Fifty Shades of Truth
by Joni Abilene
Last week Twitter had a Q&A with bestselling author E.L. James of the Fifty Shades series. From what I hear, it was a tough gig for the author. And you know what? Well done. Well done, Twitter. I do feel bad for Ms. James and I hope she understands that the reason people were so fired-up and ready to rope a bull was because of an issue much larger than a piece of fiction. The plight of women in abusive and dominating relationships has long been ignored. To her credit, Ms. James probably read a lot of those Harlequin romances which had women falling for a dominant male who then subjected her to page after page of verbal abuse, only to say he loved her on the last page. Come on, we all read them.
But, let me tell you, reading one and living one are two different stories.
Last spring I suspected my phone was being hacked. It often shut down for no good reason, became hot, apps flicked off and on, and the phone itself would flash and go wonky. My intuition told me to keep quiet instead of confronting the person I suspected of doing the hacking. But then he started saying things that he shouldn’t know. Things that weren’t important or worth knowing in the grand scheme of life, yet they were important to me. They were private. My comings, and my goings. My dreams, my goals. Business info. Bank info. When I finally confronted him about it, he denied all wrongdoing.
So I was left feeling paranoid and crazy.
That’s the thing about mental abuse: you, the victim, are often the one left feeling like the guilty party. You question facts, figures, your sanity. And then you are given flowers, or money. And the cycle starts all over again.
Emotional manipulation, gaslighting, domination. Perhaps exciting in a book, but in real life, terrifying.
When a victim goes to family or friends and tells them that they need help, they are often questioned and turned away. Because the manipulator is so efficient with his activity, and usually successful in business and personal affairs, the victim is called out for being paranoid. Or worse, you are told that you asked for it. Deal with it. If the emotional abuse has gone on for a long period of time, the victim is so mired in disbelief and guilt that she does not know who to trust, and sometimes they are afraid to get out.
It takes a victim an estimated seven times to leave an abusive relationship, and sometimes the result is violence and/or death.
So, put in the context of romance, where a female is made to submit to an older, or more financially set off, male, and not only subjected to mental and emotional manipulation, but physical violence, let’s ask ourselves what is healthy and what is not. Respected boundaries are healthy. Being able to go somewhere and not get called the second you reach your destination, is healthy. Not being questioned about going out with family on a Friday night over and over, is healthy. Having your phone hacked and spied on, is not. Having your emails read and blocked is not. Having your texts read and blocked, is not. Personally, I didn’t read Fifty Shades. Aside from the fact that it was poorly written, the concept of the book left me feeling sick. I wanted no part of a young woman being stalked, chained and whipped.
No, thank you.
But I am damn proud of my fellow writers for speaking out on Twitter last week. And I hope with all my heart that society changes its views on what is acceptable in terms of boundaries and the violations of boundaries. For instance, when I first suspected my phone of being hacked, I went to Google and typed someone’s hacking my iPhone and saw page after page of threads describing not only how to hack your partner’s phone, but the reasons why it should be done.
Let’s just get this straight: There is no reason why you should hack your partner’s phone, or computer. It is wrong, it is sick, and it is illegal.
Do you know what it feels like to be the victim of manipulation? You are scared. You often get nauseous. You are stressed out and can’t sleep. You forget things because the stress is so much that you can’t function. You lose hair. And weight. You isolate and stop seeking social activity because it’s too difficult to deal with.
You feel like a prisoner.
So, while I feel sorry for Ms. James, I am extremely glad that people are finally seeking justice and spreading light onto the victim’s side of the story. It is so often ignored.
Thank you, Twitter.