Fifty Shades of Abuse Romanticized

 

Yeah, at it’s core, Fifty Shades of Gray has a very strong vein of pure abuse running right through it.  And I’ve been trying really hard to ignore that.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but haven’t gotten around to it, but finding this image on a Facebook group called “The Reality of Domestic Violence” gives me a perfect launching pad.

I know, I know; a while back, I wrote about all the good things in the Fifty Shades series as far as kink is concerned in a post called Fifty Shades of Consent.  Most of what I wrote does apply, but the part where I talked about Christian being in control of himself and a  model of eliciting consent?  Eh, not so much.

In fact, I found myself thinking, “Who the hell do you think you’re kidding?” not long after I wrote it upon rereading it.  Heck, I was thinking that even as I wrote the post, and kept telling myself to shut up and look at the positives.

The fact of the matter is that Christian is one controlling mofo, exactly as detailed in the image above that lists the hallmark signs of an abusive partner.  The fact that things turn out OK in the end really doesn’t excuse any of this.

He’s also a stalker, which the image leaves out.  I mean, honestly, following Anna around, showing up at her workplace in another town, following her out on the town at night with her friends, etc.?  Running a formal background check on her down to what she’s got in her checking account before even doing that?  Scary shit…

I was looking for the good parts, and trying to minimize the bad.

Then it hit me – this is just like we so often do when we find ourselves in abusive relationships.

Exactly what I did as I fell down the rabbit hole with his Ex-ness. I knew it was a bad idea to get back together when he begged me, and I even told him why, which he blew off – and then I bought his own reasons, which I even knew made no sense.  I knew that he wasn’t seeing it clearly and that I ought to be the one to walk away.  But, man, I had so many good reasons to move ahead despite knowing I shouldn’t, so many reasons I so wanted it to work and to be shown that my instincts were wrong, so very many reasons to believe that maybe I was entirely wrong, and not wanting to miss out on all the good stuff I knew was there also…  I was hope, hope, hoping…

And I wrote an entire post that exactly mirrors this process that we who end up in abusive relationships go through of seeing what we need to see and then pushing it aside, out of sight, out of mind.  A post that is full of denial and ignoring the bad parts in our desperate reach for the good, our strong desire that people actually be good and interested in our best interests, just as our heads in the clouds and our eyes blinded when we are in the throes of new romances.  A post that reflected the thought process of denying our own instincts in the glow of attraction, flattering attention – and super hot sex.

So often we see the red flags clearly but we ignore them, or something niggles that we can’t quite identify and so we push it out of our consciousness.

Like Anna, we find it flattering that this hot guy (or gal) finds us appealing, and our pink parts get all tingly, so we ignore the real danger signals that we see coming at us like how annoying it is to have this guy just show up on our doorstep without asking and interfere in our plans.  We don’t want to be alone, or we maybe we don’t even know how to be on our own to start with.  Our self esteem isn’t at its peak for any number of possible reasons, so we’re especially vulnerable even if we aren’t as young and innocent as Anna was.

So often we see the train wreck coming and watch in helpless, frozen fascination as it careens down the track right at us and derails in our front rooms in a screaming, smoking, twisted heap of shorn and molten metal, running over everything and everyone in its path, leaving a trail of bloody bodies and broken hearts, destroying us as well in the process, not having the sense to get off the damn tracks while there’s still time to avoid the disaster, or knowing we should, but then engaging in magical thinking that somehow we will be saved at the last minute even if we stay firmly rooted to the spot directly in front of the oncoming locomotive and its load.

Christian does indeed do all the right things as far as the BDSM is concerned – requiring consent, not violating limits, etc.  His play actions are well within the bounds of consensuality, and are criticized in the kink world as “BDSM lite”, so because this is a kink-related site, I’m not going to get into healthy-BDSM-as-sexual-violence, although of course we know that it can be used in an abusive, nonconsensually violent manner.

But then in the rest of their every day life, he keeps stalking Anna, ignores her pleas to do as she wishes vs what he mandates.  He dictates her wardrobe, brings in a doctor to insert the type of birth control that he wants her to be on without so much as consulting her, and even goes so far as to purchase the company she works for so he can fire her even more predatorial boss ostensibly in order to protect her – but also clearly to keep an eye on her every move.  He is mercurial, spinning from high spirits to rage in an instant. All kinds of fancy gifts follow on his less than stellar moments – the apology and honeymoon phase of a classic abusive cycle.

Oh, he’s got good reasons for wanting to protect her, it eventually turns out, but he does it with a very heavy hand, without fully informing her of his reasoning, and utterly denying her a say in the matter.  Which fortunately turns out OK in the end – but then again, this is fiction, not real life, and the whole series takes place over a matter of just a few months, so we never see how Anna ends up feeling as she gets older and undoubtedly eventually grows tired of all this controlling behavior and begins to see it for the sickness it really is.  And to find out that all the love in the world isn’t going to change it, because the sickness is in his core.

As the series progresses, Christian does tone some of this down as they both kind of grow up together – but in real life, these kinds of negative behaviors usually do not go away so easily, even if the person wants to change.

 

So what’s the lesson for people facing abusive partners, or potentially getting involved with someone who is showing signs of being an abuser?

At the core, it’s about trusting your instincts – and acting on them even if it brings short term pain of loss.

If you don’t like some of the things your date or play partner is doing early on, like Anna didn’t like being followed and made to give up her friends, etc., pay attention.

Don’t try to minimize the lies you find out about or the evidence of broken agreements with past partners.  Don’t let the bad behavior slide.  Don’t ignore and try to pacify the early hissy fits, thinking they’ll subside, because they won’t.  Don’t try to make excuses for why he did this or that, even with previous partners.

Remember that what you see at the outset of a relationship is the very best things will ever be because they are on their best behavior trying to win you; it’s all downhill from there.

In a good relationship with a reasonably healthy partner, everyone will have their ups and downs, and certainly everyone relaxes as they get to know their partner and lets out their less stellar traits, but on balance, you’ll still be dealing with the same basically kind, decent human being you started out with.

Not so with an abuser; that good stuff is an illusion, or a veneer over the real core, the public side, not the private one.  They can’t keep up the facade for long, which is why you’ll catch them in early lies, find yourself feeling uncomfortable in the pit of your stomach (one writer said this is what the “butterflies” in the stomach we feel are really about), etc.  It’s like trying to keep all the steam inside a pressure cooker once you’ve started to loosen the lid.  Hints will sneak out until the whole top finally blows.

And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the dominant is good about consent and limits when playing if he’s still an abusive asshole in enough other ways in the rest of day-to-day life.  Not only does the one not make up for the absence of the other, in the end, a dominant (or indeed any other person) who will violate your consent in one arena in life and be abusive will end up violating it and being abusive in others as well.  Yes, there are occasional exceptions – but it is deluding ourselves to believe that we might be the ones lucky enough to find them.  The odds just don’t favor it.

The danger of this story is it romanticizes these abusive aspects – and then shows things working out fine in the end, which perpetuates the myths that abusers (or kinky people in general) just need the right partner to set them straight, and then somehow they will live happily ever after.  It feeds the fear we all have at the beginning when the doubts begin to surface of what we might lose out on if we pay attention to those instincts and run instead of shoving the concerns down and staying.

If you do read Fifty Shades, by all means enjoy the escapism fantasy and hot (if repetitive) sex scenes, but for heaven’s sake, don’t base a real relationship – or your own persona – on this trainwreck of a man’s portrayal.

 

 

I Hurt…

Yes, I hurt.  I still hurt.

I’m not talking here about the emotional pain and damage that lingers, although that is certainly still there, but about the physical.

Yes, lingering physical pain.  From what he did to me.  Pain that just simply will not go the fuck away no matter what I do.

Every single god damn morning of my life, as soon as I get out of bed and set foot on the ground, and sometimes even before I stand, the pain comes screaming back and I am thrown back to every bad thing that ever happened in that relationship.  Almost every day, intermittently throughout the day, the nightmares return in this form.  It’s gotten better, but it still just won’t go away.  Thank God the actual nightmare nightmares have mostly stopped, but the days still bring the haze…

I have enough fucking pain in my life already, thank you very much, but since X-man, walking has become much more of a torture than it ever was.  Hell, even standing.

Why?

Because of shoes.  Fetish shoes.  And him forcing me to wear them, and the screaming temper tantrums he threw when I would kick them off in agony, unable to tolerate the pain any more, even flat on my back.

Now putting one’s sub in these shoes in and of itself is certainly far from a crime, and I’m a lifelong shoe whore, so I actually loved the shoes he bought for me even though I seriously doubt that he ever actually heard that.

My personal shoe collection continues to expand rapidly to fill the available space in my bedroom, not just the closet, which it overran years before he came into my life.  It has now spilled out into the hallway, and long ago took over the space under the bed, dresser, and night table.  I don’t remember life without being a shoe whore, and reveling in the sight, sound, and feel of beautiful shoes.  I remember sleeping with the first pair of heels I ever owned in my teen wrapped in my arms.  I remember the smell and feel on my cheek and in my hands of many shoes even before that, even brushing my lips over them.

The problem is I’ve had bunions for many years, along with fibromyalgia.  On doctor’s orders (and because of simple inability to tolerate them since my late 20s), I’ve rarely worn heels for some years now, and when I do, there are only a few pairs I can tolerate, and then only for so long before they simply have to come off.  And that “only so long” isn’t so long, often measured only in minutes on my feet at this point, even in the most comfortable heels I own.

I’m only able to tolerate what I can because my shoes are all extremely high quality – soft, supple, very precisely and meticulously designed and handmade, angles and details all just exactly so, no rough edges, no pressure points, etc.  Translation – expensive as hell.  Translation of the translation – I can’t afford to risk screwing them up by playing in most of them, either, or to buy ones just for play.  I just don’t have that kind of money to throw away.  So I was basically perfectly happy that he enjoyed buying me the fetish shoes.  I loved them, and that he liked buying them – I just didn’t love what they did to my feet.

One of the problems with fibromyalgia is that not only does it take vastly less stimulus to cause a really noxious bad pain than it does for normal people, but then that pain just lasts and lasts and lasts, no matter what its source…  Imagine the lingering sting of even a minor burn that just keeps on going and going and going, day after week after month and sometimes even years on, exponentially longer than it would for anyone else, vastly out of proportion to the degree of actual injury.

This is what people with fibromyalgia have to deal with – and the pain-causing stimulus for many can be as light as a gentle touch from a friend, or the feel of a soft shirt or socks on the skin.  I’m not usually quite that sensitive, but with things like bondage, for example, if the ropes are even a hair’s breadth tighter than I can take (loose enough for a couple of fingers underneath), I experience it as agony, and things have to be adjusted.  If it goes on or too long, I will sometimes have trouble for weeks or months before things start to settle back down.  It’s a pain, but it’s doable, as long as the top knows what he’s doing and is patient enough.

Much of this sort of every day pain is unavoidable for people with fibro – but we sure as hell can take steps to mitigate the stimuli that are unessential and avoidable.   And I sure as hell expect that anyone I’m playing with and in a relationship with will actually listen to me when I tell them what isn’t working and is causing me a problem like this, and then stop fucking doing that!  That is just not an unreasonable request or expectation, even in a 24/7 D/s relationship.

Once limits of this sort are violated, especially repeatedly, it becomes a question of self-preservation, and protecting the property, to refuse to go along with more of it.  It ceases to be a question of submission or lack thereof, no matter how much you want that, because all bets are then off.  And a so-called dominant that would continue to try to force his sub to do things that are clearly harmful to her is by definition an abusive asshole.

The biggest problems with fetish shoes is that despite the fun factor of them, the reality is that they are cheaply made crap, and most of them hurt my feet like all fuck.  The ones he always liked to put me in cut like knives into my feet, and several pairs bent my feet at a such a sharp angle that they were absolutely intolerable even lying down.

And the biggest problem of all was that he simply refused to listen to me, and would fly into screaming rages when I could not tolerate some of these things and refuse to keep them on.  The net result was that I’d try and try to keep them on as long as I could, just to keep the peace, which certainly didn’t help.

He refused to take me shopping with him to find the clothes and shoes he wanted to buy me so that I could try them on to be sure they’d fit, or to even consult me while shopping online.  Oh, he’d get soooo angry about my not being able to wear most of it, particularly when it was too tight and I couldn’t breathe in in it even if I did manage to get into it.  Surprises are great, but honestly, he was buying so much and spending a bloody fortune, and the psychic damage from the fallout was just so not worth it, and took away all of the fun of it.  And I can’t afford the kinds of things he liked because the way I’m built simply requires that it be custom made because so incredibly little fits off the rack – and he hated what I did find that fit me off the rack (it was too pretty and wasn’t slutty enough, dontcha know) so the beat dragged on and on.

But I digress…

So there I was on my back with the nicest (and most tormenting) fuck-me heels on once again one night, screaming in agony because of the knives of the edges of the openings of the poorly-made shoes were cutting into my feet, and feeling like my feet were being bent to the breaking point.  He’d been particularly pissy that night, so I had decided to try to tough it out for longer than usual just to try to keep the peace.  And I really did want to please him, which I also think he never got.

It was impossible to manage, of course, and I had to kick them off.

The pain was so bad there was simply no leeway to ask to remove them any more than there’s time to ask permission to remove your hand from a scalding hot object you encounter.  It simply had to happen in the instant I did it; I couldn’t take even a split second more.  He had already refused me the permission anyways and ordered me to keep them on until he told me I could take them off, after I’d already kicked them off once, so there was simply no alternative than to just outright disobey regardless of the consequences.

It is just not possible to play when being caused bad pain that hits a 12 on a 1-10 scale, when the pain of your shoes causes you to literally need to safeword or otherwise end the scene.  It just isn’t.  Even the best sex on the planet isn’t enough to distract from something this agony-inducing.

He erupted on cue, yelling and screaming at me at the top of his lungs about how he hadn’t given me permission to take them off, and then said that he wanted me to be in bad pain at that point when I phrased it that way, and not able to find my headspace.

Yes, he actually said he wanted me to be in bad pain – the damaging sort, not the erotic sort we play with in kink.

He was so mad I swear you would have thought I’d tried to kill him.  I really wondered if he was going to try to kill me.

What the fuck?

I mean, yeah, sometimes doms do things like that at times, deliberately trying to keep you out of your headspace and in discomfort you don’t enjoy, which again isn’t in and of itself necessarily a bad thing, as long as it’s consensual – but I am a person with serious chronic pain problems, and he knew what a major problem this is for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which was endless discussions on the subject of what bad pain does to me including how it drags on and on.  He’d also had decades of experience with other people who also have fibro before I ever even met him, so you would think he would have understood the issues even without my explanations.  He certainly had initially seemed to.

Bad pain is a hard fucking limit, basically, and he knew it well.

Bad pain bad, god damn it, and he did not have permission to do that to me.  Ever.  We had already been over this so many times I had long ago lost count.  (Yeah, I know, what the fuck was I still doing with him.  I am still trying to find a fully satisfactory answer to that question…)

So, that episode eventually ended, or so I thought, and we went off to sleep.  You would think that getting out of the shoes would have allowed me to eventually recover, right, even if it took a few weeks?  So did I.

Oh, how very wrong I was!

That night, I woke up to go to the bathroom as usual in the middle of the night, and upon stepping out of bed in bare feet, the foot pain was so bad I literally fell to the floor, crying out and waking him up in the process.

I cannot describe the agony.

It was like walking across sharp rocks and broken glass at the same time while someone was gripping my feet in a vice grip and twisting my foot bones, you know how kids and other tricksters will sometimes grab your hand, squeeze really hard, and then wiggle their hands like they’re wringing out a wet towel, so that your hand bones kind of all crunch together and bump and grind over one another, a maneuver that usually brings people to the floor screaming.  Only no one was touching me; my feet were doing this all by themselves.

It was like knives stabbing through my feet, through every part of my feet, from the soles straight through to the tops and back the other direction.  It was like I was somehow walking on broken glass and rocks with the tops of my feet as well, not just the bottoms.  It felt like my foot bones were fractured and sticking up through my skin.

And then they were cramping up on top of it all.

I was lying on the floor literally crying – and trying to keep quiet and minimize the noise while I tried to let the pain go down and work out the cramping so that he could sleep and wouldn’t get even more upset.  I was so very afraid of what his reaction would be…  He always took great care of me when I was sick or hurt when he seemed to be able to identify the source of the problem, but it was never the case when he himself inflicted the injury.

I ended up crawling to the bathroom and back to bed.  I don’t know to this day exactly how I got on and off the toilet or back on the bed.  The pain of trying to stand was excruciating.

And that was far, far from the last time I had to do that crawling number, which by itself causes me other problems.

He never got it.  I told him about it, of course, but I really don’t think it ever connected.

And I never fully got over the problem.

It’s never been quite as bad as it was in those initial weeks and months, but still it’s always there at some level, several years after the fact, almost always agonizing to take at least the first few steps after I’ve been off my feet for a bit, especially after sleeping, always a nightmare to walk any more than short distances.  This goes so far beyond the problems with bunions I used to have that it’s not even funny.

Now I am mostly left with cramping that has progressed into my toes as well as still in the forefoot and arches, and I am unable to ever work those cramps out for myself.  My feet sometimes start arching and twisting inwards almost by themselves and head into contractures into the ankles and lower legs from which there is no escape and I am screaming in agony and terror trying to stop it.

Even my most comfortable shoes have become torture chambers much of the time and I have finally been reduced to living mostly in tennis shoe-like shoes and ugly old lady shoes and sandals, unable to wear even most of my beautiful flats for long any more.  There is absolutely nowhere to hide.

Try scrunching up your toes and curling your feet and walking that way and you’ll have only the barest start of an idea of what it feels like to be me trying to walk much of the time, but even that doesn’t even come close.  Try to bend your feet in half lengthwise bind them tightly with duct tape, and then in half again across the width and bind again and then walk.

I often still wake up with my feet hurting as badly after a good nights’ sleep as if I’d just been on a ten mile hike in shoes not designed for walking.  Massive cramps sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night, screaming in agony, unable to work it out, leaving me to writhe and cry in terror until it passes.  And every time it happens, I am thrown back, back, back…

On top of it, I’ve got plenty of other chronic pain problems which get me down for sure.  They have caused me even more mobility and other problems, and are also mostly ever present, but they are clearly from other sources.  They certainly don’t help my mood, though.

I also still have occasional twinges of pain from some other outright injuries he inflicted on me.

But it’s the feet and how they got this way and everything that they represent that are the ever-present problem that keeps the nightmare of the hellish parts of this relationship alive and wagging its taunting fingers in my face every waking day of my life.

Somebody please, make it all fucking stop…

Please…

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