Over winter break I was in the library browsing the books. I happened across the book Fifty Shades of Grey. I grabbed it, thinking that it might give me a good laugh, but I have never been more wrong in my life. It was the angriest I’ve ever been reading a book.
This book has been described as “mommy porn” but just because the book is about sex that does not justify the rape culture represented. There’s this really great little part when Ana (the main girl) doesn’t know Christian (the main guy throughout this travesty of a book) for very long. He sends her some first edition books and tells her to stay away from him (as if she were following him around. They met twice). Anyway, she goes to the bar with her friends and gets completely drunk, drunk dials Christian, and says “why’d you send me the books!?” Christian then demands that she tell him where she is, she hangs up, and he calls back and says he’s coming to get her. This guy tracks her cell phone.
But we’re supposed to be okay with this because Christian stops her friend from forcing himself on her. Personally I wouldn’t overlook the fact that this guy TRACKED MY CELL PHONE, but saving her from being sexually assaulted is commendable. Right? Well, because Ana is drunk, she passes out. Now what would any guy do in this situation? They barely know this girl, she’s passed out drunk, and her roommate is just inside the bar. I mean if I were a man in this situation I would probably find her roommate to take her home. Not Christian! Ana wakes up in his hotel room…WITHOUT PANTS! She doesn’t run for the hills, after finding out she didn’t have sex with him (because Christian doesn’t roll that way, his ladies are awake when they have sex), she has breakfast with this man instead. Is it just me or is waking up in a hotel room without pants really unsettling? Again if I were in the situation, I’d make a mad dash for the nearest police station. Not Ana, instead she makes a date with this guy and loses her virginity to him that night.
Oh! Ana, frequently refers to her “inner goddess.” A woman’s inner goddess is a representation of her femininity sexuality, and spirituality. Now excuse me while I repeatedly bang my head against the wall. Half the time her inner goddess was doing back flips or waving pom poms (I wish I was exaggerating), is when her fight or flight senses should have kicked in and she should have run straight to the police. Does E.L. James know what an inner goddess is representative of? Because let me tell you, I don’t think anyone’s inner goddess is doing back flips at the thought of being someone’s sex slave.
The worst part of this is that so many people read this book, along with the Twilight series (which also has a lot of rape culture representation) and try to model their lives after that. That is not okay! We already live in a society that teaches girls not to get raped, rather than teaching boys not to rape. What were these authors thinking? These books essentially have the teaching of “if he’s hot and he overpowers you, that’s okay.”
I admit I’ve read all of the Twilight books and now I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey, and I’m absolutely disgusted. As I girl, I grew up reading Harry Potter and I aimed to be Hermione, a smart, loyal and strong young woman who is a big reason Harry succeeds in all the books. I wanted to be her. It’s terrifying to me that impressionable young girls who are trying to find their identity, are looking up to literary characters like Bella Swan. Bella, even though she’s the main character, is static throughout the entire series. She also is completely dependent on Edward, and is just pathetic. Is this really the message to be sending young girls? You’re no good unless you have a man.
The thing is people make jokes about these books, myself included, but that’s not at all what we should be doing. A lot of people don’t realize that these books represent rape culture. Not just rape culture either but women being displayed as weaker beings. Ana and Bella depend on a man to give them some sort of identity. Reading books like these anger me because it makes me worried about the generation that’s reading them.
We so often forget what it’s like being at that awkward age where we were trying to figure out who we are. It seems like for girls, instead of getting easier it’s getting progressively harder. Everyday, young women are surrounded by impossible standards and the problems that come with a changing body. I remember that, I’m still going through some of it. Even at 20, I feel the societal pressures of how I’m supposed to look and act. Reading is my escape. Not only that but I put myself in the shoes of whoever the main female character was, and it was usually a strong, smart, and opinionated young woman. Those characters helped shape me into the person I am today.
We need to start recognizing the books for what they are: a danger. A danger to young women, who are trying to find their identity. Instead of making fun of the lack of characterization, and the dependence a woman has on having a boyfriend, we should really be reinforcing that it’s the 21st century and that women are strong, beautiful and independent and that they should NEVER strive to be an Ana (if they’re reading books like that) or a Bella. With books like these, it’s easy for us to slip into a mindset where rape culture is okay and normal, and that if you’re a woman, unless you have a man, you’ve got no identity and that you’re weak and helpless. I was lucky enough to get that message when I was going through that awkward and confusing stage. It seems only fair that every other girl gets that same message.