Is this relationship healthy or sick?

January 11, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey follows Ana, a college student inexperienced in love, as she enters a dark relationship with a troubled man, rescues him from his inner demons, marries him, and rides with him into the sunset.

Excluding hard pornography, I believe Hollywood has never produced a film so hazardous to young women.

Here’s the first of two central concepts that harm your daughter:

1. Ana consented to being humiliated and abused, so it’s ok.

No, humiliation and abuse are never ok. Consenting to it is a terrible, self destructive decision.

Why would Ana, or anyone else, agree to be assaulted? Maybe she wanted to please her abuser. Perhaps she thought she deserves to be punished. Or maybe she’s heard that some people enjoy it, and she’s curious.

Whatever her thinking, it’s not emotionally healthy. A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain. She seeks a relationship that is safe, supportive, and trusting. She wants to feel cared for and appreciated. If there is any hint of danger, she runs.

Many well meaning people argue that Ana and Christian get to decide what works for them in their personal lives, and if the choice is thoughtful and freely made, then it’s ok. This includes sadomasochism, which has been promoted to young people by “reputable” organizations such as Columbia University and Planned Parenthood.

Their thinking is reflected in a recent post on my blog,

“..I disagree with your vilifying the book series… never once is Anastasia forced to do anything. She has free will and choice of what happens to her the entire story. There are so many variations on the spectrum of what people are comfortable with in their relationship. Just because one variation makes someone uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”

Let’s check that reasoning. What if we applied it to other personal decisions?

By her own choice, Anastasia went on a diet of cheezwhiz and gummy worms. No one pressured her, she could have picked other diets. So the decision was right for her.

One day, Christian became distraught over world hunger, and decided to commit suicide by crashing his private helicopter into the Seattle Harbor. It was a good choice, because that’s what made him comfortable, and he wasn’t forced into it.

Silly examples, I know, but they demonstrate the flawed logic. Sure, people have free choice. But it doesn’t follow that every time they exercise that free choice, their decisions are good for them, ethical, or even rational.

The decision to consent to any form of abuse is a self destructive one – end of story. The toxic power of Fifty Shades of Grey lies in its ability to plant doubt in your daughter – it leads her to conclude it’s not altogether clear. The goal is for your daughter to believe everything, even this, is nuanced.

Here’s how it works. Ana and Christian’s initial relationship is on the dark side. There is stalking, emotional abuse, and violence. With time he opens up. Ana learns he’s had a hard life, that’s all. Deep down, Christian is a a good guy. He buys her a car and makes sure she eats well. Things are not so dark after all; there’s some light between these two. We start to feel sorry for Christian. He must tie up Ana and make her scream? Well, it’s not his fault. By the end, there’s a proposal, a wedding, a baby or two. There’s darkness, but there’s lots of light too. Fifty Shades of Grey — get it?

And therein lies the danger. There are vast differences between dark and light, healthy and unhealthy. Fifty Shades of Grey blurs that distinction. It leads your daughter to wonder, what’s healthy in a relationship? What’s sick? There are so many shades of grey…I’m not sure.

But with her safety at risk , there’s no room for confusion or doubt. You want your daughter to be one hundred per cent certain: an intimate relationship that includes violence, consensual or not, is emotionally disturbed. It’s sick.

This is black and white. There are no shades of grey here. Not even one.

Other parts of this guide:

Part 1 – introductory material

Part 3 – MORE Dangers of Fifty Shades of Grey to Your Daughter

Part 4 – the Dangers of Fifty Shades of Grey to Your Son

Part 5 – How To Speak With Your Child About Sadomasochism

I am available to speak about this, and many other urgent topics. Please visit my speaking page for information. Thank you!


  1. Kristine - reply

    I cannot thank you enough for standing up for truth. I have three daughters and a son. I am doing all I can to inform them of the truth so they won’t be confused by organizations such as planned parenthood and by pop culture. The youth of today are surrounded by pop culture influencing them with immorality and dishonesty. And now planned parenthood is trying to make its way into their lives in schools across the nation….taking parental rights away by teaching philosophies that contradict what parents teach and not allowing them to view their presentations. Fighting their takeover in NV.

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  6. John - reply

    I’m not sure I agree. I think it always boils down to who are we or you in this case to judge. Everyone especially those that think they have a good head on their shoulders feel so capable of judgement and applying their moral compass to others. The world being so vast when u start to think about what the acceptable norm is in other countries. We try to apply what we grew up in around learned or heard about.

  7. richard - reply

    Of course we must push out children to be what we want them to be, that’s the whole idea of ownership, my son WILL do as I will….he will have no sense of self and I as his master will decide for him………maybe 50 Shades is dangerous but you deluded fools are so much worse, your children aren’t property and the idea of forcing your own religious proclivities onto impressionable children is sick beyond words, get a grip on reality and trust that children nurtured, trusted and loved can make the right decisions for themselves……. And if not, then it’s a lesson learned, unless your children are incapable of logical or reasoned thought, then the lesson will be yours to learn, or not.

    • MiriamGrossman - reply

      Sorry, i don’t follow. Who wants their kids to have no sense of self? Who considers their children to be property? Please explain.

  8. Alys B. Cohen - reply

    You missed the mark on this. The relationship in the books is not okay because Ana doesn’t freely consent. She is manipulated and bullied and stalked into compliance. If a man manages to get into a woman’s bank account, buys her place of employments to be the boss over her, follows her across the country, knows exactly where she is at all time even when she doesn’t tell him where she’ll be, and he jerks her around emotionally and breaks her down and pacifies her just enough to seem like a nice guy, then consent is ultimately under duress, which isn’t valid consent.

    • MiriamGrossman - reply

      I see your point that consent was under duress, therefore invalid. Are you saying, then, that if the consent was genuine, her decision to be abused is a healthy one?

  9. sheamus30 - reply

    I’m curious as to your credentials to decide that every healthy person must have the exact same standards and sense of sexuality. I don’t know anything about the story and it does sound as if it was a dangerous relationship and it tries to make a hero out of an abusive man. But my issue is solely with how you think that all healthy people should have the same sexual tastes; that all healthy people should run from even the slightest all mount of pain or danger. A sense of danger in a controlled safe environment can add a great deal of excitement and a certain amount of physical pain (as long as nobody is in real danger) can directly lead to intensified orgasm for some people. For example, choking can directly lead to very intense orgasm for both genders because of the oxygen and blood deprivation to the brain. I am not necessarily recommending because a lot of people die every year due to auto erotic asphyxiation. But the point is there is a biological influence from pain and danger that doesn’t require a person to be mentally unhinged.

  10. JenO - reply

    Let me restate what you said,” choking can directly lead to very intense orgasm for both genders because of OXYGEN and BLOOD DEPRIVATION to the brain…. Many people die every year due to auto erotica asphyxiation.”
    A ‘sense of danger’ in a SAFE Environment DOES not happen with choking.
    Doctors would recommend people from staying away from this type of behavior because it can make simple, honest, sex seems dull, and therefore the person wants more!! The way sex should be viewed is an intimate, private matter between a couple. There is nothing safe or ok about harming oneself for a higher climax. Would you jump off a cliff without rope?? This lost of oxygen to the brain dying kind of sex does not only produces a higher orgasm, but your body is freak ing out from lack of oxygen, so your adrenalin kicks in… These type of sexual inflicting pain games, are addictive. Like any addiction, not healthy.

  11. mytwocents - reply

    relationships are everywhere and teaching our children what a healthy relationship is, is very important. This is done through conversation and example.
    To compare a relationship that involves bondage and pain during sex ,to suicide and an eventually fatal diet is not exactly fair. A more accurate comparison to your logic would be…swimming can lead to drowning so don’t swim, or roller coasters are scary and if it crashed you would die, so don’t go on rollercoasters, or scary movies may scare you into a heart attack so you shouldn’t watch them. The reality is these things although dangerous or scary, are also fun and enjoyable because of the thrill, danger, and scariness. All of which are perfectly acceptable in a controlled and safe environment.
    I have never read 50 shades nor seen the movie and if the relationship is not consensual and abusive, (and by abusive i mean that someone in the relationship is hurt emotionally or physically without consent), then I agree with you. But to say that the involvement of bondage or pain in the relationship by default makes the relationship unhealthy and abusive is unrealistic and false by any standard.
    I am not a sadomasichist and would never flirt with asphyxiation, but that’s a personal choice. If my significant other wanted to be bound, spanked etc., I would do that because we have a healthy trusting relationship, that is kept healthy by innocent play and risk taking at time (ex: going skydiving – as long as I have a parachute). These can be part of a healthy relationship if done for the right reasons, and brought up and discussed in a safe trusting environment.
    So…if i found a gag in my daughters bedroom (and i have a daughter), I need to trust we have taught her well, and that she is capable of knowing the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. I also need to let her know we are here if she needs us and always will be. To think that the gag would mean that she’s in an abusive relationship is just wrong, because I know my daughter and if threatened with harm I know she would jam that gag where the sun doesn’t shine if she needed to.
    If you’re in fear that a child would watch this movie and believe that it depicts a healthy relationship, then check your own compass. Because they need to know movies are made for entertainment, and this movie doesn’t depict anything more true than Harry Potter, Bilbo Baggins, Rambo, or James Bond.

  12. nonsensepissesmeoff - reply

    I notice it APPEARS the supporters the content of the film are mostly men. If the same treatment were being put upon an animal everyone in the country would be up in arms but oh well it just a woman, what the heck. (And don’t start with, well animals are innocent creatures because if you terrorize an animal it will soon bow to your will). Women have been fighting for years for human rights and to be viewed accordingly. What has been achieved thus far is mostly lip service. Deep down inside men, even the good ones, do not believe women are anything more than property . I say this because I work in the field of family law and see the destruction. The only thing that allows evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing and the good men are doing nothing to change attitudes. (The old boys club you know). Over and over women consent to uncomfortable situations because they know there will be a consequence if they don’t, even if it is something as what might be as insignificant as the cold shoulder for days. Any woman who is treated this way, (stalked, controlled) is not going to say no. My suggestion to the yay sayers is to go to any women’s centre and talk to the women there. I cannot believe that people continue to use the argument that what a child or any person watches on TV or other media does not influence their ideas and beliefs. If that were the case why are we inundated with advertising? Everywhere we look we see advertising influencing attitudes, choices, political beliefs. If it did not work we would live freely in a world without advertising. This material is quite a bit different than superhero movie where good is fighting evil and good wins. That teaches that good is the side to be on. What does this teach? I have not read the books, will not see the movie. I am not in the mood to be made sick to my stomach. I trust the depiction of the content as described by Miriam Grossman as well as friends and acquaintances and other discussions to feel I am entitled to comment. This is barbaric and humanity is moving in a backward direction.

  13. S E - reply

    Not that Dr Miriam needs any backing up, she has excellent views and writes very well herself. But i would like to share my opinion. Her article is written with young men and women in mind. People who are still trying to decide who they want to be and no necessarily mature enough to make their own decisions. Not so long ago, the decision involved “should i have sex with my boyfriend/girlfriend?” the decision now is more complex : should i have sex with a man or a woman, should i practive BDSM etc. And the answer from the mass media is that – you should be do it, there is nothing wrong with it.

    Adults, perhaps are more well informed to make their own decisions – they can choose to practice BDSM and live with the thrill and/or consequences.

    I applaud Dr Miriam for giving another point of view – BDSM can be abusive, young women don’t have to have sex if they don’t want to, there is a biological difference between men and women and so on. Because the media is bombarding us with opposite information and it is not fair to impressive young minds to only be equipped with one side of the argument – the most popular one, which is not necessarily right.

    Young people have impressive minds, and it is important for us as adults to equip them with enough information for them to make their own decisions.

    • Carol - reply

      I absolutely agree with you that our young people are impressionable and need guidance. In fact, after I saw the movie with two teenage girls sitting down the aisle from me, I sent in a review suggesting that we really need a new rating system for movies. I don’t think anyone under the age of 21 (really 30) is mature enough to read the books or see the movie without it potentially affecting their developing identities. But the reality is that anyone 17 or over can see a rated R movie.

      Many good points have been made here, but how many of you have seen Wolf on Wall Street? In my opinion, the demoralization of women in that movie is just as bad or worse than 50 Shades. At least the lead woman in this story had some redeeming qualities and was able to think for herself.

      And I am a woman who was taught by my FATHER to be strong, not let anyone (especially men) take advantage of me, and to think for myself. I believe I have done that for the most part, but I have also been manipulated as I’m sure many of you have. It’s part of growing up. Do you think that men/boys are never manipulated? Better yet, do women not manipulate them? Of course they do! In fact, one of the things that messed Christian up was the manipulation of an older woman!!!

      Let’s don’t make this a woman’s rights issue. Let’ s just all resolve to teach our kids to protect their minds and to make the best decisions they can – and to be able to come to us when they are unsure or in need. That’s what our society needs – more support and communication. Not more censorship and judgement.

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