Mary Dell Hayes is the Director of Development at STSM. She enjoys many aspects of pop culture like Real Housewives and Meghan Trainor... but not the Kardashians or Fifty Shades of Grey.

People have pretty strong feelings about 50 Shades of Grey. Some of my friends love it. One of my mom’s friends even referred to it as marriage insurance (Yes, I blushed.). At STSM, we constantly evaluate the impact that popular culture has on our agency, our community, and ourselves. We believe that 50 Shades of Grey normalizes sexual violence. We are supporting the #50DollarsNot50Shades movement by donating the cost of a movie ticket to STSM. #ConsentisSexy. Violence against women is not.

Here are a few problems that we’ve noticed with the 50 Shades trilogy:

  • Christian Grey stalks Anastasia. He shows up uninvited at her workplace, her home, and hacks into her phone. Stalking is a huge part of relationship violence. We work with teens in middle and high schools and do an activity where they sort healthy and unhealthy relationship qualities. Inevitably, teens say jealousy can be healthy in certain situations because it can be cute. They say that it is cute when your crush gives you the silent treatment or when he or she wants to know your passwords and check your phone. Students struggle to identify the behavior as unhealthy, citing characters like Grey who exhibit these behaviors as defense that these behaviors are signs of love. Let’s not promote stalking and jealousy as cute. Stalking and jealousy are warning signs of a violent relationship.
  • Christian Grey is controlling. He buys the company Ana works for, forces birth control on her, and repeatedly manipulates her to get his way. In a healthy relationship, power is equal between consenting parties. Both people in the relationship are valued for who they are. Threats and manipulation are not how healthy people get what they want in a relationship. Open, honest dialogue is how both parties get what they want in a relationship. If you can’t have open dialogue about your needs in your relationship, please get help.
  • Christian Grey doesn’t value consent in relationships. BDSM relationships are enjoyed by many consenting adults. Maybe even your straight-laced, uptight neighbors enjoy a little kink in the bedroom. The difference between your neighbors and Christian Grey is that (hopefully) your neighbors are mutually consenting adults who are equal partners in the relationship. There are several scenes in the trilogy where Anastasia clearly says, “no”. That’s it. End of story. If you’re drunk, you can’t consent to sex. Getting someone drunk with the intent on having sex with them is called rape. Anything less than an enthusiastic YES means it’s time to slow down and make sure you are both on board with the next activity. Christian Grey is not a kinky master of sexual prowess. He is a rapist.

You can’t put lipstick on a pig. 50 Shades of Grey glamorizes sexual and intimate partner violence. Consent is part of a healthy relationship no matter what other sexual practices are enjoyed. We have a problem with violence in South Carolina. Violent relationships have an incredibly high cost on our economy, not to mention the lives lost every day.

This Valentine's Day, put your money where your values are! If you think #ConsentisSexy, click here to donate the cost of a movie ticket to STSM--or another organization that supports healthy relationships and consent. ‪#‎50DollarsNot50Shades