“Oh, you just take everything too seriously. Lighten up, for fuck’s sake. I loved it, I don’t think its offensive, and I don’t care if you do.”
I’ve heard about triggers. I’ve added the appropriate warnings to my writing, my posts on Facebook.
This was the first time I’d experienced one for myself.
I can’t even explain it. My whole body started shaking. My vision blurred as my heart pounded in my ears. It was as close to drowning as I think I can imagine.
And right now, everywhere I look, it’s around me. It’s on TV. People are “checking in” at the movies on Facebook. It’s every goddamn where.
I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey. I don’t intend to. And I won’t be seeing the movie. I’ve seen, heard and read enough about it to know I don’t need to see it.
Because I lived it.
Not the so-called BDSM aspects. There wasn’t any of that. But the circumstances were incredibly similar. I was about the same age as the woman in the story. The manipulation. The total loss of my sense of self. The loss of control. It was all the same.
It crept up on me. Quiet and sinister, until I didn’t even recognise myself anymore.
I don’t need to see it. I lived it.
To have found yourself in a situation so twisted that you feel completely powerless isn’t romantic. It’s not sexy. It’s not erotic. It’s not something that should be viewed as entertainment.
There’s only a handful of people who know about this part of my life, an even smaller amount who know all of the gory details. It’s not something that’s easy to share. I don’t think it was obvious to anyone at the time, which makes me wonder if people will think I’m making it all up. For a long time, I had myself convinced I was making it all up, that it wasn’t actually abusive.
But then it happened. I’d mentioned I wouldn’t be seeing the film, and I was told to lighten up, because it’s “just a movie”. And that terror, that feeling of helplessness hit me like a truck.
That this film is being marketed as a bit of sexy Valentine’s Day fun worries me. That women seem to swoon over the main character, despite what seems to me as his obvious hallmarks as an emotion abuser makes me literally feel ill. Nobody should have to feel the fear that accompanies the kind of relationship portrayed in this movie. Nobody should want to.
I spend at least eight hours a day researching and writing about violence against women. I could point to countless studies that show how the messages we receive from movies and books and other forms of media influence the way we view gender roles and the status of women. I could write for hours about how abusive relationships evolve, and I could back it all up with solid, peer-reviewed evidence. I can list the key stats and figures about men’s violence against women off the top of my head. It’s all related. The critiques of Fifty Shades of Grey aren’t coming from a bunch of feminist killjoys. They’re coming from decades of research, results and facts. Fifty Shades isn’t just a bit of harmless fun.
I don’t need to read the books. I won’t be seeing the movie. And I won’t “lighten up” about it.
A few days ago, abuse survivor Brooke Axtell spoke at the Grammy Awards, and she said it better than I ever could:
Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame or abuse.