- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2015

It’s an unusual tie-in to a movie about bondage.

Hoping to capitalize on the looming opening of the much-touted “Fifty Shades of Grey” on Valentine’s Day weekend, activists fighting domestic abuse have launched a campaign urging people to donate to shelters for battered women rather than spend money on tickets to a movie that they say glorifies the abuse of women.

Real women “don’t end up like Anastasia; they often end up in a women’s shelter, on the run for years or dead,” said the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, one of the sponsors of the #50DollarsNot50Shades campaign to raise funds for domestic violence programs.

“The money you would have spent on movie tickets and a baby-sitter or movie tickets, popcorn and drinks will go towards serving victims of abusive relationships like the one glamorized in the 50 Shades series,” said the campaign’s Facebook community page. “Hollywood doesn’t need your money; abused women do.”

“Fifty Shades of Grey,” which debuts Feb. 13, is based on the best-selling trilogy of novels about wealthy young businessman Christian Grey and his new sex partner — the virginal, college-age Anastasia Steele.

Their story differs from other romances as it revolves around bondage, domination and sadomasochism (BDSM) and includes the use of blindfolds, cords, whips and hand and leg restraints as means to sexual gratification. In one episode in the book, the “dominant” Mr. Grey spanks Miss Steele with a belt hard enough to make her cry in pain, then offers her a salve and pain medicine.

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The final cut of the movie appears to have been kept under wraps, so critics do not know how graphic it is.

Ironically, reporters who saw some footage a year ago said it seemed “tame” and emphasized romance over BDSM. Universal Pictures and Focus Features “played it safe,” said writers with the Hollywood Reporter, Variety and TheWrap, adding that while there were glimpses of blindfolds, whips and masks, most of the footage they saw was of two people courting and “making moon-eyes at each other.”

Still, the film recently was given an “R” rating due to its “unusual behavior, graphic nudity, sexual dialogue, language and strong sexual content.”

A request for comment from Universal Pictures was not immediately available.

‘Tasteful and sexy’

The movie is likely to be a blockbuster: With less than two weeks to go before “Fifty Shades” debuts, U.S. ticket seller Fandango said it is the “fastest-selling R-rated title in our 15-year history.”

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The trilogy’s novels — “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” — have been international best-sellers since their release in 2011 and 2012.

In a Jan. 21 interview with Variety, “Fifty Shades” author E.L. James said she chose Universal Pictures because she “trusted [company chief] Donna Langley and her team to stay as faithful to the book as its millions of fans worldwide would expect.” The film distributor, Focus Features, “has a long tradition of bringing challenging content to the screen, so it seemed a natural fit,” she added.

Variety further asked Ms. James, who is also a producer on the film, what she thought of its love scenes.

“I was always concerned how the sex would be handled in the film,” she replied. “I wanted it to be tasteful and sexy, and I think we got there in the end.”

Actor Jamie Dornan, who plays the Christian Grey character, told Elle UK in January: “The love story is more important than the BDSM aspect I mean, we are going to tell a love story. You know, it can’t just be what happens in the Red Room — that’s not a film.

“There’s so much more going on than that,” said the actor, who has said he does not show his genitalia in the film.

Doing research for the movie showed that the “kink” community is “a far bigger scene than I imagined,” Mr. Dornan told Elle UK. Apparently, “in pretty much any city in the world that you could name, people want to get spanked with a paddle with studs on it,” he said.

Talk to youth

“Fifty Shades” makes “violence sexy” but doesn’t capture the grave dangers and consequences that can occur in real-life controlling, abusive relationships, said the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and its allies, London Abused Women’s Center and Stop Porn Culture.

Other alarming themes in the book are coercion, humiliation, degradation, stalking, isolation, manipulation, physical torture, intimidation, possessiveness, jealousy and emotional and physical abuse, they said.

Those things trouble Dr. Miriam Grossman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who has been writing a “parent survival guide” for “Fifty Shades of Grey” on her blog at miriamgrossmanmd.com.

The book and movie are hazardous to young women and men — but parents should seize the moment and talk to their children about genuine intimacy in relationships, Dr. Grossman said Friday.

All healthy living things “recoil from pain,” so agreeing to be assaulted is a terrible decision — and a healthy woman does not want to be beaten, said Dr. Grossman, author of “Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student.”

Young men also are likely to become confused by the “Fifty Shades” marketing. D Does a woman want to be handcuffed and flogged and emotionally controlled or cherished, respected and presented with a wedding ring and wedding date, Dr. Grossman said. Young men should “run for the hills” if someone suggests a BDSM relationship with them as, even with consent, it could lead to accusations of abuse or an arrest, she added.

There’s a real cycle of violence in abuse that includes periods of pursuit, “honeymoon,” buildup of tension, explosion, remorse and back to pursuit, said Amy Borst, a marriage and family therapist who is director of client programs at Laura’s House, a shelter in Orange County, California.

Domestic violence often involves codependence and complicated situations, she said. “So when somebody goes into a shelter, they’ve potentially given up everything — they’re starting from scratch.”

That’s “a scary place to be in real life,” Ms. Borst said.

Ruth M. Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Denver, said domestic violence shelters would heartily welcome donations inspired by the #50DollarsNot50Shades campaign.

People should remember “Fifty Shades” is “a work of fiction,” and it “should not be superimposed on the rest of the world and the public,” she said. “Please watch with caution.”

In an email to The Washington Times on Monday, campaign organizers said they were “thrilled with the amazing response to our #50DollarsNot50Shades campaign.”

The organizers — Jill at Stop Porn Culture and Jen at London Abused Women’s Centre — asked that their full names not be used.

“In only six days,” they said, the campaign has attracted 1,200 followers on social media and “gotten confirmation of donations to domestic violence agencies as far away as Germany and Australia.”

“People are really upset about this movie and its potential for glamorizing stalking and abusive behavior, so they’re happy to have the chance to do something positive to help offset the damage,” the women said.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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