Today is Massachusetts White Ribbon Day. Today is the day we stand up and fight for the end of domestic violence. I've been passionate about the White Ribbon Campaign since high school, and people constantly ask me where my inspiration comes from. I've attached an opinion-article I wrote for class about a real, serious experience. For the first time, this is my story.
I am 17, and I am in love. Steven* is 20 and staggering over to me. He is demanding it until I’m crying. Though I say no, some authors think he should “turn [me] around and rip [my] clothes off”, because all women want to be dominated.
Six years ago I escaped an emotionally abusive relationship. Today, as I regurgitate the above quote – and yes, it’s a real quote from Love Italian Style – I realize that this is our problem. Today’s most popular novels are teaching young women everywhere that abuse is sexy.
In her book Love Italian Style, Melissa Gorga teaches the fundamentals of a “hot and happy” relationship. Always be available for sex, even if you are not in the mood. Remember to thank your partner when they remind you to lose weight. It’s disrespectful to stray too far at a social event. Dress for your partner in the morning. Do the “female things” so your man can “throw down in bed.”
Ladies, being told not to leave your man’s side is not hot. Being too scared to say no to your partner is not happy. We teach that relationships are about respect. Yet, this garbage gets past a publisher and into the hands of our sisters, our daughters and our friends.
E. L James wrote the racy 50 Shades of Grey for mature audiences. Yet, teenagers and young adults everywhere are falling in love with the “demanding and scary and hot” Christian Grey. He tracks Anastasia’s every move. Christian threatens to spank her when he does not approve Anastasia’s actions. He belittles her for speaking her mind. He buys her gifts she does not want. Anastasia is in constant fear of crossing him. They are in love.
It is hard to imagine something farther from love. This is nothing more than sexualized abuse, disguised as BDSM. James is doing a disservice to those in safe, consensual BDSM relationships and abused women everywhere.
50 Shades of Grey started as Twilight fan fiction. This is understandable, considering the dynamics of Edward and Bella’s relationship. Edward spies on Bella, following her when she visits friends and family. He disables her car so she cannot go out. He has people watch Bella when he is not around. Edward isolates her from her friends and undermines her independence. He waits outside her house. He threatens suicide if she were to not exist.
If this is a healthy relationship, leaving Steven was a mistake. Steven would show up to my house unannounced and follow me to parties he was not invited to. He hacked into my email and went through my phone when I fell asleep. Steven stole my keys so I could not go out and destroyed my property when he decided he no longer liked my friends. Steven finished a bottle of Vodka and threatened to drive off a cliff because I mentioned a desire to move away for college.
Trust me when I say this is not love. Being stalked and belittled is not devotion. Being threatened and controlled is not a sign of a powerful man. Being restricted, lonely and scared is not passion. This is abuse. Yet, these authors are telling our youth that it is not.
According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 35% of women in the US have experienced rape or other forms of abuse by an intimate partner. Nine percent of Massachusetts’ high school students report physical or sexual abuse by a partner. One in five teenage girls has a significant other threaten self-harm if presented with a breakup.
So, before you watch the 50 Shades of Grey movie or buy the latest Twilight knockoff, remember the victims, past and present, of relationship abuse. Maybe you will consider donating to your local Battered Women’s Shelter instead.
*Names have been changed for the sake of privacy.
A Boston girl via Toronto. University of Toronto, Sheridan College, and Boston University alumna. Passionate about ending domestic violence. Hoping to never go a day without carbs or chocolate.