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"Fifty Shades is Domestic Abuse" says a group of protesters

12 February 2015, 13:00

Los Angeles - Grassroots movement is urging people to send $50 to women's shelters rather than see Fifty Shades of Grey, while a Midwest child protection league argues the film blurs the lines of what is healthy or harmful in sex.

With its whips and chains and a sexual relationship based on domination and submission, the first film in author E.L. James' Fifty Shades erotic romance trilogy appears headed for the same kind of runaway success as the books that have sold 100 million copies worldwide.

Its arrival in U.S. theaters on Friday, however, comes in the midst of a national debate about sexual violence and domestic abuse, sparked by high-profile incidents plaguing the National Football League and U.S. colleges last year.

Just four days ago, President Barack Obama appealed to musicians and their fans at the Grammy awards to help stop abuse against women and girls.

To be sure, Fifty Shades is a tale of consensual sex between two adults.

Formed out of Twilight fan fiction, the story follows naive college student Anastasia Steele, 21, who undergoes a sexual awakening at the hands of seductive 27-year-old billionaire, Christian Grey, a practitioner of bondage and domination.

But some activists say the message is still wrong.

Check out the trailer of Fifty Shades of Grey:

"This is about a seasoned predator who is a stalker and an abuser and sadist, honing in on a much younger woman," said Gail Dines, professor of sociology at Boston's Wheelock College. Dines founded the "50 Dollars Not 50 Shades" campaign that urges people to donate to women's shelters, rather than buy a movie ticket.

"It's a fairy story in the sense of it's not real, but in reality, it's a horror story that many women live."

Major women's groups have been silent when it comes to the Universal Pictures film. But hashtags such as #FiftyShadesisAbuse is gaining traction on Twitter and campaigners are using social media to organize protests at local movie theaters.

The Minnesota Child Protection League on Wednesday said the film "glorifies emotional and sexual abuse as love'" and launched the campaign "50ShadesThePledge" to offer resources for parents to dissuade their children from seeing the film.

British campaign group "Fifty Shades is Domestic Abuse" plans a protest at the London premiere of Fifty Shades on Thursday, and is encouraging people to boycott the movie and donate money to local charities for abuse victims.

BDSM World also balks:

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson said that she hoped to show Anastasia, played by Dakota Johnson, as an empowered woman.

"My goal was to take this girl who could seemingly be victim to something, but actually by the end of it as she goes on the journey through, she turns the tables and becomes the one with all the power, and he becomes the vulnerable one," she told the Huffington Post Live this week.

Taylor-Johnson and cast members Johnson and Jamie Dornan, who plays Christian, were not made available to Reuters for interviews. Universal declined to comment when asked if the studio was concerned about a backlash.

Fifty Shades premiered Wednesday at the Berlin Film Festival and despite the controversy, Boxoffice.com projects the movie will open with $89 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales from Friday through Monday, which would be a record for the U.S. Presidents Day holiday weekend.

Also read:Fifty Shades of Grey author's revealing Q&A

As with the books, dubbed "mommy porn" for drawing a mainstream female audience into the world of erotica and kink, the sex industry is hoping to capitalize again on the spotlight given to bedroom paraphernalia.

But some of those immersed in the sub-culture of bondage, discipline, dominance, submission and sadomasochism, known as BDSM, don't believe Christian and Anastasia's relationship is an accurate representation of their community.

While the film skirts explicit sex scenes with artful close-ups of faces and props, Christian in one scene whips Anastasia as a punishment, to her visible distress.

"Is this a dynamic (Anastasia) really wanted? I don't think it was, so it does come off as something that was unwanted and not enthusiastically desired," said Susan Wright, spokeswoman for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, a group advocating equal rights for adults engaging in alternative sexual practises.

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- Reuters

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