In the paper, published online by the Journal of Women's Health, 655 women between the ages of 18 and 24 at Ohio State University completed a survey. The questions included, naturally, whether or not they had read the Fifty Shades series, how far into it they got, and how much they actually enjoyed the books. The survey also included questions about whether the women had experienced partner violence (emotional, physical, or sexual) or any other health indicators (e.g., disordered eating or binge drinking).
Their results showed that women who read the first book in the Fifty Shades series had an increased risk of, at some point, having a partner who yelled, shouted, or swore at them — or who sent them unwanted calls or texts. This, the authors say, is behavior consistent with emotional and verbal abuse and stalking. The women who read the books were also more likely than non-readers to report using diet aids, fasting, and binge drinking, which can all indicate having been a victim of violence.
Of course, these results just show correlation, not causation. So, while women who read the series might be more likely to be in relationships with abusive partners, we don't know which came first. Maybe women who are already in an abusive relationship or dealing with these issues can relate more readily to Fifty Shades' Ana. Or, could the books really compel a reader to seek out such a pairing?
Researchers don't know for sure yet. But, they are planning to expand their analyses to look at how survey responders identify with regards to traditional gender roles. With the mind-blowing popularity of the books and the impending film, it would certainly be interesting to see how this particular sector of pop culture generated such a hold on society — and whether or not it has any measurable impact. Until we can draw any real conclusions from this work, though, the uninitiated may want to think twice before diving into this particular, um, literary classic.