Students raise money for women’s shelter at ‘Fifty Shades’ premiere
Several Washington University students organized a donation table outside a local premiere of “Fifty Shades of Grey” on Friday night, raising over $500 for a local women’s shelter.
According to senior Kristen O’Neal, who organized the fundraiser at the AMC Creve Coeur 12 theater, “Fifty Shades” does not depict a consenting BDSM relationship but rather one characterized by emotional and domestic abuse.
According to the group’s Facebook event page, Christian Grey— the dominant partner in the dominant-submissive relationship in “Fifty Shades”— exhibits signs of domestic abuse toward his submissive partner, Anastasia Steele. The page references him stalking her, tracking her phone, isolating her from her friends and family, breaking into her house, freezing her company’s assets to prevent her from traveling and not allowing her to speak with other men. In “Fifty Shades,” Christian has the ability to void their sexual contract; Anastasia does not. In healthy BDSM relationships, however, both partners are able to halt the practice at any time.
“There’s a Facebook group called ‘50 Dollars not 50 Shades’ that encourages people to donate to their local women’s shelter instead [of seeing the movie]. I noticed a lot of people were actually holding protests in different cities and I realized we didn’t have a St. Louis one, so I was like, we should get on that,” O’Neal said.
Equipped with Panera hot chocolate, a donation box, T-shirts, stickers and informational materials for Magdalene St. Louis—a women’s shelter and the beneficiary of choice—the peaceful demonstration garnered mixed reactions from moviegoers. A number of passersby declined to donate, claiming tardiness to their movie, while others expressed support for the fundraiser and donated.
“We asked one couple and the husband said, ‘Nope’ and kept walking while the wife stood perfectly still and glared at him until he came back,” O’Neal said. “Another woman was wearing a bright red coat and screamed, ‘I’d love to donate! There was nothing erotic about that movie.’”
One man ran inside and returned with a handful of coins; one woman danced when she realized where the donations were going.
“Don’t believe the hype,” another woman said, dropping $20 in the collection box, hopping into her SUV and driving away.
Luckily for the students, their demonstration flew under the radar of theater employees for a few hours before the manager came outside to speak with them.
“[He] came over and read all the signs, asked us a bunch of questions, and we were worried,” O’Neal said. “We explained what we were doing and he just said, ‘Stay warm’ before going back inside.”
Freshman Naomi Lee and senior Cecilia Appleberry, who were also present at the fundraiser, explained that the demonstration was not an objection to BDSM sexual practices.
“The real issue that we’re talking about isn’t the sex,” Lee said. “The sex is probably the least abrasive part of the story. It’s the emotional side.”
Appleberry compared “Fifty Shades” to the fantasy book-turned-movie “Twilight,” which served as inspiration for the first draft of “Fifty Shades.” “Twilight” has also come under fire for its portrayal of an allegedly emotionally abusive relationship.
“They’re using sex in the same way the movie ‘Twilight’ used fantasy and vampires to distract from the fact that the story is actually about an abusive relationship,” Appleberry said. “In this movie, they’re using the sex.”
In the coming weeks, O’Neal is planning more events to raise money and materials for Magdalene St. Louis and other local women’s shelters. Surprised by the success of the fundraiser, she said she is also considering setting up tables at different theaters.