real life

Can you change an emotionally abusive man?



Everyone’s been talking about Fifty Shades of Grey. More specifically, they’ve been talking about:

1) How badly written it is

2) How many times Anastasia Steele says “oh my”

3) The ridiculous references to her “inner goddess” and her “sex” (READ: VAGINA)

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen all that much mentioning the actual relationship between Christian and Anastasia – and how damaging it is. Then I stumbled across this book review on, where reviewer Katrina Lumsden makes the problem VERY clear to all of us who were otherwise blinded by all the whips and that tampon scene:

50 Shades of Grey

The biggest issue I have with Fifty Shades of Shit is neither the sex nor the horrible writing. It’s the plot. Thin as it is, it’s still there, its core message being that, given enough time, you can change someone.

While I don’t have any problem with this if all you’re trying to do is help them to lose weight or quit smoking, when you’re talking about an emotionally and (dangerously close to) physically abusive relationship, sending that kind of message is ridiculous and irresponsible.

Christian is controlling, possessive, condescending, and cruel. He doesn’t allow Ana to behave as she normally would, and Ana just puts up with it, insistent that if she can give him what he wants, when he wants, as often as he wants, she can eventually begin to pull his strings.

I know women with this mentality too. Heck, at times I’VE even had that mentality. I spent one entire relationship constantly saying to all my friends, “So he was really mean to me but in the end it was really my fault anyway!”  They all did a great job of restraining themselves from smacking me over the head.

Katrina points out that Christian stalks Ana, whispers things to her “threateningly” and makes her constantly afraid he’s going to beat the crap out of her. Yet at no point in the book itself or in the endless public discussion about it, do we see people calling this emotional abuse for what it is.

It’s this kind of ignorant trash that sets feminism back decades. Women who defend this book are, however unwittingly, participating in some of the most blatant misogyny I’ve ever witnessed, giving the impression that some women enjoy being debased, abused, and controlled (outside of a consensual dom/sub relationship). This is not a book about BDSM, this is a book about one sick, abusive man and his obsession with a young, naive invertebrate.

It’s a book about a girl who has absolutely no sense of self, who sacrifices any pretense of individuality in order to hold onto a man who doesn’t even show her the faintest glimmer of respect. It’s about two attention-starved individuals with the emotional maturity of toilet paper convincing themselves that their relationship is ‘like, the best thing ever, OMG’.

It’s trite, insulting, and dangerous. I fear for any impressionable young women who read this and think that this is how an ideal relationship should operate. If nothing else, it should be issued as a guidebook to mothers around the world to show their daughters the kind of man to avoid at all costs. This book does good men (and indeed, all of humanity) a disservice.

Read the rest of the review here

It’s plain and simple: this is emotional abuse. White Ribbon explain exactly what emotional abuse is on their website:

White Ribbon







Emotional abuse — blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship, constantly comparing the victim with others to undermine self-esteem and self-worth, sporadic sulking, withdrawing all interest and engagement (eg weeks of silence).

Social abuse — systematic isolation from family and friends through techniques such as ongoing rudeness to family and friends, moving to locations where the victim knows nobody, and forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people — in effect, imprisonment.

The reality is that while physical abuse leaves visually obvious wounds, emotional abuse can potentially be just as harmful. Yet amongst so many women there seems to be this perception that we can ‘change’ a man. And with the books currently topping the best seller list essentially glamourising life with an abusive partner, you have to ask whether we’re reinforcing that perception even further.

 If this post brings up any issues for you, contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or go to their website. They are the national sexual assault and domestic family violence counselling service.

White Ribbon is Australia’s campaign to stop violence against women. You can donate to them here or, better still, get all the men in your life to take their oath to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

Do you think that an emotionally abusive man can change?