Does Glamorising Abusive Sexual Relationships Adversely Influence Society?

Posted at 04:26am on 11th February 2015

I came across this old post, Modern Morality: What is its Place in Contemporary Fiction, by chance and wondered if it had any relevance to the recent discussion on BBC Newsnight about the influence that the book, 50 Shades of Grey, might have in 'normalising' abusive sexual relationships.  While Friedman's book, and the particular story quoted, has nothing to do with sexuality, it is about manipulation.  While the reader may never encounter an identical situation, it poses questions that are relevant to anyone’s and everyone’s lives.  And there's no doubt, in my mind, that what we read, watch, and think about, has the potential to change our behaviour. 

This is not to say that it does so in one direction only.  We may find we are more against than pro the themes conveyed in any particular book.  Like Eric, who commented on the original blog post, my aim in writing is to entertain.  However, whilst my characters may convey negative qualities in human behaviour, my hope is that my reader will be sufficiently disarmed by a good story to accept the positive traits that are also present: forgiveness, wholeness, trust, kindness and compassion.  Might it be true to say that all art forms seek to ‘influence’ the minds of others?

I haven’t read 50 Shades and I don’t intend to do so.  But it seems to me that in making a film of what would, once, have been deemed ‘under the counter adult literature’ is glamorising the abusive elements of an act which should be intimate, loving and beautiful.  In doing so, it is bound to affect the way some people think.  And if that has an adverse influence on society at large, then it’s certainly not something I would want to be responsible for as an author.  If this is accepted, how long before the subject of child abuse becomes an acceptable subject for entertainment?

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