Nights In

Does fifty shades glamourise sexual abuse?

On February 10th 2017, the second instalment in the 50 Shades of Grey series hit Irish cinemas. For those of you unfamiliar with the 50 Shades trilogy, it is the story of Christian Grey, a millionaire who asserts complete dominance in contractual ‘relationships’. With this, the woman surrenders her freedom and right to deny him anything he desires.
The series follows the relationship between Grey and a young woman, Ana, who turns his world upside down by challenging his assertion of control. The films, based on the trilogy of novels from E.L. James, have grown to international success and across the globe, audiences were on tenderhooks anticipating the release of the second instalment of the series in cinemas.
Despite the global hype in the build up to its release, the film received heavy criticism from feminist groups, women’s shelters and anti-pornography activists who condemned the entire series for glamorizing male-on-female sexual violence and oppression. In a movement led by the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE), people are encouraged to boycott the film and instead donate the money they would have spent to view it to a women’s centre or women’s aid group.
Their campaign can be found online at or using the hashtag #50DollarsNot50Shades on social media. Dr Gail Dines, a founding member of Stop Porn Culture group, spoke of the series as socializing young women to believe that “normal sex involves the oppression, dehumanization and degradation of women by men”.
The film, having grown into to a phenomenon, with women across the globe aspiring to a sadomasochistic relationship similar to that of Christian and Anastasia, a relationship that demeans the woman and places her in an inferior position to the male, according to the NCSE.
Executive Director of the NCSE Dawn Hawkins said “Hollywood is advertising the Fifty Shades story as an erotic love affair, but it is really about sexual abuse and violence against women.” NCSE claim that sexual violence has been disguised as erotica throughout the 50 shades series in an attempt to normalise sexual abuse in relationships and afford men the right to inflict physical pain on their partner and pass it off as a fetish.
Since the initial emergence of the 50 Shades of Grey series, the world has turned the trilogy into a social phenomenon. I think that it’s ridiculous to believe that a few books and films are responsible for encouraging sexual violence.
The series is designed for adults and are based on a mutually consensual relationship in which both parties have consciously agreed to specific terms. It’s a stretch to claim that sexual violence is a direct result of the Fifty Shades series.
It’s time we started giving people more credit and stop assuming that a series about sex and fetishes will re-programme us into beating each other in the bedroom. The trilogy has a niche market and there will always be those who try to find fault with everything. Superhero films don’t inspire us to jump from buildings in an attempt to fly and action films don’t cause shootouts.
So in my opinion the 50 Shades books and films are harmless and we are responsible for our own behaviour…if you’re into the Fifty Shades antics in the bedroom then that’s your business and no one else’s, go for it!