Fifty Shades of Red Flags


The Fifty Shades trilogy has been at the top of the NYT Bestseller list for 10 weeks now.  I can’t even begin to count the number of people who have suggested I review these books.  I’m on vacation in the Outer Banks, North Carolina right now, and I figured they’d be good for reading on the plane.  I started reading the first book at 3:30am, and knew that I probably wasn’t going to like them, as I had started cracking up laughing at the terrible writing by 3:45am.  Warning, those who have been in an abusive relationship may be triggered by the following post.

For those of you who are unaware of this trilogy, I’ll give you a brief synopsis.  Anastasia Steele is a 21 year old virgin about to graduate from college.  Her roommate and best friend, Kate, is the college newspaper editor.  Anastasia has to fill in for Kate during a big interview with Christian Grey, a 27 year old man who has built a billion dollar empire.  Of course, Anastasia and Christian are attracted to each other, and they start dating.  However, Christian is uninterested in a normal relationship, and is only interested in a contractual BDSM relationship.   Naturally, this causes some problems.  I don’t want to reveal too much more, for those of you who are actually interested in reading this dreck.  Even with bad romance novels, I am vehemently anti-spoiler.

Bad writing aside, my main problem with this series (and the Twilight series, and pretty much all other “romance” novels) is the controlling, abusive, and downright creepy behavior that male protagonist exhibits.  The outrageous and awful things that Christian Grey and Edward Cullen do are held up to women as examples of so-called romantic behavior, and it is explained away under the guise of “he only does it because he loves her”.

Please don’t mistake what I am saying here.  As someone who has been involved in BDSM at one point, I do not believe that someone who is sexually submissive or dominant is abused or an abuser.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  I know many many people who are involved in BDSM, and all of them have very loving relationships based on communication and respect.

That said, there are certain behaviors that are red flags.  They are indications that the person you are involved with may have the capability to be controlling or abusive.  I’ve come up with 50 of them.

  1. Says “I love you” within the first month of knowing you.
  2. Knows things about you that you haven’t told them.
  3. Calls you when he or she knows you are out with friends, and gets angry when you don’t pick up.
  4. Alternatively, if you do pick up the phone, he or she picks a fight with you so that you don’t enjoy your time out with friends, or you feel the need to go home and resolve the fight.
  5. Tells you “You’re lucky I love you, or I would hit you/go have sex with that person/etc.”
  6. Puts you down in “joking” ways, so you are never sure if he or she is serious.
  7. Gets angry during discussions and leaves, instead of talking to you.
  8. Leaves you in public places or at parties, with no way to get home.
  9. Makes you suddenly scared for no reason, just with a look.
  10. Expresses jealousy of your previous relationships, especially sexual ones.
  11. Expresses jealousy of your friends, especially the ones of the same gender you are generally attracted to.
  12. Doesn’t like your family or friends, and encourages arguments or feelings that would lead you to no longer talk to or spend time with them.
  13. Has no friends, saying “You are all I need”.
  14. Cries or makes you feel guilty when you bring up unacceptable behavior, forcing you to comfort them instead of addressing the behavior.
  15. Promises to change, or go to counseling when you bring up unacceptable behavior, and then never goes.
  16. Tells you that all of his or her former relationships were abusive, or that the other person was “crazy”.
  17. Tells you that you are crazy.
  18. Frequently drops by your work, unannounced, for no reason.
  19. Texts or calls you frequently, and gets angry when you don’t respond.
  20. Is suspicious of your co-workers, and causes fights before you leave for work.
  21. Gets unreasonably jealous when you speak about co-workers, especially the ones of the same gender you are generally attracted to.
  22. Knows what time you should be home from work, and is suspicious if you are either early or late.
  23. Insists that you both pool your income, and watches the account, asking about all purchases.
  24. Gets angry if you buy something without consulting him or her, even things you need, like clothing or food.
  25. Spends money on frivolous things, depleting your shared bank account so that you can’t pay bills.
  26. Causes a scene in public, and you find yourself explaining to friends or family “(S)He’s so different in private/(s)he’s really a nice person, you just have to get to know him or her”.
  27. Forces you to stay at home while he or she goes out partying or drinking all night.
  28. Gets angry when you wear something that makes you feel attractive, telling you that you look like a slut/whore.
  29. Encourages you to gain weight, or stop wearing makeup, because he or she doesn’t want other people to look at you.
  30. He or she punches a wall or a door when angry, saying that they are destroying property so they “don’t hit you”.
  31. He or she will give you the silent treatment when angry, and refuses to tell you why he or she is angry.
  32. He or she doesn’t go to work or school, forcing you to be the sole person responsible for bringing in an income.
  33. When he or she does get a job, he or she still expects you to take care of bills, saying that his or her income is “my money”, and expects complete autonomy regarding how it is spent.
  34. Guilts you into sex, or forces you into sexual acts that you have previously expressed make you uncomfortable.
  35. He or she regularly lies to you about innocuous things, making you wonder what else he or she has lied about.
  36. Threatens or attempts suicide when you talk about ending the relationship, saying that he or she can’t live without you.
  37. Threatens to kill you or those you love if you end the relationship, saying something like “if I can’t have you, no one can”.
  38. He or she does things with the knowledge that they scare you, like driving recklessly with you in the car.
  39. He or she has figured out your passwords to your computer or phone, and checks your email and social media, looking for “proof” of your imagined infidelity.
  40. He or she never actually apologizes after a fight, but says “I’m sorry you felt that way”, and then attempts to justify his or her reasonings for being angry.
  41. He or she doesn’t ever take responsibility for emotions or actions, and instead blames his past, or the situation for bad behavior.
  42. You start to feel that if you could just be a better girlfriend or wife, then all of your relationship problems would disappear.
  43. He or she brings up your past mistakes in arguments, even though he or she has previously expressed forgiveness.
  44. He or she ever says that you are being “too sensitive”.
  45. Your relationship starts feeling like it is the both of you against the world.
  46. He or she says something like “I’m an asshole” when meeting you or other people, and then refers back to it when he or she does something that upsets you, saying that he or she warned you at the beginning.
  47. He or she uses the fact that you are currently (or have previously been) in therapy as a weapon, saying that you are “crazy” or “fucked up”.
  48. You hear your therapist or a parent’s voice in your head, telling you that things aren’t right in your relationship.
  49. You flinch when he or she comes too close.
  50. You recognize your current or past relationship in this list, and tell yourself “Oh, but he or she is working on it/will change/ isn’t REALLY abusive or controlling”.  And now you’re angry that I’m calling you out on it.

Can you think of any more?  If you have recognized your relationship in any of these, please start taking steps to remove yourself from the situation.  Wednesday’s post will be about how to end a bad relationship.

Posted on May 14, 2012, in Dating and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Bravo for this post. I haven’t read the book but from what I’ve heard about it, it’s not a healthy relationship despite the details (as you mentioned BDSM relationships CAN be healthy). I tried to check out Twilight and ran into these issues you touched on here. Same with Fenris from Dragon Age 2, a character that has a ton of female fans yet he’s very verbally abusive. It’s kind of scary to me that so many young girls and women fawn over these works of fiction when there are a ton of unhealthy components and red flags. I find them to be the antithesis of love, desire and romance.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. It makes me wonder about (and weep for) our culture, when such abusive behavior is held up as the standard for romance.

  2. Hello. Thank you for this post. My mum keeps getting me to read the books but for someone who was in a very abusive relationship and was raped, I am a bit reluctant. These books are going to the charity shop.

Leave a Reply to Nice Girl Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: