50 Shades of Grey: don't watch it.

Dear E.L. James (author of Fifty Shades of Grey),

I have a bone to pick with you. Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love – not to degrade and thoroughly undermine it. But through your books, and now with the film’s release on February 14, that’s exactly what you are doing. You are conveying to women that certain characteristics in a man are attractive when they are really not. You are telling women that your book has something to do with love, whereas I can hardly think of anything that’s further away.

I have not polluted my mind with the books or movie, but I’ve educated myself enough about them to know that I should stay away. But I thought I’d help you out, just in case you have any future books in the works. Because from now on, I’m thinking that you should grab the attention of women across the world with something infinitely more impressive: the qualities of a real man. Why? Because a real man trumps Christian Grey any day – including Valentine’s Day. Here’s how:

A real man won’t stalk you.

Mr Grey is a stalker. Sure, it may be hard to miss when said stalker is handsome, wealthy and well-dressed, but that’s what he is nonetheless. There’s a massive difference between a keen interest and obsessiveness and extreme jealousy after one meeting.

A real man won’t give you mixed signals.

A gentleman, from the start, will be clear about his intentions. Not – a la Mr Grey – tell you that it is physical only before proceeding to introduce you to his family and act like he owns you. If you’re in a relationship and utterly confused about how the the other feels about you, it’s probably time to get out. Surely, at the very least, you’re owed a bit of clarity.

A real man won’t hurt you or control you.

No doubt about it, Grey is violent. It’s pretty basic knowledge that if a guy is violent, you run. You stay right away. You don’t put up with someone who tries to control what you wear, what you eat and how you spend your days. That isn’t masculine – what’s masculine is a man is who strong yet gentle, who only wants to look after you.

A real man will value you for more than sex.

From what I understand, Grey makes it clear that he is interested only in a sexual relationship, complete with signed no-disclosure agreement. So. Not. Cool. A woman deserves to be appreciated on all levels – not only for her body, and never only for the use of her body.

A real man values your opinion and desires.

So “consent”– it’s kind of a big deal. It’s the difference between a welcome action and an attack. Unlike Mr Grey, a gentleman is never going to make you do something you don’t want to do. He won’t force your consent to anything – sexual or not – through the use of manipulation, or get you into a state where you can’t say no. For a real man, your needs come first.

E.L. James, I cannot tell you how much it saddens me that so many women across the world will be exposed to such garbage, especially on a day that commemorates genuine and self-giving love. I don’t know if it’s made worse by the fact that it is a woman who is spreading this glorification of a clearly abusive relationship, under the guise of female liberation. But perhaps I should be grateful that this poison is all the more evident for what it is in movie form than it was in book form. And I can only hope that women will have enough sense to take Mr Grey as the epitome of what NOT to look for in a man.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.