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Dakota Johnson explains why Fifty Shades left her “vulnerable, physically and emotionally”

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Kayleigh Dray
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Dakota Johnson has opened up about the “controlling relationship” at the centre of the Fifty Shades franchise – and admitted that it isn’t something she would want from a partner.

Whether you loved it, hated it, or have no intention of ever reading it, there’s no denying that the Fifty Shades trilogy has been one of the most successful book franchises ever – so, naturally, the film adaptations have proven popular, too.

For a long time, many studio executives worried this wouldn’t be the case. You may remember that the future of the movies was thrown into doubt by lacklustre reviews after the release of the first Fifty Shades film – despite the fact that it had a phenomenal opening weekend, and broke box office records everywhere.

Jamie Dornan was rumoured to be unhappy with the critical panning received by Fifty Shades of Grey, director Sam Taylor-Johnson quit the franchise in March 2015, and then there were the allegations of a lack of chemistry between Dornan and Dakota Johnson.

Fans needn’t have worried, though: Fifty Shades Darker went ahead as planned – and now the third and final installment, Fifty Shades Freed, is scheduled for a hugely-anticipated release on Valentine’s Day this year.

And now Dakota Johnson – who plays Ana Steele in the movies – has candidly spoken to an Australian publication about her role and how the sudden success has impacted her personal life.

“Through the success of the [first Fifty Shades] film I had to figure out how to balance my work and my life,” she admits.

“I felt vulnerable, physically and emotionally, and then dealing with the massive success, which could have been a very invasive and scary moment. I learned how to compartmentalise it.

“I have had to remind myself that I do have a lot more [roles] to do.”

However, Johnson is quick to add that Ana’s was a “story I wanted to tell”.

“Initially, one of the biggest draws to me was Anastasia’s emotional, intellectual and sexual arc over the course of three films,” she says.

“She grows into a fierce young woman who discovers that perhaps her sexual preferences are more similar to Christian Grey’s than what she initially expected.”

The films (and books) have proven controversial – with many criticising its portrayal of BDSM, and insisting that Ana and Christian’s relationship is a clear example of “domestic abuse and emotional manipulation, topped off with a series of violent threats”.

And Johnson, when asked whether or not she would engage in a similar relationship, readily agreed that such a scenario would be “unthinkable” in real life.

“This is not what’s going on [with me] and hopefully at the end of the day people will remember that this is a character who is completely separate from me and my life,” she says.

“I don’t do well with that kind of relationship.”

She adds: “If the other person is fairly controlling I try to figure out how we can collaborate together. I don’t believe there has to be a power struggle.”

Whether or not you agree with those who say that Fifty Shades romanticises abusive relationships, it’s important to note that one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their life and one in six men, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales. Two women are killed by their current or ex-partner every week.

It can be difficult for many people trapped in toxic and abusive relationships to spot the warning signs. This is so common that there is a recognised term for it: perspecticide.

Lisa Aronson Fontes, an author and psychology researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, describes the word as meaning “the incapacity to know what you know” – and adds that this form of manipulation redefines the victim’s “opinions, religious affiliations, views of friends, goals in life” and so on, so the abuser can change how they think.

She continues: “In an abusive or controlling relationship, over time the dominating partner changes how the victim thinks.

“The abuser defines what love is. The abuser defines what is appropriate in terms of monitoring the partner. The abuser defines what is wrong with the victim, and what [they] need to do to change it.”

Warning signs of perspecticide can include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Your partner constantly criticises, humiliates or belittles you
  • Your partner checks up on you or follows you
  • Your partner tries to keep you from seeing your friends or family
  • Your partner has prevented you or made it hard for you to continue studying or going to work
  • Your partner unjustly accuses you of flirting or having affairs with others
  • Your partner has forced you to do something that you really did not want to do
  • Your partner has deliberately destroyed any of your possessions
  • You have changed your behaviour because you are afraid of what your partner might do or say to you
  • Your partner controls your finances
  • Your partner talks down to you
  • Your partner has strong opinions on what you should wear and your appearance
  • Your partner has tried to prevent you from leaving your house
  • Your partner has forced you or harassed you into performing a sexual act
  • Your partner has threatened to reveal or publish private information
  • Your partner threatens to hurt him or herself if you leave them
  • Your partner witholds medication from you
  • Your partner makes you feel guilty all the time
  • Your partner blames you for their bad moods and outbursts
  • You are afraid of your partner

If you are worried that you might be the victim of emotional abuse, it’s quite likely that you are. If these signs of an abusive relationship sound all too familiar to you, then get out of that situation as soon as possible.

Visit womensaid.org.uk or call 0808-2000 247 for more information about coercive control, domestic abuse, and the help available for those affected.

Images: Rex Features