Fifty Shades of Grey
Relationships are difficult. They require hard work, dedication, sacrifice and devotion to one’s partner. We are often sold this idea that when you meet the right one, everything will fall into place perfectly; everything will be easy. We are also sold this idea that if the sex is good and exciting, the relationship will be better. The opposite is true however; when a couple has a safe, secure, committed relationship, the sex is great!
With the release of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” this Valentine’s Day, there is a resurgence of discussion about whether the content of the movie, and the book, are healthy for women, men and their relationships. Let’s put aside the effect media such as this have on one’s soul, or their faith, and talk about the negative impact this has on our society.
During a time when sex trafficking and sexual abuse is on the rise, Fifty Shades of Grey glorifies and normalizes sexual exploitation and manipulation. Thousands of women are fanaticizing about the relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, yet there are women who are living this story, and it’s not fun and exciting. It’s terrifying and demoralizing. Christian Grey’s manipulation, jealousy, and complete dominance over Anastasia are perfect examples of an unhealthy relationship. The character Anastasia–a young, impressionable 18 year old college student–agrees to Christian’s demands. We can argue that at its heart this is a romance story, but it’s not. It’s a story of abused people abusing others. Later in the book we learn of the abuse that Christian suffered from a friend of his mothers. It’s the same manipulative, domineering sexual interaction that he has inflicted on others.
When we normalize and glorify the sexual abuse and exploitation that is portrayed in this story, we trap victims in the victim role, and many times they become abusers themselves. When we glorify and normalize these types of relationships, we rob the victims of the empowerment they need to value themselves and stop the abuse they are experiencing. Many times victims of sexual abuse and exploitation don’t even realize they are being abused. But there is damage that happens to their soul that they carry with them. The weight of it is sometimes never identified, but it’s there, a heavy mantle they carry on their shoulders. They devalue themselves, their self-esteem is stripped away, and they take on the identity of a sexual object for other people to use.
Content like this also strips us of the beauty and purity that sexual relations between a husband and wife are meant to exhibit. But what about those who are in a committed, monogamous relationship? I’ve heard the argument that books and movies like Fifty Shades of Grey can spice up the relationship, but at what cost? In this discussion we have yet to broach the subject of pornography addiction and the toll that can have on a relationship. Our culture is so saturated with sexually explicit messages and advertisements that we often fail to recognize the harm they do to us. We become desensitized to the sexual exposure we experience, and often what occurs is one’s focus on their own sexual pleasure over the thoughts, feelings and needs of other human beings–even their partners. Pornography addiction is not something that affects only men; women are affected as well, but often in different forms. Erotica books and movies like Fifty Shades of Grey serve the same purpose that pornographic images do for men. And those images and depictions are brought into the bedroom with our spouses, and what was once a sacred, beautiful expression of love becomes tainted.
So my question is what value is there in movies and books like this? What good comes from them, and is it worth the harm that is sure to come?