Fifty Shades of Grey puts women at risk, researchers claim

People with good taste generally wish the whole Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon would just go away; not because there is anything inherently wrong with erotic fiction in general or BDSM themes in particular, but because E.L. James's writing is so painfully—one might even say torturously, but not in a hot way—awful.

It's not going anywhere, though. The Hollywood adaptation is scheduled for release next February. If nothing else, it should be fun spotting all the Vancouver locations in the movie, which was shot locally (although the story is actually set in that other Vancouver).

Now comes news of a study, published in the Journal of Women's Health, claiming that James might be guilty of more than crimes against literature. According to the research team headed by Amy E. Bonomi of Michigan State University's Human Development and Family Studies department, the Fifty Shades series "depicts pervasive violence against women, perpetuating a broader social narrative that normalizes these types of risks and behaviors in women's lives".

The study was based on an online survey of 655 young women enrolled at a large Midwestern university, 219 of whom had read at least the first book in the series, and 436 of whom were fortunate enough to have read none of it. The researchers claim "strong correlations" between health risks in women's lives (including disordered eating, binge drinking, and being victims of intimate partner violence) and reading Fifty Shades of Grey. The researchers did not distinguish whether the women experienced these health risks before or after reading the books, but they did conclude that "if women read Fifty Shades before experiencing the health behaviors assessed in our study, it is possible that the book influenced the onset of these behaviors by creating an underlying context for the behaviors."

That seems like a colossal leap of logic to me, and "it is possible" reads like a weaselly way of saying "We have no evidence supporting this, but we would like you to believe it." But what the hell do I know?

For the full text of the study, titled "Fiction or Not? Fifty Shades is Associated with Health Risks in Adolescent and Young Adult Females", click here.

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