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Fifty Shades of Grey: Fun Romantic Fantasy or Harmful Abuse Story?

Updated on September 3, 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey is the fastest selling book of all time, and is soon to become a major motion picture. When it was first released, women everywhere were talking about it, some describing how it revolutionized their sex lives. It also stirred up considerable controversy and was banned from the shelves of Brevard County, Florida’s libraries due to its “pornographic” content.

The popularity of this romance novel is somewhat of a mystery. Some credit it to it being a spinoff of the highly popular Twilight series and others attribute it to the fact that people can read this “mommy porn” secretly as ebooks on their kindles, with no one knowing what they are reading.

This is the first romance novel I’ve read since the 1990s, when the “rape hero” was still the norm in mainstream romance. Understanding that popular romance literature had moved away from such violent portrayals of romantic relationships, I was surprised to find that 50 Shades of Grey read exactly the same to me. The writing is insipid, the storyline predictable, and it adheres to a decades-old romance formula: a dependent, self-sacrificing woman (Ana, a virgin), a powerful and somewhat sadistic man (Christian), and an indescribable, unprecedented passion that changes them both.

What is disturbing about the popularity of this novel is not the mild S&M scenes, but how the storyline so closely mimics the patterns displayed in an abusive relationship. Remove the S&M entirely, and the basic dynamics of power and control that exists in abusive relationships remain.

SPOILER ALERT: While it’s hard to call it a “spoiler” since the novel is so predictable, this review does include some information that may be considered “spoiler” material, so if you haven’t read it, proceed with caution.

Fifty Shades and the Cycle of Abuse

Abusive relationships happen when one partner in a relationship tries to keep power and control over the other partner. The basic cycle goes like this: tension builds, the abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological) takes place, the abuser apologizes and promises to be better, there is a honeymoon phase, and then the cycle repeats itself.

In Fifty Shades of Grey, powerful and controlling Christian wants Ana. Tension builds as he tries to convince her to enter his world of S&M. At some point, he pushes her too far. She runs away sobbing, retreating to her friends or apartment, or flying away to a different city. He tracks her down wherever she is, apologizes, and promises to try harder to give her what she wants. They have torrid sex. He pushes her too far, she runs away, he apologizes.... you get the point.

Additional “rape culture” myths in Fifty Shades

Popular media often portrays relationships in a way that fosters male dominance over women and violence towards women. Here are some of the messages in Fifty Shades that contribute to this culture:

  • Powerful men who are obsessive and controlling are sexy. Christian is powerful, obsessive, and controlling to the point of stalking Ana. He tracks her down anywhere she is (using a mythical GPS system that can track her phone, for example), showing up at her doorstep uninvited when he’s scared she might leave him. He repeatedly tells her that he wants complete control over her and is exceedingly jealous of any interaction she has with other men. Yet, despite this repeated obsessive and stalking behavior, Ana finds him irresistible. In reality, men who control and stalk, no matter how physically attractive, should be avoided at all costs.
  • Women secretly want to be hurt. Every time Christian hurts her physically, Ana has a near instant O. Her “inner goddess” comes out and relishes the pain. Perhaps if what was being portrayed was a consensual S&M relationship, relishing the pain might work. But Ana is not interested in being hit or chained or clamped. In fact, the entire premise of the book is him trying to convince her to sign a contract to engage in an S&M relationship. She is only considering it in hopes of winning his love. Yet, she’s aroused when he spanks her, suggesting that women secretly want to be hit and hurt, even if they say they don’t. In reality, no one wants to be hurt. Suggesting that they secretly do is a dangerous message for men and women.
  • Abusive men can be changed into loving ones, if the woman just sticks with it. Christian is a self-proclaimed damaged man who needs to control and hurt women to be aroused. Ana is not a willing participant in his S&M world, and the entire book focuses on her resistance to entering into this type of relationship. Yet, at the end of the novel (spoiler!), she has clearly won him over, transforming him from being violent and controlling to being weak with love. In reality, it is rare for someone to change in this type of situation, without serious professional help (no matter how stunning the woman they desire is).

It’s just fantasy, why does it matter?

Some will say I’m taking this book too seriously, that I should lighten up, and just enjoy the fun, smutty romance. After all, Ana is an adult (barely), is smart and sassy, and ultimately wins over Christian’s love. But, to accomplish this, she had to endure being spanked, hit, controlled, tied up, isolated from her family and friends, sworn to secrecy, and to obey the whims and desires of a controlling, damaged man.

I know it’s fantasy. I know it’s escape. But, why are people still writing about romance this way? And, why are so many women (and men) gobbling it up? One explanation is that women still don't feel powerful (or equal) in their relationships, and they seek fantasy worlds where women with magical powers are able to change the men in their lives and make them more loving.

The problem is that, for many people, violence in relationships is not fantasy, and it rarely ends happily. One in every four women in the US has experienced severe physical violence at the hands of their partners, about 1 in twelve women is stalked by a current or former partner, most of these stalkings include physical assault, and one-third of all female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. These numbers are increasing.

Is it OK to Read Fifty Shades of Grey?

Of course it’s ok to read this novel. It's clearly fulfilling a need, providing an erotic escape from the day-to-day, perhaps helping women explore a sexual side they never knew existed or providing an opening for discussion with their partners.

But, I challenge people to read it with a critical mind. It should make the reader uncomfortable, not because of the soft porn/S&M element, but because of abusive undertones of the relationship between the protagonists. Some argue that Ana is really the powerful one in the book: she wields “magic” over Christian and is successful at transforming him to someone who can express love... sometimes. But, it does so at a cost, distorting female sexuality, romanticizing violence against women, and suggesting that women can help or change violent men if they just love them enough. Possessive, controlling behavior is not a sign of an overwhelming, powerful love; it is a sign of abuse.


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    • belleart profile image

      belleart 4 years ago from Ireland

      thanks for the hub, i did a similar one. Unfortunately I had to read the book to do the review and hated every minute of it. It was possibly the worst written piece of literature (I say with sarcasm) that Ive read in years. I hate the dynamics of 'ooh i can totally change him' and him being all 'Im too cool for school'. No Christain you are not cool, your an asshole! One who somehow gets away with being dickhead purely because he's good looking. What a terrible message to give women! Plus, in reality, I find it hard to believe that any woman would want to be treated the way Ana does purely because the dudes good looking.

      Have you seen the guy this was supposedly based on (and not Edward from Twilight. An actual real guy, look it up) ... Ha women, reality ruined that fantasy!

    • profile image

      ms8 4 years ago

      Interesting article and appreciate your viewpoint. I have read the three books out of curiosity and although I agree that it was not a very well written book in terms of grammar or plot, your points about Christian Grey abusing Ana, I don't completely agree with. The problem is that this is a poor depiction of a true S&M relationship. Of course, everyone is entitled to their point of view. Many people think that the S&M lifestyle is violent, controlling and unhealthy, just like other types of sexual behavior can be. However, having met some people who do engage in this kind of sexual behavior, do have boundaries and mutual respect for their partners. From what I understand, there is must be consensual behavior from both sides.

      There are people who do partake in the S&M lifestyle and to generalize and say that these relationships are abusive, controlling, and demeaning or debasing to women don't know all aspects and are making assumptions as such. Doms/Sub relationships are varied and cosist of Female/Male, Female/Female, Female/Both, Male/Male, Male/Female, and Male/Both. S&M novels stemmed back from the Marquis de Sade's novel, where he recounts a tale of a young girl taken against her will and made to perform sexual acts on different partners, which was the origin of the idea of sadism, or the act of inflicting harm which provides a sense of pleasure. Another novel, Venus in Furs by Von Sacher Masoch, the male protagonist recounts a tale of a Female Dominatrix who completely controlled their relationship. This is the origin of the idea of Masochism which means the act of receiving pain elicits pleasure, which in this case was the male submissive. I'm sorry if this seems like a lecture on the history

      Christian sees Ana as a submissive, but she is not a true submissive or because of her inexperience , she rejects the idea of being completely submissive. Ana tries to make Christian less dominant but then takes pleasure with his dominance. It is a poorly written portrayal of a dominant/submissive relationship, and women reading this book fantasized about a strong dominant partner, but who wasn't in truth dominant, but had a psychological problem that made him that way, and was ultimately "saved" by the inexperienced girl, who still wanted a bit of the S&M relationship by the end of the series? Huh?

      I agree with Peelander Gally about how the women reading this book have a whole bunch of misconceptions about the S&M relationships, as well as the author, and would probably not be into a real S&M relationship.

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 4 years ago from MA

      Thanks for your comments SYTL. I agree that societal attitudes that tolerate abuse contribute to violence against women, but I think that books (and other forms of entertainment) both reflect and *contribute to* societal attitudes. They also sell this idea that abusive men can be changed miraculously by a woman's beauty/love and that these relationships can tranform into loving, healthy ones, which is rarely this case, and why this type of depiction is dangerous.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 4 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      It is common for women to have sexual fantasies that include violence, even rape. The difference between fantasy and reality is that in fantasy, the daydreamer controlls what is going on (the gorgeous guy doesn't really hurt her), whereas in reality, she has no control (some disgusting creepy stranger attacks her in an alley). Women who are frightened of their fantasies should realize this. Books like "Fifty Shades of Grey" don't contribute to crimes against women; societal attitudes that tolerate abuse do. I speak from an experience that happened to me long before "Fifty Shades" was written.

    • profile image

      MoonMoth 5 years ago

      Thanks, LauraGT, for this article. Too many people seem to gobble up this story without ever acknowledging the dangerous realities surrounding these relationships, such as the story of "Delia Day."

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Peelander Gally: Your comment made me laugh! So true. James must be pretty smart to have pulled this off!

    • profile image

      Peelander Gally 5 years ago

      I'm glad this Hub is so popular, because people are incredibly simple and can easily subconsciously glean the wrong message from a craptacular romance novel like this. It's the perfect storm of salesmanship, though: something slightly taboo, watered down for everybody. Suddenly bored insipid women are roleplaying and buying up toy handcuffs, trying out something new - wow, thanks for the tips, James! These people, though, will never understand the psychological thrill of domination, sadism or masochism, because that's not who they were before reading it.

      IMHO, James knew exactly what she was doing with this contrived drivel. Aside from the fact that she was just following the basic dated formula you've laid out, I also think she's probably got a sadistic streak and is laughing at all the women throwing themselves at their husbands' feet after having been so easily and powerfully influenced by something so stupid that's made her so much money. It's a powerful metaphor about consumerism, if you think about it.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      This is one of the best reviews of this book I've read. I can't imagine reading the book, however. It amazes me how so many women are so into it. Yuck.

    • mcleodgi profile image

      mcleodgi 5 years ago

      I agreed somewhat with the "abusive" undertones though I personally think that the bottom line is that Christian, due to his ugly past (and the fact that his ex-dom is still in his life and wants him to agree with her no matter what), is very confused about what he really wants and Ana is as inexperienced as it gets and is somewhat confused, too, initially. I think the real turning point was when she runs out on Christian in the end because that's what it takes for him to realize that he's in love with her and that maybe being a dom isn't really what he wants. I'm not excusing his behavior by any means, I'm simply saying that it's all he knows and he's very confused (and emotionally disturbed) because of it.

    • manthy profile image

      Mark 5 years ago from Alabama,USA

      voted up and interesting - I agree with you 100%

    • MamaTschet profile image

      MamaTschet 5 years ago from Northern Colorado

      Laura, I enjoyed your hub and your insight on this book. I wrote a Hub on this book too, from an "older " perspective. I found the series "entertaining" only because I understand it is fiction. I kept reading them because I was desperate for her to change him. I realize that this is a hard subject line for many, and I am lucky enough to be one who hasn't had that nastiness in my life. So for me this was pure fantasy... just an escape from the day to day stuff. I appreciate all the comments here for giving me different outlooks. We can always grow from other's experiences.

    • profile image

      Katie 5 years ago

      A synopsis of the self-help book "Women Who Love Too Much":

      This is the world-renowned, inspiring, practical program for women who believe that being in love means being in pain. Based on the multi-million-copy bestseller, Women Who Love Too Much presents a clear, comprehensive, 10-point recovery plan for women who are addicted to the wrong men for the wrong reasons. Among the vital lessons you will learn in this program are:

      How the search for the love you never got from your parents can become a crushing obsession in adulthood.

      How to change from loving someone so much it hurts, to loving yourself enough to stop the pain.

      How to free yourself from destructive loving and build a healthy, meaningful relationship.

      This step-by-step self-awareness program offers help, understanding and, above all, hope -- the pathway to making love the truly happy event it is supposed to be.

      Just adding because I hope someone read this and gets help!

    • profile image

      Katie 5 years ago

      WOW, I am shocked. I just recently read "Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men" by Lundy Bancroft and "Women Who Love Too Much" by Robin Norwood, and both of these books completely back up your take on this raunchy novel.

      As a woman who used to love too much, and someone who also used to fall for controlling and abusive men myself, I can attest that Fifty Shades of Gray is unhealthy, destructive, and expresses a completely warped take on "love". For anyone who found this top seller to be your idea of romance, I recommend you pick up a copy of Women Who love Too Much and begin your healing process... Today!!!

    • profile image

      lee 5 years ago

      all those women objecting to 50 shades, just a little bitter that they did not write it first?

    • profile image

      patty 5 years ago

    • profile image

      letty 5 years ago

      I am a mother of 3 little girls and I am horrified that the book went mainstrean. Many women don't see the domestic violence in the book. It really scares me.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 5 years ago from Midwest

      I could not agree more with this hub. Voted up awesome, interesting, useful and shared. I felt the exact same way reading it. First of all, the story was boring and horribly predictable to me also, so I didn't see what the hype was about. I was instantly struck and turned off by the weakness of this woman and the obvious abusive and self-centered behavior of Christian. Yuck. I hated the first book so much there was no way I'd read the remaining two. The first was all I needed to see that these characters represent ALL that is wrong with men and women and none of what is right. Excellent Hub!

    • jenbeach21 profile image

      jenbeach21 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Very insightful and well written. I hadn't looked at it the way you described. Thanks for giving me some insights!

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      MelChi: Definitely let me know what you think after you read it!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      Now I really want to get the book. I've read a few people's reviews about it here on HubPages, but your one seems to be a really good interpretation of the book. I'll have to read it and then come back to comment again :)

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Ddffss: Thanks for your comment. I think fiction often reflects societal problems, and also sometimes contributes to them.

      anne zainal: I had not heard of this "trend." Sounds a little bit like sex trafficking. How disturbing!

    • profile image

      patty 5 years ago

      I love this article!!!

    • profile image

      anne zainal 5 years ago

      I've read the books, it's ok. I pretty much can guess how the ending would be because the storyline is as similar as twilight with a bit of spicy twist. I'm not really a romance book person but I do read some good reads or bestsellers. I don't think much about this book until I saw a young girl, about 13 or 14 yrs young, holding the book in a mall. That's when I start wondering about the effect this book has on young girls. Did you read about this college girl who got herself an older man through the matching internet service? She did mention about wanting a life like Ana so she managed to get a rich older man. They have a contract (similar to the book), she get to fly in private jets, dress in expensive clothes and go for expensive holidays and he gets to have sex according to the contract limit. I'm very aware of services out there that would match young girls with older men for contractual BDSM. The last time I looked, these businesses are doing very well lately, thanks to the book.

    • profile image

      Ddffss 5 years ago

      Thank you for this perspective!! As an avid reader, I was introduced to this book series by a group of friends. While I agree that the sex scenes can be arousing, I am completely saddened by the way the book suggests dominance (whether male or female) is shown in a "positive" light. I would hate to think that our next generations would be excited to be "controlled" or have "control" over another human being. Even though it may be fiction, I think it brings forth many of the issues plaguing humanity.

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      btrbell: I'm glad to have brought you some insight! It is very interesting to think about how this poorly written book became so popular. You're right the porn isn't even that interesting - I found myself skimming through the sex parts! This again?? Anyway, thanks for reading.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Your challenge is accepted. I was so happy to read your hub right now. I have been pretty angry with myself for succumbing to peer pressure and even reading this book! I probably need to research this but I am still in the dark how this book became so incredibly popular. If women are looking for soft porn, they obviously have missed some of the great novelists of our time as well as millions of "romance novel" that are constantly being written complete with sexual fantasy. I have been amazed at the comments I have heard, the expression on people's faces when you bring up the book and the priceless Facebook posts. Thank you for your words of insight. It helps my justification in feeling that this book has nothing to bring to my table. I voted up and interesting!

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      AmandaLuna: Thanks for reading. That is disheartening that young women would be idealizing Christian that way. Perhaps when they stop looking for someone to save them, they will fine a nice, caring man to fall in love with! :)

      BerniceTeh90: You make very good points. I think that harmful messages about women are prevalent in our culture, both in media targeted at women and men and some more obviously than others. My hope is that people start to see how these sometimes seemingly harmless ideas help shape people's views of themselves, others, and their relationships.

    • AmandaLuna profile image

      AmandaLuna 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Interesting Hub Laura!

      I too read Fifty Shades with some reluctancy and curiosity. Between my two girlfriends were swearing by it and the media hype, I caved and read it. While it was a nice distraction, I also felt like I was the only sane one thinking: 1) this is a bit rediculous and there's no way this guy would really change and 2) great! here's another "fairytale" twisted as it may be, that will have women along with my two friends thinking this is the type of relationship they should be looking for.

      Maybe I'm to much of a realist or sinic but the minute one of my friends asked me "Where's my Christain Grey" it raised a huge red flag.

      Hopefully it won't have such a huge impact on what women view as an ideal relationship.

    • profile image

      whowas 5 years ago


      You are soooo right. Well said!

      The sad fact is that male chauvinism and patriarchal oppression are absolutely the pillars of the whole structure of our society. Its dark stream of abuse and distortion runs deep and wide, both openly and in undercurrents, through our educations systems, our literature, or movie industry, our religions, our private lives.

      We mustn't justify it and let it continue. We must resist, rethink, challenge and not be afraid. The abuser always conquers by fear. It is not to be glamorized.

    • BereniceTeh90 profile image

      BereniceTeh90 5 years ago

      Hey Laura;

      I was about to read Fifty Shades of Grey out of curiosity, but then I decided what's the point? I might as well just read your article and get a gist of wot it's about. Disney Fairytales are no better. Although Beauty and the Beast may have an innocent and colorful vibe around it, it is plagued with a darker undertone. The moral it sends to women is basically: "If you put up with a chauvinistic man's abuse for long enough, he will eventually change his ways and treat you right."

      But no; that's a fairytale. In real life, that is seldom, if ever the case! The Lady Gaga of the 1920s, Mae West put it right when she said

      "Don't marry a man to reform him. That's what reform school is for."

      I think that Fifty Shades is not the only form of media that maintains the male-dominant/female-subordinate pattern of gender interactivity. Men's magazines like FHM, GQ, Esquire, etc also maintain these Western cultural norms, but they do it in a more subtle way, so they can avoid getting caught. But if you read between the lines, you can get the idea. Like for instance; these magazines constantly feature pictures of lingerie-clad women posing in provocative poses. Yet the irony is, with regarding MEN'S fashion, I also read on GQ Australia that plunging necklines on men are "distasteful" and "pornographic". I find it ironic that a magazine that constantly sexualizes women left right and center in bikinis and skimpy clothing should accuse a man of being "pornographic" when he decides to show a little bit of skin. Furthermore, they say short shorts on men look "ridiculous". Well then, perhaps they have conveniently forgotten the Glee Issue of GQ? You know; the one with the fully-dressed male, with two skimpily clad chicks on his arm? It's not "ridiculous" when a woman does it (wears short shorts), so what are they trying to say? Plus; while most of the women on their covers are dressed in really provocative outfits, the men are fully buttoned-up, because apparently men dressing conservatively is supposed to be about preserving their "dignity" (according to one of the editors). So men should be "dignified", but women should not? Also, I read on this guy's blog (who is a subscriber to GQ magazine) that short shorts on men are "disturbing" (due to its connotations with homosexuality), and that men should never wear them, and that he would have to lose a bet in order to wear them.

      Yet the funny thing is... He subscribes to GQ, which is infamous for being full of pictures depicting scantily clad woman-on-woman action. So how is homosexual male sexuality any more "disgusting"?

      In other words, the mainstream men's magazine community wants to have their cake and eat it. They want to enjoy fantasies about lesbian sexuality, but when homosexual male/heterosexual female sexuality gets thrown in their face, it offends their delicate straight male sensitivities. Women have long been de-sensitized to pictures of skimpily-dressed women. Western patriarchy is very permissive when it comes to women dressing provocatively, but not so with men. In fact, many male-run establishments (e.g. nightclubs) will gladly let a woman in in a tank top and skinny jeans (for free!), but if a man were to wear the same thing... Then no entry unless he changes into something "decent"! After all, only a gay man wants to see another man's junk... Right?

    • profile image

      Melissa Moreno 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I completely agree. This book only makes abusive treatment look okay, which is not, even if you are in love. Also, makes women look weak and with low self-respect. No one should allow or accept mistreament for any reason.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 5 years ago

      I love the way you explained about the book and reminding people it is fiction.I also wondered what the excitement was all about.Maybe it was good advertising or perfect timing.Thanks for sharing and hopefully the discussions can continue to be aware of the real world compared to fiction.

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      whowas: Thanks for your perspective and for sharing! It is very interesting that this is supposedly "mommy porn." I think it's pretty much just male porn in female clothing. I suppose that's a reflection of our society, but it will be nice when porn/erotica for women can truly grow out of a female perspective and can have women as equals in the relationship.

      Docmo: I agree, the success of this book is an example of brilliant marketing. I have to believe there are dozens of similarly insipid "romance" novels out there that are of about this caliber and have similar story lines but have never seen the light of day!

    • profile image

      whowas 5 years ago

      I think your analysis of this book is spot on. I really appreciate hearing these views aired and so positively responded to. It is always reassuring to learn that even in our bizarre age in which pornography is somehow equated with sexual liberation rather than violence and oppression, feminism is still alive and well and speaking out!

      I am not a moralist. My objections to this work are psycho-social and very practical and based on the evidence that comes from a lot of research. So, I am a defender of freedom of speech and the right to publish whilst I equally defend my own right to throw severe criticisms at this work (and yes, I did a speed read through a copy a friend showed me) on the grounds of its glorification of abuse.

      Great hub. Voted up, ticked and shared on Facebook and Twitter.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      Really insightful piece on this publishing 'phenomenon'. Your views on 'violence' in a relationship are astute and absolutely spot on. Having looked after victims of such relationship in my line of work - it is nothing to be laughed at as the physical and psychological scars are too ingrained sometimes.

      As a writer, however, I feel this book (despite its questionable literary merit) is a sterling example of viral marketing and 'word of mouth' success. What started on a Twilight website as fan -fiction, was soon pulled and completed by the savvy author and published as an e-book. This is the key, surreptitious downloads of softcore erotica is much easier on Kindle and why shouldn't women enjoy a bit of titillation? This proves how much more women read, they recommend books to each other and the 'naughty' factor has just turned the book into a cult hit. Good luck to Erika Leonard. She will soon be cashing in her check for the movie deal!

      Voted up/awesome etc. well done!

    • mizjo profile image

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      Great hub, Laura. My friends were agog with anticipation over this book; I haven't read it myself and now I don't think I would care to. For one thing, I have no patience with badly written work (grammar, spelling, plot, whatever). For another, I despise self-loving, self-centered 'I am all you want', abusive jocks. And for a third, violence against another, weaker being makes me cringe.

      That Ana would repeatedly ask for more of the same (thrashing) makes her another statistic of the abused, who psychologically think they themselves are at fault and must be punished.

      This is not pure fiction, people. This is taken from real scenarios! This sort of story happens! As for the denouement that Ana and her abuser eventually develop a loving, normal relationship, now, THAT is fiction.

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Jayla: Thanks for commenting and sharing your personal experience. I wondered how this would read to someone who had been abused or in a similar situation. I think people sometimes forget how prevalent abuse and violence is in our society.

    • profile image

      Jayla 5 years ago

      I actually agree with this article I started reading it and actually was enjoying it till the spanking scene. From someone who was abused as a child it was a very hard scene to read! I wanted to jump through the book and beat the crap out of that sob! Seriously! I had to stop I couldn't stand it. If peopl knew how it feels to really be that powerless it would definitely change their view!

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Tillsontitan: Thanks for reading, voting, and commenting. It's true that this is fiction, and I think it's even enjoyable fiction for many. But, I do think as an extremely popular novel, it's interesting to look at what is says about our society/culture. The stories, relationships, and ideas portrayed in fiction contribute to societal norms and attitudes about behavior, whether or not that's it's intent.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I read all three books and enjoyed them for what they are "pure fiction". I realize your point of view, though I never thought about it that way when reading. It is pure fiction...I would hope someone reading Twilight wouldn't go out looking for a vampire.

      Even with woman's lib and our need to be equal and not subservient to anyone whether it's our partner or a boss or whoever, this is a book of fiction. It romanticizes things that you would (hopefully) never accept in the real world.

      The pity that is Christian points to a lot of things you most likely would never meet up with, a very, very rich man from a good family but one who was adopted after his neglectful mother, who let him be abused, dies. Yes, he is into S&M but is still considerate using his 'safe' word and stopping when requested. The past submissives we meet are truly pathetic women, leading one to the conclusion this is no way to live, not under anyone's dominance. Ana does not accept his dominance and fights it throughout all three books.

      Both Ana and Christian grow across these books into a normal loving relationship. Sex sells, unfortunately, whether it's Playboy or 'mommy porn'. It is hopefully a place to escape not one to get advice from.

      Voted your hub up and interesting.

    • Shawn May Scott profile image

      Shawn May Scott 5 years ago

      Absolutly, fiction can be a reflection of our society and yes the messages can be harmful. Our society has turned from the light nieve to more dark and sinicle. This has happened through our entertainment. We are raising a generation that are seeing violence as entertainment and not for what it really is, violance. This is a good topic for a forum.:)

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Thanks all, for reading and commenting. Glad to provide a sounding board about this book.

      Tammyswallow: I agree that this book won't necessarily cause people to fall into an abusive relationship, but I do think this type of popular romance contributes to people's perceptions about how to behave in relationships and send subtle messages about gender roles. As you point out, it sends the message that women should do whatever it takes to get the man they want.

      Shawn May Scott: Yes, this is a work of fiction, but I think it's important to read even works of fiction with a critical eye. I believe that fiction both is a reflection of our society, and also helps shape society, for better or worse. So, what is going on in our culture that has made this book so popular? And, what messages are people taking away from it (even subconsiously) that may contribute to harmful behavior in their relationships?

    • profile image

      parkdalear 5 years ago

      I read the book as several others have commented just to see what the hype was about. I think it is badly written, but people are reading it and talking about it, so that is not all bad.

    • Shawn May Scott profile image

      Shawn May Scott 5 years ago

      This is a piece of fiction and should be looked at that way. We often hope that members of society do not take works of art to heart as reality. Unfortunately some women live in the manner of the main character and cannot find away out of their lives of darkness and into the light. But it is a fictional story.

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      I completely agree with you.

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      I read the book because I just had to know what all of the hubub was. The whole entire time I was reading I was yelling at Ana to wise up and drop this guy. It definitely romanticizes an overly controlling and abusive relationship. For women who have a secure sense of themselves it's a harmless read. For teens or young adults it might skew their reality a bit. Good, timely hub!

    • profile image

      beaddve 5 years ago

      tammyswallow: I followed you and I found you commented this articles. (In some ways, you helped me to find this article, thank you!)

      Interestingly, I have been thinking about how Feminists think about Fifty Shades of Grey. This hub has many points which consists to my hub post about Feminism and this book.

      For some feminists, this book is just purely one kind of porno because it has highlighted many sexual intercourse in which showing people how male dominate in female. As like one Feminist, Catherine Mackinnon, "Male F_ _ks Female: Subject, verb, object". This book has some plots considered male as subjects (active) and women as objects (passive). At worse, this domination idea has been used in certain sexual activities, such as BDSM, in this book. So, my point here is: While a young girl or a young kid read this book, what are they going to think? Men should control or be active in sexual activity? Men are more violation than women?

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      There was a forum post to see if there was any good discusson going on about this book. I just finished reading it. Granted, most people won't fall for an abusive relationship because of reading this book, but WHY is a best seller?

      This is a dangerous book for young women. It romanticizes violence, and portrays a young girl who is so desperate that she will agree to this man's abusive situation because she doesn't want to loose him. The problem I have with the "consenusal" part is that she begrudingly agrees to do it because if she doesn't she can't be with this man. And.. he is only willing to be with her for three months. She is that desperate to be with him that she'd even consider being crated.

      I don't get it. I read the first book but I won't be reading the second two. Great hub and a sounding board for discussion on this subject.

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 6 years ago from MA

      Sarah: Thanks for commenting. I haven't read the Twilight series, but think I should probably borrow a copy!

    • profile image

      Sarah Hurst 6 years ago

      Really good hub! I kinda felt the same way reading the Twilight series, but that may have just been me. Seeing as how E.L. James began writing Twilight fan fiction, the similarities were overly apparent, but for some reason, I didn't like Christian as well as Edward. Maybe in my mind, Edward's reasoning stemmed from being a vampire and all the assumed issues with that while Christian is human and broken (again in my opinion). Also, my love for Robert Pattinson probably induces great bias :)

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 6 years ago from MA

      Danette Watt: Thanks for your comment. I do think that whether or not the S&M is consensual makes a big difference. In fact, that's my main gripe with the book - she has never consented, and her agreeing to the softer S&M elements come from her desire to be with this man, at any cost to herself. If she was consenting to it because it was her sexual preference, I think it would actually have been easier for me to digest!

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 6 years ago from MA

      Lovesleftovers: Thanks for your comments. It's nice to hear that there is erotica for women that does not include violent elements. I think people assume some kind of power dynamics have to be present to make it "exciting".

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 6 years ago from MA

      Jennifer Stone: Thanks for your comment. Yes, it is bothersome that this is how women are depicted, and that this is what is popular. A reflection of our society? Or, part of the cause?

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 6 years ago from MA

      Harmony155: Thanks for reading. I'm surprised by how many people think Ana is a strong character. She can't even stand up in the first scenes of the book!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Very good review on this popular book. Thanks for the spoiler alert - now I don't have to read it to find out what happens!

      I had a sociology teacher long ago who contemptuously called the "bodice ripper" books written by Kathleen Woodweiss (?) and similar authors, "soft core porn for women."

      If it were consensual would it really be any different (and there is porn - hard and soft - in which women consent to the S&M)

      The whole idea the women really want to be hurt or raped persists.

    • lovesleftovers profile image

      lovesleftovers 6 years ago from Texas

      Thanks for another excellent hub Laura! I haven’t read this particular book, but have certainly heard all the hype. I honestly had no desire to read it, and from what you say here I really don't think I would appreciate the abusive undertones. I actually write erotica (under a pseudonym) and am always sure to depict my characters in mutually agreeable situations. Thanks again for this hub!

    • Jennifer Stone profile image

      Jennifer Stone 6 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Thank you Laura for an honest and frank book review. Like you I don't usually read romance novels, and I'm not about to start I think! :-) I think you've made some really valuable points about the message these kind of novels convey, and the fact that even in this day and age it can seem acceptable to portray women as the weaker sex, wanting to be dominated by a strong man! Voted up and stuff, and sharing!

    • harmony155 profile image

      harmony155 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I agree with you, this book makes women look weak. Great analysis on this book!

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 6 years ago from MA

      Arlene, thanks for reading and voting! As I mentioned, I haven't read a romance novel (aside from this one) in a while. Maybe it is the "soft porn" element that is making sales shoot up. Too bad it couldn't be soft porn in a more egalitarian type relationship!

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 6 years ago

      VOTED UP, INTERESTING AND AWESOME. I worked for a couple of writers while in college. He wrote Westerns, and she wrote romance. She was always trying to get me to write romances, but I could not stand them. I still can't stand them. Romance sells. I hope people who read these things don't take them too seriously. Say, if you set up your characters for romance novels, they have basically the same pattern. You have that strong "manly man" taking over the woman with stars in her eyes. She has eyes only for him because he is the prize. In the case of "Fifty Shades of Grey," all the author needed to do is turn up the heat in order to get herself a best-seller. Harlequin and other romance novels are pretty tame compared to this one, so I guess it was a nice change for romance readers.


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