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The 50 Shades of Grey Phenomenon

Updated on March 6, 2015

Troubling Trend or a Reader's Treat?

This isn't a book review or else I'd be eagerly handing out a big fat F- end of review! The book was so poorly written. To be honest I barely trudged through the first 3 chapters. I'm not the only one. I talked to several women who regularly read and appreciate good books who were very disappointed.

The character development was dismal. Anastasia (Ana) was so helpless I'd rather save an entire endangered species than take her on. Christian Grey is a boring shade of grey- an example of a typical abuser to the tenth degree. Since he had loads of money and good looks, he wasn't locked up in a prison somewhere- he was able to prey upon women with a Ted Bundy type of charm.

I found myself squirming in my seat with anticipation...for a chapter to end. When you watch a scary horror movie and the dumbest, most useless, character is practically waiting to be killed- that's what this book was like. Pure torture. The issue is readers had to wait three books to not even kill off the unsuspecting slow-witted girl (who reminded me of Ana). Instead that character (that you'd wish the Boogey man would hurry up and finish off) made friends with the Jason-like bad guy and began an unconventional romance devoid of chemistry. Match made in heaven (please note sarcasm).

Instead I'd like to discuss the greater picture here; a troubling trend and an impact on our society possibly. More disturbing is not the impact but a result and reflection of where our society is already at. There seems to be people completely against this book or fervently for it. Either way, these are for the most part opinions. Is there anything substantial that helps us decipher the grey world depicted in 50 Shades of Grey.

No Prude here

Let me begin by saying I'm in no way a major religious fanatic, a feminist, or even a prude. I've read my fair share of romance novels with erotic themes. My point of view is from a psychological one. With a background in psychology I decided to delve into this topic further because, not having come from abuse myself, I was extremely uncomfortable trying to read this book.

First, I realized it wasn't the writing that sucked people in. The Twilight novels were a phenomenon, but were at least written very well with excellent plot and character development. The "Romantic" element in 50 Shades was BDSM (Bondage, Dominance, etc). Christian Grey was the main character in the book and had an abusive childhood which created his twisted fantasy world he wove into real life. His "interests" stemmed from abuse. The fact that "normal" women are flocking to this is obviously morbid curiosity.

I'll be the first to cheer for women's sexuality. There's a focus on men's needs and women's bodies that our sexual being (and brain where are largest sexual organ resides) has been ignored for a very long time. Visual images in movies and Internet are reflective of men's preferences, rarely women.

Romance novels are a wonderful outlet for women and stroke our brain/love muscle. I'm certainly not against that. I am against abuse and the sensationalizing of it by mainstream media. I am against any woman who would willingly subject herself to a whole series of these books and somehow justify it as innocent entertainment. I am curious as to why this book became a movie when the purpose of the book is to appeal to women's imagination, getting our brains aroused. The visual of the movie is not necessary.

Lack of accuracy is disturbing

BDSM groups were riled up by the lack of accuracy portrayed in this book. There was no respect for certain elements of BDSM and especially the "safe" word which releases someone from the acts immediately- no questions asked. Mr. 50 Shades of Christian Grey further condemned Ana for using the safe word. In addition is the lack of "after care" required in those types of relationships- this is a cool down period of reassuring the other person they are loved and taking care of them physically and mentally, Along with other inaccuracies it has become more abuse than sexual or romantic.

We must realize people will believe this is OK (saying no may not mean no) which goes against the protection of our women in society. Already rapes are occurring due to people copying ideas and misguided notions from this book. Since women are popularizing it, this can be misinterpreted as women "like it rough". Not exactly the message we want to send.

Clearly fantasy
Clearly fantasy
Borderline: Too realistic
Borderline: Too realistic

Fine Line Fantasy

The content of the book is not meant to be realistic but it's what I call fin-line fantasy. If I read a romance novel with the same subject matter but it's between a vampire guy and a shape shifter woman, myself (and most others) would be less likely to connect this to reality. It's definitely fantasy because no one has proof of vampires or people who can shape shift.

The 50 Shades of Grey book is purely fictional and meant to stimulate our need for fantasy, the content matter walks a fine line between fantasy and fiction. It can easily be applied to the real world and not that far of a stretch from anyone's imagination. The issue is it seems realistic and if it were applied to really life could seriously hurt someone because the methods in the book are not correct, hence the fictional aspect.

You and I may know the difference, but there's a large population of mentally disturbed and younger folks who may not see the difference and be the most likely to be influenced by this subject matter. The complacent attitude that people have is what leads society in a gradual direction of desensitization. We aim to move forward and 50 Shades of Grey simply isn't progress in the right direction.

Welcome to Narcissism; Population 1

Buying into this phenomenon is purely selfish. When conversing with a group of several ladies (all mothers) over a social media forum, I was met with comments such as:

"This is up to their parents and mentors to instill in them the values that are important."

I suppose the idea of 'It takes a raise a kid' is severely outdated, but as a parent I feel it's my role to set an example for my children, look out for other kids (I may know or not know) hoping others would do the same, and also be a role model. Many kids and young adults do not have positive relationships in their lives. Are they my kids? No. Do I still care? Yes. Imagine if the military one day said I'll fight for me and my family but to heck with the entire country. We're super lucky they care about the country as a whole.

"I read it. I enjoyed and had no problem with it." or "If you have a problem with it don't read it."

People think if they personally have no issue with something, there is no issue. There are other people other than us or the wonderful kids we've raised. We have a responsibility to our society.

Slavery was popular at one time but there were a select group of people who stood up against it who were not popular. I'm sure slave owners said if you have a problem with it don't own one. I'm ONLY referring to the mentality. I'm not going hungry so does that mean I should not think about those who are homeless and hungry? It's not right to stand by and go along with it or do nothing.

This mentality is Group Think, a psychology theory. Groupthink occurs when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation. It causes individual members of the group to unquestioningly follow the word of the leader and it strongly discourages any disagreement with the consensus. The women in this conversation all agreed with the "leader".

"They (my kids) have watched several questionable movies and know that it's a movie. Somebody wrote it. Neither one of my children stand for abuse even if it was "cool" in a movie."

When rape occurs (as it has already) after this book and movie release, does EVERYONE know it's fictional? The fictional element in this book is mostly how they portrayed abuse as BDSM lifestyle- it is not typically. You may have raised your kids to distinguish between reality and fiction but it doesn't prevent your kid from being attacked by someone who doesn't know the difference.

Whether you like it or not your kids, my kids, are all affected by what they see, hear, and society in general. Abuse doesn't discriminate. It happens to adults who have ideal childhoods. It happens to confident people. Abusers such as Christian Grey in 50 Shades, stalk their prey, lower their victims' self esteem, intimidate, and alienate them from friends and family. If you think you or your kids are immune, you're wrong.

When I asked what the ladies thought of the provocative advertisements and sensationalism of the book, not one replied. NOBODY (mothers, women) had anything to say which by default condones the actions. Sad, very sad. Being mothers themselves, I'm disturbed they'd ignore this and justify it until they're blue in the face simply because they read it and are OK with it.

Inside a Victim's Mind

Abuse is irrational and it's normal to rationalize it. A victim gives excuses. A reader of 50 Shades of Grey can justify this story of abuse because it has a happy ending. Similar to Christian Grey, abusers have perfected the art of manipulation and coercion. Mr. Grey had a tracking device on Ana's mobile devices and car. He also controlled everything she did. If 50 fans want to justify this as consensual sexual relations, it wouldn't stand up in a court of law. It would look a lot like stalking and abuse.

Some comments made by readers:

"The choices were consensual. I didn't read it as abusive."

"I look back at the story and there are some great life lesson takeaways about love, relationships, overcoming past trauma."

"This book, although controversial, isn't telling the reader that being abused is okay..."

More than a book

It's not "just a book" anymore. Unfortunately enough women jumped on the bandwagon and 50 Shades of Grey became a phenomenon rather than a book on a shelf. How did it become a phenomenon with millions of other books with similar scenes and themes have been written before this one- and better written I might add?

It's now permeated our mainstream media, being mentioned on daytime TV talk shows, home and garden newsletters (I don't grow grey gardens- Blah!). It is even advertised on mainstream media sources and between early evening TV shows. The movie trailer is provocative and catches the attention of young viewers.

It became more than a book for good reason. For ages men have been tantalized through media and a media base geared toward the visual creatures they are. We've supplied them with eye candy, stimulating and satisfying an urge for what drives them. However, women have been left behind. We get to cozy up with a soft romantic film or get involved with the intense story lines in soap operas, but typically it's not as sexual in nature. Let's face it women have needs too.

The book was originally advertised as a tool to spice things up in a woman's private life/bedroom. It may be misinterpreted that this book can stimulate a woman's desire, but the content itself is not likely exactly what she desires. I think a book about sleeping and free childcare would be appealing enough to add spice to the married-with-children women. Honestly I don't thin it's desire women lack, it's time...and sleep...and time away form kids and work.

Can't Undo an Oops!!

Have you heard the old cliché- You can't un-see what you've already seen? From a psychological perspective this is not a cliché, it's the truth. We often don't realize how we are processing info as we come by it. It happens so fast, only our subconscious absorbs it, where most of us have little awareness or control over.

Relationships expert and international bestselling author, Esther Perel:

"I Had an immediate concern on seeing a television ad for the movie, 50 Shades of Grey. From a parenting perspective, I am concerned about children’s exposure to visuals and messages that a) they are too young to understand and that b) are so graphically explicit.

The television advertisement for the forthcoming film is purposefully provocative, but given that children and teens may and some surely will see it, it seems a misstep and irresponsible on the part of the film’s producers.

Children are exceedingly impressionable. We know, for example, the negative effects violent video games have on children’s behavior. When there is a tragedy such as the one in Newtown, Connecticut, parents are advised to use discretion and limit how much access, if any, their young children, preteens, and teens have to the news coverage.

Tantalizing promotional efforts of the sort in the commercial skew ideas of sex and healthy sexual relationships. I worry these images will warp young people’s sense of sex and what will be expected of them. Yes, in a mere 30 or 60 seconds."

Whether or not it was the intent or negligence of the 50 Shades of Grey film producers to lack discretion when advertising or attempt to protect young viewers from exposure to it has been the big "oops". As parents it is up to us to teach our children and shield them from inappropriate subject matter. If we buy into it, we're part of the problem. It's extremely difficult when something this has become a phenomenon.

A study in the Journal of Women's Health, which claims young adult women who read the book are more likely to replicate the behaviors of people in abusive relationships. The theme of this book, being advertised so carelessly, correlates with thoughts of rapists, abusers, and molesters. Lines in the book are uncomfortably similar to phrases that mental health professionals have heard uttered by rapists, etc.

Your thoughts

50 Shades of Grey:

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    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 2 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I couldn't agree more Kylyssa

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      Fifty Shades of Grey goes down in my personal history as the book so poorly written and unappealing I couldn't force myself to finish it, or even to get very far into it. I really, really tried because I was desperately curious as to why the book was selling like hotcakes.

      I love erotica, but, in my opinion, 50 Shades isn't erotica, it's abuse fetish writing with a side order of wealth worship. For something to meet my criteria for erotica, it must be about consensual relationships and activities between adult people. Not even vampires and werewolves make positive portrayals of abuse or rape into erotica in my opinion.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 2 years ago from The Great Northwest


      I understand your viewpoint. I didn't see where you addressed the publicity of this book and movie on mainstream, nearly on every daytime show, and early evening trailer commercials where kids have access to it.

      Let people read what they want to; my "snobbery" about the book was just a point to make as to why this book garnered the commercialism that it did. Why would my 7 yr old daughter need to see the trailer to this during a family friendly early evening show. I've been reading these types of books long before this one arrived so the subject matter isn't what's the matter. It's basically the overzealous publicity of it.

      Granted the car stunts in Fast and Furious should not be tested at home but who do you know has access to those types of cars and a parachute to drop them down? Seriously?

      But how many young people/teens have access to duct tape and rope at a hardware store. To give explicit and realistic guidelines that are actually dangerous to even those who participate in BDSM is stupidity. I've read better than this, but many involving vampires or shape shifters (that's fantasy). The only reason this book sold so many was the commercialism which I am strongly opposed to. Without the commercialism of this book it wouldn't have sold that many nor been a movie. There's a lot of sheep in our society.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 2 years ago

      You've made some excellent points here. Voted up and interesting!

      In a free society people have the right to read whatever they want or see whichever movie they want to. I've too heard that the BSDM community stated the movie was not "realistic". However we must keep in mind movies aren't realistic! I recently saw a trailer for Fast & Furious 7 where cars were parachuted from a plane to earth and driven the moment they hit the road. There should have been a popup on screen that read:

      "Please don't try this at home."

      Over the years I've observed that whenever an individual's taste in books, movies, clothes, or whatever is not in step with whatever is the "hot" at the moment there is always a groundswell of people who feel obligated to not only shred the subject but also those who enjoy it.

      Instead of adopting a "live and let live" attitude there's a hint of snobbery they emit by telling others what they enjoy is tasteless.

      Life is a (personal) journey.

      You said: "I am curious as to why this book became a movie when the purpose of the book is to appeal to women's imagination, getting our brains aroused. The visual of the movie is not necessary. "

      Although I've never read the book it makes commercial sense to make a movie based on a book that's sold 50 million copies!

      Judging by the worldwide box office earnings of $500M for a movie that cost $40M to make it seems like Hollywood made the right call.

      Trust me when I say this any guy who went to see the movie was most likely dragged there by their wife or girlfriend. I suspect there were lots of women who wanted the "visual". :)

      In recent decades I've observed that more women are embracing sexual tastes and behavior that was once considered part of the male domain. "Naughty sex toy" parties are thrown by women the way Tupperware parties used to be in the 1960s and 70s. There are strip clubs geared towards women patrons and many young women idolize female celebrities that use sexual empowerment to earn millions of dollars and fame; (Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Madonna, Britney Spears, Rhianna, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez & Iggy Azalea had a very popular video called "Big Booty").

      At the rate things are going there will no longer be a "double standard" when it comes to male and female sexual behavior because society will come to accept the as "equal" in this area.

      I imagine prostitution will be legalized in the U.S. within our lifetime.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 2 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Jeanine, there are certain biological needs that aren't getting met in our modern society. Women are probably, as you say, craving those needs. A man to take her out of her comfort zone when we spend nearly 24/7 of our lives creating a comfort zone and living in it day in and day out.

      As far as women have come to be "equal" it has absolutely left a void in our lives for the female instinctual need for "being handled" by a man. really, submission is a release in itself. On that note, I wished the book had handled it more eloquently and gave more exciting details of that intimacy rather than the nitty gritty of the BDSM lifestyle. It was a story of letting go, but a typical modern strong female character would have been a better choice and represent the ladies of today. It's not exciting nor difficult to overpower and control (as Mr Gray did) a meek and soft naïve woman with lack of personality.

      Yep I absolutely agree with you in The Man, or God in our lives and what he represents.

      Thanks for stopping by dear!

    • profile image

      jeanine 2 years ago

      There is another point that may be in play here. I haven't read this book nor will I more than likely spend the time to pick it up... I have a few friends that have read it and there are varying degrees of like and dislike. Yet with that being said, I do however believe most of us are so hungry for our husbands to be more involved in our lives sensually that we are open to trying to the problem. So often I see hubbies lack of deeper intimacy as my problem to fix, instead of a challenge he may have brought to the table in the first place... I blame myself for not seeing it earlier, or what did I do the make him stop at this point or what can I do to regain his attention that I for some reason need so desperately at times..... I believe this angst that each of us carry has created a great void or divide in our emotional health as women. I know in my own life, I have a very strong desire to be handled, and guided by a strong loving hand. Not like the little I've read about what Mr Grey would do but a loving, guiding caring guy like I'm sure I married... 43 years married, forty six together, and I still sigh when my husband walks by. I say it's our own fantasy of what we believe we deserve as women, is there one of us who doesn't desire more intimacy, not sex girls but true intimacy. A husband who truly cares in ever area of our lives, take children for an example... I know I wished so many times there had been more understanding on his part, or that he would just take a moment to play with them and help them understand who he was at the time my babies were small. are there any of us who don't need more understand of how we feel, I for one don't need him to fix it for me, I just need him to care and try to understand the complexity of being a mother, wife, woman, lover, friend, overseer and in general an all around encourager of everyone in the household.... notice I left out the most important one.... I need him to understand... I'm a girl.. and

      The lack of a strong, loving hand guiding us as women has created this book, I'm sure. We all long for that God like love deep inside, whether we can admit it or not... I'm older now so I admit it.. when I was younger, I would smack you if you mentioned anything that I just but alas, it is true, what appears to have happened is, the men on a whole in this society are wimps, sorry to say it but here it is... wimps in their handling of our needs... God did I just say that out loud... so we as their wives are looking so intently for them to win that we are willing to give anyone with a backbone a chance, even to the point of this Mr gray fellow, the abuser he is... he offers this God like control that we all know we need, but for some reason most of our husbands do not see it, or if they do, they misread it as we want to be controlled, which is not gonna I believe as wives we are looking for that guy, or I know I was looking for that guy who had a plan, and could implement his plan without hurting me or my children... are we over expectant in what men can do..probably but, we gave and continue to give them our best.... hopefully we will help them know us and hopefully we will be interesting enough that they want to know us... I for one wished, I didn't always try to fix it... what it that really about, why do I want to fix it...

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 2 years ago from The Great Northwest

      exactly my thoughts baybpnk!


      Unfortunately the hoopla got me to buy the first book when it came out- BIG regret!


      thanks for the "awesome"! great point about young men (and even women) believing this depicts some sort of ideal or sexy relationship. So many people I talked to think they don't have problem with the distinction between real life and fiction but the popularity of this book makes it within the reach of younger folks who don't always know the difference.

    • baybpnk profile image

      Nicole 2 years ago from Michigan (the Mitten), United States


      Now that does not surprise me at all! It's horribly written and an English major, like myself, would be editing the writing while reading it. The content is not my flavor either, though.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 2 years ago from The Great Northwest


      I am baffled as well my friend. There have been many more books written with similar themes that were actually better written so I wondered why this one got all the publicity.


      Thanks for stopping by. Yep, the book or movie isn't worth it at all.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 2 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Martie Coetser

      Great to hear from you!! My long lost hub friend. Yes I agree- money wins. It reminds me of a quote: "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

      ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

      It just shows we've lost our values. It's far down the rank of everything else so you've got to wonder where is it all going from here.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 2 years ago from The Great Northwest

      grand old lady

      Glad you could read this before wasting your money on the book or movie.


      I am as baffled as you that women are all over this book and movie. It's crazy. I had no idea what the books were about, I just feel for the press when the first book came out. TV shows were stating it was a "liberating read" and other great stuff for women. I read 3 chapters and I was shocked. Really shocked this was raved about. It would scare me away from men and relationships for years if I wasn't already married.


      You're the second English major that gave it 2 thumbs down. My friends who read a lot couldn't stand it and the friends who don't read much were were fine with the book. Ha! 3 chapters is exactly where I got to.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Well, now that I know, I'm glad I never read the book or watched the movie. Very straightforward article:).

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      It baffles me what the craze is about with such a sinister, sick plot. I don't care if the book was written well or not, it is a sick story line, glorifying abuse, sadistic sexual behavior, and the victimization of a vulnerable woman. I did not read it or see the movie. But I've read a few articles and the press on it and it sickens me to hear women raving about it. Not the men, the women. When the books first came out I had several women friends post on facebook how awesome it was and they couldn't wait till the next book came out and the movie.

      I would call it 50 shades of perversion. I am sad so many women find it so titillating, and to such a degree.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 2 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent point of view!

      I have heard enough of 50 Shades of Grey to have no desire whatsoever to read the book or watch the movie.

      Sex and violence seem to be a best seller, and sadly money is the only thing most publishers and movie producers wants. They don't see themselves as educators or promoters/protectors of human norms and standards.

    • baybpnk profile image

      Nicole 2 years ago from Michigan (the Mitten), United States

      I dislike the entire series. I have a Bachelor in English and tried to read the first book, but it ended up in the garbage after the first 3 chapters (I was trying to give it a fair chance).

      That is NOT love and it's sad that so many people think it is.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      It's stunning that such a poorly written book became a bestseller and then a movie.

      Excellent work!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I am not interested in the 50 Shades of Grey. Interesting and insightful.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Great article. I didn't and wouldn't read The Fifty Shades of Grey book. There are far better books out there to read that conveys relationships in a more creative and positive manner. I really don't understand the hoopla regarding this book at all.

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 2 years ago

      Great article. Maybe there is a reason why had no interest in reading the book or seeing the movie.

      Anyway, I do believe that young men are dumb enough to believe that pornography is the real deal.....that women like it that way. Thus, the explosion of rape on college campuses. If everything you say about the book and movie is true---and I have no reason to doubt that it isn't, then this is just one more horrible example of Hollywood's irresponsibility towards young adults. Thank you for writing this piece. I am thrilled that you have spoken up. I wouldn't expect anything less from you.

      Voting awesome.