29 July 2014

No Means Yes: 50 Shades of Domestic Violence

A real man doesn't slap even a ten-dollar hooker around, if he's got any self-respect, much less hurt his own woman. Much less ten times over the mother of his kids. A real man busts his ass to feed his family, fights for them if he has to, dies for them if he has to. And he treats his wife with respect every day of his life, treats her like a queen - the queen of the home she makes for their children.
~  S.M. Stirling

The countdown to Kodiak begins! For the month of July and most of August, I’m concentrating on writing my memoir, so there won’t be as many blog posts.  Have a book-filled summer!

hen is domestic violence acceptable?

Apparently when it sells 70 million copies.

Offended by that statement?  You should be.  And yet, women across the nation seem to think that when the violence is sexual in nature and perpetrated by a sexy rich guy, it’s all good.

Because of course, what happens in the bedroom between partners is nobody else’s business.

Unless of course, it’s your neighbor or best friend, and she covers up the bruises with excuses and a brave face that hides her fear and self-loathing. 

Still,  you do nothing because  you “don’t want to get involved.”  In today’s society, we value autonomy over real freedom and blind tolerance over decency.  But to ignore the signs and symptoms of domestic violence is to silently approve of it.

That’s bad enough.  But to glamorize it?  To make it exciting and titillating? 

That is truly sick and perverted.  Yet make no mistake, that is exactly what 50 Shades of Grey does.

The Sacred Duty of a Writer
As a writer, I am very careful about book and author reviews.  I know what it’s like to pour your heart and soul onto the page and hope that your dreams and imaginings will touch at least one person’s heart and make a difference.

Even romantic fiction, fantasy, and science-fiction ~ incorrectly considered “fluff” writing by many ~ serves a higher purpose: to provide hope and escape to a reader bogged down in a mundane and soul-sucking life.

And yet, such a lofty gift comes with a heavy responsibility.  A sacred duty to your readers: to provide a well-written story, a believable plot, detailed character development, and attention to proper grammar and word usage.

But inherent in that is also a duty to reach out to them and show them that no matter how difficult their personal circumstances, if this character can overcome the odds, they can too.  Because ultimately, we read to know we are not alone.

E. James does none of this. 

50 Shades of Hack Writing
Let’s forget for a moment that 50 Shades is an adult version of Twilight (true story – it started out as fan fiction).  Let’s focus just on the story and plot, which made me cringe.  I’ll be completely honest  ~ I only read about 30% of it and that only so I could see what all the fuss was about.  It was so poorly written and ludicrous, I couldn’t finish it.

Whenever I read a new book that has several 5 star reviews and discover that a sixth grader in private school could write a better plot, I wonder who these reviewers are.  I can only imagine that the women who rocketed Shades to best seller status must be white, middle class married women who haven’t been properly laid in years, and are looking for a forbidden thrill. 

How else to describe this fascination with violence in the bedroom? 
Image Credit

It’s a common human failing, this tendency to romanticize the lives of those we consider different or beneath us.  It used to be called slumming.  

Think married women of the aristocracy of the 19th century consorting with commoners or paying to play prostitute when their other amusements palled.

Violence By Any Other Name
I wish I could tell you that writing such tripe is harmless fun.  But it is not.  It perpetuates the belief that women are nothing more than sexual playthings.  

It saddens me that in our technologically advanced society, we are still fighting discrimination, misogyny, prejudice, and violence.

This is a tough subject, but ignoring it won’t make it go away.

Some statistics about victims to put this in perspective:
2/3 had a prior relationship with the aggressor (age 18-29)6 out of 10 were assaulted by an intimate partner9 out 10 knew their attacker (college age)1 in 6  have experienced rape or attempted rape in their life1 in 4 women has had a sexual experience she did not want by the age of 30
Do you see the pattern here?  Most women who are victims of sexual abuse know their attacker.  While there are cases of women being snatched off the street by a random stranger, that type of attack is rare.

I wonder if you asked these women whether it made a difference if their attacker was rich, sexy, or apologized later.

The fact that a woman has written a book that romanticizes sexual violence just adds insult to injury.

Has Ms. James ever volunteered at a battered women’s shelter, counseled rape victims, or spoken with survivors of human sex trafficking?  

I have to wonder. 

Because when you spend even a small amount of time with these precious women, you know that violence in the bedroom (or anywhere in the home) is not sexy or exciting or worthy of glamorization.

Violence By Any Other Name
The reality is bleak, frightening, and too often ends in death. 

The following is a partial list of behaviors: 
JealousyAt the start of the relationship, an abuser will equate jealously with love. The abuser will question the victim about who the victim talks to, accuse the victim of flirting, or become jealous of time spent with others. The abuser may call the victim frequently during the day, drop by unexpectedly, refuse to let the victim work, check the car mileage, or ask friends to watch the victim. 
Controlling behaviorIn the beginning an abuser will attribute controlling behavior to concern for the victim (for example, the victim's safety or decision-making skills). As this behavior progresses the situation will worsen, and the abuser may assume all control of finances or prevent the victim from coming and going freely. 
Unrealistic expectationsAn abuser expects the victim to meet all of the abuser's needs, to take care of everything emotionally and domestically. 
IsolationAn abuser will attempt to isolate the victim by severing the victim's ties to outside support and resources. The batterer will accuse the victim's friends and family of being "trouble makers." The abuser may block the victim's access to use of a vehicle, work, or telephone service in the home.

Review these signs of abuse and ask yourself: 1) do you really want to read or watch a story that makes it look fun and harmless?  2) Do you know anyone who experiences these?

Naked and Unashamed
I am about as far from prudish as you can get.  My Southern Baptist-raised mother is continually shocked by my outlook and some of my beliefs.  What can I say ~ I like a well-written love story with detailed steamy scenes and I make no apologies for my liberal and eclectic taste in reading material.

But it is one thing to write a book that contains violence against women or children (Crime and Punishment) where the attacker is shown to be evil and justice is served.  It is quite another to write a book that tells men that violence is a turn on and even if she says no, she really means yes.

Ms. James, speaking as a writer and a woman, I am disappointed.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

"She liked a very particular kind of plot: the sort where the pirate kidnaps some virgin damsel, rapes her into loving him, and then dispatches lots of seamen while she polishes his cutlass. Or where the Highland clan leader kidnaps some virginal English Rose, rapes her into loving him, and then kills entire armies Sassenachs while she stuffs his haggis. Or where the Native American warrior kidnaps a virginal white settler, rapes her into loving him, and then kills a bunch of colonists while she whets his tomahawk. I hated to get Freudian on Linda, but her reading patterns suggested some interesting insight into why she was such a bitch."
— Nicole Peeler (Tempest Rising, Jane True #1)

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