As Fifty Shades of Grey opens in Houston movie theaters today, a national expert on domestic violence shuns the message and warns of patterns of abuse. And this isn't any prudish Marian the Librarian.
Michigan State University professor Amy Bonomi can throw F-bombs with the best of them in the context of the movie.
While the discussion over ham and eggs might have been hair-curling for some of the guests in the Junior League Tea Room, the point was made that the abuse patterns in the book can be harmful to teens and young adults, those most vulnerable to abuse. Bondage, S&M, anal and oral sex are hardly the stuff of breakfast conversation, but the gathering of civic activists, elected officials and community leaders survived.
"There is rampant abuse practically in every interaction between Christian and Anastasia," Bonomi noted in her talk titled "Love, Deception and Abuse in 50 Shades of Grey." The book, she added, "normalizes and glamorizes violence against women."
"There is rampant abuse practically in every interaction between Christian and Anastasia," Bonomi noted.
The morning gathering was presented by Crime Stoppers as part of the non-profit's series of programs on current issues.
"It's important that we are bringing out these very uncomfortable conversations because they are the things that our children are embracing," said Rania Mankarious, Crime Stoppers executive director. "We want to be at the forefront of these dangerous issues."
A noted columnist and expert, Bonomi is recognized nationally for her research concentrating on the long-term health effects of domestic violence and the intimacy dynamics that keep violent relationships intact.
Her spirited talk was not anti-"Fifty Shades of Grey." Rather it served as an eye-opener on the warning signs of abusive relationships and the need to advise teens and young adults on the subject.
"We need to have a conversation with our kids on healthy relationships, healthy sexuality and a healthy body image," she said, adding that they should be advised to consume this pop culture phenomenon with "a critical eye and understand the early warning signs of abuse."
Among abusive behaviors that should send a red light, she noted, are verbal and physical intimidation, social isolation, blaming the abused for the problem, coercion and threats. An imbalance of power and control in a relationship is dangerous, she said.
"This is the name of the game for abusers — social isolation."