Thursday, 22 January 2015

What The Sun's Apparent U-Turn on Page 3 Says About Their View of Women...

Earlier this week, we were led to believe that finally - after more than forty years - The Sun "newspaper" (and those scare quotes are 100% necessary) had dropped their misogynistic Page 3 feature.  For my overseas readers, Page 3 is a feature in which almost every day (except Sundays, because... reasons), a young, attractive woman is presented topless for readers' entertainment.  Until 2013, the photos were accompanied by a "funny" piece called News In Briefs, in which a quote supposedly far too intelligent to have been spoken by a glamour model is attributed to her (eg. Rosie, 19, from Middlesex: "I worry people are addicted to their Smartphones.  Such high-tech gadgets can severely disrupt your precious work/life balance.  In the words of Greek philosopher Socrates, enjoy yourself - it's later than you think.").  These soundbites almost always featured a quote from someone else - usually a man and usually someone stereotypically thought of as being of superior intelligence - the joke being that the women with their boobs out were there for titillation (pun intended; I love a good pun) and were certainly not being celebrated for their brains,  Although News In Briefs is thankfully no more, the topless photos - along with crass headlines focusing on the girls' physical features - remain.

Such an attitude towards women is frankly something that should have been consigned to history a long time ago.  2013 was far too recent to have ditched such a swipe at women's intelligence - it should have disappeared decades earlier.  We live in a world in which women are making great strides in the fields of medicine and science.  We have women taking prominent roles in government.  And yet we also live in a world in which female celebrities are shoved on the front covers of ghastly magazines, with red rings of shame around their thighs and headlines proclaiming: "Celebs Battle With Cellulite!"  In other words, we're making great leaps forward in equality, but there are sections of the media that are utterly determined to pull us back.  The Sun is right there at the front, clutching onto the kind of sexism that should have been left in the seventies.  

After all, what does Page 3 say about The Sun?  That they genuinely feel there's nothing wrong with sticking a topless woman in a provocative pose in a supposed "family newspaper" and, up until 2013, deliberating poking fun at her intellect whilst they were at it?  What possible reason could anyone at the paper really give for the need to keep a topless model on page 3?  If readers are so desperate to see boobs, there are plenty online (The Sun helpfully keeps photos of its topless models on the Page 3 section of their website, because they're nice like that).

But then, this is a "newspaper" who have proved time and again that they're not above making up lies and printing them as news (Hillsborough, anyone?) and their hideous use of misogynistic language in any article on women is well known.  If there's a chance to reduce a female to nothing but a sex object, there to have her physical features picked over like bones by a vulture, then The Sun has never been known to miss it.

Even when reporting on the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, The Sun chose to present her in provocative pose.

But just when we thought that The Scum Sun couldn't prove their lack of respect for women any further than they have already, they decide to "pretend" to get rid of Page 3, only to bring it back later the same week, along with mocking comments aimed at the hundreds of thousands of women and men who've signed petitions to scrap the feature.  As someone wisely put it on Twitter this morning, it was akin to bullies in the school playground, promising to stop picking on you, only to start again - worse - the next day.  

How did the "family newspaper" choose to announce their decision to keep the outdated feature?  With a banner on the front page, saying "We've had a mammary lapse..."  They went on to mockingly "apologise" to media outlets who'd reported on the apparent decision to drop Page 3 and referenced people "talking and writing about us" with the sort of pathetic pride you'd expect from a bratty teenager, rather than a supposed news outlet.  Recognising that those who are vocally anti-Page 3 would be upset by the feature's return, The Sun's PR manager also decided to send prominent campaigners an unsolicited photo of a Page 3 girl on Twitter, not only proving that he has the maturity of a pre-pubescent school boy, but also shooting into flames the ridiculous "don't like it, don't read it" argument.

The Sun's childish, flippant disregard for people's genuine concerns as to how women are represented and discussed in the UK's number one selling paper (and yes, I'm genuinely ashamed about that fact) pretty much sums up their attitude towards women in general.  We're there to be mocked, judged or perved over.  That's it.

And of course, with their U-turn, comes celebration from some of Twitter's seedier underbelly.  This morning I witnessed one man tell an anti-Page 3 campaigner that "there's nothing more vile than feminism."  Because wanting to be treated with an equal level of respect to that which men enjoy is appalling.  Hoping to be judged on something other than our looks is just disgusting.  How dare we?!

Unfortunately, as I've blogged about before, some people have an incorrect (and frankly, ignorant) view of what feminism is; they think it means we hate all men and want to be seen as superior. 


It's about, as I mentioned above, wanting to be free to have the same opportunities as men and to be treated with the same level of respect.  It's about not wanting to be judged solely on our looks, or to be looked down on if we engage in activity that men are free to do at any time.  And that's it.  We don't hate men.  We don't want to be superior.  We just want a bit of respect.  We want to open a newspaper and not feel that we're being portrayed as simply a pair of tits and no intellect.  Would The Sun ever have a full-frontal male nude shot on Page 3 every day?  And if not, why not?  Why would it be wrong to portray a man in that manner, but perfectly acceptable to reduce women in such a way?

With their pathetic U-turn on Page 3, The Sun have done nothing but stick their fingers up to feminists that they think are humourless spoilsports who need to get back in their place.   They've proved, even more than they already had, that they don't view women as worthy of equal respect.  And in doing that, they've proved that their "newspaper" is not worth the ink it's printed with.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

PRESENTING: Emma's Top Ten Celebrity Crushes...

One has a mother-flippin' top TEN.

There are some questions that are just your average conversation pieces.  "How was your day?" For example.  Or: "Does my bum look big in this?"  But today during lunch, my best friend asked me a question which I've come to realise is something other people probably don't get asked quite so often:

"So, just who is your number one celebrity crush at the moment?"

Lydia asked me the question because I'm pretty much known for my celebrity crushes.  They are many and varied.  I've blogged about having crushes before, but during my lunch with Lydia today, we decided it would be hilarious if I actually came up with my current top ten celebrity crushes, along with reasons for them, in a chart-countdown kind of blog which will hopefully be just charming and witty enough to not make me seem like a massive, massive pervert...

So, greetings pop-pickers!  It's time for the top ten!

10. Ricky Wilson
Oh, Ricky.  So have I.

Ricky ticks several of my boxes (not a euphemism, people - keep it clean!).  He has a Northern accent, which I'm a bit of a sucker for, plus he's in a band.  It's definitely safe to say that over the years, I've had more crushes on singers or members of bands than I've had on actors or sports personalities.  Why?  I guess because of the confidence and charisma you've got to have to get up on stage and rock out.  And because music is so universal and such an important part of my life, that people who create it are just instantly more attractive in my eyes.

Speaking of eyes, Ricky has a pair.  You might have noticed them.  They're a lovely shade of blue and they're framed by eyelashes I would kill for.  Actually, I don't know whether I fancy his eyes, or whether I'm just a bit jealous of them.  Perhaps it's both.

9. Iwan Rheon
That hair, though.

Now, here's the thing.  When I have a crush on an actor, it's quite often originally based on a character they've played.  Such is the beauty of acting, I suppose...  Anyway, I was a huge fan of channel 4's Misfits, in which Iwan played a shy, slightly awkward character called Simon, who eventually became a superhero.  Yes, it was very realistic and totally plausible.  Anyway, I had a crush on Simon before I had a crush on Iwan, if that makes any sense.  But it turned out that Iwan plays guitar and sings.  He writes his own songs and... Well, as I said, that makes him instantly more attractive.  He's also Welsh and I'm a Manics fan, so you do the maths...

8. David Tennant
Oh, to be brave enough to use that as a chat-up line...

Remember what I said about crushes on actors coming primarily from the characters they play?  David Tennant was the FREAKING Doctor.  Characters don't come any cooler than a dude who travels through time and space, saving the universe like it's no big deal.  And this incarnation of the Doctor did it all whilst having amazing hair and a ridiculously cute, cheeky grin.

David's not just on this list because of his role in Doctor Who, though.  You see, this is where I get a bit weird... My biggest celebrity crushes have never been simply based on looks.  I've always been someone who likes people more based on their personality than their facial features.  So whilst it's not exactly a hindrance that David has big, puppy-dog eyes, just the right amount of stubble and a cute smile (and did I mention the amazing hair?!), one of the things that keeps him in the top ten is his general awesomeness.  He's funny, unafraid to take the piss out of himself (and the shows he's starred in), charming and unashamedly nerdy.  And that's basically my type in a nutshell.

7. Graham Coxon
Graham?  The camera's in front of you... Graham?  Oh, never mind...

Remember what I said about personality being just as important as looks, when it comes to my celebrity crushes?  Well if David Tennant is Exhibit A, here's Exhibit B.  Graham is sensitive and I have a major thing for a sensitive guy.  Basically, if you're not afraid to cry at Beaches, call me.  I have no idea whether Graham weeps at friendship-movies starring Bette Midler, but I do know that he's a sensitive soul.  He's also a musician/singer, so...  Yeah, there's that.  Plus, we all know I have a bit of a weakness for nerdy guys and Graham was always the nerdiest member of Blur (not that that stopped me from also fancying Damon Albarn...).  Graham was definitely the Richey Edwards of the band - the sensitive lyricist, who kind of made you want to protect him from the world.  

Which leads me nicely onto...

6. Richey Edwards

I'm not even going to attempt a witty comment.  He's too pretty.

Some people might think it's weird to have a celebrity on this list who's quite possibly (and certainly legally) dead.  But...  Bear with me.  It's my list and if I want a missing person on it, then damnit, I'm having a missing person on it.

Richey is one of those people who's not only here because of his looks, but we should probably address his looks, because... Damn.  Richey had huge, Bambi-like eyes, often ringed with perfect eyeliner, making him look like a slightly more masculine Audrey Hepburn.  Prior to shaving his head just before his disappearance in 1995, he also had what I would boldly refer to as PERFECT hair.  I mean seriously.  The hair.

*Attempts to ruffle the screen*

But my crush on Richey is, as I mentioned, about much more than his (admittedly near-bloody-perfect) looks.  He was hugely intelligent, deeply sensitive and incredibly passionate.  Yes, he also had more issues than you could shake a copy of The Holy Bible at, but he was always honest about them and that encouraged many people to speak out about their own emotional troubles.  And of course, his emotional troubles caused him to disappear almost exactly twenty years ago, never to be seen or heard of again, meaning not only that he will always be a beautiful twenty seven year old, bathed in mystery, but that I will always look twice at random beardy guys on the street, in case they look familiar.  Because you never know...

5. James Dean Bradfield
Why have ONE member of the Manics on my list, when I can have two?!

James Dean Bradfield is the lead singer of the Manic Street Preachers, the band from which Richey Edwards went AWOL back in 1995.  He's one of the most down-to-Earth celebrities I've ever met, one of the most incredible guitarists of his generation and he's responsible for writing the music to some of my favourite songs in the world.  If that doesn't explain his inclusion on this list, I don't know what does.

Oh and he's not tall.  I'm only five feet tall and I have a penchant for shorter guys, because they make me feel less like a total midget.  James fits that bill nicely.  I can stand next to him and look normal-sized:


On stage, JDB exudes a level of charisma that has me merrily changing the lyrics to Manics songs in order to make them more about his general handsomeness.  I have no guilt.

More importantly, James is not just a celebrity crush.  He's my musical hero.

4. Danny Jones
I screen-capped a video and I am not ashamed.

Speaking of on-stage charisma, McBusted's Danny Jones has it in spades.  He also has a Northern accent and awesome guitar skills, so his place in this list is pretty much cemented.  I've had a "thing" for Danny since way back when he still had too much hair and fewer tattoos.  His ability to get an entire crowd singing his band's lyrics back at him and generally losing their minds with excitement is definitely something to do with that, as is his sense of humour and general "cheeky chappy" persona.  After seeing McBusted in Weston-Super-Mare, I unashamedly sung "Oh Danny Boy" to myself as I was getting ready for bed...  The thing is, you take someone good looking and funny, put a guitar in his hands and I'm pretty much done.

DONE, I tell you.

3. Matt Smith
Doctor, I feel faint...

My crush on Matt crept up on me, somewhat.  It's been around for at least 18 months, probably two years, but I never expected it.  I was a Tennant-fangirl and it broke my heart when the 10th Doctor regenerated into the 11th.  For most of Matt's first season as the Doctor, I kind of resented him and his floppy hair.  He wasn't David!  WHAT WAS A WHOVIAN TO DO?!

Then I decided to re-watch all of "new-Who" and when I got to Matt's first series, I finally gave him the time and appreciation he deserved.  And his acting in some scenes absolutely floored me.  It wasn't just prancing about like a giraffe, flipping his hair around.  He was good.  So good, in fact, that Matt piggy-backed over David Tennant and became my favourite Doctor ever.  His emotional speeches are second to none and he can do light and shade in a way that still takes my breath away when I watch certain episodes.

Plus, Matt always comes across as a funny, genuinely nice guy when you see him in interviews etc.  He's also in touch with his emotions - anyone who's seen the cast read-through of his final episode of Doctor Who, where he breaks down as he reads his last lines, can attest to his sensitive side.  That said, he has a silly side, too  - ever seen his mini Doctor Who episode, filmed with James Corden?!  Have a look on YouTube.  It'll make you giggle. 

And then there's the fact that he's unspeakably gorgeous.  That probably helps, too.

Yeah.  It helps.

2. Johnny Galecki

I have a tendency to get into things well after everyone else has.  Such was the case with The Big Bang Theory.  Once I did get into the show, I originally had a bit of a crush on Simon Helberg, who plays Howard, because he's just rather lovable and also cute.  But within a week or two of that crush forming and fading, I had switched allegiance.  Colour me Galecki.

Let's get the shallow bit out of the way first:  Johnny is gorgeous.  Those eyes, that jaw-line, his curly hair, that smile...  Even the lack of height (he's only 5'5") is a turn-on for me, what with my own short stature.  He has broad shoulders and he just looks like he'd be amazing to cuddle.  And I won't lie:  I definitely have "ability to give good hugs" on my crush-checklist.  Maybe I should have included Olaf from Frozen on here...  He likes warm hugs, right?!  Anyway, I digress...

Johnny is also intelligent and funny and a talented actor.  I recently read an interview in which he talked in depth about the emotional content of the sitcom he's most famous for and it was all I could do not to endlessly sigh, as he spoke about his affection for the series and for the characters within it. My brain just went: "Oh, he's so lovely and smart and emotionally intelligent..."
If you watch full cast interviews, he's also often the one who chips in with a slightly sarcastic, witty remark, rather than hogging the opportunity to talk.  Witty chip-ins have always been something I am a total and utter sucker for (if I'd written this list a couple of years ago, it would have featured at least 3 or 4 comedians), so that was a bit of a clincher, too, as was the fact that in those group interviews, you can tell he's honestly listening to what his cast-mates are saying, rather than twiddling his thumbs and waiting to get away (or at least, if he is waiting to get away, he's masking it pretty well - told you he was a good actor!).  He also has a rather enigmatic quality; every now and then, he'll smile to himself in a manner that makes me want to cry: "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING, OH GORGEOUS ONE?!"  But I manage to keep that in, because... I'm not ready to entirely embrace insanity.
And I guess I probably have a crush on Leonard in The Big Bang Theory, too.  He's definitely my favourite character and, as Lydia and I agreed at lunch, the funniest person on the show.  

1. James Bourne

Can't. Handle. The cuteness.

 So why is James my number one?  Well, firstly, he's an incredibly talented (and frankly, underrated) songwriter.  Not only did he pen most of Busted's songs, but he's had a hand in a lot of McFly's as well, plus numerous other artists' singles have been either fully written or at least co-written by James.  Talent like that is a definite aphrodisiac.  Show me a cute guy and I'm happy.  Show me one who can also sing and play the guitar and I'm in Heaven.  James can do both (and I do believe he plays piano as well...) and he does them brilliantly.

He's also delightfully silly, wonderfully nerdy (he can quote so much of Back To The Future, I find myself wishing he'd just re-film it, playing every role himself...) and has a stage presence that makes me swoon.  James is just all kinds of awesome; one of the people on this list I think I'd genuinely get along with in real-life and someone whose Twitter page is well worth a follow.  I always say, slightly tongue-in-cheek that I can't just fancy a celebrity because they're hot, they have to be someone I think is a nice person as well.  I say it semi-jokingly, but the sad fact is it's true; I can't swoon over a gorgeous dickhead.  So it's handy that whilst he's lovely looking, James always comes across as just being lovely with it.  He has a sense of humour, he's clever and he's cheeky with it.  I think my biggest celebrity crushes have always been on people I reckon I could go out for a drink with and have an awesome time.  James fits that bill; I think he'd definitely make me laugh.

And on a shallow note... Look at those big blue eyes and that gorgeous, blonde, curly hair...  


And so there we have it.  Possibly the most shallow blog I've ever written, but after the last one being on such a deep, personal topic, it was kind of nice to write about something shallow!  

This list is, of course, subject to change (EDIT: And the top two have changed places at least twice since I wrote this blog originally...), but for now, the question asked of me at lunch time has been answered.  Who's my current number one crush?  Well, let's just say I could have called this blog "The Bourne Supremecy." ;-)

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Fifty Shades and the Fifty Shades Is Abuse Campaign: Dispelling the Myths...

Yes, I kept this newspaper clipping.  I wrote it, so... 

Okay, let me just apologise first.  This blog was written for the Fifty Shades Is Abuse website - homepage for the campaign (of the same name) I co-run.  Unfortunately, the website is hosted by and try as I might, I literally can't get Webs to upload the content to the website's blog.  Confused?  Yeah, so was I.

So what follows is the blog I spent all afternoon writing.  Should Webs ever start behaving, I'll upload it there.  Until such time... Here it is!

Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of something we’re passionate about, we can get carried away and lose sight of the fact that not everyone is on board with us. We can dig in our heels and refuse to listen to outside opinion.

That is something we DO NOT want to do with this campaign.

To that end, we do enter into conversation with our critics. We do listen to opposing views. After all, nothing changes if two sides don’t listen to one another. So we make it our business to engage with some of the less-abusive Fifty Shades fans who contact us, in an effort to explain who we are and what we’re about. Sometimes we change minds. Sometimes we at least encourage someone to consider a different viewpoint. And sometimes, with regret, we pull away from the conversation. There’s no use in shouting words into a vacuum, after all.

With only a month to go until the release of the first Fifty Shades movie, we’re receiving a lot more attention – both positive and negative – than usual. And as always, we’re responding to some of that negative attention, in an effort to explain why we feel the way we do and what we’re trying to achieve through this campaign. Or, to put it another way, to dispel some of the myths that surround Fifty Shades Is Abuse.

With that in mind, we decided that now would be a good time to dispel those myths here, providing our supporters (and ourselves!) with a handy link to send to those who insist on perpetuating them. We’re also going to use this blog to focus on some of the abuse myths put forward both in EL James’ trilogy and by fans of it. But first, let’s settle some of the untruths regarding this campaign...

“You’re prudish – you’re equating BDSM with abuse because you don’t know anything of the lifestyle!”

We get this one a lot. Fans of the books know that the BDSM aspect is the part of the trilogy that has provoked the most interest and, in some parts, controversy, so it’s almost understandable that they make the leap from the campaign title – “Fifty Shades Is Abuse” – to the idea that we’re anti-BDSM. That could not be further from the truth.

We are in no way, shape or form against consensual BDSM. Indeed, we have all kinds of people from within the lifestyle who follow and support our campaign. Dom(me)s, subs, switches... You’ll find plenty on our follower list. The reason? They believe, as we do, that the lifestyle has been offensively and dangerously misrepresented by EL James’ trilogy. From the tired old trope of the man only into BDSM because of some tragic, painful past (and who needs to be “fixed”), to the “Dom” using alcohol and manipulation to coerce a completely naive young woman into agreeing to become his sub; the story throws the BDSM community under the bus.

Fans make a huge mountain out of the importance of consent to Christian, but the fact is, they’re reading what they want to see. Yes, Christian hands Ana a contract and talks about the importance of consent, but when it comes down to it, there is precious little – something which many from the lifestyle itself have highlighted as extremely dangerous. Case in point? Whilst discussing hard limits, Christian deliberately gets Ana drunk. She can’t give full, informed consent in that state and were he a reliable Dom (or just a non-abusive person in general), he would know as much. She also asks him not to control every aspect of her life and he ignores her and continues to monitor her whereabouts and even tries to buy her workplace so he can keep an eye on her there. She tells him “no” during sex in chapter 12 of book 1 and he continues. In book 2, when she tells him she wants to talk, rather than have sex, he tells her “don’t over-think this” and carries on. In book 3, she tells him she’s too tired for sex. He tells her he wants it, so they’ll have it. Ignoring her lack of full consent in this manner has nothing to do with BDSM and it’s an insult when fans insist that it does. Ana never signed the contract; he is not her Master. And even if he were, a lack of consent would never be ignored in a healthy BDSM relationship.

You need only read “Meet Fifty Shades,” which EL James wrote from Christian’s viewpoint, to see that his first reaction when Ana falls into his office is to want to hit her out of anger, not arousal. Indeed, in book 2 of the Fifty Shades trilogy, he even tells Ana that if she doesn’t eat, he’ll hit her in public “and it’ll have nothing to do with my sexual gratification.” In other words, he doesn’t want to give her a consensual spanking. He just wants to hit her because she’s annoying him.

That’s not BDSM. It’s abuse. And we haven’t even talked about how the majority of Grey’s most abusive behaviour takes place in a non-sexual scenario. Much of his abuse is emotional and psychological. The fact that it crosses into sexual and physical abuse at times is just an extension of Christian’s already-abusive tendencies. Our pointing it out is in no way a damning indictment against BDSM as a whole.

We’re not remotely anti-BDSM. But we are against it being misrepresented and used as a cover for abusive behaviour, as it is in Fifty Shades.

We would recommend that anyone wanting to know more about the lifestyle speaks to someone involved in it, reads books on the subject, visits a club and finds out the facts. Because unfortunately, it would appear that EL James didn’t.

“You’re just projecting your own experiences onto Fifty Shades and that’s not fair!”

Sometimes, we reference our own experiences of abuse, as part of highlighting the dangers of real-life Christian Greys. This has led to some fans telling us that we’re “too obsessed” with what happened to us to be able to “understand the love story” that EL James has written. Others have told us that we’re projecting our own experiences onto Ana and Christian’s “healthy” relationship and coming up with a “sick, twisted opinion” on it as a result.

Casting aside how utterly offensive these comments are, they are also completely wrong. The simple fact is that we don’t have any need to project anything onto Fifty Shades. The abuse is there in black and white; not because we’ve imagined it, but because EL James wrote it there.

I don’t have to have personally been stalked in order to recognise that following a woman thousands of miles away when she’s asked for space is invasive and wrong. I don’t have to have been stalked to know that a man already knowing not only your address, but your bank details, medical files and the addresses of your family members is morally reprehensible, not “hot.”

I don’t have to have personal experience of someone I loved and trusted manipulating me with “I can’t help the way I behave; I don’t know any better...” to know it’s a massive, steaming pile of bull, being used to convince a person to stick around and feel responsible for “curing” their abuser. As it happens, I do have experience of that and I mention it only to explain the truth of the situation, not to make the campaign about me, or to justify seeing abuse in Fifty Shades when it’s not actually there.

We’ve written many times about the different types of abuse in Fifty Shades and the dangers of romanticising them, so I’m not going to list examples here, too. You can find them on our website, should you wish to look. But you can rest assured that the examples of abuse are taken directly from the books. Not made up to suit an “agenda” (a recent accusation by a fan), or exaggerated because we’re so over-sensitive because of our pasts, but direct quotes from the books that reference abusive behaviour – be it stalking, manipulation, coercion, threats, isolation or unwanted control – that EL James actually wrote in black and white. We don’t project our own experiences onto the books. The author did that for us.

“You’re telling people what they can and can’t read! That’s against free speech! You’re advocating censorship!”

Wrong. We’ve never called for a ban on the books. We’ve never insisted that all copies should be burned. We’ve never said that nobody should be allowed to read them, or that nobody should see the film.

What we have said is that romanticising abusive behaviour in fiction is highly dangerous and leads to abuse being normalised or missed in reality (emotional and psychological abuse in particular is so insidious that many who experience it don’t even realise they’ve been abused until much later).

What we have said is that romanticising abusive behaviour in fiction can, and from our experience has led to an even greater problem with people believing myths about abuse (more of which later), which in turn causes people to be blind to the very red flags they should be looking out for.

What we have said is that Fifty Shades could be used as a starting point for a public discussion on abuse – what it is, how to recognise it and where to get help – seeing as it depicts an abusive relationship with frightening clarity, yet millions of fans see it as “true love.” Something which is indicative of the fact that we have a long way to go when it comes to abuse-awareness...

As a writer, feminist and human, I am passionately pro free speech. Always have been, always will be. I even believe in the right of other people to ridicule my beliefs. And I believe in my right to speak out against something popular, however much fans of Fifty Shades might dislike me for doing so.

We’re not calling for book-burning. We’re not calling for bans. We’re not telling anyone what they can or can’t read or watch. We’re trying to raise awareness and start a discussion on a subject that very much needs to be brought to the fore.

“What about other books?! You can’t criticise Fifty Shades and not anything else!”

This is an interesting one. Taste is subjective; I might find something offensive, but someone else might not. There are, certainly, several books and films littered throughout history (and on modern shelves, too), whose themes are deeply questionable and could easily be deemed to glorify abuse.

To be clear, we stand against romanticised abuse in fiction full stop. Romanticising abusive behaviour in fiction normalises it in reality and can blind us to the signs.

However, Fifty Shades went past being “just a book” like so many others a long time ago. It went past being “just a book,” when the “find your own Christian Grey” dating sites appeared and when almost every women’s magazine refused to hear a word of criticism against it and began promoting Grey as “the perfect man.”

The trilogy has sunk deeper into public consciousness than almost anything that preceded it. When fans are sending us messages every week, defending Grey and in many cases abusing us personally for speaking against the series, it’s indicative of just how seriously this particular piece of Twilight fan-fiction has been taken. And when something with the potential to be dangerous is taken that seriously and becomes such a deep part of the public consciousness, then it makes sense for an abuse-awareness campaign to focus on it.

We’re not saying that any other book or film that romanticises abusive behaviour is okay. We’re saying that this campaign was set up around Fifty Shades because the trilogy encapsulates so much abuse, it was impossible to ignore. We’re saying that whilst Fifty Shades is so universal, it makes much more logical sense to use it as a starting point for a discussion on abuse than any other book that came before or after it.

“You’re just jealous of EL James!”

Ahahahahahaahaaaaaa. Ahem.

There are so many English errors in the entire Fifty Shades trilogy that I genuinely wouldn’t even know where to begin if I tried listing them all. The writing is appalling. Honestly, completely appalling. I say that as a writer myself. I would be embarrassed to put out a trilogy that was so hideously – and vainly – unedited. So if you’re talking about writing ability, I am not jealous and having read some brilliant pieces by the Fifty Shades Is Abuse campaign-founder, Natalie, I am certain that she isn’t either.

We’re not jealous of EL James’ wealth. Neither of us are that shallow. Nor are we envious of her fame.

Let’s also not forget that EL James is the writer who deliberately set out to make it look as though there was no criticism of her books coming from genuine abuse-survivors, when she told an interviewer: “People who see abuse in my books are doing a huge disservice to women who really experience it.”

Here’s the thing, EL. I experienced it. Natalie experienced it. Hundreds of our followers experienced it. We have several abuse charities following us who deal with those who experience it and they see abuse in your books, too. Where’s your answer for us?

So no, we’re not jealous of EL James. To suggest that we’d create a whole campaign centred around a subject as personal and important as domestic abuse, simply because we’re suffering from petty jealousy is ludicrous and offensive.

"EL James didn't deliberately write about abuse.  You're demonising her!!"

Wrong again.  Unless she's a deeply sick individual, I highly doubt that EL James sat down to write a novel that would romanticise an abusive relationship.  After all, Twilight has some of the same abusive patterns as Fifty Shades of Grey does and we know that EL's story started life as fan-fiction.  She was probably just taking some of the behaviours from Twilight and, unfortunately, bringing them further into the spotlight.

That said, it's not as though she hasn't been made aware of the abuse in her books.  Abuse survivors have contacted her.  Abuse charities have contacted her.  Her response is to block them on Twitter, so that they can't burst her precious bubble.  That's not the reaction of a mature writer who listens to valid concern.  It's the reaction of a rather vain person, so deeply in love with her own creation that she's willing to ignore, criticise and minimise those who have anything negative to say about her work.

People from the BDSM community have also spoken out, trying to explain to EL James that she has misrepresented their lifestyle.  And she has blocked and ignored them, too.

Let's also remember that for all her cries of "it's just my fantasy!", EL James is happy to sell Grey as the perfect man to anyone who'll listen.  She's been more than content to put her name - and that of the Fifty Shades brand - on endless pieces of merchandise, including BDSM-related sex toys, which doesn't exactly do much to dispel the idea that she's selling her "fantasy" as some kind of poorly-researched how-to guide.

I'm a writer.  I understand being precious over your work.  But I can't - and won't - understand anyone calling themselves a writer, who is prepared to utterly ignore and in some cases publicly insult those who come to her with very real concerns.  When you put anything into the public domain, you have to take ownership of it and that involves admitting when you've made mistakes and presented something which could be seen as dangerous or offensive.  

EL James is not prepared to take ownership of her work, unless it's to accept praise.  We aren't demonising her.  But we do seriously question her judgement in this area.

All of which leads me on to the abuse myths that Fifty Shades has itself managed to perpetuate. Abuse is a subject that many people know little about. In some ways, this is understandable. It’s not a pleasant topic and when faced with something so unpalatable, it’s fairly common to develop an “it’ll never happen to me” attitude.

Except it could. And blinding ourselves to the signs is potentially dangerous. On our Twitter page, we often talk about the “abuse myths” or “abuse tropes” in Fifty Shades and why they’re so unhelpful. So here, we’ve chosen to tackle a few of them. And yes, every single myth you’re about to read has been sent to us at some point by a Fifty shades fan, in defence of the series...

“He doesn’t know any better!! You can’t blame him for his behaviour, because he had a terrible childhood. He needs help, not judgement.”

We are in 100% agreement that Christian needs help, just as all abusers do. But an abuser will not change unless he or she recognises that they have a problem and needs to change. Christian sees nothing wrong with his behaviour, in spite of claiming “I’m fifty shades of f*cked up,” as an excuse for it.

And guess what? It’s not an excuse. There is never an excuse for abusing another person. The events that took place in a person’s life prior to their decision to stalk, manipulate, threaten, coerce, isolate, harm or forcibly control someone else, do not negate the abusive effect of these behaviours. My ex told me that he couldn’t help his behaviour towards me, because he’d been abused as a child. I believed him. I stuck around, trying to help him. Only when I realised that actually, he was an adult, with a circle of friends (including couples in healthy relationships), a job in which he had responsibility and several remaining family members, did I come to the horrible conclusion that he knew how he ought to treat me. He simply chose to be abusive instead and used his past as a convenient excuse.

Christian – and men like him – may be troubled and need some help and support. But it does not ever excuse their decision to behave abusively towards their partners. Christian’s sad childhood is no more an excuse for stalking or controlling Ana against her will than my ex’s was for abusing me.  An abusive, or tragic past might go some of the way towards explaining a possible propensity to abuse as an adult, but it doesn't excuse it.  EVER.

Think about it logically: If a guy butchered his own children and it turned out that he’d been beaten by his parents as a kid, would you spare him a prison sentence, because of his sad past? If a man raped a woman, would you let him off if his mum had died when he was little? Abuse is a crime. No amount of tragedy in an abuser’s past excuses it. It’s a common myth that we can explain away certain abusive behaviours if we find something in the abuser to be sympathetic about. EL James has perpetuated that myth and as a result, we have fans contacting us every week, telling us we’re being unfair, because poor ickle Christian – who owns a billion-dollar company, which he supposedly runs single-handedly – just doesn’t know how to be a big boy. Rubbish.

Manipulation is a key part of abuse. Getting your partner to think that you’re some poor, troubled person who simply can’t help their actions because they’ve never been shown any different, is a hugely common tactic. Why? Because it works.

This is the point at which fans point to Doctor Flynn and insist that Christian is trying to get better. Nope. EL James did about as much research into the kind of therapy Christian would need as she did BDSM. As a result, Flynn is highly unrealistic; a doctor who breaks his oath in order to tell Ana that she’s “doing wonders” for his patient (subtly putting responsibility for fixing Christian on her shoulders rather than his own – more of that later) and who never questions Christian’s behaviour, but enables it.

Frighteningly, whilst the doctor’s character and behaviour is unrealistic, the situation isn’t. Lundy Bancroft – author of “Why Does He Do That?” a book about men who abuse – explains that many abusive people will use their therapy sessions to justify their own behaviour, or to look for sympathy and a reason to blame others, rather than examine their own actions. My ex did the exact same thing, even going as far as to tell me that he used his therapy sessions to explain that he couldn’t help his behaviour; it was everyone else in his life that was wrong, not him. Consequently, I believe my ex is almost certainly still abusive. And so is Christian.

“But her love cures him in the end. They both have to learn, compromise and make sacrifices and that’s what a relationship is about.”

Sure, relationships are about compromise. But tell me: What does Christian sacrifice? His need to control? No, he still dictates to Ana as to when she can see her friends, whether she takes his name when they marry and he attempts to control a whole lot more besides. Does he sacrifice his need for BDSM when Ana expresses a dislike for some aspects? No, because he coerces Ana into going back on pretty much all of her hard limits. The only person who really makes an effort at compromise is Ana.

All of which is beside the point, because this is yet another dangerous – and offensive – abuse myth. The thought of the myth that love can “cure” an abuser being readily accepted by EL James’ fans is genuinely frightening, because this is a manipulative trap that so many people who experience abuse in real life fall into. I did.

When you love a person who has been treating you badly, you want to believe their promises that they’re going to change. When they tell you they can’t help their behaviour, you want to believe that and try to support them in “getting better.” Abusers fixate on that and will encourage their partners to believe that they – and only they – can help them to become a better person. This manipulation causes many people to stay in abusive relationships, thinking that if they just love their abuser the right way, they can get things back to how they were at the start of the relationship, before it all went wrong. Of course, an abuser will always move the goalposts so that there is no “right” way, but the abused person – already manipulated by this point – doesn’t know that and will often keep trying, to the detriment of their own mental and emotional well-being.

Ana – partly because of Christian’s manipulation and partly because of the poorly researched Doctor Flynn – believes that it’s her responsibility to “fix” Christian. It’s not. It’s his. In a healthy relationship, there’s nothing wrong with supporting a partner whilst they work on their issues. But this is not a healthy relationship and Ana is taking all of the responsibility, leaving Christian with none. Her love alone can’t “cure” Christian’s abusive tendencies anymore than love can cure abuse in reality.

By perpetuating the “love cures abuse!” myth, EL James is not only setting her readers up for a potentially dangerous fall, but offending the many women who found the strength to walk away from their abusers, having realised that they couldn’t change them and that staying put them at emotional or physical risk. Perhaps our love just wasn’t good enough, eh EL?

“Ana stays, so the abuse from Christian can’t be that bad. I mean, women who keep going back to an abusive man are pretty much complicit in the abuse, really. If it was that bad, they’d leave.”

From a Fifty Shades standpoint, let’s remind ourselves that within the trilogy, Christian tells Ana (book 1, I believe) that no matter where she ran, he would find her. He even chillingly jokes: “I can track your phone, remember?” All of which negates his promise to let her go when, in book 3, he thinks she’s leaving him. He’s already threatened to stalk her to the ends of the Earth if necessary, so why should we believe that he’s suddenly changed his tune?!

It’s a grotesquely common myth that people who go back to their abusive partners are somehow to blame for the abuse they suffer as a result. The blame for abuse lies squarely on the shoulders of one person: The abuser.

The myth takes no consideration of the level of manipulation and fear being used on the abused person. The abuser may threaten to kill the abused if they leave. They may threaten to kill themselves. They could manipulate family and friends into thinking the abused person is going crazy and needs to stay with them for their own protection. They could restrict the abused person’s access to their bank account or their car, thus making escape much harder. The abused person may be terrified that leaving could make things a hundred times worse.

Or the abuser could try a different tactic. They could make a hundred promises, swearing on their life –or even their children’s lives – that things will change. And with enough “evidence” (through charming behaviour, attention, gifts etc) that the abuser means what he/she says, the abused person may believe them.

The fact that people sometimes stay in – or go back to – abusive relationships does not make it their fault when they are abused. Ana’s decision to stay with a man whose temper she openly admits to being afraid of (chapter 6, book 3) does not mean that there is no abuse in her relationship, or that she is responsible for it.

The level of victim-blaming thrown by Fifty Shades' supposed fans at our campaign has been atrocious.

“Well, she stayed, so if he shouts at her and hits her, it’s not like she didn’t know she had it coming.”

“If she didn’t want marks all over her chest, she shouldn’t have taken her bikini top off on honeymoon. She knew what he was like.”

"He warned her to run.  She chose to stay.  After that, whatever he does to her, she only has herself to blame."

Victim-blaming is one of the most common, yet most damaging problems society has when it comes to dealing with abuse. And fans sending statements like that are only making it worse.

“It’s a fantasy – Grey is rich, gorgeous and sexy. Real-life abusers aren’t.”

Yes, that’s true. All real-life abusers have to go around in their “I’m An Abuser” t-shirts, with the pit stains on display. They’re usually hideously ugly, stone broke and terrible in bed. Of course no Fifty Shades fan is going to fall for an abuser – they’re incredibly easy to spot!

Um... No. Guess what? Abusers look like ordinary people. They could be rich and powerful. They could be the best sex you’ve ever had in your life. They could be the best-looking people you’ve ever laid eyes on. But they’re still abusers.

The myth that all abusive people are somehow recognisable is as ludicrous as it is dangerous. We already had Fifty Shades to “thank” for the legions of adoring readers willing to overlook hideous behaviour if it’s displayed by a fictional character who’s rich and sexy. Now, we have those same fans contacting us to tell us that abuse is super-easy to spot in real-life and that you’d never find a man like Christian Grey who was actually abusive.

Except... My ex was the hottest guy I’d ever seen in real-life at the time I met him (an opinion that has since been thoroughly revised). I thought he was gorgeous. I had friends who thought the same. And at first, the sex was definitely the best I’d ever had. Neither fact made him less of an abuser, but they did help to blind me to his abuse. Just like fans are blinded to Christian Grey’s abuse by his good looks and ridiculous wealth. Are we all really shallow?! No. We just have this stupid idea – perpetuated by books like Fifty Shades – that attractive, rich people are the good guys. An abuser must be really easy to spot, because he or she will undoubtedly be physically repugnant, grubby and nasty.

The reality is that abusers are skilled in the area of charm. They will put across a version of themselves that they know you’ll fall for. What would be the point of revealing themselves to be abusive right away? Nobody would want to be with them!

It’s time we got away from this utterly foolish societal belief that abusers... Well, look and act like abusers. More often than not, they don’t. That’s the whole point.

Fifty Shades of Grey has perpetuated these myths and more. That’s why we need to speak out. Not because we’re hysterically calling for books to be burned, or because we have any desire to police what people read, but because myths about something as already misunderstood as abuse are dangerous. We need facts. What we don’t need is a man who stalks, coerces, threatens, intimidates, controls and manipulates being presented as some kind of romantic hero. Because he isn’t.

He’s an abuser.