Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Why I DON'T want a Mr Grey...
There has probably been too much already written about the meteoric success of E.L James' Fifty Shades of Grey series, so apologies for adding to the column inchage. But there is an aspect of the reaction to the book that concerns me, and I feel I need to say it...
First of all, let me make this clear: I have nothing against the books themselves, nor the success of the author. It is great that she has created something people want to read. The hype is another thing altogether, but that's just the media and publishing industry hauling themselves onto the bandwagon and is to be expected, given the success of the books. So if you are reading the 50 Shades series and enjoying it, great. I hate the 'you must/must not read this book' brigades and will defend the reader's right to choose what he or she reads to the end. Everyone is entitled to read whatever they want to: if 50 Shades of Grey is your thing, go for it.
But I am worried by some of the response from some readers. Recently on twitter, facebook, blogs and forums, there have been increasing examples of women expressing a wish that they could 'have someone control me like Mr Grey controls Ana'. One example I saw this week said: 'I wish Mr Grey would teach me how to do what he wants', while another proclaimed, 'You've got to love a man who can control you!'... Now, of course I am well aware that the majority of women who read these books understand fully that it is a work of fiction and that Christian Grey is just a fantasy figure. But there are a vocal few who seem to believe that he embodies everything they should desire in a man.
Between two consenting adults - and by 'consenting' I mean both people fully aware of and fully comfortable with the decision - the kind of sex portrayed in the book is fine. The problem comes when one person is controlling the situation and the other feels pressured into taking part. In reality, a controlling partner is not sexy. Someone who tells you how to think, feel, dress, act and react is not doing it out of love for you. They are doing it to make themselves feel better, to deal with issues they carry.
This is where it gets personal to me. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for nearly eight years, with a partner who controlled everything about me. It was professed to come from a place of love, but it made my life a living hell. Because I loved him - and genuinely believed (in the beginning at least) that he was doing it all for my own good - I spent years enduring debilitating abuse and held my silence day after day, month after month. I was always told that I 'needed a man who would take charge' - someone who 'knew what was best for me' - and I believed this. But take it from somebody who knows: a man who takes pleasure in controlling you is not someone you should be getting into a relationship with.
My concern comes from a place of understanding. I know how attractive it can appear to have someone so seemingly powerful and interested in every aspect of your life. So part of me understands why some women - and I stress some - are openly wishing for a real-life Mr Grey. But a real man doesn't need to belittle you, curb your character or control your every waking moment in order to 'show his love' for you. My concern is that a significant minority of women reading the book might think this type of behaviour is acceptable in real life. It's not and never will be. Nobody has the right to tell you what to think, feel or be except you. Giving that much power to anyone is dangerous: in a relationship it can be devastating.
It hasn't been an easy decision to write this, but nobody else seems to be saying it, so I feel I have to. If it's dismissed by most as an overreaction, but stops one woman from entering into a potentially abusive situation, it's worth it. If you are reading this and you know you are already in a controlling or emotionally abusive situation, there is a way out. Contact Women's Aid for free, confidential information, advice and a 24-hour helpline. I found the courage to leave - and life is brilliant on the other side.
Enjoy the books if you read them. Get involved with the characters in the story and see it for the fictional story that it is. Keep the controlling Mr Grey where he belongs: in a fictional fantasy - and don't invite him into your real life. Thank you for reading.