Sunday 23 February 2014

Obsession: When Fandom Crosses A Line

Keeeeep telling yourself that, guys....

Being a fan of someone or something is great.  It can give you something to look forward to (a gig, a TV recording or even just an album release).  It can make you smile when there's not a lot else going on in your life.  It can introduce you to new friends who are also fans of the same thing.  I even know couples who met as a result of their mutual love of a band.  But there's a line when it comes to fandom.  And crossing it is dangerous.

I speak as someone who knows I can be a tad obsessive over the things I love.  I can easily lose an entire night, watching Doctor Who episodes.  I'm into double figures when it comes to seeing the Manic Street Preachers live.  I will queue for hours to ensure I'm at the front of their shows and I even have their lyrics tattooed on me.

This was taken when it was freshly done.  Or, to put it another way: WHEN IT WAS RED RAW.

But I am more than aware that there's a point at which loving something can change into a level of obsession that's not healthy.  Going to a Manics gig is one thing.  Hanging around afterwards for an autograph and a photo is fairly harmless.  But if I was to be contacting the band on a daily basis, proclaiming my love for them and demanding that they show me some kind of appreciation for the years of dedicated fandom I've shown them, I'd be bordering on harassment.  If I started trying to cultivate a personal friendship with the band members, by stalking them when they do press interviews, or sending endless gifts to them, I'd be heading down a troublesome road indeed.  Thankfully, I have no intention of doing any of those things.  But recently, I've begun to realise that there are many people out there who do.  I'm not just talking about Manics fans here.  It would seem that for every celebrity these days, there's a fan who has crossed a line.

The invention of Twitter has made celebrities seem much more accessible.  Suddenly, if you have a crush on someone on TV, or a member of a band, you can contact them instantly.  That freedom is great if you're a fan who has always wanted to ask a question of your hero, or who simply wants to congratulate someone you admire on a number one single or a great review for their latest TV venture.  But if your admiration of a celebrity has crossed over into obsession, that accessibility can make things much, much worse.

When Caroline Flack dated One Direction's Harry Styles, she received death threats on Twitter from Harry's ardent teenage fans.  Death threats.  One such tweet read: "If Caroline Flack flirts with my boyfriend, I will personally hunt her down and shoot her."  Ignoring the whole "threatening to kill a complete stranger" thing, it scares me somewhat to think that there is a hormonal teenager out there, who already thinks of a pop star as belonging to her, when in reality it's likely they've never met and never will.   I mean yes, yesterday I jokingly referred to the Kaiser Chief's Ricky Wilson as "my future husband."  But...  I was clearly kidding.  And I wasn't sending abuse to his girlfriend at the time (someone asked who "that fit bloke" I posted a photo of on Facebook was and I responded hilariously).

Even more scarily, a quick check on Twitter shows you that fans still send this sort of crap to anyone associated with the band.  Remember when GQ had five separate front covers with each member of One Direction on the front?  Underneath the picture of Harry Styles was the tag line "he's up all night to get lucky."  One Direction fans reacted in a typically measured fashion; by sending tweets threatening to bomb the GQ headquarters and "mutilate" the person who wrote the tag line.  So, we're dealing with multiple death threats to various celebrities and publications and worse, some fans are rather proud of themselves for it.

"HEY!  Remember how proud you were to send death threats to a total stranger?  MEGALOLZ!  We aren't twats at ALL!"

NEWS FLASH: You totally are.

The thing is, celebrities are people.  It's such a blindingly obvious thing to say, that I shouldn't even have to say it at all, but apparently I do.  If you're famous and on Twitter, you're exactly the same as me:  A person with a Twitter account.  The only difference is that you probably have hundreds of thousands of followers, whereas I feel lucky to have 500 people who've not gotten bored of my Who-isms and my random rants yet.  And just as I deserve not to receive online bullying, libellous comments (I've experienced both and I can honestly say that the people who write such things are scum bags) or death threats, so do celebrities.  If you're the sort of person who genuinely thinks it's okay to send crap to a celebrity because "they put themselves out there" (I've honestly read that as an excuse for it), then you're also the sort of person who deserves a dial-up Internet connection in a house with no phone line.  The Internet is NOT FOR YOU.  

Of course, we all develop crushes from time to time.  It's perfectly healthy to fancy someone and to fantasise about them.  If dreaming about Matt Smith mud-wrestling with Ricky Wilson is wrong, then God knows, I don't want to be right...

I Predict A Riotous Fan Girl Moment...

But knowing where to draw the line is vital.  You can go to see your crush in person, if they're in a band or if they're acting in a play (I saw Matt Smith in American Psycho at the start of this year and was blown away by what an incredible actor he is).  Heck, you might even get the chance to meet them (I didn't, but I did get a wave from Matt as he was leaving - and yes, I did squee my face off over it).  And what do you do next?  Well, a person thinking clearly and logically will tell their friends how awesome it was to meet their idol and they'll post a photo on Facebook, get a bit excited about it for a while and then life will continue as normal.

However, more and more, I'm seeing people behaving very differently, especially on Twitter.  I've already mentioned that Twitter makes celebrities seem instantly accessible, but sometimes, that can be a really bad thing.  It boggles my mind when I see what some people tweet to their celebrity crushes.  I mean, last night I tweeted about the new Kaiser Chiefs song being awesome (which it is and you should watch the video), but then I immediately panicked and wondered whether I sounded like a scary fan. In truth, all I did was tweet a band I've liked for almost a decade to say their new song is great.  But I've become so coloured by the stalker-like weirdness I've seen online, that I feel like I have to defend myself for doing so, in order to separate myself from the things I've witnessed.  

It actually saddens me that I worried for a good ten minutes about a perfectly innocent tweet.

The thing is, I've seen adult women send messages to famous men, telling them they're in love with them (and vice versa; men sending celebrity women messages).  Not "hey, I love your band/TV show/thing you're famous for."  I mean actual, full-on declarations of romantic love, coupled with requests for the celebrity to give the person their number.  I've seen tweets that say "I'm outside your recording studio with a present for you.  I'm so in love with you, please let me take you out tonight!"  

I guess some people would suggest that that's harmless.  The celebrity has no obligation to reply (and if I was a famous person getting tweets like that, I'd be too busy hiding behind my sofa to do so).  The only person set to get hurt is the one with the crush, after all?  But consider it from the celebrity's point of view.  You're just doing your job and suddenly the same person is tweeting you at all hours of the day and night, declaring their deep love for you.  They're sending you gifts and sometimes the gifts are intimate items of clothing, or sex toys.  They're turning up to your gigs/plays/TV recordings on an almost weekly basis.  Nothing you do, even your complete lack of reply to them on Twitter and purely professional politeness when you stumble upon them in person, is putting them off you.  They tweet your bandmates, or your TV colleagues, begging them to set the two of you up.  They tag you in tweets talking about what they want to do to you.  Any slight piece of professional politeness (reading a tweet from them on the radio, or posing for a picture with them after a show) is taken as a sign that you might actually feel the same.  It's not a healthy way for a person to behave.  It's harassment and it's completely delusional.

If you analyse the behaviour of the people who take their obsessions too far, it's possible to almost understand how a crush snowballs into something borderline dangerous.  Say you're single and you've fixated on a celebrity who, in your eyes, encompasses everything you're looking for in a partner.  Perhaps you tweet them, perfectly innocently and to your surprise, they reply.  So you tweet again and they reply again.  You get a little buzz, a thrill because that person you've been fantasising about has suddenly made contact with you.  Say you then meet them, a few weeks later and they're nice to you.  You mention the conversation you had on Twitter and they remember it (or at least claim to).  Suddenly you feel special; you're not just any old fan.  You've met the person, you've chatted with them online and you feel as though you have a connection.  That rush of adrenaline you get when you meet someone you've admired can be addictive and you can find yourself wanting to get it again and again.  And of course, the more you meet the object of your affections, the more you convince yourself that that adrenaline rush - that crush - is actually love.  Except you're forgetting one, vital thing:  You don't actually know that person.  They're not your friend.  But try telling that to someone with an obsessive crush, bordering on being massively unhealthy and they'll tell you that you JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND.

And that, friends, is where obsession starts to become dangerous.  It's fine to like someone.  It's fine to fancy a famous person (if it wasn't, we'd probably all be in big trouble).  But at the end of the day, you have to respect the facts.

That celebrity doesn't know you.  Even if they've met you in reality - even if they've met you several times - they're not really a friend of yours and you can't truly claim to know them.  Do you have their mobile number?  Do you receive Christmas cards from them?  Do they message you on Twitter, rather than the other way around?  Have they ever accepted your offer of a date?  In reality, the answer to most, if not all of those questions is likely to be "no."  And here's some tough love for you:  THAT FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE A CRUSH ON?  HE/SHE OWES YOU ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

The one thing you can say for almost all people who harass celebrities, or bombard them with declarations of love, is that they often have an entirely skewed sense of reality and with it, a completely warped sense of entitlement.  

Last night on Twitter, I noticed a fan of a TV presenter I follow was sending him increasingly abusive tweets.  Why?  Because he doesn't follow her on the social networking site, but he has followed some of his other fans.  The implication in this girl's angry tweets was that after all the time she had devoted to going to see this celebrity live and all the money that she had spent on gifts for him, he owed her a follow.

And that bugged me.  It bugged me all night and it's still bugging me today.  Because I like to be able to understand things and I can't get my head around that mindset at all.

Here's the stone, cold fact of the matter:  A celebrity owes you NOTHING.  I've spent a fortune on travelling to see the Manics all over the UK.  I've forked out on outfits to wear to each gig, petrol to travel there, hotels to stay overnight in.  I've bought all of their albums.  I've bought magazines purely because the band are interviewed inside.  I own videos and DVDs.  I don't know that I'd like to work out exactly how much I've spent, being a fan of the band for the last 15/16 years of my life, but I bet it's a lot.  And it doesn't matter in the slightest.  They don't owe me anything for my fandom, any more than any other band or celebrity I admire does.  All that money I've spent going to gigs?  WAS MY CHOICE.

You tweet a celebrity?  That's your choice.
You spend money on going to see a band live, or travelling to see a show?  That's your choice.
You actively support a celebrity or a band?  That's your choice.
You decide to spend money, buying a famous person gifts?

Can anyone else sense a theme developing?!

It's ludicrous to suggest that a celebrity somehow owes you for your fandom.  Almost as ludicrous as it is to suggest that it's okay to harass them with your unwanted romantic declarations.  Almost as ludicrous as it is to be proud of threatening violence towards a total stranger, purely for being associated with the object of your affections.

Crushes are harmless in themselves.  Watching Doctor Who and thinking "man, Matt Smith has managed to make bow ties not only cool but bloody sexy" hurts neither him or me.  But at the end of the episode, I switch off the TV/laptop and I get on with my life.  If your celebrity crush has become your life?  It's time to draw a line and take one massive step back.  Obsessions can only lead to heartache - not only for you, but for the person you claim to love.  Sending endless, unsolicited romantic propositions to a celebrity is either going to get you blocked, or it's going to have you labelled a stalker.  Following those tweets up by trying to gain contact with that celebrity in real life could well see you being slapped with a restraining order.  Even if you're lucky enough to have "fallen" for a very patient celebrity, who's happy to force a smile onto their face and pose for photos, whilst ignoring your Twitter spam, you can rest assured that behaving in such a creepy manner will never have the outcome you desire.  I sincerely doubt Harry Styles has ever thought: "Wow, what I really need in my life is someone willing to send death threats to any other woman I speak to.  I think I'll propose marriage to this stalking cyber-bully."

Celebrities are just people.  And in much the same way as you surely wouldn't expect your average Joe to fall in love with you if you endlessly hassle them and turn up wherever they happen to be, you have to accept that ensnaring a famous person that way is almost certain not to happen.  It's creepy and weird.  And I don't know about you, but "creepy" is not particularly high on the list of qualities I look for in a potential partner.  And I only want someone who's weirdness matches mine.  ie. The good kind of weird.

Yes, of course famous people can and do end up with non famous people.  Masterchef presenter Greg Wallace met his (now ex) wife on Twitter.  I once randomly ended up going clubbing with the very TV personality I mentioned earlier.  Nothing happened, but that's not to say that these things can't.  But on the whole, a celebrity crush should be just that: a crush.  A mild, enjoyable "mental fling" with someone who has no clue who the heck you are.  If you find yourself bombarding that person with messages online, feeling so enraged at the thought of them being with someone else that you're willing to send abuse or threats to that person, or feeling as though that celebrity somehow owes you, as a result of your decision to support them, then you need to step well away from your computer and well away from that celebrity.

A crush is only harmless when it hurts nobody.  Harassment and dangerously obsessive behaviour has not only the potential to mentally harm the person you claim to care about, but will inevitably hurt you as well.  It's just not worth it. 

Saturday 15 February 2014

Who Am I?

Short answer?  I'm the girl in the photo.  I like purple.

Who am I?

Okay, I totally have the song from Les Mis in my head now, so I guess I can say I'm a musical theatre geek.  But really, who am I?

I ask the question, because on Thursday night, I had a little rant on Facebook about people who post photos of their Valentines presents/cards or worse dates online (yes, that happens!!).  In short, my thought was - and, for the record after yesterday, still is - that I can see little purpose in posting pictures of your flowers, chocolates or cuddly teddy bears besides showing off and that posting those photos also detracts from the romantic sentiment of the gifts being from your loved one to you (i.e. between the two of you, rather than being displayed to the world).  There are exceptions, I grant you - an engagement ring is obviously a Valentines gift you might want to show to the world in order to announce that you're getting married and I'm fine with that.  I may do the same, some day.  And if you're given something that's funny or especially spectacular, I guess I can understand wanting everyone to see.  But your average gift/card?  And your date? Why not just keep that between you and your partner?  What's the point in posting it online?  It's something I've never understood, because it's something I've never even considered doing, so I decided to express my take on things.

Anyway, I digress...  The thing is, as is always the case when you express an opinion, I eventually encountered the opposite view and a debate began.  That's fine; those who know me know I love debating.  I'm a feisty so and so and I can hold my own when it comes to arguing my point!  But for some reason, perhaps because someone made a joke about trigger warnings, I found myself briefly questioning whether I only felt so strongly about those Valentines photos because I have experienced an abusive relationship.  I started to question whether I was bitter or jealous (partly because someone implied I might be), or whether I just couldn't handle seeing happy relationships, when my last one was such a total train wreck.

And then I gave myself a metaphorical slap around the face with a wet fish.  Because what the HELL am I doing, thinking that way?  Reducing myself to one, negative life experience?!  Sure, my history does shape me and probably influences some of my thoughts or actions, but it doesn't inform each and every opinion I have and the day it does is the day I will seriously worry about myself.

I mean... MORE than I already do...

I am a huge amalgamation of different things.  Different loves, hates and experiences.  I'm a Manics fan, a Blur fan and also a lover of cheesy pop music.  I'm a Whovian.  A musical theatre geek.  A passionate anti-abuse campaigner.  I'm a clumsy idiot who is liable to drop things.  I'm a nursery nurse and a published author.  I'm a little bit Greek and I love to cook.  I'm a soppy, oversensitive so and so, who's prone to letting things get to me way too much, but I'm also a bloody good listener and a supportive friend to anyone who needs me.  I'm an old-fashioned romantic with a tendency to develop massive crushes at an alarmingly fast rate, but I'm also quite shy.  I am a zillion different things.  And guess what?  I was every single one of those things before I ever experienced an abusive relationship.  It affects me, yes.  It does NOT define me.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I was angry with myself when I started to question whether my opinions were being coloured by what I've been through in the past (as it happens, I felt that way about Valentines photos long before I even met my ex).  I need to stop doubting myself and wondering whether I feel or think certain things as a result of my experiences and start having faith in the fact that I'm a fully grown adult, capable of thinking things through independently and reaching her own conclusions.  They might sometimes be conclusions that other people don't understand - just like sometimes I hear someone else express a view and think "WHAT?!" - but they're the result of of my own thought processes and they mean something to me.

And as a general rule, we don't need to make apologies for our opinions (I mean, unless they're really vile, scuzzy opinions; racist, sexist or homophobic etc, in which case we bloody should be apologising for them).  That's the beauty of the world; we have our views, we share them, we listen to the opposing side and sometimes we change our minds.  Sometimes we stick with our original opinion, but we understand the opposite view a little better as a result of talking it through with someone.  And sometimes, we keep our original opinion and we think that those who disagree are idiots, because we've convinced ourselves that we're absolutely 100% right and we simply refuse to budge.  That's humans for you.  And even more beautiful is the fact that if a relationship is strong enough, we can vehemently disagree with one another and still be friends who respect one another.  Because agreeing on everything isn't the sole basis of human relationships.

I suppose, in a weird way, I learnt something by being annoyed with myself.  I learnt not to excuse myself unless I've genuinely hurt someone's feelings, because my views are mine.  And I learnt a little something about who I am.  

I'm someone who had a horrible experience.  But that's just one, tiny part of a much bigger whole.

Yes, my experience will always colour some of my opinions.  But it doesn't colour me.

Monday 10 February 2014

Fifty Abusive Moments in Fifty Shades of Grey

Yes, you read that title right.  I'm so tired of being told that there's no abuse in Fifty Shades of Grey, that I've decided to compile something of a list.  A list of fifty abusive moments, to be precise.  Because, well, I'm a sucker for a blog title that's also a play on the book title.  I'm aware that this is going to be a LONG process and therefore a long, long blog to read, but if you've somehow stumbled upon it as a Fifty Shades fan, I implore you to at the very least give it a look. Think there can't possibly be fifty examples of abuse in the biggest-selling "romance" novel of all time?  Think again...

1. Christian Grey is a stalker.  In chapter two of the first novel in the trilogy (that's right, chapter two - EL James is nothing if not quick off the mark with her abuse-as-love shtick), Christian turns up at Ana's workplace.  He claims that he happened to be "in the area."  He tells her that he was visiting the local university, but there's no explanation as to why, when he lives in a city which would undoubtedly have its own hardware stores, he felt the need to visit the store where Ana just happens to work. I don't buy it for a second and knowing what's to come throughout the trilogy, I know that this is just the first example of Christian's stalker-like behaviour (spoiler: He admits to stalking her and finding out her workplace in book 2). The text makes it obvious that he has turned up there deliberately to see Ana, through EL James' clumsy use of Ana's internal monologue, as she ponders the fact that he can't possibly have wanted to see her and gone out of his way to do so.  So we can be sure that that's exactly what he did.  He found out where she worked and turned up unannounced.  Maybe we're meant to think this is sexy.  I think it's creepy.

2. He immediately becomes possessive of Ana - before they're even a couple.  Brace yourselves everyone, because we're still only on chapter two at this point.  After just so happening to turn up at Ana's workplace, three hours' drive away from where he actually lives, Christian engages in some rather stilted and incredibly obvious flirting with the hapless Ana.  Then, whilst Ana is scanning the items Christian wants to purchase at the till, one of her male friends comes over.  Christian watches this friend interact with Ana and his whole demeanour changes.  Even though Christian's little more than a stranger to Ana, he makes it obvious that he's deeply unhappy at the fact that she's talking to another man.  Ana is left confused by his sudden and complete change of character, asking herself: "Damn... Have I offended him?"  No, Ana.  But this is probably a sign that you should run very fast in the opposite direction from this utter control freak.

3. His manipulation/intimidation of Ana begins right on their first date.  Christian takes Ana for coffee in chapter three (yep, we're still only on the third chapter).  During their date, he uses a variety of manipulation techniques, designed to make Ana question herself and to remind her that he holds all of the power in their fledgling relationship.  He tells her not to use his first name, ensuring that whilst he can call her Ana, she is stuck with "Mr Grey" or "Sir."  He says things like "You should find me intimidating" and he tells her that she's very self-contained "except when you blush, which is often."  Ana blatantly has little self-esteem and can't believe that a man as attractive as Christian Grey would want to take her on a date, so his words sink into her subconscious (don't even get me started on the fact that Ana can apparently communicate with her subconscious; I'm just going to assume EL James lives in a world where dictionaries don't exist) and she begins to think she's not good enough for him.  This lack of self-belief is what will keep her in the relationship, even when it becomes ever more abusive and Grey knows as much.  The way he talks to her in this chapter isn't sexy.  It's calculated manipulation. 

4. He warns her away.  Look, I know I'm repeating myself, because lord knows, if you scroll through my blogs from last year, you'll find loads about Fifty Shades and why I hate it so very much, but this right here?  This is a biggie.  Abusers often do this; they tell the person they've zoned in on that he/she ought to stay away from them, because they're "dangerous" or "bad for you."  Again, it's manipulation, designed to ensure the person does no such thing, because they're far too intrigued and/or aroused by the abuser.  My own abusive ex gave me a warning similar to the one Christian gives Ana and it worked on me; I stuck around.  And of course, when things got bad, I blamed myself for not heeding his warnings, rather than blaming him for his behaviour.  Heads up to those who've note read Fifty Shades?  Ana does the exact same thing.  

5. He stalks her a second time.  In chapter four, Ana and her friends go out drinking, to celebrate having finished college.  After receiving expensive gifts from Christian (in spite of him warning her to stay away from him; see how he's deliberately confusing her?!), Ana decides to drunk-dial him from the club.  Christian demands that she tells him where she is.  Ana refuses and hangs up.  Christian calls her back to say he's coming to get her.  So, let's break it down: Ana has told him she doesn't want to say where she is.  He's told her he's coming to get her.  And he does.  He openly admits to tracing her mobile phone in order to determine her whereabouts.  That, my friends, is called stalking.  It's illegal, it's a form of abuse and it's definitely, definitely not sexy or romantic behaviour.

6. He takes her back to his hotel when she's too drunk to give consent.  Chapter five begins with Ana waking up in Christian's bed.  She's worried that they may have had sex, because she doesn't remember how she got there.  Christian insists that he was a gentleman, but that's really not the point; he's still barely more than a casual acquaintance to Ana and yet by this point (and remember, we're only five chapters in) he has already manipulated and intimidated her, told her to stay away and yet sent her expensive gifts, openly admitted to tacking her phone in order to stalk her and now taken her to his hotel with him when she passed out, rather than taking her home.  He's not a hero.  The very fact that Ana has had to ask him whether he slept with her should tell you that.  A decent man would've helped Ana's friends take her back to her own bed and called the next day to see how she is.  Christian Grey is not a decent man.

And now *I* need a drink.

7. He begins to use threatening language and control before they're even in a relationship.  As Ana and Christian discuss the events of the night before, Christian warns her: "If you were mine, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday."  That stunt she pulled?  Oh yes; going out with her friends and getting drunk.  You know, something she is completely and utterly within her rights to do, because it's her life and her body.  And for the record, threatening to hit her for her behaviour isn't BDSM.  At this point in the story, Christian hasn't spoken about BDSM at all.  This is just a threat of physical violence.  Ooooh, swoon.  Ana is too excited by the thought of being "his," that she disregards his threat and I guess EL James just hopes the reader will too.  Well not this one, EL.

8. A little more stalking... In chapter six, Christian drives Ana home from his hotel.  As he parks outside her duplex, she thinks: "I belatedly realise he's not asked me where I live - yet he knows.  But then, he sent the books, of course he knows where I live.  What able, cell-phone tracking, helicopter-owning stalker wouldn't?"  This is, if I'm keeping on track on my own blog, the third example of stalking so far and we're not even halfway through the first book.  The way his behaviour is casually mocked, as though it's all a bit of a cheeky giggle really grates on me.  Confession time:  I once had a text from someone that simply said: "I can see your house from where I am now.  Your bedroom light is on."  I didn't sleep that night.  That's because stalking is gross and creepy and abusive.  NOT HOT.

9. Isolating her from family and friends. Later on in chapter six, Ana and Christian begin to discuss the idea of a sexual relationship.  Christian - laughably, if you ask me - tells Ana that before the two of them can get down and dirty, she has to sign a non-disclosure agreement.  i.e. She has to agree not to speak to anyone about what happens between them.  Handy little way of ensuring that Ana has nobody to open up to about her concerns...

The top search result is essentially why I fear for the future of humanity.

10. He doesn't adequately prepare her for what she's getting into and he manipulates her into agreement.  Ana has no experience of sex, let alone BDSM.  She knows that it's not immediately something that appeals, thinking to herself:  "He's dangerous to my health, because I know I'm going to say yes.  And part of me doesn't want to." Christian knows that Ana wants him, so when she asks what she'll be getting out of their sexual relationship, he simply replies "me," thus manipulating her yet again.  He then bombards her with information as to what he wants out of their proposed sexual arrangement, giving her precious little chance to respond.  When he finally asks her what her hard limits are, she confesses to being a virgin and Christian is annoyed about it.  He refers to taking her virginity as "a means to an end."  Please, someone tell me:  At what point am I meant to find this dickhead attractive?

11. He has no consideration for her emotional or physical well-being when taking her virginity. Anastasia Steele is a virgin.  She even goes so far as to tell Christian that she has never pleasured herself.  Suffice to say, she is utterly clueless about sex and very clearly nervous.  So how does our "hero" go about relieving Ana of her pesky virginity?  He tells her "I'm going to fuck you now, Miss Steele... Hard."  And then he "rips through" her virginity, making her cry out.  He then tells her he wants her to be "sore."  Even if you're into rough sex, when you're taking a girl's virginity, you surely have a bit of consideration for the fact that her first time might be a little painful?!  But no, not Christian "I Am An Arsehole" Grey.  He's only bothered about his own sexual needs.  Who cares about hers, eh?

12. Creepy, possessive tendencies... Once the sex has happened, Christian no longer makes any effort to hide his possessive nature.  During their second sexual encounter of the evening, he tells Ana: "Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I've been here.  Only me.  You are mine."  Um, Christian?  She belongs to herself.  And you are a dick.

And that's why you're single.

13. Possession (again).  In chapter 10, moments after meeting Christian's mother, Ana receives a phone call from her friend Jose.  Bear in mind that Ana has no control over who calls her at any given time, yet when she returns from taking the call, Christian is demonstrably angry that she has been talking to another man.  This behaviour is so unhealthy, I know incredibly skilled doctors who wouldn't be able to save it.  Christian has literally no right to be angry that she spoke to another human who just happens to have a penis.  But he is.  Because he's an abusive waste of printer ink.  When Ana tells Christian that she wants to make a phone call, he automatically assumes it's to Jose (she actually wants to call Kate) and tells her: "I don't like to share, Miss Steele, remember that."  This prompts Ana to wonder "what happened to the generous, relaxed, smiling man who was making love to me not half an hour ago?"  Well, Ana, he got what he wanted from you and now he's showing his true colours.  RUN.

14. Control (again).  Believe it or not, we're still only on chapter 10...  Christian, having been in a lousy mood with Ana ever since Jose's phone call, tells her to hurry up and sign his BDSM sex-contract, so that "we can stop all this."  When Ana asks what he means, he clarifies that what he wants to stop is "You, defying me."  Defying him?  By wanting to talk to her best friend about sex, or by receiving a phone call that she didn't ask for?  This isn't about BDSM, it's about wanting an unhealthy level of control over every aspect of Ana's life.  In reality, a man with that degree of obsession about control doesn't make a good partner, yet EL James wants us to lap this up and fantasise about Christian as though he's God's gift to women.  Nope.

15. One rule for him, another for her...  In chapter 11, Ana reads the "sex-contract" Christian has given her.  One particularly worrying paragraph informs her that "The Dominant reserves the right to dismiss the submissive from his service at any time and for any reason.  The submissive may request her release at any time, such request to be granted at the discretion of the Dominant..."  So Grey can decide that he's going to drop Ana like a sack of potatoes at any time he likes, but she has to ask him for permission to end their arrangement?  Yet again, this is a way for Christian to maintain all of the power in the relationship and deny her any of her own.  Relationships like that?  Not healthy.

And lo, my belief  in EVERYTHING died.

16. Manipulation (what, MORE of it?!).  Remember when we last saw Christian Grey?  He was sulking with Ana for having the audacity to receive a phone call she didn't know she was going to get.  He was withholding affection and generally making her confused and upset.  Consequently, Ana has been thinking about not signing the sex contract.  In chapter 11, however, Christian sends her some flirty, friendly emails and suddenly BAM - Ana is all excited and happy again.  This is how abusers work, people.  They make you feel sad and confused about what you might have done to make them angry with you, then when they want something from you (like Christian wants Ana to sign the contract), they switch gears and become all smiles, making the person they're manipulating feel special and wanted again.  The relief that floods through that person's veins is enough to make them forget the nasty behaviour that came before and the whole cycle of abuse continues.  I was that person being manipulated.  And it was this emotional abuse between Christian and Ana that really touched a nerve when I read the books.  Glorifying the worst experience of my life?  Ah, EL James.  You're too kind.

17. No respect for Ana's wishes.  By chapter 12, Ana has had yet another U-turn and has decided that she's not sure that she can handle a 24/7 D/s relationship, like the one Christian is insisting on.  She sends him an email saying it was nice knowing him, then laughs about what a funny little joke it is.  He'll see the funny side, right?  Wrong.  Christian turns up hours later at her apartment, telling her he wants to reply to her email in person.  There's nothing cute about their conversation.  Ana is clearly intimidated by him and thinks "If I tell him it was a joke, I don't think he'll be impressed."  She also finds herself looking around her bedroom for a method of escape.  If that's not a red flag, I really don't know what is.  The fact is, if Christian had taken the email seriously and thought Ana wasn't up for seeing him again, he should have emailed back and asked why, or simply put her out of his mind and looked for someone else.  Turning up at her house when she has effectively turned him down and he's not sure whether or not it's a joke?  Creepy.  And later in the chapter, he openly admits that he didn't think it was a joke; he came round because he was angry and he had sex with her to persuade her to change her mind.  This guy is a piece of shit.

18.  Rape.  Christian turns up uninvited.  He proceeds to try to seduce Ana, given that that's pretty much all he ever does.  Ana tells him that she doesn't want sex and would rather talk.  "'No,' I protest, kicking him off."  But this is Christian Grey.  The abusive scum bucket who only considers his own desires.  So, upon hearing the woman he claims to care for saying a very definite "no" to sex, he replies with these words: "If you struggle, I'll tie your feet, too.  If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.  Keep quiet.  Katherine is probably outside listening, right now."  He then proceeds to have sex with her, in spite of her trying to kick him away and saying "no."  I don't understand how people aren't getting that this is at the very least sexual assault, but apparently, because EL James writes that Ana enjoys the sex that Christian forced on her, we're meant to ignore the fact that she asked him to stop and he didn't.  I don't even know how anyone can happily defend that scene, but I promise you, I've had plenty of Fifty Shades fans try.

19. Open threats. Chapter 13 features a dinner date, during which Ana and Christian discuss the finer points of the "sex contract."  Christian tells her they'll be eating in a private dining room.  Ana tells him she'd rather they stayed in public, on neutral ground.  He asks "do you think that would stop me?"  So, basically, he's not only refusing to listen to Ana's request for their meeting to be conducted somewhere she feels safe, but he's also telling her that she wouldn't be safe from his advances, wherever they were.  This is the guy pop culture wants to spoon feed us with?!  No thanks, I'm really not hungry.

You need a new life goal.  Seriously.

20. Using sex as a weapon.  It seems to me that a lot of Fifty Shades fans like these books because they're excited by a guy who knows exactly what he wants, sexually.  That's a fairly standard trope in erotica and I can see the appeal.  But Christian Grey uses Anastasia's attractive to him to manipulate and intimidate her at every turn.  She even recognises it herself:  "I can't have this.  His most potent weapon, used against me."  Every time Ana questions something, or comes close to saying no to something, Christian begins to seduce her, using words and actions that are calculated to turn her on.  When Ana tells him she doesn't want to stay overnight with him in chapter 13, he uses passionate kisses and choice words to try to manipulate her into changing her mind.  Getting consent that way is coercive at best, downright abusive at worst and it's proof that Christian sees her, in Ana's own words, as "an empty vessel, to be filled at his whim."  That's not sexy, ladies.  For the love of God; if a guy is only interested in getting your rocks off so that you say yes to whatever he wants, without the slightest bit of consideration for your actual well being, he's a total cretin.  Avoid.

21. You want space?  Well you can't have it.  You know how it is, right guys?  A hot guy takes your virginity and tells you he wants to train you to be his BDSM partner and to submit to him in all things?  It's a bit of a head-scratcher, right?  So in chapter 13, Ana tells Christian that she needs space to think everything through.  She's in a highly emotional state as she leaves their dinner date.  And she arrives home to find that Christian is respecting her desire for some thinking-time...  Juuuust kidding!  She gets home and finds an email from him, applying yet more pressure on her to sign his bloody contract.  Because hey, who cares about her emotional state, as long as he gets what he wants in the end?!

22. Nothing in her life is as important as HIS desires.  Christian, being the most famous and important human on the entire planet, is present at Ana's graduation from college, to give a speech to the students.  Once the proceedings are over and done with, he grabs Ana by the elbow and forcibly takes her into a men's locker room, where he locks the door behind them and begins to pester her as to why she's not returning his texts or emails.  He doesn't think for a second that Ana might have had other things on her mind, or even that it's entirely inappropriate to grab her and lock her in a room with him so that he can manipulate her some more.  Oh no.  Christian is bothered about one thing and one thing only:  Having HIS needs met.  Remember that space Ana just asked for?  Instead of granting it, Christian is piling on the pressure.  Nice.

...ANYONE who claims Christian Grey is the perfect man!  Woohoo!

23.  Coercive consent. Chapter 16 sees Ana and Christian - now in a supposedly consensual BDSM relationship - discussing their limits.  Ana asks him outright whether he got her drunk deliberately so that she'd agree to what he wanted and he openly admits to having done so, giving her some lousy excuse about needing her to "communicate honestly," which is apparently something she can only do when she's drunk.  Which is ludicrous and anyone with half a brain cell knows that if you manipulate a drunk person in agreeing to what you want, they're not actually giving their full consent, because they're unable to do so in that kind of state.

24. Emotional manipulation. Yep, more of it!  In the same chapter, Christian begins to talk about his tortured childhood.  This would be sad and heartwarming, were it not for the fact that Christian goes on to blame his current abusive behaviour on his own abusive past.  There's never an excuse for abuse - it's always a choice - and using his childhood in this manner is purely a tool to ensure that Ana feels sorry for him and never questions his behaviour.  Again, this is something my ex did to me, so this was a pretty major trigger for me when I read the story.

25. Again, with the whole "I don't care about your feelings, only MINE" thing... Once Ana has experienced being spanked, she finds that she has mixed feelings about it.  She emails Christian and tells him that she was shocked to find herself aroused by it, as during the spanking, she felt abused.  ABUSED.  That's a pretty major word to use and a caring Dom would immediately realise that either his partner isn't up for BDSM at all, or he's going to have slow things right down, in order to make them more comfortable.  But no.  Christian replies: "If that is how you feel, do you think you could try to embrace these feelings?  Deal with them for me?  That's what a submissive would do."  In other words, "hey Ana, sorry you feel like I abused you, but you know... You're going to have to accept it, because other girls would; what's YOUR problem?"  Manipulative, self-centred shit.

And yet it HAS ruined cake, just like it ruins EVERYTHING.  As an aside, when you google "Fifty Shades cake," you can find images of 18th birthday cakes in a Fifty Shades theme.  EIGHTEENTH.  This is the book we want young women, just becoming adults to aspire to, now.  Bullshit.

26. Using threats to keep Ana under his control.  Remember how Ana JUST told Christian that she felt abused when Christian spanked her?  And remember how he essentially told her to deal with it, rather than providing any after-care like a decent Dom would?  Well Ana promises to try to deal with it and assures him that if she wanted out of their relationship, she'd have run to Alaska by now.  Christian replies:  "For the record, you stood beside me, knowing what I was going to do.  You didn't at any time ask me to stop - you didn't use either safe word.  You are an adult - you have choices.  Quite frankly, I'm looking forward to the next time my palm is ringing with pain.  You're obviously not listening to the right part of your body.  Alaska is very cold and no place to run.  I would find you.  I can track your cell phone - remember?"  Shall we translate that, from "ridiculous, meant to be hot-speak" to "real-life meaning?"  What he's essentially saying here is: "You didn't stop the scene, meaning I can take no responsibility for your feelings.  You have choices - when I allow you to.  I don't care that you've told me you feel abused, because I can't wait to hit you again, regardless of whether you want me to.  I think it's sexy and so you should too and if you don't, it's because I know your own body better than you do.  I will stalk you wherever you go, because I have the technology to do so."  See how, when you translate it from EL James' romanticised version to what he's actually meaning, the abuse is so much clearer to see?  Christian isn't a good Dom.  Christian isn't even a good human.

27.  Constantly expecting Ana to be at his beck and call.  Whilst Ana is going about her life, sans Christian, she suddenly remembers that she promised to call him and has completely forgotten.  When she goes to her phone, she finds a voicemail message, in which Christian insists "you need to learn to manage my expectations.  I am not a patient man."  Not "hey babe, I'm a bit worried that you've not called; are you okay?"  Oh no.  Christian is only angry because she's not making him her number one priority at all times.  Ana thinks to herself: "Will he ever give me a break?  ...He is suffocating me."  Yes he is.  And guess what, Fifty Shades fans?  It's abuse.

28.  Another reference to wanting to actually hurt her...  In chapter 18, Christian and Ana are discussing his desire to spank her again.  When Ana asks if he's going to hit her, he replies: "Yes, but it won't be to hurt you.  I don't want to punish you right now.  If you'd caught me yesterday evening, well that would have been a different story..."  So, basically, had he seen her the previous night, when she forgot to call him, he'd have hit her in order to actually hurt her, rather than as a part of a sexy, consensual BDSM scene.  That's called physical abuse, guys.  And it's so far away from being sexy, I don't even know what to say to you anymore.

It's roughly this far away from sexy.  Maybe further.

29.  Attempting to control her life - yep, he's still doing it.  Ana and Christian go to meet his parents, shortly after he confesses that he'd have liked to have actually hurt her, had he seen her after she committed the heinous crime of forgetting to call him.  Whilst there, Ana announces that she's thinking of going to visit her mother.  Christian suggests that she ought to remember their "arrangement," but when Ana reminds him that she has never signed a contract, agreeing to be a 24/7 submissive to him, he reacts by yet again grabbing her by the elbow and telling her "this conversation is not over."  And to add insult to injury, he's described as whispering that sentence "threateningly."  Newsflash, Christian:  It's her decision whether she sees her mother.  You have no control over whether she goes to visit her relatives or not.  You are a total psychopath and it's about as sexy as pubic lice.  A little later, during dinner with Christian's parents, Ana's friend Kate asks Ana how Jose was when she went out for a drink with him.  Ana hasn't told Christian that she went out with Jose, because keeping secrets from your partner because you're scared of how they'll react is SUPER HEALTHY and Christian reacts to this news by whispering in a "quiet and deadly" tone that he is "palm-twitchingly mad."  Plain speak?  He wants to hit her in order to hurt her.  Because she saw a male friend.  THIS MAN IS NOT A ROMANTIC HERO, HE IS A DISGUSTING, ABUSIVE BULLY.  WHY, WHY, WHY FOR THE LOVE OF MATT SMITH ARE PEOPLE FAWNING OVER THIS DICKHEAD?????!!!!  Aaaand breathe.

30.  More threats, coupled with openly acknowledging that he doesn't care about her sexual needs.  Christian decides that Ana needs to be punished.  He's angry that she wants to go to see her mother.  He's angry that she saw a male friend.  And, to cap it all off, he's angry that she rebuffed his attempts to masturbate her at his parents' dinner table.  In front of everyone.  So, he drags her off to the boat house and although Ana seems quite up for the sex at first, she's soon pleading with him not to hit her (the word "pleading" is actually used).  His response is to ensure that Ana knows the sex they're about to have it purely for him:  "It's for me, not you, do you understand?  Don't come or I'll spank you... Don't touch yourself.  I want you frustrated.  That's what you do to me by not talking to me; by denying me what's mine."  1.  As far as I know, orgasm-denial is an actual thing in hardcore BDSM, but it's something that - and I admit I speak with zero experience of BDSM - is supposed to eventually heighten the woman's enjoyment, because when she finally does orgasm it's like WOAH.  The thing is, it's something that should really only be a part of a consensual arrangement, where both partners know what's going on, because 2. Orgasm-denial in a non-consensual sense (and Ana certainly hasn't consented to being denied her orgasm and Christian isn't doing it to build her arousal, he's doing it to punish her) is a form of sexual abuse.  Again, this is where this book gets personal for me and I want to throw it into a very deep river, then fish it out, dry it off and set it on fire.

31.  Are we missing the manipulation?  Because it's BACK!  In chapter 21, Ana has decided that she's definitely going to stay with her mother for a few days.  But first, she and Christian have sex on his desk.  Afterwards, Christian is whispering sweet nothings and telling her how she "beguiles" him, when he asks her if she really has to go to see her mum.  Ana replies that yes, she'd like some space to think.  And what does Christian do in response?  "Abruptly he withdraws, making me wince."  That's right, ladies.  He causes her to be sore "down there" and then he gets all sulky and quiet with her.  Because that's love, am I right?  I mean, that kind of behaviour is in no way an attempt to manipulate her into staying with him, through withholding affection until she changes her mind... Right?!  It has the desired effect of course, because when Ana goes off to shower afterwards, she starts wondering what she might have done wrong, to make Christian have such a mood change.  Newsflash:  You did nothing, Ana.  You're just in an abusive relationship.

Tea won't abuse you.  Mr Grey will.  Take your pick, but I'd like to throw this mug against the wall and dance amongst its shattered splinters.  Not with bare feet though, because that would be silly and Fifty Shades has already caused me  quite enough pain, thank you very much.

32.  More threats, anyone?  If I'm starting to sound a little flippant at this point, it's because it's pretty much the only thing stopping me from sticking pins in my eyes and screaming "WHY?  THIS MAN IS DESPICABLE!  WHY DO WOMEN LIKE HIM?!"  As my dad says: "Black humour; it's how we cope in the Forces."  Well frankly, I am a member of the Anti Fifty Shades Army and damnit, I will get through this blog, even if my humour has to be blacker than a goth's eyeliner.  Anyway, we're up to chapter 22 and Ana is leaving to see her mother in Georgia.  Christian has upgraded her to first class, which is a nice thing to do, except I don't recall her giving him her flight information, so is this another case of stalking?  She messages him from the airport to thank him for the upgrade, as it has meant that she has been able to have a massage from "a very pleasant young man."  Christian, being a possessive ogre, responds: "I know what you're trying to do - and trust me - you've succeeded.  Next time you'll be in the cargo hold, bound and gagged in a crate.  Believe me when I say that attending to you in that state will give me so much more pleasure than merely upgrading your ticket."  And Ana?  She can't tell whether he's joking or not, because she believes him to have the capacity to actually carry out that threat.  How utterly romantic.

33.  Look Who's Stalking.  Following Christian's "joke" (or was it?), Ana messages him to tell him that she didn't find it funny and that saying things like that scare her.  She also reminds him that the reason she has come to Georgia is because she finds it difficult to think clearly when she's with Christian and she needs some space.  This is where a good partner would think "okay, I'll give her a few days' space and hopefully when she comes back, we'll take up from where we left off."  But no, Christian is an abusive, possessive, stalky piece of shit.  So instead, he messages her, telling her that of course he was joking about putting her in a crate and then he begins subtly manipulating her into thinking any issues they have in their relationship are down to her inability to communicate properly.  He ends his message by promising to stay away from her whilst she's visiting her mum, which shouldn't be hard, seeing as it's over two thousand miles away.  But this is Christian we're talking about... So of course, before she has even been gone for 48 hours (it may not even be 24, I can't recall), Christian turns up unannounced at the bar where Ana is drinking with her mum.  And he knows where her mother lives and what her full name is, without Ana having ever volunteered that information.  Because he's an obsessive, deranged stalker.  And we're meant to find it lovely and sweet and passionate that he has followed her thousands of miles when she has explicitly asked him for space, because that's how EL James has Ana react, once she's over the shock.  But remind yourself:  Ana asked for space.  Christian once again put his own needs over hers.  He stalked her family.  This isn't sexy or romantic.  It's controlling and dangerous and seeing it written as romance makes me feel physically sick.  Oh and the best bit?  Ana is worried that he's there because HE is angry with HER.  She hasn't done anything to warrant him coming thousands of miles to shout at her, but it's her gut-reaction that she must have done something wrong.  And that's because of his manipulation in the past.  Again, I know that from experience.

34.  Back to the whole "one rule for me, another for you" game... Anastasia tells Christian that she's unhappy, because as soon as she was out of state, Christian went for dinner with his ex, "Mrs Robinson."  Ana explains that she views Mrs Robinson as a child molester, which is exactly what she is, seeing as she enticed Christian into a submissive, sexual relationship when Christian wasn't of age to consent.  Christian is annoyed with Ana for having an issue with it and refuses to discuss it much.  Contrast this behaviour to the way he reacted to discovering that Ana had been for a drink with Jose (he threatened to beat her for it).  One rule for Christian, another rule for Ana.  This relationship is entirely unequal.  This relationship is abusive.

Look!  A Fifty Shades sick bag!  Because yes; glamorised abuse DOES make me want to throw up.

35.  The abuser's mantra... Once Creepy McStalker and Ana are back at his hotel together, Christian begins to open up about his abused childhood a little more.  And again, it's used as not only an explanation for his enjoyment of BDSM (which is an insult to the many people who enjoy that lifestyle without having been drawn to it because of something terrible in their past), but a reason why Ana mustn't question his behaviour, but silently accept it, because he can't help it.  Bull.  Shit.  So he does this whole "this is why I'm so fucked up" thing (and having had an abusive partner say the same kind of shit to me, I can tell you that if anyone ever tries to manipulate you like this, RUN), then Ana decides to open up to him about her feelings regarding their "arrangement."  She tells him she can't be someone she's not and that she doesn't want to be his submissive.  Christian laughs at her and then goes on to casually talk about their BDSM relationship continuing as normal - even though he acknowledges that she's not a good sub - because gosh darn it, Christian wants the whole BDSM thing, so who gives a toss whether Ana wants it, eh?!  His actual words?  "As long as you follow the rules...Then perhaps we can find a way forward."  So basically "I hear what you're saying, but no.  This relationship is on my terms."  AKA the abuser's mantra.  This guy is a cock.  Indeed, in the very next chapter, when Ana pushes for a less submissive relationship, he tells her "I want you submissive in my playroom.  I will punish you if you digress from the rules."  Even later, in the final chapter of book one, Christian goes as far as to tell Ana that he expects her to follow his rules "all of the time." Negotiating: Christian Grey style.  I'm about ready to rage quit life.

36. Actual physical assault.  In the final chapter of the first book, Ana does what she has spent the entire novel avoiding; she tells Christian that she's really, really not up for being punished.  Christian, like all abusive arseholes, responds by manipulating her, reminding her that she apparently told him in her sleep that she would never leave him.  Ana then feels compelled to stick around and she asks him to show her how painful things could get.  He proceeds to hit her - hard - with a belt, six times.  Ana is rendered speechless by the pain and doesn't use her safe word.  She is counting the blows and her voice is described as "a strangled sob," so I think it's pretty fine for us to assume that she sounds upset.  Christian doesn't stop to ask if she's okay, like a reliable Dom hopefully would, knowing that this is the first time she has experienced actual pain during a session.  Instead, he keeps on hitting her, whilst Ana cries.  Afterwards, Ana leaves.  And if the book had ended that way, or even gone on to detail Ana's recovery from their abusive relationship, I might not have such a massive problem with it.  But no, we just move right on to book two...

37. Still stalking, still not respecting Ana's space... Ana walked away from Christian at the end of book 1, yes?  She told him that she can't ever give him what he needs and nor can he be what she's looking for, right?  So Christian does what any self-respecting stalker does and sends her roses and a card on her first day of work, then starts emailing her and asking if she'd like a lift to Jose's photography exhibition.  Aah, sweet!  Except no, not really, because a) he only wants to go so that he can be possessive and creepy and make damn sure that Jose doesn't look at Ana the wrong way and b) he wants to see her so that he can use his terrible sadness at losing her to manipulate Ana into going back to him.  But hey, because EL James tells us this behaviour is romantic, it MUST BE.

Ah, my beloved "Big NO."  I've missed you.

38. Possession again - because it never gets old.  Christian attends Jose's photography exhibition with Ana and he sees seven large portraits of Ana, hanging on the wall of the gallery.  He proceeds to buy them all, because "I don't want some stranger ogling you in the privacy of their own home."  She dumped you, fuckwit.  She doesn't belong to you - never did, to be fair - so it's not up to you who ogles her.   But of course, Christian still thinks he owns Ana.

39. You're twisting my melon, man...  Okay, so abusers?  They like to twist things around so that you're never the one in the wrong.  Seconds after the above possessive creepiness takes place, we see Christian compliment Ana on how relaxed she looks in the photos.  Ana tells him she'd be more relaxed around him if he didn't insist on intimidating her so much.  He replies that she ought to learn to communicate more.  So you see, Ana is trying to be open about he makes her feel and he's shooting her down, because he can't accept any form of criticism.  Ever.  Prick.

40.  Oh hang on, we're not done with the possessive creepiness?  Being a controlling anus-face, Christian decides to insist that Ana leaves the photography exhibition and she agrees, because he has spent a whole book manipulating her into doing as he says.  She says goodbye to Jose and Jose gives her a bear hug.  This makes Christian so jealous that once they're away from the gallery, he pushes her into a dark alleyway and kisses her, telling her "You. Are. Mine."  No.  She's. Not.  At the moment, you guys are separated.  You've not got any right to be grabbing her in alleyways, or anywhere else for that matter. 

41.  "Do as I say or I'll assault you in public."  Christian and Ana go for dinner together.  After he has ordered her food for her (without consulting her as to what she wants, because he's a dickhead), Christian berates Ana for not using her safe word at the end of the last book.  The conversation upsets Ana and she finds it difficult to eat once their dinner arrives.  So Christian tells her: "So help me God, Anastasia, if you don't eat, I will take you across my knee here in this restaurant and it will have nothing to do with my sexual gratification."  I know quite a few BDSM devotees who are furious at the way EL James has written about their lifestyle and I can completely see why; all Christian is doing here is threatening to beat his ex(?) girlfriend if she doesn't have some dinner.  He even tells her it's got nothing to do with sex.  That's not BDSM.  It's abuse.  And it's fucking disgusting.

I have never wanted a fictional character to fall through a window to his death quite so much.

42. Manipulation time!  Rather than telling Christian he's a revolting shit, Ana sticks around for a nice little drive in his car.  During their conversation, Christian tells Ana that he wants to start again: "Do the vanilla thing and then maybe, once you trust me more and I trust you to be honest and communicate more, we could move on and do some of the things I like to do."  Fifty Shades fans like to see this as Christian really trying.  He's suggesting they do "the vanilla thing!"  What a hero!  But read it again:  He's saying "once I trust you to be honest and communicate more," right after Ana has communicated the very fact that she doesn't want the pain aspect of BDSM and there are a hell of a lot of hard limits for her that he has pointedly ignored.  So she is communicating and he's ignoring her.  But by throwing that line in, it makes Ana feel as though they've both been wrong in the relationship and she ought to give a little, because he's trying so hard to meet her halfway.  Even though he blatantly isn't.  That's called emotional abuse, everyone; making you doubt yourself and making you feel that you've done something wrong and need to change, when it's them who has the problem.  And it works like a charm, because Ana tells him he's sorry and that she's "undeserving" of him, when he's doing SO MUCH for her.  

43.  Hey Ana, I've not controlled you in at least four pages... Once Ana and Christian are back together, Christian meets Jack Hyde, Ana's boss.  After doing the socially accepted version of cocking his leg and pissing all over Ana so Jack knows she's spoken for (introducing himself as "the boyfriend" and clamping an arm around her), Christian waits until he and Ana are alone again, in order to ask her whether Jack is any good at his job.  Ana wonders why he's asking and it turns out it's because Christian has bought the publishing company Ana now works for, so that he can control her when she's doing her job.  So all those times Ana has told him she doesn't want to be a 24/7 sub?  Wow, he was reeaally listening.  In the next chapter, when Ana tells him she's still mad about him buying the company, he responds: "I know, but you being mad baby, wouldn't stop me."  Because he's an abusive control freak.  He tells her that if she left her job and went to work at another company, he'd buy that one, too.  BECAUSE HE'S AN ABUSIVE CONTROL FREAK.

44.  Stalking.  Again.  This is getting so old.  Christian gives Ana a check for twenty four thousand dollars, supposedly from the sale of her old Beetle.  Ana decides she doesn't want it and gives it back.  Christian then informs her that he has deposited the money into her bank account.  Ana asks "how do you know my account number?"  It's a perfectly reasonable question, because in spite of how fast everything has happened, Ana has certainly never set up a joint account with him and there's no way he should know her account details without her having given him them.  But this is Christian the stalker and he simply replies "I know everything about you, Anastasia" and then distracts her with sex.  Again.

There's not enough alcohol in the WORLD to make any of this seem sexy.

45. No consideration for her feelings.  For a change.  In chapter 5 of Fifty Shades Darker, Christian decides he's taking Ana for a haircut.  She hasn't asked for one, but obviously we've established that he's a controlling dick.  Anyway, he takes her to a salon he co-owns... With Mrs Robinson.  Yes, his former Dominant/sexual abuser (given that he was a minor when their relationship began).  And then he has the bare-faced cheek to be angry and surprised when Ana is upset at being brought to see the woman she has obsessed over throughout the entire first novel.  See how it's still one rule for him and another for Ana?  He's allowed to be creepy and possessive and ban Ana from seeing Jose.  But Ana's not allowed to be annoyed at being taken to a salon co-owned by a woman Christian used to sleep with.  Nice double standards, Grey.  Christian does apologise and admit that he didn't think Elena (Mrs Robinson) would be there, but hey.  It's not like it was out of the realms of possibility and you didn't even think to forewarn your girlfriend, who has notoriously low self-esteem and compares herself unfavourably to every woman you so much as look at.  And you didn't think to warn her, because you didn't care.  Because only YOUR feelings matter.

46.  We're not even hiding the abuse, now...  In a frankly ludicrous plot twist, it turns out that Christian's mentally unstable ex sub Leila has managed to get hold of a gun and is after Ana/Christian.  So Christian insists that Ana goes back to his apartment with him.  Ana is still annoyed and she refuses.  He responds: "You are coming back to my apartment even if I have to drag you there by your hair."  He then proceeds to pick her up - in broad daylight, on a busy street - and carry her over his shoulder, slapping her backside as he walks.  Ana is "screaming" for him to put her down.  If this happens to you, this isn't a sexy, brooding guy "rescuing you."  It's a grotesque, public display of abuse, based on nothing but the fact that you've exercised your right to say "no" to someone.  It doesn't matter how dangerous Leila might be, Christian has no right to manhandle Ana in this way and the fact that he does and that women are reading this and thinking "oh, he is so hot and protective and I wish my man was more like this" makes me actually want to cry.

47.  He apparently owns Ana's body.  So that's healthy.  In chapter 7 of Fifty Shades Darker, Christian tells Ana that he's having a doctor come round to see her.  Not just any doctor, but Dr Greene, who prescribed Ana with the pill in the first book.  Christian has been using condoms since he and Ana got back together and when Ana asks why Dr Greene is coming over, he replies: "Because I hate condoms."  Ana, not exactly best pleased that her boyfriend is deciding her method of birth control without consulting her, reminds him: "It's my body."  He responds: "It's mine, too."  Um, hold up... No it isn't, you cockroach.  To make matters worse, Ana thinks to herself "Yes, my body is his.  He knows it better than I do."  Bull.  Shit.  Nobody knows your body better than you do, Ana.  When you get period pains, does he suddenly stop what he's doing and shriek: "DARLING, YOU MUST BE ABOUT TO MENSTRUATE!"?  No.  Because he doesn't know your body better than you.  But you've been manipulated into thinking he does, because he constantly tells you that he sodding well owns you.  He doesn't.  Nobody does.

And now I need a Doctor.  Oh Matt.  Save me from this HELL.

48.  Oh, manipulate me some more...  Something I got told a lot, after I read Fifty Shades of Grey and openly admitted that it triggered me so much that I found myself sobbing some nights, was that Christian "gets so much better."  Here's the fact:  He doesn't.  In chapter 8 of Fifty Shades Darker, he and Ana have a load of dramatic conversations and he basically tells her that he's unworthy of love.  This of course prompts Ana to insist that she adores him and will never leave him, because she loves him and wants to prove to him that she'll never abandon him like others have in the past.  And that's exactly why he says it.  It ensures that she'll stay with him, she'll keep trying harder to please him because she feels she has something to prove and it means she won't question his God-awful behaviour, because she truly believes he just doesn't know any better.  It's emotional abuse - total and utter manipulation.  It's hard enough to see a fictional character falling for it (knowing that I fell for it in real life and knowing how it fucked my life up for quite a long period of time), but seeing millions of women falling for it?  That physically hurts.  Ana even thinks in a later chapter that she would never leave Christian now, no matter what he does to her.  The mindset of an abused person, everyone.  Read it and weep.  I did.

49.  Control, control, control.  With Leila on the loose, Christian decides to tell Ana that she's no longer allowed to go to work.  Ana quite rightly tells him that's stupid.  Christian insists that if she's going to go to work, she'll need a bodyguard with her, but it'll have to be Sawyer rather than Taylor, because Ana made friendly conversation with Taylor and so Christian obviously thinks she might have sex with him in her office, or something.  When Ana says she wants to go to work alone, he says he'll keep her at home constantly if she continues to argue.  Ana says he wouldn't be able to and he threatens "Oh I'd find a way, Anastasia, don't push me."  Loads of Fifty Shades fans have suggested that this is proof of Christian's love for Ana; that he's protecting her and he's only getting mad because she's fighting that protection.  Er, no.  Christian knows that an ex of his is on the run, armed with a deadly weapon and he hasn't called the police, even though Ana has suggested it at least once.  He's obsessed with controlling the situation his way, on his terms.  "Protection" is just his cover story.

50.  And we're not even done, but this is all I can take...  I'll level with you:  When I started writing this blog, a whopping SEVEN HOURS AGO (yeah, my eyes are falling out), I had a moment of panic and thought: "What if I can't find fifty examples of abusive behaviour?  If I go through the three books in chronological order, what if I stop at thirty or forty?"  It's hilarious that I thought that, because 1) Thirty or forty incidents of abusive behaviour in a so-called "love story" is sick.  2) This is Fifty Shades of Grey, for crying out loud.  Of course we've got a book and a half to go and we've run out of room on our list.  I haven't even had chance to cover the "deliberately bruising her body against her will, then making it all okay by buying pretty jewellery" bit that comes in book three.  But I'm ending on something that's hugely personal to me, so I apologise to anyone who thinks that's a bit selfish.  It's not a deliberate thing, it's just this is as far as I got and I guess it makes sense to me to finish on a scene that genuinely had me crying into my pillow afterwards.

Soooo....  In chapter 14, Christian goes into a "catatonic state."  He is terrified that Ana is going to leave him, because she's angry that he spent time alone with Leila and has decided to go back to her own apartment for some space.  So he goes into submission mode.  He falls to his knees, breathing heavily and refusing to speak to Ana, or look her in the eye.  Ana spends ages, begging him to talk to her, telling him she loves him, how much he means to her, how she can't stand the idea of anyone else being with him...  And then she gets to the nitty gritty and starts saying she's not good enough for him and she's sorry and she just doesn't know what he could possibly see in her.  And bingo.  Christian's back, everyone!

Fans tell me that this is the part in the story where Ana stands up to him (um, by bemoaning how terribly unattractive and unworthy she is?!) and where it's made clear that she's saving Christian from himself.  Well, no.  Partly because you don't save an abuser from themself; they have to want to change.  Which Christian doesn't.  And partly because all she's actually doing is saying exactly what he wants to hear from her, until she reaches the point where she's close to desperation, putting herself down and proving that she'll never actually leave him and that's when he magically starts talking.  Why?  Because he was emotionally manipulating her into overlooking the anger she felt and focusing only on his needs.  How do I know?  Been there.  Got the t-shirt.

Let's be horribly honest:  I can remember times when I got legitimately upset with my ex for things.  I'd tell him I was annoyed and I'd reject his advances and the next thing I knew, he'd clam up.  He'd lie there, all sad-eyes and mouth opening and closing like a fish on land, breathing like like every intake was painful.  Sometimes he'd start to shake, too.  And I'd panic, thinking "shit, I've broken him!" and set about trying to make it all better again.  Sometimes I'd try to touch him and he'd swat my hand away.  Sometimes I'd start trying to explain my feelings and he'd shush me.  But you can mark my words; the second I started saying I was sorry and that I loved him and was going to support him?  Suddenly he'd regain the power of speech and he'd start talking about something painful from his past, until I'd forgotten what I was angry about in the first place, because I was too busy comforting him.  That happened pretty much every time I questioned his behaviour, until I just stopped questioning it altogether.  It's manipulation.  It's calculated emotional and psychological abuse.  And okay, maybe I didn't see it as such at the time, because I loved him.  And maybe readers of Fifty Shades can't see it, because they're not aware it's even a "thing," perhaps.  But I'm saying it IS.  It's very much a thing and it's what made me utterly suicidal when I finally walked away from my abuser, because I thought he'd die because I'd abandoned him and I was a horrible bitch like all the others.  I read this scene and I swear, every single feeling I had when I walked away from my ex resurfaced and smacked me in the face.  I'm sure EL James thought, considering her utterly piss-poor research of BDSM, that this was a fine little moment and nobody could think anything bad about it.  I'd like to believe that she doesn't even realise that she's written such an emotionally disturbing moment.  But she has.  She has written a guy refusing to allow his girlfriend to leave him, even for a few days.  She has written a guy falling to his knees and refusing to break his silence until his girlfriend tells him she's not good enough for him.  And then this chapter goes on to play on the ridiculously dangerous "if I love this man right, I can cure him" trope, which just makes me want to scream.  Except it's 1am, so I'm not going to, because I'm not an idiot with no consideration for other people.  Or to put it another way, I'm not Christian Grey.

The very fact that there are still so many other abusive moments I could have quoted is pretty terrifying, when you come to think about it.  This is supposed to be a "love story" and I don't know how many ways of saying "it's not" there are left.  All I'm going to say is NO.  If someone treats you the way Christian treats Ana, get the hell out of there.  You deserve better.  We all do.  And we all deserve better "erotica" than Fifty Shades of Grey.