Monday, February 16, 2015

Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence Says '50 Shades of Grey' Permits Rape Culture

Posted By on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 4:47 PM

click to enlarge Fifty Shades of Grey is popular at the box office, but not so popular with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. - FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Fifty Shades of Grey is popular at the box office, but not so popular with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Over the Valentine's Day weekend, Fifty Shades of Grey earned $81,670,400 at the box office, with a record-setting $30 million opening on Feb. 13, making it the highest-grossing Presidents Day weekend release of all time. It's the second-biggest February weekend opener ever after 2004's Passion of the Christ. 

Not everyone is so excited about the hot-and-heavy very R-rated storyline though. Kelly Miller is the executive director of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, and though she hasn't seen the movie yet, she's not happy with some of the messages it's propagating.

"There are elements of power, coercion and control," Miller said. "The movie celebrates female inequality, abuse of power and coercion."

Miller said a lot of that comes from the age and power discrepancies between the main characters, Christian Grey (played by Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). Steele is a recent college graduate, while Grey is a billionaire and in a position of power in his job. 

Miller said the struggle for power and control is prevalent in other areas of the movie. She said the E.L. James novel has elements of humiliation, battery, control and degradation.

"These are not things you would see in a healthy relationship," she said. "It also sends a message that this is what women really want, that saying 'no' really means saying 'yes.' That's permitting a rape culture."

She said that's a complicated message to send in a time of "rape culture" on university campuses. It's an especially prevalent topic as author Jon Krakauer prepares to release Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town April 21, which explores the U.S. Justice Department's investigation of more than 80 rapes reported on the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula over the span of three years.

Miller said consent isn't black and white, and bringing in age discrepancies and pressures found in Fifty Shades can cast powerful messages into society. Any time a movie, book, or video game objectifies women, it's a "step backwards for society," she said, and pointed out that what happens in Fifty Shades' plot is wildly different from a healthy sexual relationship in which two partners consent to exploring BDSM. 

A few lines from the book illustrate Miller's concerns. In one scene, Grey arranges for Steele to get a birth control shot. When she asks why, he responds, "because I hate condoms." When she tells him, "It's my body," he tells her, "It's mine, too."

Or another line from the book: "He's said such loving things today ... But how long will he want to do this without wanting to beat the crap out of me?"

Or the part where he tries to make her sign a contract of sexual submissiveness.

"Gender violence disproportionately effects girls and women," Miller said. "This doesn't happen in isolation, it happens because we have a culture for it and in the context of this movie, they are celebrating and legitimizing sexual violence. They're selling it as a Valentine's Day story." 

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