Dirty Dozen List 2015 - Fifty Shades of Grey header

The Problem

Fifty Shades is not a risqué, passionate romance.

It is a story of sexual and domestic abuse.

The Fifty Shades of Grey book series and film franchise cultivates and normalizes rape myths, psychological grooming for abuse, and sexual violence. In the age of #MeToo, the messages of Fifty Shades are not only in poor taste, they are socially irresponsible.

Join our campaign and take action to combat this harmful franchise as the third film in the series, Fifty Shades Freed, opens in theaters on February 9, 2018!

This campaign, now joined by dozens of groups around the world, is directed by  London Abused Women’s Centre, Canada, Collective Shout, Australia, and Culture Reframed and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, USA. See below for a partial list of other partners.


The Fifty Shades trilogy follows wealthy and powerful businessman ChristianGrey as he meets Anastasia Steele, a virginal college student lacking confidence, and woos her into his BDSM (sexual sadism or torture sex) world and “red room of pain.” The relationship maps onto what would be considered an abusive relationship rife domestic violence in the real world. Christian puts Ana under contract to serve as a sexual “submissive” and uses intimidation, coercion, humiliation, violence, stalking, manipulation, jealousy and other controlling behaviors to groom Ana and keep her under his domination. Ana is consistently isolated, threatened, and manipulated, yet she comes back to Christian time and time again because she thinks her love can change him. As the story progresses, Ana, who was first fearful and disturbed by Christian’s controlling behaviors and dark sexual practices, gradually becomes desensitized to his harsh treatment. These are hallmarks of abusive relationships.

The franchise advertises it as a love affair and erotic sex—but it’s really about grooming a young girl into a cycle of abuse, violence, and sadistic sex.


The Fifty Shades franchise glamorizes and legitimizes both sexual and domestic violence. In real life, women in these situations don’t end up like Anastasia—they end up at a woman’s recovery agency, on the run from their abuser or, sometimes, dead.

The Fifty Shades franchise sends the message to women that they can “fix” violent, controlling men by being obedient and loving. Tragically, these types of beliefs often persuade abused women to stay in unhealthy or destructive relationships. The Fifty Shades books and films are socially irresponsible for confirming, and encouraging, these incorrect myths of abusive relationships.

Public opinion makers and cultural leaders who promote these books and films also romanticize and thus legitimize the following themes as acceptable in intimate relationships: coercion, humiliation, degradation, stalking, isolation, manipulation, physical torture, intimidation, possessiveness, jealousy, emotional and sexual/physical abuse.

Our pornified culture is already affected by violent acts in mainstream porn and now, with the help of Fifty Shades of Grey, this violence is being further legitimized and broadly accepted by women. Now men don’t have to entice women to engage in the violent acts that they regularly consume through pornography because Fifty Shades of Grey is doing it for them.

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey among women sends a message to men that violent and degrading sex is what women really want. For a more realistic look at how a sexual encounter between a sexually abusive, egomaniacal multi-millionaire and a young, vulnerable woman would end for the young woman, look no further than George Soros’ hedge fund manager, Howie Rubin. Rubin allegedly beat and raped three different women in his creepy penthouse BDSM dungeon, according to the lawsuit one woman filed against him.

The details of that case are horrific, so why is Fifty Shades glamorizing this type of abuse as mere entertainment in the age of #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein? The promotion of sexualized violence against women should be intolerable in a society that strives for mutual respect in health relationships and gender equality.

Short Summary: The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy follows wealthy businessman Christian Grey as he meets Anastasia Steele, a virginal college student, and woos her into his BDSM world and “red room of pain.” The main character is a childlike, mousey, young woman, lacking confidence, who becomes the target of a powerful, intimidating, older man who puts her under contract to serve as a sexual “submissive.”

  • The story makes violence sexy. Many individuals are experimenting with these acts and relationships without understanding the dangers and consequences.
  • The story glamorizes and legitimizes both sexual and domestic violence. Now, with the overwhelming popularity of the book, mainstream opinion makers, the media, and celebrities are legitimizing this violence too. The reality is that in real life, women in these situations don’t end up like Anastasia — they often end up in a woman’s shelter, on the run for years, or dead.
  • Other themes that are romanticized in the book include: coercion, humiliation, degradation, stalking, isolation, manipulation, physical torture, intimidation, possessiveness, jealousy, emotional and physical abuse.
  • The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey among women sends a message to men that this is what women really wantMany men are already consuming material (hardcore pornography) that sexualizes violence and leads to permission-giving beliefs such as all women like violence, “no” really means “yes,” and rape is permissible. The popularity of this book only feeds into these lies and further promotes rape culture.
  • The mainstreaming of this book also sends the message to women that they can “fix” violent, controlling men by being obedient and loving.
  • Our pornified culture is already affected by violent acts in mainstream porn and now, with the help of Fifty Shades of Grey, this violence is being further legitimized and broadly accepted by women. Now men don’t have to entice women to engage in the violent acts that they regularly consume through pornography because Fifty Shades of Grey is doing it for them.
  • Domestic violence is viewed differently today than it once was. Under state laws, no one is deemed to consent to partner abuse and violence. After learning about the psychological damage the victim undergoes, society and the laws changed to reflect that consent did not make this abuse ok. It’s a very similar situation with sexual violence and one can easily argue that at least the relationship depicted in Fifty Shades of Grey follows the pattern of domestic abuse.
  • Consent is not a black and white issue, but rather spans a broad continuum. One’s ability or freedom to consent is often compromised by trauma, abuse, miseducation, lack of knowledge
  • Consent does not remove the psychological and physical damage created by this mistreatment and abuse.
  • Even among “consenting” participants, many are often coerced to continue against their will and comfort level due to the pressure to appear “into it,” to avoid alienating their intimate partner, or for other reasons.
  • Violence is violence. Sexual violence is worse.
  • Not every decision one makes is a good one.
  • The issue of consent is not the only problem with these relationships. If you take this argument away, there are still many other problems, including the long-term psychological and physical effects, the impact on the existing relationship, development of violent permission-giving beliefs, the impact to society when violence is sexualized, and more.
  • The acts practiced in Fifty Shades of Grey, in “kink” pornography, and in BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism & Masochism) relationships often violate U.S. and United Nations laws on torture. Consent is not an excuse according to these laws.

There is a media firestorm promoting this story and promoting it as harmless fun. These public opinion makers are often encouraging women to engage in this activity as a healthy form of intimacy in relationships. (Oprah, Dr. Phil, The View, The Today Show, & Cosmopolitan Magazine are just a few examples of opinion makers encouraging women to try this behavior.)

Of course people have the right to read and watch what they want to watch. However, most individuals are not educated on these issues and are buying the lies pushed in the story and by the sensationalized media.

  • We are not telling you what you can and cannot do. We are working to educate people on the facts so that they can make more informed decisions.
  • However, simply because you participate in these sex acts in private, does not make them harmless. These acts are a simulation, at best, of abuse and violence that objectifies and exploits those involved.
  • Making violence “sexy” has significant consequences to individuals, relationships, and society. Here is what some of the research says about sexually violent material and the impact to real life.
  • Just like with other forms of pornography, the user often experiences a short term “high” personally and often in intimate relationships. There may be increased sexual activity right away, but the long-term impact is negative. Pornography, which this book is, desensitizes the user and disrupts the normal bonding that takes place between two human beings. The relationship may look good for a snapshot in time, but when you look at the long term or whole picture – it doesn’t ever look like that.
  • Sexual interactions become about playing out a scene and not about enjoying your partner. People often think Fifty Shades will teach you how to please your partner, but really it just teaches the dominant one to please only his or herself.
  • The media firestorm surrounding this franchise is impossible to miss. Kids are exposed to the messages in the story simply by existing! Walking down the street, visiting a mall or even watching family-friendly television (ABC Family played the trailer of Fifty Shades of Grey during children’s shows) exposes children to advertisements for this book and film. Watching daily news shows and talk shows (which most parents have on while kids are in the room) exposes kids to the messages that this violent sexual behavior is normal and worth a try.
  • Kids are hearing about Fifty Shades and more and more are hearing the terms BDSM. Curiosity and the innate desire to be like adults will send many kids looking for answers. Considering that mainstream pornography mostly follows these themes, you can be sure that is what they will be exposed to.
  • The truth is that kids are more tech savvy and are consuming more media than adults. Of course, parents need to monitor this, but the reality is that most parents aren’t and most parents cannot keep up no matter how hard they try.

WARNING: There are graphic images and text descriptions shown in these sections.


50+ Reasons Why 50 Shades Harms

50+ Reasons Why 50 Shades Harms

  1. Website: “Fifty Shades of Grey” Harm – Violence Against Women, Mental, Emotional and Physical Abuse, Domestic Violence, Sadomasochism, etc.
  2. Twitter User: No Sad
  3. Debate (Huffington Post): CHANGE MY MIND: Should Modern Women Feel Empowered by S&M Porn?
  4. Pinterest Board: 50 Shades is Abuse – BDSM Harms
  5. Peer-Reviewed Study Published in Journal of Women’s Health: “Double Crap!” Abuse and Harmed Identity in Fifty Shades of Grey
  6. Video (Poetry Performance): 50 Shades of Dismay
  7. Website: The Harms of Sadomasochism, Sadism, Masochism, Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, BDSM, S&M, S/M, SM, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” etc.
  8. Twitter User: 50 Shades of Abuse
  9. Editorial (Christianity Magazine): Grey Areas: How explicit literature went mainstream
  10. Book: Against Sadomasochism: A Radical Feminist Analysis – By Diana E. Russell, Robin Ruth Linden
  11. Twitter List: Anti- 50 Shades of  Grey
  12. Article (Melissa Farley): 10 Lies about Sadomasochism
  13. Blog Post (Sunsara Taylor): 50 Shade of Grey: Bad for Women! Bad for Sex!
  14. Article (Forbes): Is 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Dangerous?
  15. Twitter User: Feminist Shades of Grey
  16. Website: 50 Shades of Domestic Abuse
  17. Website: 50 Shades Is Abuse
  18. YouTube Channel: Say NO to Sadomasichism
  19. Editorial: Why are Women Devouring 50 Shades of Grey? (Gail Dines)
  20. Podcast: BDSM & Feminism – An interview with Kathleen Barry
  21. Facebook Page: 50 Shades Is Abuse
  22. Blog Post: Jennifer Armintrout: Another 50 Shades Domestic Violence PSA. Now with added author breakdown
  23. News Article: Man accused of raping nurse twice after ‘BDSM’ sex encounter ‘went wrong’
  24. Blog Post: 50 Shades of Subtlety
  25. News Video Clips: Brittany Kilgore Murder by Sadomasochism People by Torture
  26. Article: 50 Shades of Anti-Feminism
  27. Blog Post: 50 Shades of Domestic Violence (cites examples from the book)
  28. Editorial: Shades of Grey: Now what that BDSM has gone mainstream?
  29. Video Interview Debate: Logan Levkoff and Dr. Drew on Today Show
  30. Blog Post: My Open Letter to E.L. James
  31. News: Fifty Shades of Grey condemned as ‘manual for sexual torture’
  32. Video Interview: What’s Wrong with Sadomasochism? Pro-feminist Ben Barker explains the Harms of BDSM & the Kink Scene
  33. For Sale: Horrifying Products Based on Fifty Shades of Grey
  34. Vlog: 50 Shades of Messed Up
  35. Editorial: Groupon’s Latest “Deal?” Torture Porn
  36. Graphic: Cartoon “One Shade of Grey”
  37. Photos: Protest Posters in Retail Shops
  38. Article: What’s Wrong With ’50 Shades of Grey': The difference between BDSM and what’s portrayed in ‘50 Shades of Grey.’
  39. Article: Dr. Drew: ’50 Shades of Grey’ pathological, poorly written
  40. Video: Debate on Broadside: Violence obscured in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ (Gail Dines)
  41. Article: Is ‘50 Shades of Grey’ Glorifying Rape?
  42. Video Playlist: Personal BDSM & Sadomasochism experiences. Domestic abuse, etc.
  43. Photo: 50 Shades Is a Reminder of my abusive relationship re-packaged as a love story
  44. Blog Post: Fifty Shades of Grey – Adoration or Abuse
  45. Action Alert: Oprah’s Network Supporting BDSM Lifestyle
  46. News Article: Fifty Shades book burning call by abuse charity
  47. Video: Shocking Cruelty in Porn Exposed – Ex-Porn Star Danny Austin Interview with Antipornography.org
  48. Book: Big Porn, Inc
  49. Blog Post: #LoveIs
  50. Vlog: 50 Shades of Ranting
  51. Article: Ben Barker: Anarchists and Torture Porn
  52. Video: How Porn Creates the John: Porn, Trafficking and the Social Construction
  53. Vlog: 50 Shades of Crap
  54. Photo: 50 Shades of Abuse Protest

Take Action

Pressure the DOJ to Enforce Obscenity Law

Public Health Harms of Pornography

Download the research summaries of studies on the harm of pornography

Tell DOJ to Investigate SeekingArrangement

Ask the DOJ to investigate SeekingArrangement for facilitating sex trafficking and prostitution.

Help educate others and demand change by sharing these on social media:


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