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Defining precisely what qualifies as violent behavior can be a tricky endeavor, especially in the realm of fiction.
In the real word, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use a specific set of parameters for their official definition of intimate partner violence: “physical, sexual or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse.”
However, new research from Ohio State University and Michigan State University found the best-selling novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” fits that definition to the letter.
Acts of slapping or choking certainly fit the patterns often associated with abuse, though some would argue the basis for this is an adult and consenting relationship that doesn’t reflect actual assault.
That doesn’t convince the report’s lead author, Amy Bonomi. A researcher at Ohio State, Bonomi and colleagues from Michigan State analyzed the storyline of the book’s first 124 pages and the actions of its characters.
“Universities found the novel fits the
definition of intimate partner violence.”
Bonomi came to the conclusion that the relationship in the book cannot be defended so easily.
“Consenting BDSM relationships are fine,” Bonomi said. “But the relationship we see between Christian and Anastasia is different. What we see in them is a clear pattern of abuse.”
The CDC also considers some use of alcohol or drugs as a means to sex as a form of violence. In the book, Christian Grey plies the female protagonist with liquor to encourage sex.
Researchers found individual scenes, actions and motivations like these can show the true nature of the relationship, with behaviors that should not be glamorized or downplayed.
The novel, published in 2011 and set to be a major motion picture in early 2015, was penned by British author E.L. James.
The report was published in the Journal of Women’s Health.