[Trigger warning for rape]
A University of Illinois student is facing charges for sexual assault after, he says, trying to re-enact a scene from — yup — Fifty Shades of Grey. Mohammad Hossain is accused of assaulting a fellow student in his dorm room Saturday night. He had her strip down to her underwear, bound her hands and legs with belts, gagged her with a necktie, and blindfolded her with a knit cap. When he started hitting her with a belt, she started crying, struggling, and begging him to stop; when she managed to free her arms, he held them behind her back as he raped her.
His roommate came home soon afterward, but when the roommate tried to come in, Hossain held the door closed to keep him out. When Hossain was arrested later that night, he told the police that he and the victim were re-enacting scenes from Fifty Shades, confessing to the assault and “doing something wrong.” He reportedly appeared shocked at his hearing after the judge set his bail at $500,000.
But there’s no way a movie could actually inspire a person to do that kind of thing, right? I mean, we know the difference between fiction and real life, right? Like, a bio-nuclear engineering major and student ambassador and campus leader and triathlete would know better, right? People aren’t stupid enough to think that a movie is real life.
“Sandra, how can someone involved in all that let a movie persuade him to do something like this?” asked Judge Adam Bourgeois, Jr.
“He would say that it was consensual,” [Hossain’s lawyer Sandra Bennewitz] replied.
Y’all, I’m not speaking out for censorship, I’m not saying this movie shouldn’t have been allowed to be made, and I’m not saying that every person who watched this movie or read that book is going to go home and rape someone. But if you’re clinging to a belief that stories like this can’t possibly be dangerous without context or some kind of discourse or clarification, stop doing that. Because when you dismiss critics as prudish killjoys and discourage that kind of reasoned conversation, you legitimately do end up with college students beating and raping their classmates because BDSM*.
ETA: *By which I mean “using BDSM as a bullshit justification for what they did,” not “because they’re legitimately interested in BDSM.”
Edited to clarify, because apparently I didn’t manage to do that the first time: Fifty Shades of Grey, or more specifically the media’s unquestioning endorsement of it, isn’t going to create rapists or cause rape. Rapists cause rape. What the movie is going to do — and arguably already is doing — is create a target-rich environment for predators, encouraging women to accept abusive, harmful treatment because it’s characterized as kink (as I pointed out in my previous post). One has to wonder, for instance, if “Hey, why don’t I tie you to my bed and beat you with a belt?” would have worked on Hossain’s victim if the country’s most popular movie wasn’t telling women how sexy that is, and how if a guy is hurting you, you should just let him keep doing it because eventually he’ll make you come rainbows.
As mentioned below in comments, it’s already happened since the book came out: One Feministe reader mentioned new doms on the scene beating the crap out of subs because they think that’s how it works, and not accepting correction. Subs who can’t find responsible doms because guys think they get to do whatever they want. These guys didn’t start wanting to beat women up just because of Fifty Shades, but they now have women who have been told that that kind of treatment is sexy and empowering and BDSM. The movie didn’t create the predators; it just gave them better camouflage. It neither caused nor excuses Hossain’s assault, but it put him in a position to be able to do it.
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- Just a few reminders before you buy those “50 Shades” Valentines by Caperton February 12, 2015