'Fifty Shades of Grey' is an erotic romantic drama based on British author E. L. James's best-selling novel. It depicts the seduction of Anastasia, a college student, by Christian, a rich businessman. Young adult women who watched the movie found the relationship between the lead characters Christian and Anastasia somewhat exciting and romantic, but also expressed grave concerns about Christian's abusive behavior.
A study by Michigan State University scholars suggests women aged 18-24 years, a prime period for exploring love and sexuality, are able to recognize a harmful relationship marked by controlling and manipulative behavior, stalking and emotional and sexual abuse.
‘Women who watched 'Fifty Shades of Grey' were aware of the different aspects of abuse in the relationship. Some were sympathetic and rationalized Christian's behavior as a function of his personality, affluence and his own sexual abuse as a child, while some participants blamed Anastasia for not 'speaking up' about the abuse.’
Lead author Amy Bonomi, chairperson and professor of MSU's Department of Human Development and Family Studies, said, "The encouraging news is that these young women are identifying aspects of an unhealthy relationship between Christian and Anastasia. They were keenly aware of the different aspects of abuse in the relationship and told us in great detail the danger the abuse poses for Anastasia."
Between 24% and 44% of women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, with negative health outcomes ranging from long-term injuries to substance abuse to depression.
For the study, which appears in the Journal of Women's Health
, 35 college-aged women participated in focus groups immediately after watching 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.
A previous study led by Bonomi found that the novel perpetuates violence against women. With the current research, she and her fellow researchers set out to examine young women's perceptions of the relationship patterns in the film and what behaviors might be alarming in their own relationship.
While study participants were able to identify Christian's abuse of Anastasia, they also were sympathetic and rationalized his behavior as a function of his personality, affluence and his own sexual abuse as a child.
Further, some participants blamed Anastasia for not 'speaking up' about the abuse. Bonomi said, "This reflects a lack of understanding in society about the dynamics of domestic violence and why victims frequently stay with their abusers after making unsuccessful attempts to leave."
Bonomi further added, "This finding fits with the societal narrative that basically puts the blame back on the victim. In reality, there are many barriers and safety issues related to attempts to end abusive relationships. The most dangerous time for a victim is when the abuser finds out the victim may be leaving. It takes women an average of seven to eight attempts before they leave their abuser."