skip to Main Content

Is 50 Shades of Grey Normalizing Abusive Relationships?

Warning Signs of Unhealthy Relationships

50shadesI recently read an article by psychiatrist, Meg Meeker, about the erotic romance novel and recent movie release of Fifty Shades of Grey, which is expected to earn more than $90 million during it’s four day opening on Valentine’s Day weekend.  In her article, Dr. Meeker states her concern that the ideas brought forth in Fifty Shades of Grey could lead to confusion about what is a healthy or unhealthy relationship and could contribute to young women making poor, possibly dangerous decisions when it comes to love and relationships.

Although the movie is indeed billed as a “love story”, it is in a nutshell, about the man in the relationship having complete power and control over the woman.  The movie and book are not about kinky sex as much as they are about control and abuse.

The behavior displayed by Christian Grey, the movie’s male lead, illustrates strong warning signs of an abusive relationship, and it’s concerning to mental health professionals that these abusive traits may become normalized through the film.

Warning Signs of An Abusive Relationship Present Within 50 Shades of Grey

Violation of Privacy and Intense Need to Control Partner
Christian Gray is a highly jealous, destructive, and controlling man.  He violates Anastasia’s personal boundaries by breaking into her apartment, showing up at her work place unannounced, commands her to stop drinking during her birthday celebration, orders her to exercise, traces her cell phone, hides in her home, and demands that she keep her eyes downcast.

Isolation from Family and Friends
“The abuser tries to keep the victim from friends and family by putting down everyone the victim knows, including their family and friends.”
Christian drives a wedge between her and family and friends, distancing her from other supports in her life. This is often one of the biggest warning signs in an unhealthy and potentially abusive relationship.

Sexual Dominance & Force
Although Anastasia was a virgin, she readily submits to whips, chains, flogging, whipping, spanking and submits to his controlling orders because she wants to “change him” and help him to become better.

Christian enjoys humiliating Ana.  He must have all the power and control in the relationship and his goal is her complete submission “I like the control it gives me, Anastasia. I want you to behave in a particular way, and if you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn to behave the way I desire. I enjoy punishing you.” How can these words be interpreted as the lines of a love story?

The Harm In The Message
While this may work out for Christian and Ana in the movie, in reality, most relationships with this degree of control, manipulation and abuse end badly. Ana’s belief of “He’ll change – I’ll make a difference in his life.  He’ll get better – he won’t always be like this”, is a refrain many women who are with a manipulating, or possibly abusive man often repeat.

I agree with Dr. Meeker that these traits masqueraded as love in 50 Shades of Grey are indeed abuse red flags. It is important to remember that healthy relationships are based on trust, respect, and equality, and this movie contains none of that. The harmful message it sends to audiences is that it is acceptable for men to humiliate, manipulate, and control women is not just bad, it sends a very dangerous message to young women.

*If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship; seek help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or visit for information and help.
Local Resource: The Harbor House Orlando – Orlando Area Domestic Abuse Shelter


Warning Signs of An Abusive Relationship 

GroundWork Counseling

Request A Call Back

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Contact Us & Location
GroundWork Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
341 N Maitland Ave #330
Maitland, FL 32751


411 Congress St #3292
Portland, ME 04101

Burlington, VT 05043

Virtual & In-Person Appointments

Virtual / Telehealth appointments available for individuals residing in: Florida, Maine, Vermont, South Carolina & Montana

In-person appointments available in Central Florida. By appointment only.

Back To Top