I’m assuming that everyone rushed out this past weekend to go see “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the movie adaptation of the E.L. James book that was released in 2011. The discussion-sparking book opened up a world that everyone was – at least mildly – curious about but not willing to talk openly about.
The great thing is that when the book was released in 2011, you could hear chitchat among young adults about “acceptable” relationship dynamics, mainly debating what constitutes abuse and consent. I’ve heard these conversations on IU South Bend’s campus, downtown at Fiddler’s Hearth, McCormicks, Madison Oyster Bar, near Notre Dame at Nick’s Patio, at various venues of my employment from South Bend to Granger – all of these places since the book has come out.
According to a nytimes.com article by Julie Bosman from Feb. 2014, that is for good reason.
“The ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ erotica series by E.L. James has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide,” she wrote. “Other series with more than 100 million copies sold include the ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight’ series and the Nancy Drew books.”
Whew, Anastasia and Christian Grey are in the same literary ranks as my beloved Gryffindor.
No wonder people are talking about this; it has saturated the market.
Now, even Target is selling “Fifty Shades of Grey” branded personal items, revealing that the fantasy is now almost as mainstream as it possibly could be. (You can get a branded blindfold to throw into your cart next to a new toothbrush and deodorant. Sexy.)
Whether or not you have read the book or seen the movie, the discussion is relevant. Power struggles and communication issues in relationships aren’t unheard of. But what is the line where it becomes abuse? Whether you agree with someone’s expression of sexuality and eroticism (as long as it is with an of-age, consenting partner) is not relevant. What is relevant is that all of the participants agree to the terms of the situation.
Many of the issues I’ve heard with “Fifty Shades of Grey” are concerning the blatant abuse of power by Mr. Grey in a few separate scenes in the story. Those are the ones that are bothersome. Occasional abuse becomes easier to romanticize and shake off, but that can grow into a regular issue and is really indicative of a lack of respect. The outcry from the communities that feel misrepresented by the popular storyline explain that trust and consent is a pillar and that the practice of consent should be across the board.
So, as sexy as those blindfolds are in the Target aisle next the unmentionables, make sure whoever you’re playing with is actually into what you’re doing. Mutual consent is the sexiest agreement.