Fifty Shades Of Abuse: Study Says ‘50 Shades Of Grey’ Readers More Likely To Have Abusive Partners

"Fifty Shades of Grey"
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the film version of "Fifty Shades" Universal

Maybe Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele's romance isn't so perfect after all. Following the wild success of E.L. James’ erotica series “Fifty Shades of Grey,” one study is now reporting that readers of the best-selling romance novels are more likely to have abusive partners. Out of 655 women ages 18 to 24 polled, 25 percent of those who admitted to reading James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” were found more likely to have engaged in an abusive relationship, a study published Thursday in the Journal of Women’s Health.

In the study “Fiction or Not? Fifty Shades Is Associated with Health Risks in Adolescent and Young Adult Females," 219 participants admitted to reading the first book in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. When asked about their romantic partnerships, the online university survey found that 25 percent of readers were more likely to have been in a relationship with a partner who “shouted, yelled or swore at them.” 

While the study does not indicate if the abusive partnerships came about before or after the women had read James’ novel, research author and Michigan State University Professor Amy Bonomi told the Washington Post that her participants' history of abuse and the books are linked.

“The book is a glaring glamorization of violence against women,” Bonomi told U.S. News & World Report, using the fiction series’ lead female Anastasia Steele as a prime example of female abuse.

“[She] begins to manage her behavior to keep peace in the relationship, which is something we see in abused women,” Bonomi said of Steele’s BDSM-laced, torrid love affair with male lead Christian Grey. "Over time, she loses her identity [and] becomes disempowered and entrapped."

Despite James' claims the series was designed to be a “fun” read for women, Bonomi slammed the author for projecting the character’s unhealthy romance as a loving relationship. “While Christian and Anastasia’s relationship is being cast as sexually liberating for women, in fact, it is entrapping them further through the abuse standards being perpetuated in the book,” she said.

The study also found that over 60 percent of participants who admitted to reading all three novels from the “Fifty Shades” series had “five or more” sexual partners in their lifetime; 75 percent of readers said they'd fasted in the past 24 hours/or used diet aids; and 65 percent said they sometimes binge drink.

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