Does Fifty Shades of Grey Glamorize Domestic Abuse?

BY STACY MATEU – Between 2001 and 2012, 6,488 American troops lost their lives overseas in Afghanistan.[1]  During that same time period, 11, 766 American women also lost their lives, except they were not fighting a war abroad; these women were victims of domestic violence right here, within our own borders.[2]  Domestic abuse occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person.[3]  Domestic violence is domestic abuse that includes physical violence.[4]  With three women being murdered everyday in the United States by a current or former male partner, is domestic violence something that Hollywood should be trying to promote?[5]

On February 14, 2015, the most anticipated movie of the year hit theaters nationwide; as of March 5, 2015, it has had a global box office total of $502 million.[6]  Fifty Shades of Grey, is a movie about an erotic relationship, in which Christian Grey uses manipulation, jealousy, intimidation, and violence to control a young woman named Ana.[7]  While millions of women around the world are falling in love with glory of Christian Grey in the movie, many women are suffering from the harsh realty that is domestic abuse.

4.774 million women in the United States experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year.[8]  At the same time, movies like Fifty Shades of Grey are conveying the message that woman can and should fix violent and controlling men by being obedient and devoted.[9]  Even more disturbingly, they are conveying that these relationships are romantic.[10]

Romanticizing and glamourizing domestic abuse has the potential to regress women’s roles in society. For example, the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey among women can convey the message to men that women want to be dominated and controlled.[11]  Research compiled by CNSN News reports that porn is linked to sexual abuse and there is a tendency for men to act out what they see in porn videos.[12]  It is scary to think about what could happen if men believed that these controlling relationships are what women want.

This phenomenon is no longer a mere frightening thought or worry.  There have already been incidents of sexual violence linked to Fifty Shades of Grey.  For example, shortly after the release of the film, a University of Illinois-Chicago freshman, Mohammad Hossain, was accused of using restraints and sexual violence on a woman without her consent.[13]  When questioned by university detectives, Hossain confessed that he was attempting to re-create scenes from Fifty Shades of Grey.[14]

Domestic abuse is a serious problem within our society.  However, if Hollywood continues to desensitize society from the harsh realty that is domestic abuse, we are bound to see a substantial rise.

[1] Alanna Vaglanos, 30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics that Remind Us it’s an Epidemic, The Huffington Post (Oct. 23, 2014, 9:25 AM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/domestic-violence-statistics_n_5959776.html.

[2] Id.

[3] Domestic Violence and Abuse, HelpGuide.org, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/domestic-violence-statistics_n_5959776.html (last visited Mar.26, 2014).

[4] Id.

[5] Vaglanos, supra note 1.

[6] Nancy Tartaglione, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Whips Past $500M at Worldwide Box Office, Deadline (Mar. 5, 2015, 11:20 AM), http://deadline.com/2015/03/fifty-shades-of-grey-crosses-500-million-worldwide-box-office-1201386779/.

[7] Dawn Hawkins, Truth about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’: Movie Glamorizes Sexual Violence, Domestic Abuse, FoxNews (Feb. 5, 2015), http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/02/05/truth-about-fifty-shades-grey-movie-glamorizes-sexual-violence-domestic-abuse/.

[8] Vaglanos, supra note 1.

[9] Hawkins, supra note 7.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] John-Henry Weston & Dawn Hawkins, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Will Lead to Spike in Abuse of Women, CNSNews (Feb. 16, 2015, 1:23 PM), http://cnsnews.com/commentary/john-henry-westen/fifty-shades-grey-will-lead-spike-abuse-women.

[13] Kevin McSpadden, Fifty Shades Grey Inspired Student’s Sexual Assault, Prosecutors Say, Time (Feb. 24, 2015), http://time.com/3719978/fifty-shades-of-grey-mohammad-hossain-rape-sexual-assault-chicago/.

[14] Id.

Stacy Mateu is a 2015 Staff Editor and the 2015-2016 Chief Notes & Comments Editor of the Race & Social Justice Law Review.

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