Since my “Fifty Shades of Grey” post yesterday, I have been confronted with what can only be one of Life’s little practical jokes….My office book club has chosen that book as the February read. *face palm*
I have no intention of spending one dime on buying “Fifty Shades of Grey” for any reason. Plus,I’ve got the new Stephen King book to read and I’d like to finish that before he comes out with his newest one. In June. You can see why I have to set my priorities accordingly.
The response to Wednesday’s post though has been amazing. Yesterday was a landmark day for my blog; over 270 views, lots of new people following, a Facebook writing group I’m part of nearly blew up over it and the moderator finally deleted the stream to keep a war from breaking out. People are passionate about what they read and that’s good. I don’t want to discourage people from reading anything, if they choose to – and that was one of the main points of the post. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link: https://denisedufresne.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/not-so-grey-the-black-and-white-of-my-opinion-of-fifty-shades/
Being empowered comes equipped with the freedom to choose. My concern was (and still is) that there are obvious plot points and themes in the ‘Grey’ books that glorify seduction and manipulation to have control in a relationship, which lends an unfair and unhealthy expectation in real life. Sexual fantasy is great, but the subtle shifts in mindset when it comes to okay/not okay in interpersonal relationships can be scary. In real life, we have daily reminders of what happens when ‘no’ isn’t respected, when uncrossable boundaries are breached and most of all, people are hurt in the name of what people think is love.
This is important. If someone is controlling you – using manipulation of any kind, they don’t love you and you need to get away from them, ASAP. If someone is placating you with sex and flattery, but you’re confused about where your relationship with them stands because you’ve been very sweetly paying their bills, I’ll help you out – they don’t love you. If you find yourself being drawn into activities and sexual behavior that you are not comfortable with but are afraid to NOT participate in because you will lose the person you love, that person does not love you. If you’re being physically, sexually or psychologically abused, you’re not being loved by your abuser. PERIOD.
There are dark overtones to both seduction and manipulation and I tend to think of them as fraternal twins of badness. They ultimately aim to do the same thing, which is to influence and control an outcome, by using their own particular ‘tricks of the trade’. Delilah seduced Samson to weaken him. Salome seduced Herod with her dancing to influence him to execute John the Baptist. Seduction employs flashy, fake promises and irresistible temptations to get what it wants. On the most innocent level, seduction is that oh so perfect ice cream sundae or expensive trinket you see in a magazine or commercial and suddenly HAVE TO HAVE to be somehow better than you are and you will give ANYTHING to have it. And once you do give anything, you’ve abandoned your principles (eating healthier, saving money, etc.) and the seduction is complete. When you consider the traditional idea of seduction; the use of sex and sensuality to gain influence over another person, it’s not as uncommon as you think, until you consider the motivations, because on some level seduction is a part of any normal, healthy sexual relationship. If you buy lingerie to ‘make your husband happy’ knowing he won’t moan about the credit card bill as much (or at all, wink, wink) after he sees what you bought, you’re seducing him. Thankfully, he’s okay with it, and probably knows exactly what you’re up to, so it all works out. However, if you’ve put the moves on someone simply to get what you want, that’s not cool.
Manipulation is the colder, more calculating of the twins. It relies on twisting what you know or think you know. Manipulation will outright leave out key pieces of information that might lead you to walk away. It plays on fears, insecurities and lapses in reason and judgment. Con artists and scammers use this all the time – preying on your fear of financial instability, for example. There is no way to see being manipulated as a good thing. Manipulation includes out and out lying, withholding, disrespect and probably a million bad things you could do to hurt others. Now, sure, like seduction, we all do manipulate the people around us from time to time. It’s probably more correct to say that there are elements of manipulation in every daily interaction. A teenager who wants something might threaten their parent with bad behavior if they don’t get what they want, or they might promise to behave when they have no intention of doing so. That tactic relies on Mom or Dads love for them clouding good parental judgment and sometimes it’s effective. Terrorists manipulate to get what they want, using fear and violence, and a teenager can play that card, too, on a smaller domestic scale. People in reasonably healthy relationships may behave in a manipulative way sometimes, too, but I think it’s really important to know for sure that it’s not their normal way of being. Most of the time, you can know, but it’s also confusing.
I think people who are confused about these things out to sit down sometime and watch, for educational purposes ONLY, any afternoon soap opera or classic 70’s-80’s drama, like “Dynasty”, but only after they tape a sign to the bottom of their television screen that says:
NOTHING ON THIS SCREEN IS REAL. DO NOT ATTEMPT THESE BEHAVIORS IN REAL LIFE. DOING SO CAN CAUSE PAIN, LOW SELF ESTEEM, BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS, EMOTIONAL TURMOIL, RAGE, DEPRESSION, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND EVEN, IN SOME CASES, DEATH. PLEASE USE RESPONSIBLY, OR FOR BACKGROUND NOISE, LIKE THE AUTHOR OF THIS BLOG DOES.
Well, maybe leave off the last part, but you get what I mean, right? Anyway, those programs highlight the kind of behavior I’ve been talking about and is such a tight thread in the ‘Grey’ books. Christian Grey uses both seduction and manipulation to pull Anastasia away from the life she knows into his world. He seeks to use her and yeah, yeah, he’s changed from a cold, selfish sexual deviant into a loving, sweet sexual deviant.I get it, and it’s still unhealthy and wrong. People don’t change like that and for those reasons.
This is a very different thing than meeting someone for the first time, getting to know them over time and exploring the sexual landscape of your relationship together. Chances are, unless you met a sociopath, this guy or girl isn’t out to hurt you or to suit some kink of their own by using you as an object. More likely, they’re just as normal as you. If my sisters, cousins or friends told me some guy was pulling the moves Christian Grey does in the books, I’d advise them to run. I’d help them run. People like that aren’t redeemable through some magic, cosmic, all powerful love beam from you (or your avatar in “Fifty Shades” the hapless Ms. Steel). People like that who can recognize their behavior for what it is can fix it, with work, because they know they have to. They will not do it for you, or change because they love you so much. Like an alcoholic or drug addict, (both of which can be master manipulators, by the way) the first steps have to be taken to save themselves, for their own sake – NOT YOURS.
So, how do you know? Well, if someone is interested in you, cares about what you think and how you feel about things. If they’re treating you with respect, act with integrity and are sincere. If they are concerned when you’re sick, understanding when you’re cranky and loving when you’re feeling less than lovable. If your worries matter to them, if they encourage you to achieve your goals and support you when you fall short of your goals. If they let you cry when you need to with their arms around you or sitting next to you, hold your hand when you’re scared and remember what kind of bagels you like for brunch on Sundays. These things and 1,000,0000 other things that have nothing at all to do with hurting you for FUN, controlling you, manipulating you or changing you are how you know if it’s not bad. And these area a most of the time/often thing – not 100% because who is 100% all of the time. We all can be selfish, or less than our best selves from time to time. If they’re all of those things 80% of the time, you’re good, and the 20% they’re not should never include any of the abuse I covered before. Just to say it again, any abuse is a BAD thing! Bad. Badbadbadbadbadbad. bad. Really.
Being manipulated isn’t romantic. Being seduced IS – but only if you’re a willing participant and there’s no other agenda involved. Which is more along the lines of courtship…so you can see where these things are easily confused. It really isn’t hard to figure out, though. We can cover obsession (The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights) in another post, because that deserves a line or two.