Fifty Shades of Grey was the most popular book of 2012. The E.L. James novel and it sequels topped Amazon’s charts and a movie adaptation is scheduled for release in August 2014.
The novels tell the story of Anastasia Steele and her relationship with a man named Christian Grey. Grey eases Steele into his sexual proclivities throughout the novel, which include bondage and dominance/submission play. The themes of the book and its relatively graphic content have made it the subject of controversy. Fifty Shades of Grey, according to the American Library Association, was the fourth most challenged book in American libraries in 2012. Now a new study from researchers at Michigan State University is calling the Fifty Shades novels dangerous for women.
The study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, states that Fifty Shades of Grey perpetuates violence against women. The study’s authors point to “emotional and sexual abuse” in the novel, and conclude that Steele suffered harm.
“This book is perpetuating dangerous abuse standards and yet it’s being cast as this romantic, erotic book for women,” said Amy Bonomi, lead author of the study and soon to be chairperson of Michigan State’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “The erotic content could have been accomplished without the theme of abuse.”
Bonomi and her colleagues analyzed Fifty Shades, finding in the novel that Steele’s behavior mirrors that of abused women, as cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In particular, the study points to Steele’s disempowerment and “mechanized” behavior in response to Grey’s actions.