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Jessica Hayden

50 Shades of Abuse

Author:

By Jess Hayden

Trigger Warning

Before I start on why exactly it is that Fifty Shades of Grey is a sexualisation of an abusive relationship, I need to clarify something: I shouldn’t have to. The examples of abuse are abundantly clear, and I am continually dismayed by the sheer amount of people who see the trilogy, or the film, as sexy. I also find it offensive that the film was premiered on Valentine’s Day. This film has nothing to do with love, or healthy sex. It’s about a manipulative control freak who stalks a woman, then makes her sign a contract which gives him complete control over her life. I genuinely fear for the people who have missed all these signs, because it demonstrates how easy it is to miss obvious signs of an abusive relationship.

The story begins with Christian stalking Ana, travelling three hours from where he lives, to see her at work. He admits to having stalked her to find out where she works (sorry for the spoiler, it’s in the second book), then asks her out. When on their first date, Christian informs Ana that she can only call him “Mr. Grey” or “Sir” whereas he can call her “Ana”. Alarm bells should be ringing. Firstly, that’s an incredibly creepy thing to do on a first date, and secondly, he’s clearly trying to intimidate her and ensure he holds power over their relationship. He proceeds to tell her Ana that she “should find him intimidating”. This guy is not sexy, he’s creepy.

Sometime after this first date, Ana is out celebrating finishing college with her friends, something she is completely entitled to do. She pocket dials Christian by accident, and in classic Christian Grey style, he demands to know where she is and what she is doing. This is alarming, bearing in mind they had only been on one date at this point. Illegally, he traces her phone calls to find out where she is and goes to collect her. This is not romantic. She specifically told him not to, and hung up the phone because he was pestering her. Instead of taking her back to somewhere she would feel safe such as her house or a friend’s house, he takes her back to his hotel room, after she’s only met him twice. This relationship is not necessarily abusive yet, but the controlling behaviour of Christian forebodes the control he will force Ana later in the story.

The next morning, she awakes confused and asks if they slept together, having no recollection of how she got there. Christian tells her they didn’t sleep together, but also says “If you were mine, you wouldn’t have been able to sit down for weeks after the stunt you pulled last night”. By “stunt”Christian is referring to Ana going out with her friends and celebrating her success. I for one did not realise that drunken pocket dialling people was illegal or deserved punishment. What is illegal though is tracing someone’s calls and stalking them. It should also be clarified that at this point in the book, no mention of BDSM has been made, so this dialogue cannot be interpreted as anything but an open threat. By now, alarm bells should definitely be ringing.

Christian demands an unhealthy level of control over Ana. In chapter 10, Ana’s friend Jose calls, which Christian interprets as Ana cheating on him, telling her he “doesn’t like to share”. She’s not a possession, nor does she belong to anyone. Ana just so happened to be talking to a human who just so happened to have a penis. No person in a healthy relationship should demand that control. It’s all downhill from here.

Subsequently, Christian asks Ana to sign a contract to “stop all this”. When Ana asks what Christians means to stop by this contract, he replies “you defying me”. Forget his money or his looks for a moment and see what is actually happening here: A man is asking a woman to sign a contract which restricts all her freedom and makes her completely submissive to him. If you need any proof of this, in the contract, Ana is referred to as “the Submissive” and Christian, “the Dominant”. No loving, healthy relationship has one partner asking the other to sign a contract giving away complete control to the other. Nor is this BDSM. BDSM refers to control or dominant/submissive power roles exclusively in the bedroom and does not go further than their sex lives. This is not about BDSM, this is about control and abuse. One of the clauses in the contract which particularly infuriates me is Clause 9:

“…the Submissive is to serve and obey the Dominant in all things. Subject to the agreed terms, limitations and safety procedures set out in this contract or agreed additionally under clause 3 above she shall without query or hesitation offer the Dominant such pleasure as he may require and she shall accept without query or hesitation his training, guidance and discipline in whatever form it may take.”

Ana is being asked to sign a contract to establish herself as subservient to Christian, having to endure all sorts of abuse from him. Yes, she signs the contract having read it, but I think this is coerced consent. She says herself “He’s dangerous to my health, because I know I’m going to say yes. And a part of me doesn’t want to”. Fair enough, at this point she hasn’t said no to him directly. But also remember the controlling, intimidating tactics he’s used on her so far and consider whether she really had a choice. Later in the story, when Ana threatens to leave and go to Alaska, Christian tells her “Alaska is very cold and no place to run. I would find you. I can track your cell phone – remember?”. I don’t believe that Ana has any freedom to say no, and this unfortunately leads to Christian taking ultimate control of her body and raping her.

Christian turns up at Ana’s house unannounced and aggressively tries to seduce Ana. Ana clearly tells him that she doesn’t want sex, “’No, I protest, kicking him off”. However, Christian, having no respect for Ana’s wishes, replies “If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet, too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.” He then continues to have sex with her despite Ana clearly saying “no”. Despite the contractual agreement of consent, Ana says no, and Christian proceeding to have sex with her is indisputably rape. However, as Ana enjoys the sex, the reader and audience is supposed to ignore the fact that it is rape. E.L James seems to think that portraying a woman experience sexual gratification whilst playing a subservient role to a man is some kind of feminist empowering message.

All of this having been understood, I appreciate that this is a fictional story and I am not necessarily condemning the author or the production team for producing such a disgusting story line. However, I am appalled by the ridiculous response to it. Perhaps it’s a consequence of such a pornified and shallow culture, that we see a man abusing a woman, but are too distracted by his abdominal muscles to realise this is happening. Without the sex scenes which draw so many readers in, this is a story of an abusive man controlling and dominating a virginal, vulnerable woman.

50shades

A Christmas Wrapped In Rape Culture

Author:

By Jess Hayden

Trigger Warning

Christmas shopping. Love it or loathe it, it’s an activity which most of us will be partaking in this Christmas. The annual dilemma resurfaces – what to buy the sister who’s hard to find gifts for? Will Dad appreciate another pair of socks? Does Mum even like scented candles? Many companies will lure you in with unique gifts for your loved ones, but one website in particular has left me shocked and offended. There’s no easy way to say this, Cafepress.com has a range of Christmas themed presents, designed by members of the public, with “rape” written on them.

My first thought was, who would even buy it? Is there honestly a market for pro-rape merchandise? And then I realised, it’s all a bit of a joke to them. The designers, and the customers, all find this a bit amusing. This isn’t about wearing a T-shirt to offend p
eople – I honestly don’t think anybody would seriously wear one outside the house. Instead I think these are Secret Santa presents, novelty joke gifts which are meant to be amusing.

Well personally, I don’t buy it. I don’t think it is ethically right to trivialise rape to the extent of a “today I feel raped” bumper sticker, as if rape is somehow synonymous with a feeling like “tired,” or even a baby-grow with the word “rape” written on it.

If these T-shirts are so funny and light-hearted that I get told I’m over-reacting for tweeting about how much this has offended me, then we are defending rape-culture. We live in a society where many people will happily declare they just “raped” their friend at FIFA, or could “rape a full English”, yet as soon as a victim says they’ve been raped, you’ll find many of the same people shouting “over-reaction” and “liar”.

rape, baby clothesI’m not linking these products with an increase in rape, but when in England and Wales a woman is raped every 6 minutes, I think it is far beyond a joke to trivialise such a violent crime. It mocks the victims, encourages shame and is just completely ethically wrong.

Here at Powered by Girl, we decide to stand up for what we think is right and we encourage other young people to do the same. Therefore, we have just launched a petition – asking Cafepress to censor what they sell before selling it. Sounds pretty obvious, but this is something Cafepress are still not doing. I had to send them images of some of the rape-glorifying merchandise for them to delete, and to be fair to them, they did delete the content almost instantly. However, we believe strongly that these products shouldn’t have been on the website in the first place, and Cafepress should censor the products before they appear on their website.

So we ask you to please sign our petition and share it with your friends.

Thank you.

https://www.change.org/p/fred-durham-stop-glorifying-rape-and-violence-abide-by-your-content-usage-policy-by-moderating-content-before-it-goes-live-on-your-site

Chalk and Cheer for 44 Years

Author:

By Jess Hayden

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Today marks 44 years since The Sun started having a topless woman on Page 3. This means that, for 44 years, The Sun have sexually objectified women to the point where the easiest way for a woman to be in the newspaper is to stand with her breasts out. What does it teach people – of all genders about women, if the biggest photo of a woman in Britains most popular “family” newspaper is a topless one? It teaches that women exist purely to be looked at.

At No More Page 3, we say this is 44 years too many. So, to mark the anniversary, we decided to protest yesterday outside of The Sun HQ near London Bridge. Chalk in hand, we stormed the square and wrote messages on the floor and walls for The Sun workers to read on Monday morning. Loudly, we sang “shove it up your bum old Rupert Murdoch”, to which The Sun’s security sang along. It was a great day, and PBG editor Yas did a great job talking to the police officers and using her charm to let us continue.

After hours of chalking and singing, we retired to the pub only to see cleaners take to the square to try to remove our artwork. We made it as difficult for them as possible. We lay down on our artwork, stomped our feet and sang as loudly as we possibly could. Soon, the cleaners gave up. Our artwork remained there for editor David Dinsmore and co. to read in the morning.

After all, we do strive to be as big of a nuisance as possible. I think we’re succeeding! Help us out by tweeting using #44YearsTooMany and urging everyone you know to sign the petition at change.org/nomorepage3

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Could this be the end of Page 3?

Author:

By Jess Hayden

Recently I chatted to a bunch of lovely women about the No More Page Three campaign. I was near the end, and was about to crack a great joke about John Snow telling the news topless, when I saw a hand rise in the fourth row. A woman, who I estimate was probably in her forties, said “I’m sorry, but what is page three?”

I was fairly shocked. I guess I had just assumed that everyone had seen it, or at least heard about it. It made for a great discussion though. I explained that Page Three was a feature in The Sun, a newspaper who label themselves “family friendly,” and is made so that the average 8 year old could read it, but also shows a woman with her boobs out on the third page. I reckon this woman’s reaction was the best part of the whole talk.

“Seriously? How long’s that been going on for?” she called from the audience.

“It started in the 70s,” I replied to her.

“That’s disgusting. I can’t believe that’s allowed in a paper,” was her response.

It was like I had paid her to ask the question, it gave me the perfect opportunity to highlight the ridiculousness of Page Three. It’s worth noting that the whole audience were quietly giggling and tutting at how completely stupid Page Three sounds when you explain it to someone who’s never seen it before.

It was not until a few days later when, on a train journey in to London, the very woman who had raised her hand Tweeted me to alert me of a Tweet sent by Murdoch.

Murdoch Tweet

I literally gasped for joy on the train and just wanted to tell someone, anyone, about is. I can’t explain what a great feeling it is to know that something is changing, and that I am a part of the reason why. Hours of writing, days of protesting, months of campaigning, years of hoping were finally paying off. I had this instinctive reaction of “this is it” and I really just wanted to cry. Page Three, the single thing that had succeeded in destroying my early teen years, was going to be no longer. Finally, there would be No More Page Three.

My excitement doubled when Alison Webster, the official Page Three photographer, tweeted this:

Sunphotographer

In the space of a night, it seemed the end was near. For some people Page Three might only be a page in a newspaper, something they’ve been lucky enough to be able to turn a blind eye on, but not for me. Not for 206,000 other men and women who have signed the petition. Not for the many ex page three models we have in our campaign. For us, and each for our own reason, this was the end of the suffering.

Page Three still exists though. The next morning, my hopes were somewhat dashed when I saw Kelly, 19, from Brighton stood in her knickers. I must point out that I don’t buy The Sun, but checked if the Page Three feature was there on this day. Somewhat naively, I had expected a revolution over night, but sadly this was not the case.

Help us defeat Page Three. Sign the petition. Have a conversation about it. We know people are talking about us since #nomorepagethree was the third biggest trending topic on Twitter the last month. You’d be surprised at how many people support us. Get involved, and join the only revolution where #pyjamaactivism is a key concept.

We are closer than ever. The time for change is now. And with your help, we’ll get there.

Cabinet Reshuffle, Same Sexism

Author:

By Jessica Hayden

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The cabinet reshuffle promised to be a great day for women in politics. Women were promoted, such as now Minister of State for Employment, Esther McVey. Campaigns such as 50/50 parliament – which seek for a more equal male/female number of MPs – rejoiced at the news that the future may hold a cabinet that isn’t exclusively male and “fat, balding Tory, Home Counties, upper-middle class twits ” as Bridget Jones so wonderfully puts it.

However the media’s response to what was supposed to be a triumph for women was disgustingly sexist, to say the very least. The words “child care” and “school run” were used too often when talking about how on earth the women could possibly handle being politicians and also juggle their “mothering responsibilities”. Of course no reference was made to David Cameron’s ability to juggle being a father of three and being Prime Minister, despite him forgetting how many children he has and leaving one in a pub toilet back in 2012. The idea that a woman should focus only on their children and not have a career belittles women and encourages the belief that women should only ever be stay-at-home mums, which is dangerously old-fashioned in a “modern” society.

The Daily Mail, as always, did their absolute best to patronize and insult women, calling the reshuffle a “catwalk”, describing Esther McVey as “The Queen of the Downing Street Catwalk” and a “thigh flashing vision”. Once again, The Daily Mail cared more about what women look like than what talents they may have. The Mail went as far to say “She needs to tone it down a little for attending Cabinet meetings.” As her “bust-emphasising” dress was just too much for the paper, which homes the infamous “side-bar of shame” which tells women they are too fat, too thin, show too much skin but not nearly enough skin, all at the same time. Women are never going to be respected in The Mail, but this article still infuriated me, feminists all around… and Nick Clegg, apparently.

Clegg responded to The Daily Mail article, saying he thinks “it’s demeaning, old-fashioned and most people would just think it’s completely out-of-step with modern Britain.” It’s brilliant that a recognised man in politics has noticed the blatant sexism of the media. However some of his comments, such as it being “out-of-step with modern Britain” were ambitious.

Unfortunately, this attitude to women in politics IS modern Britain and more needs to be done to establish women in politics and present them in a fairer way, like discussing their jobs, rather than their skirt-length.

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