I HAVEN’T read 50 Shades of Grey. I made a conscious choice not to. I haven’t seen the movie either. I’m making another conscious choice not to. You might argue, in that case, that I have no business blogging about it.
So, I won’t. This blog has absolutely nothing to do with the book and movie franchise that, reputedly, began life as a piece of Twilight-based fanfiction, precisely because I’ve chosen to give them all a very wide berth.
What I WILL talk about is some of the themes the franchise is throwing up for discussion. Because I CAN speak about some of these first hand, and I DO have opinions I’m choosing to share. You can choose to disagree with me, of course – that’s what makes social media such a brilliant platform for debate and discussion. My truth might not be your truth and our value sets might be very different, but that doesn’t mean my opinion is any less worthy than yours, however much it might piss you off.
I don’t much give a damn about the BDSM content everyone’s talking about. Seriously – I really don’t. Whatever you want to get up to behind closed doors is absolutely your business.
But…. I do believe there’s a line (in AT LEAST 50 different shades of grey) where, as a healer and empowerment mentor, I perceive an energetic/spiritual imbalance that, arguably, needs some attention. There’s a huge raft of teachings in shamanism about the use of power and control – in a nutshell, it breaks down to never setting out to exert power over another, attempting to take power from another, or giving your own power away.
With this in mind, I want to talk about the element of the 50 Shades discussions I’ve personally found the most disturbing. Where’s the line between the usual give-take of a relationship and a level of control and manipulation that is little short of legitimised abuse?
And here’s where I have some first-hand experience to draw on – both as someone who has been through a relationship filled with emotional, mental and sexual abuse (and spent years rebuilding myself and coming back to strength) and as someone who has, in later years, supported others through similarly imbalanced relationships.
Let me tell you, when I was in that relationship, I didn’t even realise I’d lost myself until it was too late. I spent years putting up with the erratic mood swings, believing I just needed to try harder and then maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to make my abuser happy. I lived with increasingly barbed comments, all designed to destroy my self esteem, and some of the most beautifully-crafted emotional blackmail I’ve ever known, so that one moment I’d be dealing with someone little shy of psychotic and the next moment a snivelling, wounded child who only needed approval and, of course, I was the only one who could ever make it better. I put up with their increasingly bizarre and distorted fantasies, and learned to hide my physical and emotional pain from friends, family and co-workers. Thankfully, after regularly praying to die as an escape route – and coming pretty close a few times – something inside me just switched.
I was lucky.
Somehow, my abuser – my Christian Grey – pushed me too far, and something changed. There was a numbness. A distance. A coldness. And – thank whatever spirits were looking out for me – I found the strength to walk away (okay, run away) from what my solicitor called one of the worst cases of partnership abuse he’d ever seen.
That was many, many years ago now and, when I look back, I can hardly believe that broken shell of a woman was even me. It’s one of the reasons I can understand why soul loss is sometimes one of the best coping strategies the human being has. After lots of tears and one helluvalot of work to heal and come back to wholeness, I simply feel thankful for the teachings and for the understanding being in that kind of relationship provided.
I feel very lucky to be able to understand how people (not just women) lose their sense of self in certain relationships and don’t even realise how broken down they’ve become. Without that experience? Well, it’s very easy for people to make statements such as “if it was that bad, they’d leave” or “they must enjoy it or they wouldn’t hang around”. It’s not easy. It’s NEVER easy when someone has that kind of emotional hold over you – especially when you throw love into the melting pot, however warped that might sound.
I’ve seen many people discussing the control elements shown in the movie and that, for me, is never right and probably shouldn’t be glorified on the big screen. I was pleased to hear the young woman left the relationship at the end of the movie, yet I’m told she returns in the next book. Given my choice to be 50-Shades-Free, there’s not much I can add, except that I hope people (regardless of gender or sexuality) reading the books and watching the movies aren’t taken in by the Hollywood treatment of a relationship that seems to tick the boxes next to psychopath, sociopath, narcissist and abuse. It’s so, so easy for people to fall into abusive relationships, without the marketing machine displaying them as exciting and even desirable!
Why am I saying this now? Because everyone’s talking about the movie and I’m seeing a real split between those drumming it up as an exciting romance awakening so many women to sexual adventures and new highs, and those seeing a really disturbing undercurrent of abuse and control.
I don’t believe anything happens by accident, so if my experiences can do anything to help open people’s eyes and think twice, it would be remiss of me to keep quiet. If people can see that the woman who walks on fire, leads empowerment seminars and generally leads a pretty happy, fulfilling life once allowed her spirit to be broken, maybe they’ll think twice.
And maybe, if anyone reading this is already lost in that place and sees my story, they might just find that kernel of strength, deep, deep inside, and find the help they need to begin to step back in to their power.
• What do you think? Have you read the book? Seen the movie? Is it harmless titillation or something quite different? Leave us a comment on the blog – we’d love to hear your thoughts (providing they’re fair and constructive, of course).