The following article is reprinted with permission from Miriam Grossman, MD. It was originally published on her website miriamgrossmanmd.com.
Fifty Shades of Grey follows Ana, a college student inexperienced in love, as she enters a dark relationship with a troubled man, rescues him from his inner demons, marries him, and rides with him into the sunset.
Excluding hard pornography, I believe Hollywood has never produced a film so hazardous to young women.
Here’s the first of two central concepts that harm your daughter:
1. Ana consented to being humiliated and abused, so it’s ok.
No, humiliation and abuse are never ok. Consenting to it is a terrible, self destructive decision.
Why would Ana, or anyone else, agree to be assaulted? Maybe she wanted to please her abuser. Perhaps she thought she deserves to be punished. Or maybe she’s heard that some people enjoy it, and she’s curious.
Whatever her thinking, it’s not emotionally healthy. A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain. She seeks a relationship that is safe, supportive, and trusting. She wants to feel cared for and appreciated. If there is any hint of danger, she runs.
Many well meaning people argue that Ana and Christian get to decide what works for them in their personal lives, and if the choice is thoughtful and freely made, then it’s ok. This includes sadomasochism, which has been promoted to young people by “reputable” organizations such as Columbia University and Planned Parenthood.
Their thinking is reflected in a recent post on my blog,
“..I disagree with your vilifying the book series… never once is Anastasia forced to do anything. She has free will and choice of what happens to her the entire story. There are so many variations on the spectrum of what people are comfortable with in their relationship. Just because one variation makes someone uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
Let’s check that reasoning. What if we applied it to other personal decisions?
By her own choice, Anastasia went on a diet of cheezwhiz and gummy worms. No one pressured her, she could have picked other diets. So the decision was right for her.
One day, Christian became distraught over world hunger, and decided to commit suicide by crashing his private helicopter into the Seattle Harbor. It was a good choice, because that’s what made him comfortable, and he wasn’t forced into it.
Silly examples, I know, but they demonstrate the flawed logic. Sure, people have free choice. But it doesn’t follow that every time they exercise that free choice, their decisions are good for them, ethical, or even rational.
The decision to consent to any form of abuse is a self destructive one – end of story. The toxic power of Fifty Shades of Grey lies in its ability to plant doubt in your daughter – it leads her to conclude it’s not altogether clear. The goal is for your daughter to believe everything, even this, is nuanced.
Here’s how it works. Ana and Christian’s initial relationship is on the dark side. There is stalking, emotional abuse, and violence. With time he opens up. Ana learns he’s had a hard life, that’s all. Deep down, Christian is a a good guy. He buys her a car and makes sure she eats well. Things are not so dark after all; there’s some light between these two. We start to feel sorry for Christian. He must tie up Ana and make her scream? Well, it’s not his fault. By the end, there’s a proposal, a wedding, a baby or two. There’s darkness, but there’s lots of light too. Fifty Shades of Grey — get it?
And therein lies the danger. There are vast differences between dark and light, healthy and unhealthy. Fifty Shades of Grey blurs that distinction. It leads your daughter to wonder, what’s healthy in a relationship? What’s sick? There are so many shades of grey…I’m not sure.
But with her safety at risk , there’s no room for confusion or doubt. You want your daughter to be one hundred per cent certain: an intimate relationship that includes violence, consensual or not, is emotionally disturbed. It’s sick.
This is black and white. There are no shades of grey here. Not even one.
Miriam Grossman, MD is a medical doctor with training in pediatrics and in the specialty of child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry. She is also the author of Unprotected and You’re Teaching My Child WHAT?