Abuse Is A Painful Fact, Not 50 shades of Fiction

So today in the UK, I (@EmmaTofi on Twitter) managed to have a Lead Letter printed in The Daily Mail newspaper, discussing the abuse in 50 Shades of Grey and EL James’ reaction to abuse survivors who have dared to raise the subject. The Daily Mail is read by 4.3million people in the UK alone, so fingers crossed, we’re taking our awareness campaign to some pretty high numbers! For those who haven’t seen it, this is a full transcript of the letter (bear in mind, they edited it to a degree):

“I’m upset by the incredible success of EL James’ book Fifty Shades of Grey. A growing number of women, including me, see this book as romanticising abuse. This is not because of the BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, masochism) element of the story, but because Christian Grey stalks, manipulates and controls Ana throughout the trilogy. In the third book, he deliberately bruises her chest, wrists and ankles so that she can’t sunbathe, because he doesn’t want anyone to see her body. His behaviour is characteristic of an abuser – as I know all too well, because I’ve been in a relationship like that.

I suffered 18 months of emotional abuse at the hands of my ex. I was controlled, manipulated and suffered horrendously. Like Ana, I was made to believe that my partner’s behaviour was a result of his childhood and that I should feel sympathy for him. Like Ana, I believed that my love could “fix” him – but real life isn’t like fiction and inevitably, my “happy ever after” never came.

The 50 Shades Is Abuse campaign aims to raise awareness of the signs of abuse and how to deal with it. Their website, http://www.50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com features links to other campaign sites as well as several blogs on the subject. Almost every person involved in the campaign is a survivor of domestic abuse. Every one of those people has recognised the relationship portrayed in 50 Shades of Grey as an abusive one. Several of us contacted EL James to ask her why she has romanticised abusive behaviour. Her resonse in every instance has been to block us so that we can’t contact her again.

She has, finally, spoken on the subject of whether her book glamorises abuse and has, shockingly, said that to suggest such a thing “is a huge disservice to the women who’ve actually been through abuse.”

WE are the women who’ve been through abuse. We see nothing romantic or sexy about being manipulated by a controlling man who seems obsessed with you.

To have this book romanticise our experiences is bad enough. For it to have become such a huge success is difficult to bear. But to have the author criticise those who have the courage to speak out against the glamorisation of abuse, accusing us of doing a disservice to those who’ve suffered it, is unforgivable.

When women are telling the world that they want their very own Christian Grey, the time has come to debate this subject nationally and help to raise awareness of abuse, not glorify it.”

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Danny Returns to the World of Twitter

So. Ridiculously long story short — and I guess it’s not really a long story, but more infuriating and majorly disappointing, even if the events in question are rather straightforward — my Twitter account was suspended for over 48 hours, no reason given.

Actually, the drama started Friday afternoon when my account was suspended for the first time. I had the opportunity to click through essentially “this is how not to be a dick on Twitter, do you agree” and get my account re-instated. I contacted Twitter and asked what had happened; no response.

This past Saturday, a little after noon, my account was suspended for the second time in 24 hours — only this time, I was unable to do anything about it. I sent another question to Twitter, which again garnered no response. My account was not freed up until yesterday with no responses from Twitter HQ besides unhelpful automated messages. What’s more, somehow I had temporarily lost all followers, and was no longer following anyone, when I finally regained control of my account. I sent a third message to Twitter and still have heard nothing back from them.

To be perfectly clear, I think this was all an automated response on Twitter’s part. And to be more clear, I have no proof as to what actually happened because my attempts at getting transparency from Twitter didn’t work. Here’s what I know happened, though:

  • I recently became engaged with @50shadesabuse. This account is dedicated to raising awareness around the massive amounts of domestic violence and abuse in Fifty Shades of Grey and pointing out how absolutely creepy and not-okay it is that Christian Grey is touted as a romantic hero when he’s really a stalker and rapist.
  • I had a Twitter discussion that went like this:

ME: “Sounds awfully close to victim blaming. Does anyone DESERVE an abusive relationship if they don’t have strong belief?”
OTHER PERSON: “I’m saying you won’t get influenced BY THE BOOK if you have a strong belief. Stop twisting my words or I’ll twist your neck.”

  • Just to reiterate: I was physically threatened for pointing out problematic logic and victim blaming. Someone threatened to twist my neck over a discussion of domestic violence in literatureAnd as far as I’m aware, this user — though reported for multiple reasons and by multiple people — had no action taken against her account.
  • When I was suspended, I wasn’t told why I was suspended, under what charges, or by whom. I was taken to a very unhelpful page about playing by the rules on Twitter and how not to be a troll, essentially.
  • While I attack ideas and logic, I go out of my way not to attack the people I’m talking to. I have never, ever made a post that breaks any rules of Twitter.

Of course, I have my suspicions what happened. I believe that multiple people reported me for my recent activism, which has involved critiquing a book they loved and challenging their protests. Again, though, I don’t know because Twitter has been completely opaque about their suspension process. Now, I have heard that Twitter recently got hacked and that many other folks were banned the same time I was on Friday, mistakenly. I can’t say for certain what happened, or why. But let me tell you why I have such strong suspicions that this was no coincidence, but rather the work of some FSOG fans:

Over the past few days, I have been called many names. Sex-deprived. Undereducated. Bored. Unemployed. Mean. A hater. A troll. (Probably much worse!) And what’s worse, I’ve seen domestic abuse victims called names and told they should shut up about FSOG. I have seen the most angry and vitriolic responses defending FSOG, EL James, and Christian Grey, as though this book, author, and character are beyond reproach, and perfect, and we “haters” just want to cause trouble. Again, I need to reiterate: I have repeatedly seen the message that the real life experience of domestic abuse victims is not as important as the enjoyment of a book series or the financial success of an author.

That’s right. It is more important that FSOG fans live in a world where their dreams and fantasies of an abusive stalker are not challenged for what they are. It is more important that no one is “mean” to EL James and her (absolutely terrible on like twenty different levels) creation than for abuse victims to have a voice. It is more important that nothing upset the status quo of a rape culture that allows such material to be made famous, and villains like Christian Grey to be considered desirable heroes of romance.

So no. I really don’t think I’ll stop “twisting your words,” Twitter friend who threatened to twist my neck in return. I don’t think I’ll stop “picking” on EL James. I don’t think I’ll stop “being sensitive.” Because you know what?

There are people right now stuck in abusive, controlling, manipulative relationships. There are people who have been made to feel absolutely worthless — that they deserve being beaten by their mate — that their job as a sexual partner is to submit, not in the kinky consensual way, but to whatever demands their partner makes of them — that they have no agency of their own. We live in a culture which approves the characterization of women as sex objects and the men who use them as sexy heroes. We live in a culture where certain groups — such as those socialized and raised as women — are told to shut up. A society which continually erases their experiences, their abuse, their pain. And many times, their deaths.

Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t cause this rape culture. It is a symptom of it. And I’m going to do what I can to rock the boat.



UPDATE: 12:18 PM EST, same day

So I finally got a response from Twitter! This is what was said:


This account was suspended for sending multiple unsolicited messages using the @reply and/or mention feature. These features are intended to make communication between people on Twitter easier. Twitter monitors the use of these features to make sure they are used as intended and not for abuse. Using either feature to post messages to a bunch of users in an unsolicited or egregious manner is considered an abuse of its use, which results in account suspension.

For more information about these features, please visit our @Replies and Mentions help page:


Your account will be unsuspended within 24 hours. Please note that it may take an hour or so for your follower and following numbers to return to normal.

Be sure to review the Twitter Rules, as repeat violations may result in permanent suspension:


Thank you,

Twitter Support


Okay, so. I sent a few messages to some big name Twitter users (Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Neil Patrick Harris off the top of my head – the only one I don’t follow is Margaret) asking to reblog information about  @50shadesabuse. Does that count as multiple unsolicited messages? I guess maybe it does — though I’m really confused, because I’ve definitely seen other people ask for RTs before. For example, the wonderful Stephen Fry RT’d about @50shadesabuse when asked, so…? Also, I RT’d to the big name Twitter folk over one ten-minute period before being banned for the first time. Still unsure of second banning.


Daniel Grey (@Sageling) is an aspiring author, social justice activist, and MLIS student hoping to graduate in May 2015. Assigned female at birth, Daniel now identifies as a genderqueer lesbian looking to further embrace his masculine identity while also loving the female one she was raised with. Daniel is active in his local Unitarian Universalist church and is also a practicing Pagan; you can read more about his religious life at Sage and Starshine.

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We have a blog now!

When we first created this site, we didn’t really plan on a blog part of it. We were just going to have a master list of links on the front page, and an about page, and leave the real-time updates to our Twitter feeds.

However, it occurred to me this weekend that perhaps we should have a blog portion of the site — not least because Daniel got suspended from Twitter for three days and when he finally got allowed back on, all his followers and who he was following were gone. Not only that, every time someone tried to follow him again, they’d get automatically unfollowed. I pressed follow on his page a total of seven times before I gave up in anger.

Not sure if it’s any different now, but this was only about twenty minutes ago — so I doubt it.

So it’s pretty hard to carry on a conversation on Twitter when your compatriots get suspended because someone reported them.

At this point, I’m not exactly sure what all we’ll be posting here. I’m thinking we’ll do a weekly link-round up of new links we find that fit the site’s theme — these, of course, will also be added to the master list. Eventually we may move on to doing more things. Really not sure at this moment.

Comments are allowed and moderated. As of now we have no comment policy, but that may change.

I for one am very excited to be doing this, especially with Emma and Danny. I’ve had amazing conversations with Emma on Twitter before now, and Danny and I have been partners in crime for around a year now. This is an important project, and I feel honored and humbled that I get to take part in it with these two great folks.

What are your feelings? Suggestions on how we can make this site better? Seen a link we’ve missed? Post a comment below.

StarbuckinstarbucksKatje van Loon is an author of feminist pagan fiction, an actor, and a burlesque dancer. Zie likes Nutella, Star Trek, and Journey songs. When zie’s not writing, dancing, acting, or subverting the dominant heteronormative gender-binarist paradigm, zie likes to knit and be adorkable with zir fiancé.  You can read more from zir at Bacon and Whiskey.

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