Dakota, whiplash “from him throwing me on the bed.”

That isn’t all that’s dangerous about the film. One study published in the Journal of Women’s Health showed that fans of the book are more likely to have abusive partners. Another used CDC guidelines to accuse the book of demonstrating “intimate partner violence” and emotional abuse “in nearly every interaction.”

LifeSite hosted a petition signed by 50,000+ calling for a film boycott, while the 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades campaign asked potential movie-goers to donate the ticket cost to women’s shelters instead.

Even feminists voiced concern. Jezebel ranted that “Fifty Shades” represented anything but a “healthy relationship” while Bustle argued it “sends the message that abusive behavior is actually super-romantic.”

BDSM-advocates argue that their violent techniques are all about consent – and that’s what separates women empowerment from abuse.

They lie. If I see one of my friends bruised and battered by her boyfriend, I’m not silently standing by.

This isn’t revolutionary; this is human decency.

Women aren’t sex objects to be beaten and whipped. Our bodies deserve respect — from others, from ourselves, and from Hollywood.

That isn’t grey. It’s black and white.

Katie Yoder is the Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media for the Media Research Center.

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