COLUMN: Both characters are at fault in “Fifty Shades of Grey”


Ian Stoubaugh

Ian Stobaugh, Columnist

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I decided to sit down and finally watch the first movie in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise. I originally went into the movie with the sole purpose of criticizing the practices within the movie in terms of consent and boundaries during BDSM. While I did find the answer (consent isn’t displayed horribly, but it isn’t always executed in a safe way), I couldn’t stop noticing the connection between the two main characters.

For those who don’t know, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a romance drama from 2015 based on a book and franchise of the same name (I’m only going to be talking about the first movie, though). The story follows Ana Steele, a 21-year-old English lit student who falls for Christian Grey, a 27-year-old billionaire. She finds out that Christian is attracted to her as well, but not in the same way-she’s romantically attracted to him, but he’s only sexually attracted to her, and he makes it very clear. She also learns that Christian practices BDSM, and despite being completely new to the concept, she decides to try it out to please Christian.

Throughout the movie, Christian makes it clear that she can stop anything at any point, and that if she has any limits or boundaries, he’ll adhere to them. There are times where he makes advances without knowing if she’s okay with them (which is never okay in terms of consent), but when it comes to sex and BDSM, he always gives her a chance to object. Based on Christian’s behavior in the movie, it seems as if he wouldn’t keep going or would ignore Ana’s concerns, and there have been times where he’s sure to check her comfort level and let her know that she’s free to leave. However, there has been no instance where Ana stopped Christian–even when it’s been hinted that she’s uncomfortable.

I noticed that a lot of the time, during sex with Christian, she looks mildly uncomfortable, and afterwards she obviously seems disturbed and upset. But at no point did she use a safe word, or stop to make sure she was comfortable with the scene. In fact, in the last part of the movie, she blames Christian and implies that he’s a bad person for enjoying BDSM with her. However, in my opinion, she never let him know that she doesn’t enjoy it, and always went along with what he said, which is a fault on her part. It’s clear that she knows how to assert her boundaries, as she does it quite a few times when establishing her limits. Based on how Ana keeps trying to cross Christian’s boundary of keeping romance out of everything, I’m inclined to believe that she was trying to get Christian to fall in love with her as well, which feels very manipulative and overall icky to me.

All in all, both of the characters lack healthy behavior, and show toxic behavior in the relationship. But the majority of viewers seem to put a spotlight on Christian’s behavior, and I think that just focusing on his behavior is ignorant. It’s important to recognize Ana’s constant boundary pushing when it comes to what kind of relationship the two have. It isn’t bad to have a purely sexual relationship, just as it isn’t bad to have a purely romantic relationship. It’s the breaching of consent and lack of communication that makes a relationship go bad–and I think in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” both characters need to recognize that.

Ian Stobaugh is a freshman German major. He can be reached at [email protected] or 581-2812.