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Say it With Roses, Not Fifty Shades

Were you thinking of declaring your love with a bunch of red roses or a romantic candlelit dinner this Valentine's Day? Think again. Respect, chivalry and tenderness are out. According to the current authority on romance, this is what you have to do:

Step 1: Be ridiculously good-looking and rich. This gives you licence to do whatever you want. People are shallow and apparently stupid. A mansion and helicopter are essential, as is the lavishing of expensive gifts, like a brand new red Audi A3 or Apple MacBook.

Step 2: Find a woman who is young, bland, dorky, clumsy, shy, scared, naive, immature, impressionable, insecure, has low self-esteem and loves screwed-up men who she can (desperately struggle to) change in the hope that she might eventually be loved in return.

Step 3: Stalk her, intimidate her, pressure her into doing things she's not comfortable with, isolate her from friends and family, have erratic mood swings, be jealous and possessive, be controlling (tell her how to dress, what to eat, when to exercise and when to sleep), be condescending, be violent, be cruel.

This will ensure your unsuspecting victim - err love interest! - feels constantly threatened, disempowered and trapped, and loses her identity. According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Women's Health, such reactions are typical of abused women. Perfect. Think Clayton Weatherston (who killed Sophie Elliott in Dunedin) - or any one of the thousands of perpetrators of domestic violence exposed year after year - but turn down the creepy and turn on your "epitome of male beauty". Remember Step 1 - your "breathtaking" good looks and insane wealth will provide flawless coverage for your psychotic tendencies.

Step 4: Gradually shift her boundaries, normalising your abuse - chivalry is dead and misogynistic, narcissistic, sadists are in. Such behaviour is typical of batterers and abusers, and is sure to win her heart - as it does the hearts of thousands who end up in women's refuges every year.

Step 5: Get her consent. Consent isn't forthcoming? No problem. Intimidate her. Manipulate her. Get her drunk. Pressure her to sign a contract giving you complete permission to do whatever you want to her. A mere facade of "consent" is all you need (like how battered women "consent" to languish in an abusive relationship). Then you can do anything to her, because then it's "her choice". And if at any point she says "no", proceed anyway - cause that's not rape. Blurred lines and all.

Step 6: Subject her to sexual violence. Our pornographic culture has generated the expectation that women enjoy being humiliated, degraded, dehumanised, choked, gagged, cut, flogged and beaten. 

Some people say pornography is just fantasy but recent studies show that it translates into real life too. In 2014, a World Health Organisation report showed that one in three women experience physical or sexual violence by their partner. Don't worry, she won't make the connection between the degradation of women and your violent sexual fetishes. It's called rape culture, silly. You know, when it's considered cultured to rape and degrade women and then blame it all on them? In fact she'll probably just think she's been "liberated".

Step 7: Ignore those in parallel situations where the woman ends up in a battered women's shelter or graveyard. Confess your undying love and get married. It's the perfect fairytale ending. Whoever said that love is patient, love is kind, love is not self-seeking, etc, clearly never had the pleasure of hardcore porn or Christian Grey.

Step 8: If you don't succeed with 1-7, give her a copy of Fifty Shades - a pathetic excuse for literature, which is basically a training manual on how to become an abused woman. Even the 2014 study "showed strong correlations between health risks in women's lives - including violence and victimisation - and consumption of Fifty Shades".

Even better, take her to see the film. The "artistic" normalisation and glamorisation of sexual violence against women will be sure to win her over. Then you can role-play that you're a rich, attractive, narcissistic sadist and she's a stupid, insecure, impressionable college girl. She'll love it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

We encourage you to join the global movement to boycott the Fifty Shades franchise and instead give a $50 donation to a domestic violence shelter or agency. Click here for more information.

Originally published on the NZ Herald, 13 February 2015.


Rachael Wong
Rachael Wong is the Director of Research, Policy and Advocacy at Women’s Forum Australia.

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