Domestic Abuse Charity to Use Fifty Shades of Grey as Toilet Paper

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Copies of the book "Fifty Shades of Grey"
Saul Loeb

Copies of the book "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E. L. James are seen for sale at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC.

A British charity for abused women plans to turn the pages of England’s top-selling book into 50 shades of brown. Wearside Women in Need initially expressed its disapproval of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey in August and hatched a planned to set the books aflame in a bonfire, but now they’ve spun it into a more eco-friendly campaign.

On Aug. 23, the group — located in Washington, near Newcastle in northeast England — launched its “Fifty Shades of Abuse” campaign. Clare Phillipson, director of the charity, labeled the steamy novel “disgusting” and “vile,” and asked local residents to donate copies of the bestseller, with the intent of burning them in protest, the Sunderland Echo reported. She said the book’s proceeds would be better spent helping victims of abuse.

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“It normalizes abuse, degrades women and encourages sexual violence,” Phillipson told the Echo in August. “I’ve come across people who have been confused by it, people who have been enraged by it and others that are bewildered.” She said that some women question whether their bedroom habits are “wrong” if they don’t partake in the behaviors James describes graphically in the books. Erotic novels are certainly nothing new in this century, but Fifty Shades of Grey was embraced by women around the world early this year. It’s been credited with rejuvenating the romantic lives of middle-aged women because of its graphic depictions of bondage and submission. It’s not hard to see why such themes don’t sit well with a women’s abuse charity.

Fifty Shades publisher Random House defended itself in a statement, saying, “The Fifty Shades trilogy is a work of romantic fiction and the sex scenes in the book are entirely consensual and the woman involved is a willing participant.”

But the Echo reported the charity has continued its crusade, even obtaining endorsements from Wearside-born Denise Robertson, the resident advice guru on nationally broadcast ITV show This Morning. “It’s a horrible book,” Robertson told the Echo. “I wish it had never been written. It’s making S&M seem cool and dressing it up in frilly clothes, making it seem nice when it isn’t.”

Now, Phillipson has changed her mind about how the charity will express its distaste for the book, the BBC reported. Instead of setting the 24 donated copies ablaze, Wearside will cut up the pages for use as toilet paper and compost. “We discussed the book burning while getting the message across that this book is a dangerous trend,” Phillipson told the BBC. “I think we’ve got a culture now which has completely sexualized women and in which women feel obligated to take part in that culture. We want to draw a line under that.” Phillipson added the new plan will deliver the novels “back into the ground… although the ideas they represent will continue.”

The one striking hindrance to Phillipson’s campaign — and perhaps a clue as to why she’s received strikingly few — is that the book has been a runaway bestseller in e-book formats, as women seek a covert way to read the shocking acts within.

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