Popular fiction that normalizes and glamorizes violence against women, such as the blockbuster Fifty Shades series, may be associated with a greater risk of potentially harmful health behaviors and risks. The results of a provocative new study are presented in the article "Fiction or Not? Fifty Shades Is Associated with Health Risks in Adolescent and Young Adult Females," published in Journal of Women's Health, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Journal of Women's Health website.
Amy Bonomi and coauthors from Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI), Group Health Research Institute (Seattle, WA), and Ohio State University (Columbus, OH) compared young women ages 18-24, readers versus non-readers of at least the first novel in the Fifty Shades series based on self-reports of intimate partner violence victimization (including shouting, swearing, delivering unwanted calls or text messages, and other forms of verbal/emotional abuse, stalking, as well as physical and sexual abuse), binge drinking, disordered eating (use of diet aids and fasting for more than 24 hours), and sexual practices such as number of intercourse partners during their lifetime. The findings point to a substantially greater risk for certain adverse health behaviors among the group that read Fifty Shades, which hyper-sexualizes women and may reaffirm and create the context for those behaviors.
"Clearly, we need a better understanding of the association between reading popular fiction that depicts violence towards women and engaging in risky health behaviors, particularly among adolescent and young adult women," says Susan G. Kornstein, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women's Health, Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women's Health, Richmond, VA, and President of the Academy of Women's Health.