Thursday, February 13, 2014

50 Shades of Things I Would Never Want in a Relationship.

As a whole, my students do not come to me with a love of reading. I honestly can't blame them, especially after working in an inner-city, where we do not have a school library, and the local public library is a place where the homeless and crack addicts flock to, because there is free internet access and it's somewhere to hang out. Most schools in our district are incredibly under resourced, and our students are also not usually on grade level, so you have ninth graders who are still on a fourth-grade (or lower) reading level, which makes it difficult to have them reading books that most other students their age are reading. 

Recently, one of my students who is highly intelligent, came to me saying that she wanted to read, but lacked the motivation to actually finish reading a book and comprehend what she had read. I asked her what her favorite book was, and she said Fifty Shades of Grey, which broke my literary heart. 

And that was the start of our bet - she was to read and write a four-page book report of The Catcher in the Rye, and if she did that, I would read the Fifty Shades trilogy and report back to her on it. I gave her two weeks to complete the assignment and was pretty confident that I would never actually have to subject myself to reading Fifty Shades of anything. Lesson learned, because she completed the book and report within a week, and I had to make a lovely trip to the library to pick up my soft core erotica. 

The majority of my friends have read Fifty Shades, and I have no disrespect for anyone who is reading it or enjoyed it, anyone who wants to read books about sex, anyone who is into BDSM or anything - your sexual and reading preferences are your own.

It's whatever you're into - this post is not to sex-shame anyone.

I'm now on the third book in the trilogy, and honestly, I'm horrified by what I'm reading. The sex doesn't bother me - sex is sex, preferences are preferences, and I've hung out with mostly guys my entire life, so there really isn't anything  that can shock me, in terms of conversations or comments about sex.

What is so disturbing to me is the relationship between the two main characters, and the fact that I see their relationship so sensationalized as being something to aspire towards.

I know it's just a story, and I know fiction is fiction, but the dynamic between the two main characters concerns me, especially seeing as how so many people find it to be something beautiful and special - so many of my friends, who are intelligent, beautiful  people - have voiced that they really do want their own Christian Grey.

As I've read, I do see the physical appeal - a guy who is unbelievably wealthy, incredibly good looking (to the point that apparently wherever he goes, there is not a single woman impervious to his charm), and he has that mysterious element that seems to draw people into him.

That's where the appeal ends with me though, because the more that you read, the more you see that this is someone who is controlling, manipulative, and possessive to a scary extreme.

When they're together, his emotions range  from being warm and kind to cold and distant - Anastasia, the main character, says it's because he's "her fifty shades," meaning that his emotions and behavior are scattered all over, but to me, it's a trap where she does not feel like she can ever be herself or feel totally comfortable with expressing herself because she never knows what face of his she's going to encounter.

Grey doesn't want his girlfriend working, "Why bother?" he asks, since he has money and she can clearly just shop all day long or stay at home and be his personal sex object. When she does get a job, he buys the entire company she works for, and then spends the whole day not respecting her right to a career, and emailing her for the duration of the day - often causing a fight over something, which stresses her out for the entire day.

Oh, word?

He continuously tells her to, "do as you're told," and to listen to what he's saying because he's only concerned with her safety, but he never lets her in to tell her what he's doing/feeling/what's going on. She is continuously left in the dark, but is more than happy with allowing him to control every aspect of her life just so that she doesn't bother him.

Whenever the main character, who is so unlikable in my opinion (I'm sorry, but who says, "Oh my" or "Oh gosh," when they're having or are about to have sex?), voices that she does not like something or is angry with her boyfriend (who later on becomes her husband), he gets this sad look, which causes her to say that she'll "try harder" to please him, which then makes him happy.


He also tells her time after time that he "wants to beat the shit out of her," as a punishment for her misbehaving (read: go to the bar with a girlfriend instead of hanging out with aforementioned girlfriend at home). To me, someone beating the shit out of me is not sexual, it's abusive. If Edwin EVER told me that he wanted to beat the shit out of me for anything, I would walk out the door. It is not a loving gesture for someone to want to beat you to a pulp because you did not comply with their demands.

The other thing that bothers me, is that the book is so misogynistic - and yet, a woman wrote it. It's a book that puts women back so many years, one that puts us on this level of being only there for sex whenever a man wants it, to do whatever we can to make a man happy, and also places us on a shelf of being overly emotional, which equates to not being able to have any sense of consistency or rationale for our behavior. Don't believe me? On page 234 of the third god-awful book, Anastasia seriously tells her husband, who has berated her, threatened her, and told her to "watch her step because he's fucking pissed," that:

"I changed my mind.. I'm a woman. We're renowned for it. That's what we do."

Well thank you, Anastasia, for making it seem like being a woman means that we will never make a good or confident decision because we are incapable of doing so.

I think that the alarming thing about this book for me is that it's chronicling an abusive relationship. I realize this post is irrelevant because everyone has already read the books by now, but I'm so shaken by reading it - perhaps having gone through a relationship with someone who was controlling and abusive - that I couldn't keep my thoughts on it to myself.

This isn't a post about feminism, it isn't a post about how the book is too sexual or explicit - I'm not a prude, and I'm not going to critique the poor writing of the book, but I am going to critique an author who is glorifying a main character that preaches about her "inner goddess," and yet cannot stand up for herself.

Relationships should be about compromise, not about exploitation and feeling sorry for someone, so you never speak your piece.

Relationships should not be about a constant power-struggle and someone who has to assert their authority, whether that is sexually, emotionally, or orally.

Relationships should not be selfish - it stops being entirely about you and what YOU want the minute you bring someone else into your life in such  way, but that doesn't mean that you push aside your feelings and dreams, or the things that you love about your life because someone else is calling all the shots.

Relationships should absolutely not be possessive or stalker-ish - I know we live in a digital age where it's very easy to look through someone's Facebook, texts, email, etc., but why? Why are we plagued with a sense of mistrust and the need to check up on each other? Grey takes it to a new level - he has a literal file folder of information on his future wife before they even start dating.
Ladies, someone stalking you is NOT the same as loving you. 

Love does not mean that you belong to someone - that is called slavery. Even in a loving, wonderful relationship, you are still your own person. You can love someone with all your heart, but you still need to love and respect yourself. You don't give that up just because you're dating or married to someone else.

Find someone who loves you because you're incredible. Who loves you even when you are awful to be around, or wearing pajamas, or throwing up, or look amazing. Find someone whose love is not conditional and is not based on if you're "obeying" them or not. Find someone who makes you laugh, who gets you, who gives you space when you need it, who has their own friends, who loves to be around you, but also knows that you have a life outside of your relationship. Continue to be your own person - your relationship might be a massive part of how you spend your time, things you learn about yourself, but it does not define you. Celebrate the things you love and don't apologize for them, no matter what they are. 

Give me Pablo Neruda over Christian Grey ANY day.

I grew up in a household with a father who was the breadwinner, even though my mom is a doctor, so it's not that I'm saying every woman should work, or that I'm trying to make this strong feminist stance - I'm also  not saying that you have to be super assertive if you're not usually that way, but at least know that you deserve more than someone dictating to you how things are going to be. 

You all have so many beautiful things that you should love about yourself, so whether you're single or in a relationship, take some time this Valentine's Day - and every single day - to remember to love yourself. Every morning when you look in the mirror, tell yourself something that you love about YOU, because you are so absolutely beautiful. 

Enjoy your Valentine's Day, whether you like 50 Shades or don't, are single or taken, like to be tied up or would rather not be, whatever. It's a day that's supposed to be about love, so remember to love YOURSELF (and eat lots of chocolate). 

Currently: Listening to Jose Gonzalez, and really wondering if I have the energy to finish this trilogy. 


Leeann @ Join the Gossip said...

I totally read all three books, BUT I also knew how ridiculous they were before I read them. They're written so poorly, such awkward scenes. I think for me it was just an easy, mindless read (which makes me sound so dumb lol!). That S&M ish isn't in the slightest for me and lots of parts were super awkward. I also thought about how if it were me, I'd be saying hell to the no, go eff yourself a lot to the dude lol. Sadly, I never thought about the message it sends. You're completely right. I literally just read it as a silly book. I hope it doesn't make young women think it's alright to be treated the way Christian treats Anastasia :(

As far as the movie, I think the actor is hot (when he has facial hair) so I am slightly interested. On the other hand, how is the movie not going to be straight up porn? I was uncomfortable during Magic Mike! Haha!

amy b.s. said...

i agree. the least disturbing thing about these books, to me, was the sex. oh the poor, poor writing!

The Dainty Dolls House said...

I have avoided this book. I heard bits and pieces of it and was too put off just by even more so by the things you say that are in it. I find it really sad that this is what literature has come to. And the fact it was written by a woman is even more disturbing...I'm sick of these kinds of stories because sadly, they aren't just stories, but real life for so many still. It's vile really the way we put things like this in books or other entertainment and think nothing of it anymore. Rape doesn't shock us, abuse doesn't shock us..we've become numb to it all...really what makes me the sickest of all, is that this pile of garbage was written by a woman...way to set us back so far, good job! And they're making a movie about it...pointless...such a shame! Happy Valentine's day doll...we really must remember to love each other & ourselves & know when someone's not loving us the way we deserve..unlike this book!! xx

Lindsay said...

You go girl! I read the first book just to see what the fuss was all about and was baffled. I wish that women would realize there are so many better options for light reading and romance in the world.

Also, did you know that 50 shades started out as Twilight fan fiction? Aka Christian Grey is based on a sex-crazed Edward Cullen. I read that before I gave 50 shades a shot and couldn't ignore the parallels between the two books.

HiFashion said...

This was so interesting to read. I usually tend to read any bestseller to see the fuss, but I never felt the need to read 50 Shades, so I haven't. I hear so many women idolizing Christian Grey, but I can't believe it now that I know what he's actually like.

Elle Sees said...

i still have the last book to's been over a year and it's still sitting there. i'm the least judgmental when it comes to that sorta stuff,BUT he doesn't turn me on how controlling he is. i don't like it.

Carol {Everyday Delights} said...

I was not a fan of the book - it's time of my life I will never get back! Hope you had a wonderful V-day full of love! Hope you are staying warm too - we've been thinking about you east coasters!

Olivia Fuller said...

This was such an awesome, and much needed post! I've avoided these books, especially since college limits my time for personal reading of books I actually WANT to read, but I totally respect you keeping your end of the bargain with your student :). I hope she enjoyed Catcher in the Rye, and can take something valuable away from your review of the Fifty Shades books.

Without having read these books, I still totally agree and praise all that you;re saying about the nature of relationships, and how love doesn't mean obeying or compromising yourself to appease someone's demands. I've been very fortunate to find someone who's always respected me and our differences. When you love someone, you let them grow into the person they want to be, you don't try to trap them into the box that you've decided outlines who they are. It sounds like this trilogy has a really backwards message for women who are reading it, and I hope that those who enjoy the books don't in turn decide that this is how a relationship should be.

Hope you had a wonderful Valentines Day girl, and major kudos to you for motivating your students in a way that works!


Sara Louise said...

Check you out!
The books are horrible. Yes, I read all three of them because I had to see what all the fuss was about, but they're horrible. Christian Grey is a dick with A LOT of issues and Anastasia, well, I don't have enough time to talk about her here.. maybe one day over drinks (yes I just invited you on a blate right here in the comments section).
I will say though, when Charlie Hunnam was cast in the movie I was ALL ABOUT seeing it, but that had way more to do with him than with Fifty Shades :)

Margarita Bloom said...

Well, thank goodness I never read that book...doesn't sound like something I'd want to read. That character sounds way too creepy.

♡ Regina ♡
Margarita Bloom: Retro Modern Beauty & Skincare