50 Shades of Abuse


When I was a child, I was taught that sex was about power. More importantly, I was taught that sex was about a power differential. My needs, wants and concerns were of no interest to my abuser. And “no” was never an acceptable response to my abuser’s desires. I internalized that message. I grew up expecting sex and relationships to be unhealthy. And I unknowingly searched that out. Abuse was familiar. It was what I knew.

The worst part wasn’t the abusive relationship. It was the internal belief systems that each relationship confirmed. I was convinced that the power differential was critical to an intimate relationship. And I was unable to be in a healthy relationship because of that. I even considered healthy relationships to be boring or unfulfilling. I saw them as fake. I thought there was no way people could genuinely care about each other. I thought the only passion that could exist in a relationship was abusive.

So, I moved from one abusive relationship to another. I dated men who were emotionally, physically and sexually abusive.  I used to lock myself in the bedroom after my partner would drink because he would yell at me for hours. I married a man who added no value or income to the relationship, even after children were born, because I thought this was the best I could expect. And I told myself it was my choice. I made up excuses as to why these relationships worked for me. I acted as though I was empowered in the relationship and could leave at any time. And in a perfect world, I could have left at any time. In a perfect world, I would have left.

But I wasn’t as empowered as I thought. I was inundated with beliefs that I was not good enough for anything better. I believed that the only person I could attract would exhibit abusive behaviors. I was sure that nobody who could love me, would love me. And so I stayed. I stayed too long, until I didn’t stay, until I woke up, until I realized I wasn’t empowered in that relationship. It was just a mask, a façade that I wore for others.

I have been reading the posts about 50 Shades of Grey, the posts about how it is abuse. And I have also read many of the comments. They say the same thing. “But it’s the women who are reading it.” “But she made the choice to stay.” “But she made the choice to leave.” And those comments are factually correct, but they are missing something. The internalized abuse makes the external abuse seem like the only option, even the exciting option. The internalized abuse makes us want the unhealthy. It alters our cognitive functioning. And bad “choices” prevail.

So if we want to stop abuse, we also have to stop abusive conditioning in childhood, because stopping abuse is not only about stopping a perpetrator. It is about stopping the mindset of the victims that allow the abuse to happen, that expect the abuse to happen. And this is not victim-blaming. This is taking a culture and turning it on its head. This is changing the way we see the world by examining our approach to victims of abuse in childhood and adulthood. We need to stop the blaming and finger-pointing and start looking deeper. Where is this coming from? How are we making abuse acceptable in our society?

50 Shades of Grey glamorizes abuse, not because she doesn’t have a choice, but because she thinks she doesn’t. And it is dangerous, not because of the sex. I am not judging the sex. We all need healthy sex. It is dangerous because we are teaching women that it is ok to continue their abusive relationships in adulthood. We are teaching women that they don’t have to examine the affects of their abuse and work on empowering themselves. All they have to do is find the next abuser, the next bad situation that leaves them feeling like they are not worthy of love. This doesn’t break the cycle of gender-based violence in our culture. This perpetuates it. And that is not acceptable.


17 thoughts on “50 Shades of Abuse

  1. Behavior is ALWAYS purposeful! There is ALWAYS something driving it. I’m grateful to see you talking about what drives people to abusive relationships. It’s so important to dig deeper. We need to find out why one seeks an abusive relationship, and how can we as a society work towards helping those abused as children and as adults.
    I have absolutely no desire to watch 50 Shades of Grey.

    Thank you for posting about it, Elisabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Trauma Bonds, childhood idealization (emotional immaturity), dissociation, cognitive defenses, negative core beliefs, unmet childhood needs, unresolved emotions, un-faced grief, disconnected mind/body, weak ego… all of these issues working together to holding this repetition compulsion in place. It’s only when we become aware, face the truth, make a stand and fortify ourselves that we can break free. We must also embrace, integrate and accept, reparent and nurture, soothe and discipline ourselves–not to mention reprogram our minds. We have to go back, back to the beginning; perhaps back to infancy to look at the strands of faulty code in our emotional hard-drive. We open ourselves up and compassionately stand with ourselves as we buckle from the truth. It was not our fault. We do not deserve abuse. Each relationship slashes and cuts, and we don’t realize that we’re just repeating the same story. We must learn to know ourselves, be ourselves, support ourselves, protect ourselves and love ourselves like we deserved so long ago. It is hell, but the journey is still beautiful, especially when you can finally see the light of truth peeking through the clouds. Namaste.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been reading the posts about 50 Shades of Grey, the posts about how it is abuse.

    I’m pretty sure the BDSM community, generally speaking, disavows it. No one that practices, that I’ve talked to, likes it at all. I haven’t read the books myself, but I know that from what I’ve been told, that the book repeatedly breaks common rules of consent. The writing has no regard for such boundaries. No safewords. No agreements of trust. This kink does not work out if there’s no consent– it IS abuse. And I know for myself, and I know my friends are right. The consent and trust MUST be there.

    Liked by 1 person

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