50 Shades of Garbage
I'm doing it. I'm going to tackle the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. I know that many will disagree with me, but I can't just let it go.
Typically, I try not to comment on a book or movie unless I've seen it or read it. That's why I found myself waiting in line before midnight a few years ago to watch a movie about teenage vampires, and subsequently read the books that spawned the Twilight movie series. Now, I feel as though I can speak with some knowledge regarding Team Edward and Team Jacob (if you have no idea about this pop reference, just know it is a love triangle involving a werewolf, a vampire, and a bad actress).
With that being said, I will admit to you that I have not read any novel in the 50 Shades trilogy. I do not plan to read them, and I do not plan to see the movie. However, I feel I can still speak with knowledge regarding these books, and the dangers they pose to not only our young girls, but our marriages as well.
The story is that of a young, vulnerable woman who is tapped to write an article for her college newspaper about a young, successful entrepreneur. Upon first meeting, there is instant attraction on Ana's side, and eventually she is pursued by Christian Grey, the man she interviewed.
Now, if that was the premise of the book, there is potential for a good story. Shy, awkward young girl blossoms under the love and healthy attention of a man who sees her for the beauty within. He struggles to get her to see that same beauty, eventually winning her over with a sentimental speech about how perfect she is for him, and how he wants nothing more than to spend every moment with her, parted only by death. The story practically writes itself. Unfortunately, E.L. James seems to take it in a different direction. A dangerous direction.
I'm not going to go into much detail, but just know that Grey asks only for an emotionless, sexual relationship with Ana, in addition to his desire for this relationship to include sexual violence. Ana is to sign a contract agreeing to say nothing about what happens between them, and is even given a list of approved food she can eat.
Thankfully, I can say I've never been in an abusive relationship. But I can recognize warning signs, and those are big ones. Christian stalks Ana, is very controlling of her, and is very sexually violent with her, including brutal beatings. And why is this ok?
Let's look at a few dangers with this series. The first danger is that violence, primarily violence toward women, is seen as something that is attractive, sexy and acceptable. Christian dominates and intimidates Ana, and though technically, she does consent, the consent can be seen as a result of that intimidation by a much older, powerful man.
Did you know that 90% of pornographic materials (text, picture or video) portray violence toward the woman, with the woman expressing enjoyment. Nice little nugget to think about there.
Christian explains that the reason he prefers such relationships is because he was sexually abused at the age of 15. By a friend of his mother. An adult. And yet, we look at the catalyst for his actions, and we celebrate it with this book? We are intrigued by his behavior? If the roles were reversed, and it was a young woman sexually abused by an older man, we would be all up in arms, boycotting the book and protesting that this is not ok. We would not think her behavior was acceptable. We would seek healing for her pain. Yet, for some reason, this book makes this sad, heartbreaking reality very sensual and sexy. When I see stories of people seeking out this type of relationship, I don't celebrate it. I hurt at their brokenness. It doesn't make me want the same thing for my relationship with my husband.
I've heard many arguments in support of the books, many from people I never would have pegged as reading them. Overwhelmingly, the support for the book stems from the affect it has had on their marriage relationship, primarily in the bedroom. But really, let's think about this. Is it not a problem that we are looking to erotic novels to strengthen our relationships with our spouses? Is it not a problem that we are ultimately seeking to renew and refresh our relationships by taking a peek into a "relationship" where the woman is taken advantage of sexually, she is beaten and stalked by a man that gives her a list of approved foods? We want to make our relationships healthy by looking to a horribly unhealthy one?
I read an article that addressed this perfectly. Matt Fradd, who works for Covenant Eyes, an internet safety program, responded to the argument that "being dominated and threatened is so much more exciting than faithful marital sex” by saying "to me, that’s analogous [to] the meth-head who thinks normal, un-high life is boring. In both cases I just want to extend sympathy." Exactly.
Finally, I can't support this book or movie simply because the message it sends about women, and their purpose. I fight tooth and nail to get my young female students to ignore the lies that the only purpose they serve is to sexually please a man. They are hit with this message from every direction. Music, television, and even at home. These girls are smart, beautiful, and do not deserve the life set forth in the 50 Shades books. They deserve to know that they are valuable, and that isn't based on what they allow their partner to do to them in the bedroom. Marriages can be healthy, and exciting, without the use of rope and other items.
If a woman, or anyone for that matter, is beaten in the living room or the kitchen of a house, it is wrong. It doesn't all of a sudden become right in the bedroom. I'm not telling you what to watch or read, but I would encourage you to really think about the message you are supporting when you stand in line to see this movie. And I can promise you won't see me there. Unless I'm in line to see Little Boy. Now, that seems like a good movie.