There’s a new campaign circling social media encouraging people to not only look into the abuse and lack of consent within the book Fifty Shades of Grey, but to also boycott the movie, with a philanthropic twist. According to their Facebook page, “#50dollarsnot50shades is a grassroots, women-led campaign, encouraging people to boycott the 50 Shades of Grey movie & give a $50 donation to [a] domestic violence shelter or agency. The money you would have spent on movie tickets and a babysitter or movie tickets, popcorn and drinks will go towards serving victims of abusive relationships like the one glamorized in the 50 Shades series. Hollywood doesn’t need your money; abused women do.”
As someone who not only practices BDSM professionally and personally and dislikes the poor excuse for BDSM erotica that is the Fifty Shades franchise, I thought that this idea was actually quite clever. Instead of supporting a movie and book series whose leading man doesn’t talk about consent with newbie Ana while also meeting all of the signs of being a domestic abuser, why not make a donation to a local women’s shelter for domestic violence? Brilliant.
Or maybe not. The campaign is not as grassroots as it claims, but instead is run by anti-pornography activists. 50 Dollars not 50 Shades is sponsored by the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC), the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE), and Stop Porn Culture. It is also affiliated with PATHS of Saskatchewan, AntiPorn.org and Pornography Harms which is apparently part of the NCSE.
Whilst looking through the tags for the campaign on tumblr, I found this post in which the user got a reply from 50 Dollars not 50 Shades’ Facebook page pertaining to sex work:
It’s funny how they don’t then ask him to boycott Walmart because that labor might be exploitative as well, rather than allow that some porn performers might enjoy their jobs.
Stop Porn Culture was co-founded by noted anti-pornography and anti-sex worker activist Gail Dines. On its Facebook page, you’ll find praise of the ban of many sex acts in porn that passed in the UK a few months ago, as well as this terrible quote: “Of course we do see problems with this article: it refers to prostituted women as ‘sex workers’ which is a horrible third wave feminist notion.”
The Facebook page for Pornography Harms often references anti-sex worker organization The Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation, works with anti-sex worker organization Stop Porn Culture and supports Dines and former porn performer and anti-porn activist Shelley Lubben. They are also working towards shutting down Backpage.
With one click, you can see that the LAWC supports the Swedish Model and that, although the organization touts its lack of religious affiliation in an effort to bolster its progressive credentials, AntiPorn.org is vehemently against sex work.
Instead of a grassroots effort to support victims of domestic violence, 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades is a well-orchestrated campaign that is piggybacking on the film’s release to promote an anti-pornography agenda, one that attempts to connect porn to violence against women, an argument that is, at best, a gross simplification. In an editorial for The Independent, former dominatrix Melissa Febos wrote about the campaign: “What’s worse is to suggest that this film has the power to increase violence against women. The success of Fifty Shades proves that some women fantasize about being dominated. Of course we do! We have all been socialized by a culture that fetishises submissive women.”
We can still take part in boycotting Fifty Shades because it’s not going to be a good movie and donate, we just don’t have to donate to anti-sex worker organizations like LAWC or NCSE. It’s easy to find a local shelter that will happily accept your donation without associating with this campaign.