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50 Shades of Stereotypes: Submission in Marriage

In 2011, E.L. James released a book that would soon take that world by surprise by revealing explicitly erotic sense in a dark relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. 50 Shades of Grey was entirely based on the idea that Steele, the female, played a submissive partner to Mr. Grey. Pleasing him whenever he wished, and was even disciplined and bonded for ill behavior—an overall erotic and penalizing themed sex story that swept the nation. This book has been ridiculed and criticized by many but the numbers speak for themselves; over 70 million books have been sold in store worldwide.

Questions of abuse, dominance, and women in a submissive position arise immediately after reading James’ story. Readers have often found the explicitly scenes to be too uncomfortable to read because of the details used in this intimate relationship. Others have added, that the book is sending out the wrong message because it is portraying behaviors that are a direct result of his childhood abuse and showing the relationship in a positive light. Dr. John Bird from the national association for people abused in childhood says; “abuse shouldn’t be looked at light heartedly and certainly shouldn’t be praised.” He continued to say; “we often get adults ringing us who haven’t had treatment in the first instance, who now in their later lives are doing some quite self damaging things.” By creating a male character like Christian Grey, James is allowing the audience to forget the important issues of abuse and instead replace them with a positive view in the bedroom, because its sex he’s allowed to manipulate and abuse her?

Recently, volleyball star Gabrielle Reece revealed that the success to her 17 year marriage was the ‘old fashioned’ approach her and pro surfer husband Laird Hamilton took. In an interview on the “Today” show Reece confessed that she and Hamilton were close to divorce about four years into their marriage; but their marriage improved after she became more submissive. “I think the idea of living with a partner is “How can I make their life better?” Reece said on the “Today’s” show, “So if I’m the woman and he’s the man, then yes, that’s the dynamic. I’m willing and I choose to serve my family and my husband because it creates a dynamic where he is then in fact acting more like a man and masculine and treating me the way I want to be treated.”

Reece also spoke about the stereotypical traits of women and said that being submissive is key to being truly feminine. “I think because women have the ability to set the tone, that the ultimate strength and showing real power, I believe, is creating that environment,” she said. “I think it’s a sign of strength.’’

Emily Johnsen, senior at the University of Portland, shared her thoughts on Reece’s view on femininity. “I think the exact opposite when I think of a strong independent woman. I believe a woman should have the right to be the ruler of the house, the dominant voice, and be able to balance both a nurturing and powerful character that others respect.”

Although there has been advancement in women’s rights over the past few decades, the “traditional” gender roles are still very much present today. The stereotypical behaviors of a submissive housewife give imagines of what a wife should be, even in our present generation. 50 Shades of Grey allows for the abuse of women to slip by without question, encouraging a dangerously submissive character for females to looks up to. What more will it take to allow females the freedom to be an individual with equal opportunities, without the pressure of being the submissive partner?


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