50 Shades of Grey is polarising. Most of us are perfectly happy to condemn James for her appalling misuse of the English language. Some of us are eager to point out that BDSM culture is radically different from its portrayal in the books and film and that those involved in BDSM scenes are no more traumatised or psychologically disturbed than the rest of the population. Many would argue that the end of the first book is actually a reasonable example of a woman leaving an abusive relationship, although the second book is disturbing in the way it portrays their reconciliation. It is profoundly troubling, however, that Woroni would choose to publish an article trivialising sexual assault, ridiculing consent and brushing off stalking.
The author’s first example involves Christian Grey threatening to gag and physically restrain Anastasia if she continues to resist him. They claim that this is not a rape scene – she is simply embarrassed that her feet are smelly because she’s been running. Now, I can personally attest to the fact that feet are revolting after a long period in running shoes, however there is nothing innocuous about his refusal to accept the word “no” regardless of the context. There is nothing grey about this. If you are in physical contact with someone, they ask you to stop and you refuse to do so, that is battery in civil law. In criminal law, threatening to use force or restraints is assault. No ifs, no buts, it’s a crime. If fear of restraint or violence is used to compel sex, it’s sexual assault. If, as Grey does, you break into her house first, it’s aggravated sexual assault. Anastasia’s reasons for saying no are completely irrelevant. It may be that she really was shy about foot stink but we do not knowbecause he did not ask. He could not reasonably believe he had her consent. That is assault and it is inexcusable.
On the “accusation” that Christian Grey’s behavior is stalking, let’s be clear on thing – tracking her mobile phone, which he does, is stalking. It’s also an invasion of privacy. Arranging to “bump into” someone may be, as the author claims, the action of an innocent romantic, however in some cases it is stalking and grounds to file for a restraining order. You might love someone, you might be worried about them, you might be paranoid about cheating, but you cannot track their phone or their whereabouts without their consent.
To make matters worse, the article refused to deal with what is clearly intimate partner violence. There are people at ANU who have experienced, are experiencing,\ or will experience similar relationships and there is nothing funny about it. Christian is controlling and violent. He attempts to direct Anastasia’s movements and gets angry when she talks to, or spends time with, her friends. He is manipulative and unpredictable – tender one moment and threatening the next. He displays contempt for her personal autonomy and ability to look after herself and clearly disregards her when she says no. These are classic signs of abuse, whether the author is willing to acknowledge it or not.
Sexual assault, domestic abuse, stalking – these are all loaded terms. But they are also matters of fact and law. They are legally defined and when they are not understood people get hurt, people end up in court and lives are ruined. 50 Shades of Grey is bad enough, but ignorant flippancy is worse. There is no excuse for publishing articles offering “commentary” on these issues without fact checking and the black and white law is not hard to find. Trite opinions and attempts at humor in this context can cause intense trauma, perpetuate abuse cycles and mislead those who genuinely do not know the law. It is high time our student voice published information rather than entertainment that could be funny – if it wasn’t so dangerous.
Domestic Violence Crisis Service – 6280 0900
1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre – 6247 2525
Service Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault – 6247 2525
The Board of Editors of ANU Student Media acknowledges the issues raised in the above article. ANU Student Media has always embraced diversity of opinion. Our purpose is to be a voice for all members of the ANU community regardless of their background or circumstance. We unconditionally support our published authors and contributors who are the linchpin of our organisation.
Sexual assault on campus is a serious issue and Woroni strives to hold university wide reporting procedures to account.
If you, or anyone you know, require support for sexual assault and/or domestic violence related issues, we encourage you to contact the services listed above.