This Valentine’s Day, why not ditch the roses and celebrate by watching some sexual violence? That’s a more honest marketing pitch for the Fifty Shades of Grey film.
It’s astonishing that, in 2015, sexual abuse can still be marketed as romantic and bondage can still be defended as freedom. Yet advance ticket sales for the film have been record-breaking, demonstrating that, to the wider public, Fifty Shades is seen as little more than harmless, kinky fun.
Plenty of companies have been keen to cash in on the film’s expected success. One Australian chemist chain is giving away free tickets as a “perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day”. Others have organised screenings as fundraisers for cancer charities, pre-schools, and even White Ribbon.
Yes, someone thought it was a good idea to use “domestic violence dressed up as erotica” – to borrow a phrase from Lisa Wilkinson – as a way to raise funds for “Australia’s campaign to stop violence against women”.
White Ribbon was eventually forced to distance itself from the event, which not only involved a screening of 50 Shades, but also included a Q&A led by a “professional dominant”. To top it off, the event was sponsored by a sex shop that sells bondage gear.
This raised more questions than funds. If the film screening was supposed to promote a discussion about ending violence against women, why did it seem more like a platform to extol the virtues of sex-industry-sponsored sadomasochism? If the event really was about trying to promote awareness and end abuse, why not have a Q&A session with someone from a domestic violence service, or a centre against sexual assault?
The politics of BDSM
The key to understanding this situation is to understand the politics of BDSM – that is, the politics surrounding the practices of bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism; practices which fundamentally eroticise domination and subordination. Through decrying what is depicted in Fifty Shades as violence, and “fake” or “bad” BDSM, a defence of “good” or “real” BDSM has been spawned.
The sex in Fifty Shades doesn’t qualify as “real” BDSM, so the argument goes, because it involves unhealthy coercion and unauthorised control. “Good” BDSM, on the other hand, is supposed to be about mutual trust, pleasure and explicit consent.
This dichotomy is maintained despite prominent BDSM bloggers writing openly about experiences of rape, abuse, and harm, when consent was ignored and bodily integrity violated, even in supposedly “good” BDSM environments.
The “good” BDSM defence is evident even among those organising boycotts of the film. Fifty Shades Is Domestic Abuse, among others, plans to protest at a number of premieres.
But the group’s founder, Natalie Collins, felt the need to declare her group was not “against sex or BDSM” and that many from within the BDSM community were “concerned not just about the domestic abuse but the way their lifestyle has been portrayed and misrepresented by the books”.
In the social media discussion surrounding the film, and the (largely) feminist resistance to it, many have gone to great lengths not to disparage BDSM. And perhaps this should not be surprising when criticism of BDSM practices is now frequently met with accusations of “kink-shaming” and claims that the “BDSM community” is persecuted in the same way gay men and lesbian women were “30 years ago”.
These debates aren’t new. In 1982, the so-called feminist “sex wars” kicked-off at the Barnard Conference when radical feminists protested what they saw as the valorisation of sexual practices that harm women, in particular, pornography, prostitution and BDSM. What we are seeing now is a resurgence of the argument that engaging in BDSM is simply the expression of a liberated sexual choice that can be both empowering and transgressive.
Indeed much of the discussion today still hinges on individual choice, with the suggestion that if you choose to do something, and enjoy it, it is therefore beyond critique. But our sexual choices are never made in a social and political vacuum.
Continuum of abuse
In a culture where women and girls are encouraged to learn that sexual pleasure equates to pleasing men, even when it compromises their own physical or emotional comfort, the pleasure/ pain dynamics described in much pro-BDSM writing don’t look that radical.
In a world where at least one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence, it hardly seems transgressive to sexualise power dynamics. It just looks a lot like a continuum of abuse.
While a “liberated sexuality”, where patriarchy is magically subverted through sex-toy aided orgasms, may sound like a fun idea to some, this position is naïve, at best, and cannot seriously address the broader issue of violence against women.
As Professor Karen Boyle has wryly observed about the Fifty Shades phenomenon:
Whether individual women find new pleasure from butt plugs is not the point here. Rather, the novel’s engagement with broader debates about gendered violence and power cannot be fantasised away.
It is not enough to talk about “good” or “consensual” BDSM without taking into account the endemic levels of violence against women and the eroticising of that violence in a pornified culture.
Nor is it enough to talk about the pleasure that an individual may find in BDSM without considering the broader social context, not least the racist and misogynist origins of so much BDSM gear.
Indeed, the insistence on separating BDSM, as an individual choice, from issues of violence against women more generally, only serves to obfuscate the real underpinning of that violence, which is women’s inequality.
So maybe just don’t bother with the film at all and use your movie ticket money as a donation to a women’s shelter instead. Because while this debate rages on, many frontline services helping victims of violence and abuse could desperately do with a real fundraiser.
Full article here at the Conversation.
It's finally upon us - the long-awaited release of Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment in the Fifty Shades of Grey film trilogy. But rather than swooning, I find myself shuddering.
Image: Mike Marsland via Getty images
The 'romantic' lead is Christian Grey, a deeply disturbed individual who immediately begins stalking the naïve and virginal Ana. Christian is jealous, controlling and manipulative and has a penchant for sexual violence (this man just has 'catch' written all over him). He even attempts to persuade Ana to sign a contract that allows him complete control over her, from making herself available to him for sex on demand down to dictating what and when she can eat.
Ain't love grand?
An analysis of the first book found that the so-called romantic relationship between Christian and Ana was characterised by intimate partner violence. Using the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's definitions, researchers found that emotional abuse and sexual violence were pervasive throughout, noting that emotional abuse was present "in nearly every interaction". This was evidenced in stalking, such as tracking Ana's movements via phone and computer technology, limiting Ana's social involvement, intimidation and threats.
Researchers identified various instances of sexual violence, including Christian initiating sexual encounters while angry, ignoring Ana's boundaries and using threats and alcohol to compromise Ana's consent.
"No, please. I can't do this. Not now. I need some time. Please."
"Oh Ana, don't overthink this."
"No," I protest, trying to kick him off. He stops. "If you struggle, I'll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you."
Despite this, Fifty Shades has become a global phenomenon, inspiring a range of merchandise including lingerie, wine, sex toys, hotel packages, hardware stores selling Fifty Shades packs including rope and duct tape, and even baby onesies emblazoned with handcuffs and the slogan "I pretend Christian Grey is my daddy."
So what happens when a film series of this magnitude frames domestic abuse and male violence against women as sexy and desirable? What message does it send to women and girls, and also to men and boys? Who benefits from widespread acceptance of the belief women and girls secretly want and enjoy sexual violence?
Of course, not everyone shares these concerns. In my work with campaigning movement Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation I've engaged with various fans of the books that argue Fifty Shades is merely a work of fiction and therefore has no influence. We addressed this and other common arguments on our website.
Alarmingly, many people who defended Fifty Shades and argued it had no impact on attitudes towards women or men's violence against women went on to spout various myths and misinformation about domestic violence, illustrating a profound lack of understanding about these issues. While these attitudes and beliefs already exist in the community they are powerfully reinforced in Fifty Shades.
Fifty Shades does not depict an abusive relationship, I've been told, because Christian never beats her (as if domestic abuse is limited to physical assault). Another argument I encountered was that if she didn't like it she would leave, again failing to understand the fear, power relations and complexity at play in domestic violence situations. Others still downplayed or defended Christian Grey's abusive behaviours, claiming his stalking and controlling tendencies were evidence of how much he loved her, excusable because he was a victim himself, or irrelevant because 'he changes in the end'.
In stark contrast to the Cinderella story where (spoiler alert) the abuser can change if his victim sticks around and loves him enough, the reality is that the violence tends to escalate over time. As author Gail Dines points out, "Battered women's shelters and graveyards are full of women who had the misfortune to meet a Christian Grey."
Women's groups around the world have come together calling for a boycott in response. Collective Shout, the London Abused Women's Centre, Culture Reframed and the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation have been joined by dozens of groups in an international campaign, Fifty Dollars Not Fifty Shades.
The campaign is calling for members of the public to boycott the film and donate fifty dollars (or another amount) to domestic violence organisations or women's refuges, because in the real world, that is where women like Ana end up. Supporters are encouraged to use the hash tags #50DollarsNot50Shades and #FiftyShadesIsAbuse to promote awareness of the giving campaign.
It is our hope that people will make a connection between a culture that sexualizes, excuses, tolerates and glorifies men's violence against women and real life violence against women. How many women's lives depend on it?
See Full Article here
Kids exposed to bondage-themed scenes in Fifty Shades Freed trailers on Channel 7 during Winter Olympics
Here’s how to make a complaint.
We’ve received feedback from various supporters regarding Channel 7 broadcasting the trailer for MA rated film Fifty Shades Freed, during the Winter Olympics and at times children are likely to be watching.
The trailer included highly sexualised content, featuring a bondage-themed scene in which a woman in lingerie was blindfolded and tied up.
We’ve heard from parents whose children as young as six were exposed to this content while watching the Winter Olympics during the day- one even at 10.30 am.
There are restrictions placed on what content can be shown on TV, and when. Free TV Australia’s Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice lists several codes that apply here:
2.2.3 MA15+ Classification zone. Subject to subclause 2.3.2(b), material that has been classified MA15+ may only be broadcast between 8.30 pm and 5.00 am on any day.
2.4.2 During Sports Programs and Films classified G or PG which commence before 8.30 pm and continue after 8.30 pm, all non-Program material must be no higher than a PG classification.
2.4.4 A Program Promotion for a Program classified M or MA15+ must not be broadcast during any Program classified G: a) which is principally directed to Children; and b) broadcast between 5.00 am and 8.30 pm.
It is worth noting also that commercials for sexual services are only permitted after 11pm and before 5 am, suggesting a recognition that highly sexualised or adult content should not be broadcast during hours when children might see them.
Make a complaint
You can make a complaint via an electronic form on Free TV Australia’s website. Complaints must contain the date, time, channel and location as well as a brief description of the material. Licensees (TV stations) are required to respond to complaints within 30 days.
Have you made a complaint? Let us know in the comments.
Open letter to Autism Advisory & Support Service: Parents of children with Autism call for cancellation of Fifty Shades fundraiser
Dear Autism Advisory & Support Service,
Collective Shout is a registered charity campaigning against the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular. We have more than 30,000 supporters around the country.
It has come to our attention that AASS is holding a screening of Fifty Shades Freed as a fundraiser for children with Autism and their families. We have heard from parents of children with Autism and related behavioural conditions who are distressed that a BDSM-themed film promoting intimate partner abuse and sexual violence is being screened to raise funds for their children.
Along with survivors, anti-violence organisations, domestic violence services and women’s refuges, we have for years spoken out against Fifty Shades of Grey and its promotion of men’s violence against women. The series romanticises domestic abuse, including threats, humiliation, isolation and stalking, as well as sexual violence. We’ve recently partnered with a global coalition of groups for a third time to raise awareness of the harmful messages being propagated by Fifty Shades of Grey.
Parents have contacted us with their concerns about this event. Some have expressed frustration that a film of this nature sends the wrong message about women to their children, undermining their efforts to teach their children appropriate behaviours, rules and social norms. Others have indicated the advertising material for this film would be distressing for their children.
Concerns have also been raised about the impact on children with Autism with backgrounds of abuse. According to the Autism Society, there is strong research evidence that children on the autism spectrum experience abuse at rates higher than the general population, with studies citing physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Psychologist Collett Smart echoed these concerns in a statement to Collective Shout: “As a psychologist and qualified teacher, with experience working with children on the Autism spectrum and those with special educational needs, I am appalled that the Autism Advisory & Support Service would consider the screening of Fifty Shades Freed as a fundraising option. Celebrating a movie like Fifty Shades sends highly confusing messages to those already vulnerable.”
Together with parents and family members of children with an ASD, we ask that you cancel this screening and select a more appropriate film.
Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation
Seija Gow *
Name withheld by request
Name withheld by request
Name withheld by request
PO Box 781
Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Over the past few years we have been shocked by the dramatic rise in domestic violence. We have seen a State Government taskforce established and generous funding pledged from the Federal Government in order to put an end to domestic and family violence. Despite this the problem grows and the pornography industry thrives. Once only freely available in the online space, pornography has now has successfully transitioned into the mainstream. Just look at the Fifty Shades Franchise.Read more
"The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey is a testament to how far we have yet to come in working to end men's violence against women."
Our Campaigns Manager, Caitlin Roper, is in The Sydney Morning Herald today on 'Why you should boycott the Fifty Shades Darker movie'. The film will be released in cinemas around the country today, just in time for Valentine's Day.Read more
#FiftyShadesisAbuse and #50DollarsNot50Shades campaigns calling for support of women’s agencies
For Immediate Release
Collective Shout, Australia; The London Abused Women’s Centre, Canada; Culture Reframed, USA; and The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), USA, are collaborating for the second time to reject the normalisation of violence and abuse against women portrayed in the franchise Fifty Shades of Grey, the most recent installment of which is the movie Fifty Shades Darker. Dozens of groups from around the world are speaking out against the Fifty Shades trilogy ahead of the release of Fifty Shades Darker in early February, 2017.
London Abused Women’s Centre, Collective Shout, Culture Reframed, and The National Center on Sexual Exploitation issued a joint statement:
“Girls around the world are born into a pornified culture where consent is rendered irrelevant. In real life, men use the same tactics as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades trilogy to gain and maintain power and control over the women in their lives. This includes isolation, threats, physical and sexual assault. This is not entertainment. This is not sexy. This results in serious harm to women and in the worst case scenario, murder.”
In Feb 2017 Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment in the Fifty Shades Trilogy is due to be released in cinemas, just in time for Valentines Day.
We've prepared responses to some of the most common arguments we heard in support of the book series and film.
The second film in the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' trilogy is set to be released in cinemas around Valentines Day 2017.
As individuals committed to upholding the dignity and rights of women, we refuse to support a film that romanticises intimate partner violence and portrays the abuse of women as sexy, harmless fun. We will not participate in excusing, downplaying or accepting men's violence against women.
Please join us and pledge to boycott the film.
Add your name below.