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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Fifty Shades of abuse


After coming out of an abusive relationship, you meet your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend on your college campus, at a shopping mall or even at an art exhibition. They approach you and ask you out to dinner. “Only dinner,” you reply, remembering everything you have been through with this person.

You go out the next night together, and after a nice conversation, great food and expensive wine, they demand you to “take your panties off.” And even though you may not want to, you do as you’re told.

This scenario may seem unrealistic, but it is featured in “Fifty Shades Darker,” the second movie in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series. The former still brings similar themes to the latter, but it seems that now everything has changed — when it actually hasn’t.

Released worldwide on Feb. 10 and grossing almost $160 million in its first week alone, “Fifty Shades Darker” echoes the success of E. L. James’ books. The main character, Anastasia Steele, falls in love with a young business magnate, Christian Grey, who practices bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism.

Both the movies and the books are famous for their erotic sex scenes and have raised discussions over rape, consent, physical and psychological abuse. But the main issue with that story is that it comes disguised as a regular chick-flick that leads most people, especially women, to believe it is okay to submit yourself to another’s fantasies and fetishes without your informed consent.

“I definitely think (the movie) is abuse-colored fantasy,” said sophomore Robert Neff-Taylor. “BDSM isn’t the abuse part of it, though. That’s okay and normal with consent.

“The part that makes it abuse is the relationship. The contract, the dynamic, the utterly controlling and stalking persona of Mr. Grey.”

The contract Neff-Taylor mentions clarifies that Anastasia could never tell anyone what they would be doing and she would not be able to be a part of Christian’s real life. The contract also included his stipulations to his sexual fantasies and desires without including her own.

Some believe the contract to be the proof that their relationship was consensual and appropriate.

“The movie overall was very interesting and was probably the best way to introduce (BDSM) to people,” said Campbell University senior Sean Hernandez. “I do agree it represents abuse but not in a bad way necessarily. (Due to) the circumstances throughout the movie consent was given.”

Audiences that are not familiarized with neither the movies nor the books end up believing, however, that the consent is actually real. Besides sex, Christian also takes Anastasia to special places, exotic trips and the element of romance is brought up again, desensitizing the audience from the abuse.

“From hearing about it, I thought it was a story about a woman who fell in love with a man who (just) likes it rough when it comes to sex,” said sophomore Jenniffer Gonzalez.

However, it is Anastasia who runs away from the relationship in the beginning of “Fifty Shades Darker.” The only reason why they get back together is Christian’s persistence in stalking her and convincing her to accept him back and to pretend she is the one now in control.

“I think it holds some dangerous messages, especially for males, which should be recognized,” said Neff-Taylor. “It helps normalize relationship abuse and it isn’t just physical, it’s also psychological.

The way that (Christian) treats her often speaks towards that kind of abuse and power imbalance.”

Romance should not be used as an excuse to force your significant other to do something they are not comfortable with. Even if there is a sense of consent coming from them, it is not that hard to know when someone is not content or doesn’t feel safe during sexual intercourse.

“Fifty Shades Darker” continues to strengthen the belief that the “weak sex” should be happy to please their partners and that they must put their necessities, worries and desires behind.

It all looks better, more romantic and particularly exciting when there is a script, the right lighting, the perfect soundtrack and a hopeless romantic audience at your hands. But remove the Hollywood glamour, and the naked truth will appear a lot darker than it may seem.

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About the Contributor
Beatriz Caldas, Editor-in-Chief
Senior Beatriz's goal is to make sure that every person on campus has a voice, that every group is being represented, and that The Guilfordian becomes #1 in reporting Social Justice stories not only from Guilford, but from all around the globe. Beatriz comes from Brazil and is able to speak four languages.

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