THERE’S NOTHING “GREY” about it. “50 Shades of Grey,” E.L. James’ racy best-seller that’s now in movie production, portrays a relationship steeped in intimate partner violence, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of Women’s Health.

“The book is a glaring glamorization of violence against women,” says Amy Bonomi, chair of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University and lead author of the study. Bonomi explains that Christian Grey, the copper-headed business tycoon for whom James’ book is named, controls his young conquest, Anastasia Steele, through stalking, intimidation, isolation and humiliation. In response, Steele “begins to manage her behavior to keep peace in the relationship, which is something we see in abused women,” Bonomi says. “Over time, she loses her identity” and “becomes disempowered and entrapped.”

The trilogy is known for its depiction of BDSM – a sexual practice that stands for bondage and discipline; dominance and submission; and sadism and masochism. Despite the power differential inherent in BDSM, practitioners take the rules of consent and negotiated boundaries seriously, according to those familiar with the practice. Yet Bonomi points out that “all those things are violated in the book.”

With the generated interest in BDSM, sexuality experts have expressed concern about a popularized view of the practice that’s distorted and potentially harmful. “Lots of people read things that sound sexy in fantasy, but are not so safe or fun in reality. Or they are only fun for the technically skilled,” according to Russell Stambaugh, who chairs the AltSex Special Interests Group of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. “I do worry that new participants won’t get the education they need,” he says.

 

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What’s Wrong With ’50 Shades of Grey’ By Rachel Pomerance Berl

Aug. 12, 2013