Heads up: This post contains a description of abuse and some profanity.
I spent over a year in a profoundly emotionally abusive relationship with a partner who internalized the idea of all-encompassing romance, isolated me almost entirely from my friends, feigned injuries and crises and middle of the night breakdowns if I tried to spend time with other people or dared to sleep alone in my own bed, physically tracked me down when I turned my phone off, self-injured to make me stay, showed up unannounced and crying at night when I tried to be alone, and threatened suicide when I questioned this type of relationship or tried to leave. When I finally left, they screamed at me that they couldn’t wait until I woke up one morning and realized how much I hated myself. They also dragged me to Twilight films, yelled at me in public for laughing at their absurdity, got out of a moving car and refused to get back in and threw a loud public scene when I criticized the on-screen relationships.
I’m not naive enough to believe that Twilight is the root of this problem. But as someone who spent a year of my life in isolation, in fear, in a really fucking dark hole that I was fairly sure I was not going to get out of and repeatedly, publicly defended to my friends and family, I know that the cultural conflation of this type of relationship with romance is bolstered by big media. It is bolstered by kids and rom-com movies, where we are told to keep stalking women into submission, to refuse to listen to women who say no, because all a woman really wants is to be won. This idea that obsession is romantic has grown up in 50 Shades of Grey in a way that its predecessor, Twilight, couldn’t. It linked this obsessive romance with erotica. It has taken what is otherwise an important book, a book that did, regardless of how, shine light on women as sexual agents with the freedom and want for sexual (and kinky) autonomy. That’s great. That’s important. But this isn’t a film about erotica. We are not talking about emotional control and consensual power dynamics in erotica anymore when this film is marketed AS romance. It is marketed for Valentines Day. It is heralded as the cultural awakening of women’s sexuality as synonymous with romantic relationships. That fucking terrifies me.
I don’t care about the sex in 50 shades of grey. The sex is fine. The non-sexual relationship, however, is terrifying. I am terrified that this film is being made, I am horrified that it is being released on a day devoted to the capitalistic consumption of ‘love’ and romance. Last night I read an article written by a woman in a formerly abusive relationship who went to the premiere intending to make fun of it and left scared and crying. BDSM, kink, consensual power play, the sexual aspects of this book should be embraced in actuality. But emotional abuse, control, isolation, constant fear, being followed and yelled at and punished is not fun, sexy, or hot. It is devastating. It took so much of my life. It changed who I am. This film is coming out tomorrow, and I am so, so sad.
This guest post is written by Meredith Loken.