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Fifty Shades of Feminism: An Analysis of Feminist Attitudes and ‘Grey Behaviors’

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This paper discusses the results of an MTurk survey (n = 479) that was designed to determine how acceptable Americans find the behaviors outlined in the Fifty Shades of Grey series, especially when they self-identify with feminist ideologies. The behaviors that this series eroticizes clearly reflect interpersonal violence. This coupled with the series’ unprecedented international success raises concerns for many scholars. We asked men and women to rank the level of acceptability on a ‘Grey Behavior’ scale, which included measures of control of person outside the context of ‘kinky’ sex. Furthermore, we asked subjects to rank their attitudes regarding the basic tenants of the feminist ideology in order to determine if support of gender equality influenced these perceptions of acceptability. Our findings suggest that despite the popularity of the book, neither men nor women report these behaviors as personally acceptable.

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  1. While the history of the anti-porn movement within feminism is important to framing this discussion, space does not permit an in-depth discussion of this history.

  2. Our analysis of the behaviors in the books was in agreement with those identified in past literature (Downing 2013; van Reenen 2014; Bonomi et al. 2014) so we have not listed examples of each here. See Bonomi et al (2014) for a complete discussion of these characteristics of IPV.

  3. We ran our regressions on SELF without PARTNER and on PARTNER without SELF due to the strong relationships between these variables. These regressions showed no changes in the significance levels of the other variables.


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Correspondence to Patricia Case.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Case, P., Coventry, B.T. Fifty Shades of Feminism: An Analysis of Feminist Attitudes and ‘Grey Behaviors’. Sexuality & Culture 22, 632–650 (2018).

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