The Conversation

No, '50 Shades of Grey' Does Not Promote Abuse

The local CBS affiliate in Cleveland reports that a new "study" by Ohio State University has found that the E. L. James smash hit erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey promotes "sexual and emotional abuse" against women. I put the word "study" in quotes because there is nothing scientific about it--just a bunch of pseudo-literary interpretations from busybodies determined to quash a racy book enjoyed by millions of women.

The study's authors applied their hermeneutic skills to the bondage sex paperback, armed with the symptoms of abuse laid down by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, such as "modifying her own behavior for the sake of fostering harmony in the relationship." (Most people call that "marriage," not "bondage.") If they had panned the book for bad writing, that might have been valid--but abuse? Come on.

These arguments are the same ones used by nanny-staters on the right who argue that pornography ought to be further restricted because it allegedly encourages violence against women--despite the lack of convincing evidence. At least those efforts involve visual media. How concerned ought we be, really, against literature that is entirely text-based, leaving the images to the imagination of the reader herself to co-create?

That's really the problem for these party-poopers--that women might be fantasizing about kinky sex, and in fact enjoying it, as fantasy or reality. The worst part of the novel, for them, is probably the fact that the main character consents to her predicament. Actually, in the end, she doesn't: she decides it's not for her. Isn't that a helpful moral lesson? Not to these would-be censors, who are enslaved to their own tired pretensions.


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