50 Shades of Not Okay
Last week, Matt Walsh posted a blog entitled To the Women of America: 4 Reasons to Hate 50 Shades of Grey. It’s a good post and worth a read. This post gives a slightly different, female perspective on the 50 Shades phenomenon and why it’s bad for our culture. Unlike Matt, I chose not to use the Bible to back up my assertions (ok, save one reference in point #2). It’s not that scripture doesn’t speak out against the content of 50 Shades of Grey. It does. However, many people who will read this blog won’t consider scriptural arguments valid. That’s fine. There’s plenty of non-religious research out there to support what I’m about to say…
I’ll be honest. I didn’t even know what 50 Shades of Grey was or what it was about until six months after it became popular. I primarily read historical or non-fiction, so “romance” novels don’t really interest me. It wasn’t until a very close friend of mine read the book that I decided to Google it and find out what it was all about. I only made it through half of the book’s Wikipedia page before feeling sick to my stomach and realizing that 50 Shades of Grey is depravity at its finest, and its popularity is a sad commentary on the state of our culture.
Don’t misunderstand. This post is not me mounting my moral high horse. The same girl who is writing this post spent three hours earlier this week watching The Bachelorette–a show that many people find morally objectionable. This is me responding to an uneasy feeling in my gut.
Over the past year, I’ve been largely successful at dodging the 50 Shades of Grey bullet. When friends ask me if I’ve read the book, I say no and try to change the subject. As the months went on after the book’s initial rise to prominence, that sense of evil I felt when reading the 50 Shades of Grey Wikipedia page dulled. I’ll admit that there was even a moment–after talking to a friend who read and loved the book–when I thought “Maybe I could just give it a try. It can’t be THAT bad, right?” (Again, please refer to my previous statement about not being on a moral high horse.)
But then the “too hot for TV trailer” (which I have not seen) came out and with it a renewed sense of 50 Shades fever–and the return of that sick feeling in my gut. It’s been a week and a half since the release of the trailer, and that sick feeling has increased to the point of boiling over. To the point that I am willing to take a stand for what I feel is right and risk upsetting friends who I love deeply to write this post.
Matt Walsh gave four reasons why women should hate 50 Shades of Grey. I’m giving three reasons why I’m not jumping on the 50 Shades of Grey bandwagon and neither should you.
Reason #1: For myself
You know what one of the biggest reasons I’m not reading 50 Shades of Grey is? It’s an affront to truly good writing. Seriously. Here are a few actual lines from the book (according to Good Reads):
Anastasia (the female protagonist): “Why don’t you like to be touched?”
Christian (the male lead): “Because I’m fifty shades of f-ed up, Anastasia.”
Anastasia: “My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five year old.”
Anastasia: “I’ve kissed a prince, Mom. I hope it doesn’t turn into a frog.”
Crappy writing aside, however, I am too intelligent to fill my mind with over 100 f-words and that much illicit sex a.k.a mental junk food.
In my last post, I talked about the importance of raising children who will be “arrows of character” that can be sent out into the world to do good and not harm to others.
One of the biggest ways we can do that is by modeling the type of behavior we want to see in our children, ourselves. (For the record, Harvard psychologists agree with me.) I am a firm believer in the phrase “garbage in, garbage out,” and scripture backs me up on that philosophy. (See Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45.) So, in the interest of keeping my mouth–which already gets me in enough trouble–from spewing forth something inappropriate in front of my children or others, I’m choosing not to read.
While I have not read the book, I have read close to 20 articles and reviews–both positive and negative–about 50 Shades of Grey over the last few weeks. From what I’ve surmised, the book’s female lead, Anastasia Steele, is a rather directionless, insecure woman who eventually finds her “identity” in the male lead, Christian Grey. Along the way to finding her identity, Anastasia subjects herself to verbal abuse by Christian and what, had she not signed a contract agreeing to it and were it not in the name of “sexual pleasure”, could be considered physical abuse.
Research shows that reading a novel changes your brain chemistry. Reading can “transport you into the body of the protagonist.” For many women, I’m sure this is an argument for why they are reading this book. I, however, spent years figuring out who I am apart from a man, my job or what I look like; and I’ll be damned if I’m going to transport myself back to that stage of life. I don’t care how good her orgasms are.
Furthermore, 50 Shades of Grey has been dubbed “Mommy porn” by mainstream media. While reading a novel may have largely positive effects on the brain, watching or reading pornography (I, along with many others, consider erotic novels in the same category as visual porn) has extremely negative effects. In fact, there’s an entire non-religious movement devoted to eradicating pornography. Normalizing the relationships and actions found in 50 Shades of Grey tears at the foundations of a movement like this. Which leads me to my second point…
Reason #2: For future generations
In C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape the demon talks about the importance of sexual temptation in bringing about his destruction of the protagonist Wormwood.
“We have engineered a great increase in the license that society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach. It is all a fake, of course…As a result, we are more and more directing the desires of men to something that does not exist—making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible…”
The Screwtape Letters was written in 1942. If Lewis thought society was dangerously cavalier in their attitudes towards sex back then, I can only image what he would think of society in 2014. While the book is old, Lewis’s point is not outdated: When people become accustomed to seeing certain sexually explicit images, they grow bored of them and seek a new, more sexually explicit image to replace it. A recent article in Esquire magazine discussing why so many young men are giving up pornography affirms this assertion.
Embracing 50 Shades of Grey reinforces the notion that “sex sells” to writers and TV and movie producers. If we so are accepting of this type of sexually explicit content in 2014, I shudder to think about what primetime television will look like once my children are teenagers. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we’ll be canceling cable at my house sometime in the next few years.
But beyond the implications that 50 Shades of Grey has on my children’s future film and television consumption, I am also concerned about the impact that the major themes in 50 Shades of Grey might have on my children’s view of themselves and their relationships. Perhaps feminist and Huffington Post blogger Carey Purcell put it best when she said this:
“The themes of the novel — that love alone can make someone change, that abuse from a spouse is acceptable as long as he’s great in bed, that pregnancies should always be carried to term even if the parents are not ready to be parents, and the ridiculously antiquated, Victorian idea that the love of a pure virgin can save a wayward man from himself — are irrational, unbelievable and dangerous.”
Her view on abortion notwithstanding, Purcell hits the nail on the head. I’ve encountered enough troubled men in my life to know that love alone will not change them. While love can help a man with a troubled past like Christian Grey change his ways, it will also take years of therapy and, dare I say, Jesus, to truly make him do a 180.
Additionally, from what Purcell (who HAS read all three 50 Shades books) says, the relationship between Christian and Anastasia is co-dependent, dysfunctional and, as I alluded to earlier, abusive. I mentor a number of college-age girls. Anastasia is not the type of girl that I would want them to become, and Christian is not the type of man I would them lusting after (actually, I hope they aren’t lusting at all), dating or heaven forbid, marrying. So, why would I, as their mentor, read a novel glorifying these two types of people?
Finally, I’d like to add one more theme found in 50 Shades of Grey that I find dangerous for future generations: the notion that sex without intimacy can be fulfilling. Which leads me to my final point…
Reason #3: For my marriage
Most women who have read 50 Shades of Grey say it has reignited a spark in their marriage. I cannot argue with that. Nor will I judge what may go on in their bedroom. Hubs and I may not be in to BDSM (and FYI- even folks who do engage in BDSM do not endorse this book), but if you and your significant other are, as long as it’s TRULY consensual, that’s your business. I will, however, question whether 50 Shades of Grey has changed women’s sex lives because they are trying new things in bed or whether these women are thinking of Christian Grey—or someone other than their husband–while having sex.
The bottom line, for me, is that I want my husband to know that he is enough. I want him to be confident that when we are having sex I’m thinking about him, not the man in the erotic novel I just finished reading or the hot, high-powered lawyer I ran into at the grocery store. Because, you know what? I wouldn’t want him thinking about another woman while we’re making love; and I would be devastated if he confessed that he needed to read or watch pornography in order to “rekindle” his spark for me.
If you haven’t figured it out already, pleasure is ephemeral. When sex is reduced to pleasure alone (as it seems to be in the 50 Shades of Grey books), no single person can possibly meet those standards or expectations. Great sex grows from true intimacy; and intimacy sustains a relationship through times of illness or other extenuating circumstances when sex is not possible.
I’m sure many people reading this post have something to say about it. Unfortunately, the comment section of my blog is not working right now. I’m trying to fix it. But in the meantime, you are welcome to share your thoughts via Facebook or email jennysue1207 at yahoo dot com. I’m not naïve enough to think that this post will stop millions of people from flocking to see 50 Shades of Grey when it is released in the theater, but if I have caused even one person to become a bit more conscious about the media and message he/she is consuming then I will consider this post a success. I look forward to dialoguing with you all about this.