Is ’50 Shades of Grey’ Hurting Women?
Reading “50 Shades of Grey” may be hazardous to the health of young women, according to a new study.
The University of Michigan study found that adult young women who read the steamy, sado-masochistic novel more often exhibited eating disorders, and more often were with verbally abusive partners than women who did not read the steamy page-turner.
Further, women who read the entire trilogy, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” are at greater risk of engaging in binge drinking.
The “Fifty Shades” books graphically depict the relationship between a college student and the sexually kinky and abusive man she falls for. The triology has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, and its movie adaptation is scheduled for release in early 2015.
Amy Bonomi, the study’s lead researcher, says the symptoms shown in some “Fifty Shades” readers are all known risk factors for women in abusive relationships.
“If women experienced adverse health behaviors, such as disordered eating first, reading ‘Fifty Shades’ might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma,” says Bonomi, chairperson and professor in MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “Likewise, if they read ‘Fifty Shades’ before experiencing the health behavior seen in our study, it’s possible the books influenced the onset of these behaviors.”
The study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, is one of the first to investigate the relationship between reading popular fiction about violence against women and real health risks.
The study included more than 650 women between ages 18 and 24. Those who read the first “Fifty Shades” novel were:
- 25 percent more likely to be with a partner who yelled or cursed at them.
- 34 percent more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies.
- 75-plus percent more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours.
Those study participants who read the entire trilogy were:
- 65 percent more likely than non-readers to binge drink.
- 63 percent more likely to have five or more intercourse partners during their lifetimes.
“We recognize that the depiction of violence against women in and of itself is not problematic, especially if the depiction attempts to shed serious light on the problem,” Bonomi says. “The problem comes when the depiction reinforces the acceptance of the status quo, rather than challenging it.”