Wednesday, February 25, 2015

50 years later ... Why are women flocking to
"Fifty Shades of Grey"?

     By Antoinette Rainone
     Follow your dreams! Pursue your passions! Find your wings! 
     These are the mantras I've been writing about since beginning this blog a little over a year ago. 
     What's the one thing, though, that would hinder you from pursuing your life's fulfillment? 
     Being owned by another human being. 
     You cannot find your wings if they are being clipped and controlled by another person. If you allow someone to own you, guess what? You are living that person's dream for you. And it's never a pleasant dream.
     I was filled with fifty shades of dismay this past Valentine's Day Weekend. Variety magazine reported that "Fifty Shades of Grey" sizzled at the weekend box office — to the tune of $94.4 million from more than 3,600 locations over the three-day period — setting new records for a Valentine's/Presidents Day holiday opener of all time. 
     Why were so many modern women gathering their gal pals to watch a "sexy, romantic" movie about a serial stalker who controls a young, impressionable female victim? 
     Sixties singing icon Lesley Gore was a teenager when she belted out her anthem to empower women,  "You Don't Own Me." In 1964, she was ahead of her time, but women caught up quickly. However, judging by the masses at the box office, millions of real women — beyond the fictional character of Anastasia — seem to have slipped back. 
      Sadly, and somewhat fortuitously, Lesley Gore died from lung cancer on President's Day — the very weekend "Fifty Shades of Grey" broke box-office records. The two polarizing themes for women — YOU OWN ME ("Shades") and YOU DON'T OWN ME (Lesley) came to a head. The timing of Lesley's death coinciding with a movie glamorizing an abusive relationship seems to emphasize how far we've ... not come ... in 50 years.
     The majority of women did not recognize the relationship they were viewing was NOT about a "consenting couple" exploring a sexual fantasy. Rather, this "couple" consists of a serial stalker and an impressionable college student engaged in a disturbing, abusive relationship, complete with mind control that extends to every area of the very young woman's life. 
     Oh, I get the fantasy part of the plot. I get that women were placing themselves in the role of having a prince charming with his own multibillion-dollar company whisk them off into the clouds for a private helicopter ride. 
     Oh, the allure... The fantasy...
     The landing. Ouch. 
     The landing is a rude awakening to what awaits. A "Red Room of Pain" is the place where "prince charming" hurts her, and hurts her badly. But the pain goes beyond the room, as Mr. Grey controls Anastasia in every single aspect of her life. Abusers control their victims — and they are experts at hiding the abuse. That's how they con them.
     When one of my colleagues read the plot of the movie in detail, she proclaimed: "Wow. I never realized the plot contained all of this non-sexual abuse, and the movie reviews really didn't go into much of this. No wonder groups are protesting that it represents violence against women!"
     Bottom line: There is nothing sexy or romantic about abuse.
     All of us are susceptible to people whose aim is to control us. Why? Because controllers come into our lives initially portraying themselves as caring, lovely individuals. But they are con artists, and it's never long before they strategically start spinning their manipulative ways. 
     We all need to heed the characteristics of an abuser. The "real" Mr. Greys in the world employ these (well, almost) 50 Shades of Decay:
     Mind controller
     Master of persuasion
     Lures with gifts
     Lures with promises
     Uses loving words like "protect" and "provide"
     Controls aspects of another person's life
     Back-stabber who take allies 
     Twister of facts who convinces allies everything is your fault
     Compulsive liar
     Plays the victim by spinning the truth
     Master of coercion
     Criticizer who keeps his power by convincing victim she's the one at fault
     Seducer who emotionally seduces others into his subtle controls and lies
     Taker who plays the role of giving love, when in reality the abuser is all about taking, not giving
     Guilt inducer who knows how to play on the victim's heart to get his way
     Thief — through lies and cons, he gets close enough to steal one's heart and soul
     Narcissist who controls at the expense of others
     Convinces it's about love, but really it's about control
     Name caller — to confuse, convince and control his pray, he will call her demeaning names such as "selfish" or "self centered."
     Pretender — pretends to be caring and loving, but it's a cover for someone who only takes control.
     Focus shifter — know how to take a victim's focus off his controlling and cruel acting-out by shifting focus elsewhere, like a perfected magic act.
     Evil doer — abuse is conscious and evil, period. 

     Another colleague of mine, a survivor of an abusive partner, clarifies:
     "Even using the word romantic must be prefaced to communicate that not all abusive men use such 'romantic' behaviors. There are different styles of abusers. The common thread is the controlling manipulator whose behaviors purposely cycle to create confusion to control the victim. The pretend 'vulnerable or kind' behaviors return a false hope to the victim who believes that this good side, with her love or help, will win over his bad side. She doesn't know her mind is being controlled to keep her in a state of confusion and hope. The longer this cycle continues and the more she loses touch with what is real, she will even defend his abuse. This is known as Stockholm Syndrome."
     Anastasia leaves Mr. Grey at the end of the movie. Some rationalize this as "empowering for women." That might have been true if it weren't for the fact that the movie sequel is already in the works. This means Anastasia goes back to her abuser in round 2 — sadly, a common occurrence within abusive relationships. So much for the empowerment theory.

     Lesley's lyrics are all about NOT ALLOWING SOMEONE TO CONTROL YOU. Fifty years later, they ring truer than ever. 
      I'm not just one of your many toys...
      And don't tell me what to do
      Don't tell me what to say...
      Don't try to change me in any way
      Don't tie me down 'cause I'd never stay...
      I'm young and I love to be young
      I'm free and I love to be free
      To live my life the way I want...
      To live

     If you think you are in a relationship where you are the victim of control, seek help. It's never too late to break free and regain your true self. 
     Be free to find your wings. ...To live.