To Grey or not to Grey


Chelsea Gubbels

Chelsea Gubbels | Arts & Life Co-Editor

“More than 100 million mostly-female readers have read the British author’s titillating novels about a virgin entering into a BDSM sexual relationship with a powerful billionaire,” a CBC News article said.

The first movie installment of 50 Shades of Grey, based on the three book series by E.L. James opened up in theaters this Valentine’s Day weekend but not without much controversy. The books are known for their explicit, erotic scenes and sexual practices involving bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism (BDSM). Some argue that it is just a book and is simply entertainment, while others are worried about the messages that it is sending about what love is and the passivity and acceptance of sexual assault.

Mandy Boothby, Director of Counseling Services, has read the books and agreed the books were entertaining as they present romance fantasy about a rich, good-looking man falling in love with an ever ordinary young woman.

“Reading is one of my stress relieving activities, and I really enjoy romance books because they usually have happy endings, and they are fun to read. Romance books are not based on the reality of what a real relationship is like, but they are great stories,” Boothby said. “Romance books can be called ‘fairy tales’ for adults. They are fun entertainment as long as people remember that they are fiction. The problem is with the people that feel this is real life or compare their own relationships to what they read about in a book or see on a screen.”

Professor of English and Director of Gender and Women’s Studies Annamaria Elsden has also read some of the series but with a dissimilar response. Elsden read it because a student was using it as a cornerstone to a project, and while she expressed that even the literary writing itself was lame and didn’t hold her interest, the content also bothered her.

“I feel like the story has enough problematic aspects, I don’t want to financially support that movie. I think it sends a lot of disturbing messages about what constitutes true love or a special relationship, and I don’t want to support that. What I worry about is a lot of the behaviors that Christian demonstrates in the film are behaviors that kind of should be a red flag in an abusive relationship. Being really controlling; being, you know, kind of overly obsessed with someone, and of course there’s the violence, but aside from the BDSM, he right away kind of controlling her life,” Elsden said. “I’m concerned that young women will romanticize that and see that as really loving behaviors and might end up accepting a relationships that could abusive or overlooking the danger signs.”

Both Boothby and Elsden agreed that those wishing to go see the movies should experience caution in that it is only a film and should not be seen as a blue print of how a happy and successful relationship works. So whether you decide to Grey or not to Grey, it is advised to keep cognitive of the difference between a real and the idealized relationship and the warning signs of an abusive relationship.

“You cannot go into a relationship thinking that if I love someone enough that they will change into a better person or stop doing the things I don’t like. It doesn’t work that way, and many women (and men) stay in bad or abusive relationships because they thing that they can change the person to be someone else. Also, in a healthy relationship, control should be 50-50. No person should be punished for not following the other person’s rules,” Boothby said.