A new study by researchers at Ohio State University and Michigan State University looked at whether readers of EL James’ massively popular Fifty Shades of Grey novels were more likely to hold sexist beliefs. They surveyed 747 young women attending a U.S. university on 22 statements ranking from hostile sexism (“women seek to gain power by getting control over men”, for example) to benevolent sexism (“women should be cherished and protected by men’’), and concluded that women who had read the erotic novel displayed higher levels of “ambivalent, benevolent, and hostile sexism” than those who hadn’t. The novel details a romantic, sado-masochistic relationship between billionaire businessman Christian and naive student, Anastasia, who feels pressured to satisfy his needs. “Because the relationship between Anastasia and Christian coheres closely with notions of benevolent sexism, it stands to reason that those who find Fifty Shades romantic would also hold benevolent sexism beliefs,” the academics wrote, adding that those who hold sexist beliefs might also just be more drawn to reading the novel. “The juxtaposed relation between Christian and Anastasia takes the form of a violent hierarchy, making Anastasia appear inferior to Christian — she is depicted as weaker, less assertive, more emotional, and less intelligent. Furthermore, the power imbalance [between them] takes the form of emotional abuse (Christian intimidates, threatens, stalks, humiliates, and socially isolates Anastasia) and sexual violence (Christian uses intimidation and alcohol to impair Anastasia’s consent),” they wrote in the paper, contradicting some of the “traditional gender ideologies” that have been assigned to the book. The researchers argued that young people should be taught to read fiction through a critical lens, and advised that writers should also be encouraged to feature more “egalitarian gender roles” in their novels.
Read the full story at The Guardian.