Study: “Fifty Shades” Readers Are Slutty Binge Drinkers With Eating Disorders & Abusive Partners

Today in Things That Make Me Want To Scream “CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION!” And Beat My Head Against The Wall:

Last year, a study out of Michigan State University found that the erotic BDSM trilogy Fifty Shades Of Grey “perpetuates” abusive relationships. Now, another study from the same professor at MSU claims young women who read the books are more likely to have an abusive partner and show signs of an eating disorder.

Women who read all three books in the trilogy (like me and Amelia), the study found, are more likely to binge drink and have multiple sex partners. Amy Bonomi, a professor of Human Development and Family Studies and lead author of the study, said that based on her study of over 650 young women ages 18 to 24, it’s possible the Fifty Shades books might “reaffirm” negative experiences and “aggravate trauma.” In other words, this lady r-e-a-l-l-y does not like these books.

Well, well, well. Where to start with this one?

Obviously I believe it’s worthwhile to look for correlations between how the media we consume influences our behavior — the way photoshopping of fashion models influences how we feel about our bodies, for example, or unrealistic depictions of war and violence in movies and TV desensitizes us to violence in real life. Alas, this particular study is bullshit from the start: MSU’s press release calls it “one of the first to investigate the relationship between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women” (emphasis mine). Instead of calling the books what they are — erotica about a dominant and submissive relationship — they are labeled depictions of an abusive relationship. Whether Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele’s fictional relationship has abusive or controlling elements is certainly worth discussing, but Professor Bonomi flat-out conflates violence against women with consensually enjoyable rough sex, period. She’s is quoted in the press release saying:

“We recognize that the depiction of violence against women in and of itself is not problematic, especially if the depiction attempts to shed serious light on the problem. The problem comes when the depiction reinforces the acceptance of the status quo, rather than challenging it.”

Hmm. if the researcher is already coming at the study from the point of view that consensual BDSM sex is “violence again women” then what do you think the findings about women who read such books are going to be? Nothing good, I’m sure. So let’s take a look at what these “findings,” which were published in the Journal Of Women’s Health, turned out to be:

Compared to participants who didn’t read the book, those who read the first “Fifty Shades” novel were 25 percent more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them; 34 percent more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies; and more than 75 percent more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours.

Those who read all three books in the series were 65 percent more likely than nonreaders to binge drink – or drink five or more drinks on a single occasion on six or more days per month – and 63 percent more likely to have five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime

Remember, these study participants are young women ages 18 to 24 — AKA, post-high school and college aged women. Are we really surprised that most of them have taken diet aids or starved themselves at some point?  Or that two-thirds of them binge drink? Or that almost two-thirds are more likely to have five sex partners? Hello! These are college girls! Unless your last name is Duggar, these kinds of behavior are not atypical in the slightest. I’m not saying it’s all good behavior, and certainly it could develop into larger problems. But just because these behaviors are individual risk factors for getting into an abusive relationship doesn’t negate the fact they are just what young women of today do. This study’s methods are like going into an old-age home and finding that 100 percent of grandmas don’t know how to use Snapchat and then declaring the elderly to be technologically incompetent.

Of course it’s concerning that so many of these ladies have partners who exhibit stalking behavior or speak to them unkindly. I would expect Professor Bonomi to know that young women — particularly ages 20 to 24 — are already “at the greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence,” according to official statistics. This study doesn’t need to hitch its wagon to Fifty Shades Of Grey to make a point about abuse (or dieting, or binge drinking). Educating young adults, both women and men, about abusive relationships is a worthy goal on its own.

My thoughts on Professor Bonomi’s work on Fifty Shades, to steal one of Anastasia Steele’s favorite phrases: “Holy crap!”

[Michigan State University Today]
[Safe Horizon: Domestic Violence Statistics]

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[Image of a drunk woman via Shutterstock; image of 50 Shades book via]