Saturday 3 December 2016

Has reading Fifty Shades of Grey made you more sexist?

A new study reveals that young female readers are more likely to endorse sexist attitudes

Published 16/05/2016 | 14:17

Dakota Johnson in the movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’
Dakota Johnson in the movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

A new study has revealed that young female Fifty Shades of Grey readers are more likely to stand behind sexist attitudes.

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The book series charts the relationship between billionaire playboy Christian Grey and his penchant for BDSM, the world to which he introduces student Anastasia Steele.

Written by EL James, it has sold more than 125 million copies but researchers now claim that female fans of the books show higher levels of "ambivalent, benevolent and hostile sexism".

The research was carried out by the Ohio State and Michigan State Universities.

The ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy was a publishing phenomenon, shifting more than 125 million copies worldwide
The ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy was a publishing phenomenon, shifting more than 125 million copies worldwide

In the paper, Sexist Attitudes Among Emerging Adult Women Readers of Fifty Shades Fiction, they defined benevolent sexism as the idea that women should be protected and cared for by men.  Hostile sexism, meanwhile, is defined as objectification.

A total of 747 female university students aged 18-24 were analysed for the study and asked to respond to 22 statements.

The results indicated that 61 per cent of the women who had read at least one of the three books in the series, held "stronger ambivalent, hostile and benevolent sexist attitudes" than women who had not read any of the books.

The women were also asked whether they felt the book was best described as "hot", "abusive", "degrading" or "romantic".

The women who defined the book as "romantic" were more likely to stand behind benevolent sexism beliefs.

This includes the idea that the weaker, more emotional, and less intelligent Anastasia is unfulfilled without the relationship with the dominant Christian Grey.

Researchers, led by Lauren Altenburger, said this was "concerning" because the books "romanticises dynamics that are consistent with violent romantic relationships".

In defence of the series, the researchers said that rather than the books causing sexist attitudes in readers it may well be the case that women who hold those attitudes are more likely to read the books.

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