The Reality of a “Fifty Shades” Relationship

Truth has one shade and this is what it looks like. The mass media and throngs of women are swooning over the “love story” Fifty Shades of Grey. However, this cultural phenomenon’s impact to society will only serve to romanticize sexual violence and excuse domestic abuse.

While thousands of women are fantasizing about the controlling and abusive Christian Grey from the book, there are many women dealing with the horrors of actually living with men like him. The actions taken by Robert Bashara, 56, who goes by “Master Bob” in BDSM circles, paints a more realistic picture of how Fifty Shades of Grey plays out in real life. Bashara was recently sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife. His motive was her refusal to engage in a BDSM relationship or to consent to his having one with other women. On the surface, Bashara was a respected businessman and president of the Rotary Club, but in his other life, he brought women whom he referred to as ‘slaves’ to his sexual dungeon located under a local bar. Bashara’s own son and daughter testified against him, recounting his use of violent pornography and the controlling way he sought to dominate his wife.

Robert Bashara - Master Bob
“Master Bob—Master of Manipulation,” is the name given Bashara, by the judge who sentenced him to life in prison.

This real-life “Christian Grey” looked like a wonderful human being on the surface. But, the good job, powerful position in the community, looks and nice suits are not an indication that one is psychologically healthy or that they have a moral compass. The Fifty Shades firestorm pushes the lie that women can fix violent and controlling men by being obedient and loving. The reality, though, is that most women in these kinds of relationships end up dead, in a women’s shelter, or on the run for years.

At the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, we continually hear similar accounts of women whose sexual partner’s try to intimidate and coerce them into the violent acts that are now mainstream in pornography.

Society pays a price when we teach men to be turned on by women in pain. 89% of scenes in mainstream pornography today depict violence against women and this is spilling over into the mainstream media. As a result, sexual violence is on the rise in our military, in our best universities, and on the street. When we make violence sexy, it is no wonder that these are the consequences we face.

Porn will show you that women enjoy torture and violence and now Fifty Shades is tacking on an unrealistic fairy tale ending. It is time we speak up and stop obscuring the facts by allowing pornographers, like Fifty Shades author E.L. James, to fool us into thinking this lifestyle is attractive, harmless, and empowering.

Learn more about our efforts opposing Fifty Shades of Grey as part of our 2015 Dirty Dozen List.

The Numbers


NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.



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