Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)
Books change society and society changes books.
Before I start on what seems like a lot of detail, but actually still skims over what is a very detailed subject, there is a conclusion section at the bottom, if you want to jump to what this means for censorship of written works.
Shades has been out for a number of years, so it was a bit of a surprise that this movement suddenly appeared on my radar at the same time when the media circus came to town. That sounded alarm bells from the start.
Of course, it was only a matter of time before the wheels fell off some of the, "50 Shades Is Abuse," campaigners wagons.
Firstly, it was reported that the organisations weren't grassroots anti-abuse at all, but the people behind it were actually the anti-pornography activists that won't rest until society is under serious sexual oppression; or at least oppressed in a way that they approve of.
When you're dealing with these people they know that, these days, having the moral high ground is not enough. Politicians and others in authority are careful enough to analyse all sides of the story and weigh things up. One of these organisations was reportedly caught encouraging its followers to make false claims of abuse to authorities and legislative figures in order to try and secure their goal of denying establishments of their licenses; because they know that the moral high ground doesn't work any more.
Organisations like these are willing to take advantage of any and all mechanisms that they can, in order to achieve their aims. It is therefore no surprise that there are loads of posts like these around, "The story wasn't a problem to me at first but then an account on Twitter ...... caught my attention and made me change my (1/2)" ... and others ... in other words, there wasn't so much of a perceived problem until the anti-abusers made it one. However, that hasn't stopped their handful of followers (not even achieving many followers, even internationally after all the publicity and TV appearances) from making companies and organisations change their advertising and marketing decisions; when in reality, to the rest of society the Shades phenomenon is just so much entertainment, meh.
Personally, I still don't equate Shades with either my BDSM lifestyle, OR the abuse that I suffered over the years at the hands of slimy warehouse men and other operatives who would take advantage of me; being in large, poorly staffed, badly lit facilities at early hours of the day or night to try and eke a living. On the lightest of abuse occurrences, it would be done and over before I even knew what the hell had hit me ... the men standing there, grinning, challenging me as to what I was going to do about it while my brain was still processing the, "What just happened?" That was the '90s for you. It was only a few weeks ago that I was actually crying to a police officer on the phone, about the abuse I've suffered over the years ... and they were prepared to go back decades to find the abusers ... but I know it is my word against theirs, and as a temporary worker, if you spoke up, the "customer" could simply request you not to be sent to their site any more, and you were out of a job with no recourse. (I was, "triggered" by someone who abused me directly, on social media. The police won't go after him though!)
But I've moved on from those days ... and I don't equate Shades even remotely with the abuse that I faced.
One of the campaign groups took a copy of all three books and turned over the corner of every page where there was, "abuse." I can't reproduce the picture as it isn't mine, but the shear number of pages turned was enough, on its own, to make me completely disbelieve what I was looking at; if not make me want to grab the books and take them to pieces to find out what they were talking about, simply for the point of shouting at numerous pages and saying "You're counting THIS as abuse?!" That's what the picture made me feel; like I was on the end of a deliberate, over-stated publicity stunt; like they were deliberately challenging someone to call them out.
We watch all sorts on media; murder, genocide and we have the ability to draw a line between fiction and reality. However, the activists deliberately blurred that line. After all, who would dare to speak out against them and appear to actually be in support of abuse, right?
The simplistic view is that if you are against their message, then you are automatically in favour of abuse. Simple logic., but its wrong. Unfortunately most people are inclined to see it this way.
Murder is illegal. Firearms are illegal. What you going to do about it? Stop all the violent films on the basis that they glorify murder? Nope.
It's the same with this film. The abuse vectors discussed like stalking, are already illegal. It is actually not possible for someone to give their consent to various acts in the UK, regardless of what contract you sign. You can't sign away your human rights; and also, see the Spanner trial. (Except in the US, apparently; I have been told that there was someone who agreed to "no limits" submission. She was abused in a most horrific way; she hadn't believed that one human could treat another in such an abusive manner; but because she had agreed to, "no limits," and it was documented in electronic correspondence, the abuser got off.)
We do have a problem with domestic abuse in the UK, but it is a damn sight more complex than Shades. Abuse is sometimes female against male for a start; especially if it is, "controlling," abuse rather than violence abuse. When the censorship agencies in this country acted on media publications, while they further restricted female demonstrations of dominance over men while continuing to allow male dominance over women. (They outlawed face sitting on the basis of asphyxiation risk but continued to allow fellatio despite being a more serious choking hazard, etc., etc. all demonstrating that male abuse is rooted so far down, that it is prevalent in the very people that have control over our society and our media. These people themselves, are not fit to be in those jobs in my humble opinion. You want to picket someone; then picket the BBFC and the offices of ATVOD)
The reality is that there is far more going on within our legislation to restrict female freedom and enforce male dominance and abuse, than Fifty Shades. That these campaigners have chosen to take action which further restricts freedoms, have been notably absent during these other issues, and have only appeared in the limelight when the cameras started rolling in earnest, adds even more weight to the accusation that the organisers of these groups are not interested in curbing abuse, but are more interested in restricting pornography in general.
Some of these arguments are so weak that one person tried to take me to task over mothers taking their newborns to Mummy and Me screenings of Shades. (Actually, she pointed it out, saying it was unacceptable and I chimed in saying, the kid's going to see the inside of a stroller.) The long story of the argument is that according to her, it was fine for mothers to take their babies to films of apocalypse, you know, blood, guts, gore, violence and all the rest of it; but not Shades because it was, "porn." Without even having seen the film! And when her argument hit a brick wall, she then started throwing the paedophile accusation at me, because it was all she had left; at which point I blocked and reported her. I didn't expect much else, to be honest; our society has conditioned itself to accept the worst, bloodiest and sickest violence available, but sex is, for some reason, beyond the pale.
(More general info on Mummy and Me screenings - http://www.focusfeatures.com/article/taking_my_baby_to_the_movies )
Part of the problem is parents allowing children who have cognitively developed to certain standards, to access material which is rated above their age. One of the arguments about the Shades has been what do people think that it will do to young minds. The answer is fairly simple; the young minds shouldn't be reading it in the first place. If any advertising system lets through media like that to under aged people, then the company responsible for not having proper age controls in place should be taken to task. The parent that let them should be shamed.
I do recall being in a motorway service station (up the M40, North West bound) and there was a copy of all three of the Shades audio books ... on the bottom most shelf.
Yes, society does have a problem, but it is a damn sight deeper, and more serious than Shades. We can't afford to paper over the cracks any more. The job has to be done right and our population has to get real. I pondered a campaign, "Rated For A Reason."
There is no doubt that Shades touches a number of raw nerves...
*) In UK history, if I was writing this as a woman, one hundred years ago, I would not have been able to vote in UK general elections. It would only have been a few more years prior to that when I would have been considered to be a man's property and all that came along with it. We are still coming out of a very dark time in terms of womens rights and we have a long, long way still to go. People act as if this was all many centuries ago, when it is closer than we would like to comfortably think.
*) Remember that after the world wars, men expected women to just go back to the kitchen. That is a time which is still within living memory. Fortunately for us, it didn't happen that way, however; but there are still men around who wish that it did! (fortunately, getting fewer in number as time marches on.)
*) We live in a time where money rules. The inequality is staggering, our politicians are being very limp-wristed about taking action on the issue. Companies hoard masses of wealth, dodge taxes as legally as they can and, rather than fulfil a moral obligation to society, don't spend that money, so the, "trickle down," doesn't happen. In the mean time, incredible numbers of people are using food banks and are starving; unable to get decent, protected full time work because our work force are being swapped out with contractors and part-time workers.
...and on that score, just look at what happened in Japan when problems got to breaking point; the companies (who had enjoyed significant freedoms provided that they took care of their permanent work force) backed out of their obligations because in the intervening years, the permanent work force had been replaced with contractors who didn't have any rights. - "Yet companies routinely use temporary contracts for work that continues far beyond the end date. They do this to slash labour costs and to shirk all social and economic responsibility for their employees" - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/03/19/how-tos/labor-law-reform-raises-rather-than-relieves-workers-worries/#.VNuNTiw9ouM
(the reason you need to be aware of this, is because this is the direction that UK employers have been following for some time. While politicians play with the employment figures, people have less certain and less stable employment now than ... well, quite some time ago.)
To my mind, if these anti-abuse campaigners actually want to achieve a goal of ending domestic abuse (and other abuse; the abuse that happened to me was mostly in the work place) then they need to be promoting equality and fighting the blatantly sexist censorship restrictions ... because those restrictions are silencing womens voices, sexual freedoms and choice, while enforcing male abuse, and (as a prerogative is something which is granted by law) they are actually giving men a real, "male prerogative," which is the thing so many have been continually fighting against, for so long.
Protesting Shades in this manner will only assist in the imposition of more censorship ... but then, if the people who are reportedly behind these campaigns are actually trying to censor pornography, then this is exactly the goal that they would achieve! Telling, isn't it?
In this twenty first century, there have been attempts by the UK Police force, to try and censor the written word. If these protesters continue to go the way they are running, then this will add strength to their elbow and we will see censorship in the UK, the likes of which we would never have thought possible.